How could times be so different? In 1990 oil bolted to $28 on
madness. Gold rallied tremendously. The stock market got annihilated over the course of three brutal months.
traded below 10 bucks. Whole states worth of banking disappeared.
In 1998 oil's been plunging. Tuesday saw a rout in virtually every commodity, even newly sainted silver. Bonds broke through their 1993 lows -- that's good, for you incredibly newbies -- and stocks have rallied. Can I tell you the reason? It's so stark as to be the stolen letter hanging right in front of your face. But nobody, well, almost nobody, will say it: WE ARE A BETTER, STRONGER COUNTRY NOW THAN WE WERE THEN.
Call me jingoistic. Call me U.S.-centric. Just don't call me wrong. Let's review our two countries, then and now. In 1990 inflation seemed like a given, interest rates were high, the budget was totally out of control and the guys who ran the government didn't give a hoot about the market or the economy. In fact, I thought they ran the economy so that the meager oil-producing states of this country had a leg up on the rest of us. Our banking system was a shambles. Our currency an embarrassment headed into oblivion. Our manufacturing prowess? Just beginning to emerge but hidden behind horrible labor strife at our auto and heavy machinery companies. Our military? I remember going out with a prominent New York magazine-type editor on the eve of the war and he was telling me how the Republican Guard was going to whip the Seventh Army. Smart guy.
Now look. The budget? Balanced. The dollar? The issue is "it is too strong." Banking system? So powerful that it has been derailed only momentarily by the East Asian turmoil. Only bogus charges of imperialism are keeping Citibank from being the Central Bank to the Greater-East-Asian Co-Lacking-In-Prosperity Sphere. Manufacturing prowess? Okay, maybe we don't make the best-selling car in the U.S., but U.S. cars are darn good, and is that my wife I heard saying she's trading in the
for a sturdier, more comfortable,
General Motors Suburban
? (Remember to take out my Bob Marley CDs please.) Computers?
? I don't think so. Where do you want to go today?
? This time, nobody's talking about Saddam winning. It's just a question whether we want anyone over there standing.
I don't know why the talking heads that I have on all day never say any of this stuff. To them the market is just some baseless, overvalued giant conundrum filled with complacency and fools waiting to get in. Same crummy U.S. it's always been. What do they want us to be? Germans?
I for one, am not only proud of the changes our nation has made, but I refuse to have the current White House sex/shenanigans change my mind about our place in the world. The main reason why the stock market has gone up these last eight years since
sat in that hotel room describing bombs bursting in air is because the people of the country are better, harder-working and smarter than they were eight years ago. Those who say "this time it is the same" have been selling me stock lower and cheaper than I have had a right to get. I hope they keep saying it. I hope they sell when the war starts this time. I already have my game plan.
Same as the third week of January 1991.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of TheStreet.com. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Mr. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback, emailed to