Ending 2021 on A High Note – America’s Can Do Spirit Is Alive and Well

Ending 2021 on A High Note – America’s Can Do Spirit Is Alive and Well

2021 was a hard year for the United States.  Our political system suffered arguably its most direct challenge in our history, a threat that remains, aided by a radicalized GOP.  Truly extreme weather of all kinds caused hundreds of billions of damage to communities in every part of the country.  And then there was COVID, as great a disruption to our way of life as many of us may see in our lifetimes.  

It was a hard year.  

But remarkably, despite all these ongoing and sometimes debilitating challenges, the American people reached deep, found a higher gear, worked their asses off and the economy took off.  Our friend Rob Shapiro labeled the strong growth we’ve seen this year a “boom,” and the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank described it this way: “America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden’s first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years notwithstanding the contrary media narrative contributing to dour public opinion,” Matthew Winkler, former editor in chief of Bloomberg News, wrote last week. Among the gains: The economy expanded an estimated 5.5 percent in 2021 (fourth-quarter growth dramatically outpaced Europe and even China). Unemployment plunged to 4.2 percent. Record-setting U.S. stock markets (the S&P 500 is up nearly 30 percent) outperformed the world. Productivity jumped. Corporate profits are the largest since 1950 and corporate debt the lowest in 30. Consumer credit expanded. Confidence among CEOs is the highest in 20 years. The American Rescue Plan cut child poverty in half.”

And to that incredible list we would add real wages for workers in the bottom half of the US workforce have seen gains this year despite rising prices, and millions gained health insurance through the Affordable Car Act.  

But of all these inspiring stats, the ones that we find the most remarkable are about new business formation, good ole American entrepreneurship. 2021 saw the most IPOs ever recorded, 1006, substantially more than the previous record of 848 in 1996.  And the pace of new businesses created of in 2021 is way beyond anything we’ve seen in decades



All of this data together points to 2021 being one of the most successful years for the American economy and people in modern history.  That it has happened in a time of such ongoing adversity speaks to the core of what I think is truly most exceptional about America – our incredible desire to do, to make, to create, to invent, to innovate, to take risks, to adapt.  Everywhere we look we see the power of American ingenuity – our companies and scientists are leading the global fight against COVID; Tesla has inspired the world to rethink mobility; Apple, Microsoft, NVIDIA, and so many American tech companies continue to imagine and build the future.   The list goes on and on.  A thousand IPOs this year, millions of new businesses – during COVID! The dynamism, the grit, the resilience, the toughness at the very heart of this great country has never been more on display as it has been these past few years. 

Surely if President Biden wants to show the world that democracies are still where it’s at, finding a way to celebrate these collective achievements in a time of global challenge, to remind all about the transformative power of American ingenuity and the can do spirit of our people, would be a great way to kick off the new year.  It might even be a theme a State of the Union could be built around.  

So I am choosing to end this hard year on an optimistic note.  For I think the key to keeping our democracy, tackling climate change and defeating COVID all start with recognizing the greatness of this remarkable nation and its people, and summoning that can do spirit to complete vital work which is not yet done.  These are things that can only be done by us, all of us, working together in the years ahead.  And there is nothing more “democratic” than a people, along with their government, pulling together to get big things done.