KOKOMO  — If I’ve acquired anything in my 38 years as a financial consultant, it has been the experience of witnessing significant world events and their effect on the American economy and its financial markets. My experience has taught me a few things over the years.

First and foremost, I’ve learned that things are rarely as bad or as good as they appear. Just as financial markets are a titanic struggle between the forces of greed and fear, the media, government and public opinion are all prone to shelving dispassionate analysis for hype and hysteria. I’ve seen this propensity to overstate both the good and the bad too many times to count. The shrill cacophony of media-driven public opinion has made many rational and clear-thinking people fold like a cheap tent and pushes them to do the exact opposite of what was in their best self-interest.

Perhaps the best example of this I witnessed was in my first year as a newly minted financial consultant. My market was not the ultra-high income dice rollers who play the stock market like a fiddle. My clientele were the backbone of our economy, the people who get out of bed early and head out to back-breaking jobs in the factories or in their hog barns. Some people might call them common men and women, but these folks are and have always been the real strength of our nation, not the paper shufflers on Wall Street or the talking heads on CNN.

In the summer of 1982, the United States was experiencing a severe recession that was characterized by high unemployment, high interest rates and high levels of inflation. There was doom and gloom everywhere. It appeared to me at the time that it would be an excellent time for investors to consider moving some of their interest-bearing money into the 15-plus percent, 30-year, United States Government Guaranteed Treasury Bonds that were available at that time.  

My job was made almost impossible by the daily drumbeat of bad economic news. The most frequent response that I usually received from my recommendation to move a part of their assets into long-term bonds was, “Craig, why would I want to tie my money up for 30 years at 15.5% when I can earn 16% on a six-month certificate of deposit?”  

We all know the answer now, but back then things seemed less reasonable. Of course, today, with our latest form of gloom and doom and the accompanying negative hysteria, investors have been perfectly willing to accept a recent rate of 1.35% on 30-year treasuries. Now, I find myself talking with investors who ask, “Craig why wouldn’t I want to get 1.35% before rates go to zero?”  Go figure.

The media has done an enormous disservice to the American people by substituting news reporting with what they call analysis and opinion. I remember the illustrious economics expert and CBS anchorman Dan Rather reporting on October 19, 1987, that the stock market drop of 22.6% would trigger another Great Depression. Less than two years later the market set another record high and everyone forgot Rather’s stupid musings. At the time, Rather scared many people out of their wits and moved them to make terrible investing mistakes out of fear.

Fast forward a few years and we witnessed Iraqi forces invading Kuwait. The stock market tumbled, oil prices skyrocketed and unemployment ticked up. This time, Dan Rather reported on the buildup of American forces in Saudi Arabia in the lead-up to Operation Desert Storm. Rather opined at the time that President Bush was leading us into another Vietnam and that the United States could see the loss of over 50,000 troops to the fourth most powerful army in the world. Once again, I witnessed the public panic over the impact of the coming war on our economy and markets. I saw people fearful of another Vietnam War. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was in August 1990 and by February, 1991, the vaunted Iraqi military was a burned-out pile of rubble.

This cycle of major news event, media overhype, investor panic and return to reality has been repeated numerous times over the past 38 years. The hysteria and panic seem to get worse with every new “crisis.” When my career first started, most people had three television channels and a daily newspaper or two. The nightly news brought you about 22 minutes of news when you factor in the commercials. That’s just not enough time to truly rattle the public.  

Then along came cable news and the 24 hours of uninterrupted pageantry of man-bites-dog stories and the obligatory panel of talking head experts. Also contributing greatly to the public’s apprehension and comprehension of any newsworthy event are the numerous podcasters, Facebook experts and Twitter nitwits. We have information overload and massive cognitive dissonance.

Please allow me to distill down for you the accumulative wisdom that I have acquired over the past 38 years and my opinion about what our future will look like. In addition to my conclusion that nothing is as bad or as good as it appears, I begin by stating that no one, and I mean no one, knows what is going to happen tomorrow, let alone next year or five years from now.  

To illustrate, in February 1984, my company sent me to an oil industry conference featuring the Secretary of Energy Donald Hodel and Occidental Petroleum CEO Armand Hammer. The price of a barrel of oil at the time was near $30. During the question-and-answer period, the question was asked about where the two speakers felt the price of oil would be in a year. Hodel stated emphatically that oil would go to $60 a barrel and Armand Hammer chided him for being an optimist as he forecast $85-a-barrel prices. Who was right? Neither. One year later, oil went to $16. This was when I learned that there are no experts, only people who sound like experts.

I am one of those hopeless romantics who truly believe in the American Dream. I have lived the dream and seen countless examples of people who have been blessed by our amazing economic and political system. I believe that our recovery from this pandemic nightmare and the willful shutting down of our economy will be relatively quick and it won’t be long before we put this trying time out of our minds and move to a place where Joe Exotic and quarantines are but a faint memory. This will be possible because of three things; as long as these three things are in place, our bright future is assured.

First, Americans innately like to work. As long as the average Joe or Jolene gets up in the morning, goes to work, gets paid a fair wage based on their production, pays their bills, pays their taxes and has enough money left to have a little fun, then the first element of the cycle of success is present.  

Next, business must price their products to cover their costs, pay their fair share of taxes and have money to reinvest in their company and reward investors with either dividends or escalating stock prices. If this happens, the second element is secured.  

Finally, if government will allow business to innovate, invest in itself, pay their workers fairly, reward their shareholders, tax no more than is necessary and maintain our constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then the chain of success will be unbroken. With these three ingredients our return to economic security will only be a question of when and not whether.

Make no mistake about it. This pandemic has delivered a terrible body blow to virtually every American. Some businesses will fail and individual American workers will be displaced through no fault of their own. But as the superb Green Bay Packer coach, Vince Lombardi, once said, “The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.”

America will rise to economic greatness again. Take that to the bank.

Dunn is the former chairman of the Howard County Republican Party.