by Jennie S. Bev
Almost four years since the beginning of the Great Recession, signified by the implosion of the financial industry and the fall of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, the United States is recovering. In fact, some sectors have grown to new heights. Thus, a “declining USA” is no more than a myth.
This myth is likely to continue for a while despite the recession officially ending in June 2009 as the high unemployment and on-going foreclosure crisis have cloaked significant economic improvements. In the last four years, declinism and declinists have been spreading paralyzing dystopian analyses. Combine this with Nouriel “Dr. Doom” Roubini’s “the perfect storm” forecast in 2013 and you probably would become even more paralyzed.
Daniel Gross’ best-selling book Better, Stronger, Faster released in May 2012 is an exception. It is probably one of the first books that presents encouraging facts in this recovery period rather than discouraging views of America’s future.
The mammoth has gotten back up, but it is always the memory of one’s fall that lingers in mind. We all remember that one fateful day when we attended the 341(a) bankruptcy hearing to meet creditors and not the thousands of days of financial stability. Just like we all remember vividly the day our loved one was buried six-feet under when he died and not the beautiful decades he shared his life with us.
Failure and losing hurt, thus they are recorded for eternity in our long-term memory. It is just how our brain works, thanks to millions of years of evolution.
The world was so shocked with the fall of USA, that its gradual rise hasn’t yet created a lasting mental image. Good news, American “soft power” is more powerful than any fiscal policy and political maneuver.
Joseph Nye of Harvard University Kennedy School of Government says “soft power” refers to the ability to get through attraction rather than coercion or payments. By “to get” it means to receive favorable treatments based upon attractiveness of a country’s culture, ideals, and policies. For instance, inspired by TV series about medical doctors, some children in Taiwan aspire to study medicine at an American university. Infatuated by the idea of a fair trial, an Indonesian dissident aspires to become a lawyer.
“Soft power” can be hardcore power. And the American brand is still the best out there.
Also, thanks to low US dollar value, a record 62 million foreign tourists visited USA in 2011. In 2010, some 1.04 million immigrants applied for permanent residency, following 1.13 million in the previous year, which reflects the world’s insatiable faith in the US brand. The people of the world still believe that the USA is the place to visit, to reside, and to prosper.
US brands, such as automobile giants Buick, GM, and Ford, continue to grow outside of the USA. US brands continue to influence socio-political-economic wellbeing of people of the world: Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are vital in demonstrations and social unrests. US brands continue to serve people’s mobility and communication: Apple, Microsoft, CISCO, Oracle, and Boeing. People of the world is a market of seven-billion, and most of them have occasionally consumed black soda drinks called Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
The US government has lost its geopolitical epicenter, yet American brands keep the legend alive. And the shift has occurred from public power to private power, from political power to economic power, from hard power to soft power, with the end of the Cold War as the turning point.
The recent approval of the JOBS Act in April 2012 may as well pick up where the failure of previous policies have left, as its intention is creating an encouraging environment for growth of startup companies through more efficient and lenient procedures of capital raising, including crowdsourcing, venture capitalizing, and angel investing. And it is expected that every new investment would create at least six new jobs.
I can see the greatness of American brands supported by the JOBS Act creating another shift in economic recovery, as once again a policy is providing a conducive environment for growth, just like when Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 was repealed by Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999. Now the question is: How far will the JOBS Act’s ripple effect go? And which direction does it go? North or south? Growth, stagnation, or decadence?
Still, I believe in the power of “USA” as a brand and American brands. The world loves us.
Jennie S. Bev is a regular columnist to Forbes Indonesia, The Jakarta Post, and Strategic Review. She is an Associate Partner of Fortune PR Indonesia and based in Northern California. Her writings can be found at http://jenniesbev.typepad.com.
Forbes.com Forbes Woman, May 23, 2012