Assessing the economic impact of 9/11

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Despite the horrific loss of life on 9/11, the economic impact of the terror attacks on the United States was minimal.

I recall when Wall St. could not reopen and was closed for days in the wake of 9/11. While the markets were closed, I got panic-stricken calls from people worried that we would have an economic depression. When markets did first open, there was some significant panic selling, but then things stabilized.

The terror attacks were all about bringing down the financial center of the world. Osama bin Laden thought that by taking down the World Trade Center and causing the death of 3,000 innocents in New York and Washington that he would bring America to its knees. But the goal of harming us economically failed.

You may not remember this, but we had been in the midst of a recession when 9/11 hit. Yet we came out of the recession in November 2001. Even the terror attacks couldn’t thwart our economy, though economic perils of another kind still lay ahead.

Looking back now, Dow Jones reports that the total spending we’ve had on homeland security since 9/11 has been $360 billion. That may sound like a lot of money, but it’s not. When you consider the size of the U.S. economy, that’s not even a rounding error.

The truth is we are far more resilient that we give ourselves credit for. In the midst of four years of the Great Recession, our economy is 27% larger today than 10 years ago — even when you factor in how the economy has cratered. Capitalism is resilient and flexible at its best.

So economically speaking, our real problem wasn’t the terror attacks. It was the foolish lending of the banks that came to a head during the economic collapse that started in 2008. Countries don’t fail because of external enemies, but rather because of what happens internally.

On the count of what’s happening internally, we have a lot of work to do; there’s no doubt about that. Yet we’re still standing strong today 10 years after the terror attacks. We may be a little on our back heel, and we’ve certainly lost our sense of mojo. But that’s not because of the terrorists.

I want to take a moment to salute the bravery of the men and women who volunteer to serve in our military. Time and time again, when the U.S. is under attack, brave men and women answer the call to defend our country and freedom. The next time you see someone in uniform, take a moment to express your thanks and gratitude.



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