America's Second Front

The World Trade Center no longer stands. But world trade certainly does. And so does America's entrepreneurial spirit.

The New York stock markets, despite being near the Sept. 11 attacks, reopened on Monday, and showed the terrorist plotters what Americans are really made of - they returned to business as usual, without panic selling.

And to help prevent the attacks from damaging both global and US businesses, the government's economic "generals" have been working to shore up the fundamentals, beyond their pre-attack moves to get the economy through a cyclical downturn.

The Fed's half-point drop in interest rates, along with other moves to improve financial liquidity, was a signal of resolve to business leaders. And moves in Congress to financially re-fuel the airline industry will help revive that key transportation sector.

These are probably just the beginning steps of what could be a long restructuring of American society to cope with the threat and the aftereffects of terrorist attacks. New security measures, shifts in transportation industries, the rebuilding of lower Manhattan, and new government spending on the military will all bring positive changes in the economy.

Once the trauma of the attacks has passed, US workers might show a new optimism that will boost productivity even more than in the past decade. Just as the tragedy made everyone think about life's fundamentals, so, too, perhaps, will Americans see new meaning in their work and investments. A greater sense of purpose and community could boost the workplace and markets. The newly unemployed might find more open doors for their needs. The outpouring of charity after the attack will also bring economic benefits.

Consumer demand has kept the economy above recession in recent weeks. Unless Americans buckle to the terrorists' desire to create anxiety, that consumer confidence can be restored.

Just as stock-market leaders saw the Dow's drop on Monday as a gain (it could have been worse), so, too, can Americans rally together to rebuild the nation's economy.

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