Just before writing this blog, I had a telephone conversation with my dear old friend, Glen R. Johnson. I doubt that many of you know Glen by name, but we all owe him a debt of gratitude. Glen was president of Federated Investors Inc. in Pittsburgh for many years. Today he is in his 80s and facing some physical limitations, but his mind and spirit are as strong as ever. In fact he recently penned his memoirs in a book titled, A Matter of Trust, and was kind enough to send me an autographed copy.
Throughout his career, Glen was a brilliant strategist in many political arenas, and to this day he still wields considerable influence in Washington, DC. Mainly, Glen provided consistent pushback during the past 40 years against unwise, anti-community-bank policies. Without his work, the environment for community banking today would be far worse.
Case in point: In 2011, we have fewer than half of the banks that we did in 1980, yet there remain more than 7,500 U.S. banking charters. No other country on earth has ever had 7,500 distinct charters. I firmly believe that this economic decentralization is the backbone that makes the United States the most successful economic power ever on earth.
Glen and I spoke about this topic, and we agreed that the biggest threat to the U.S. economic power position is the potential for our dollars to be abandoned by the rest of the world. If worldwide trading is no longer transacted in dollars, then our printing of more dollar bills would be purely inflationary. If the dollar is no longer the world’s de facto safe harbor, our economy would quickly decline to levels on par with nations like China, India and many European countries.
Like most of you, I have never lived in a world where the United States was not the dominant world economic power. Glen and I hope that none of us—and no one in our circles—ever has to!