Paging Captain America: You Busy?

United States of America Long-Term Rating Lowered To 'AA+' On Political Risks And Rising Debt Burden; Outlook Negative

We have lowered our long-term sovereign credit rating on the United States of America to 'AA+' from 'AAA'… The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics.

--Standard & Poors, August 5, 2011


Not that anyone asked, but I've decided we need a superhero to swoop in--or maybe just walk confidently in--and save us. I'm wondering if Marvel Comics would mind if we, as a country, borrowed Captain America for a bit. Just to get us through this rough patch with Standard & Poors. And the out-of-control debt. And runaway unemployment. And the trade imbalance. But once we get those things figured out, Marvel can have Captain America back, no prob.

For our new Captain America, I hereby nominate Intel founder Andy Grove. Hope he's listening. Oh, and Andy? Can you please suit-up in the original, hand-drawn 1941 Captain America costume, per Marvel comics? Ditch the flack jacket and cargo-pants that actor Chris Evans wears as Captain America in the 2011 Hollywood version. You will be awesome in the original royal blue uni-tard with its vertical red and white striped torso, red thigh-high cuffed boots, red cuffed gloves, and nifty pull-on cap / mask emblazoned with the big white "A." And don't even get me started on how cool you'd look holding that Captain America shield. You'd look so great on billboards posted all over the country. There's bound to be money left in the stimulus package for a marketing campaign. If not, we can print some. Let's do this!

Anyone doubt me? Read on.

Top 10 Reasons

Why Andy Grove Should Be Our Captain America

#10: He Has Wisdom. We need someone who has experienced hardships and not only survived, but thrived. Born in 1936, by age nine Andy Grove had lost family members at Auschwitz. In 1956, when Grove was 20, he escaped Hungary amidst rumors the Red Army was rounding up students after the failed Revolution. Although he'd played no part in the Revolution, as a student he feared for his life. The International Rescue Committee helped him immigrate to the U. S., where an aunt and uncle, who had left Hungary in the 1930's, took him in. According to the website Crown Heights, Grove then entered City College of New York to study chemistry.

Perhaps it was the 'C' he got in the English course on Faulkner (after speaking English for only three years) that kept him from being Summa Cum Laude, but he received nearly straight 'A's'. Meanwhile, in 1957, while working as a busboy, Grove met Eva, a waitress and fellow refugee. By June 1958 they were married.

The couple headed to Berkeley, California, where Grove earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1963. These experiences, from Hungary onward, yielded wisdom in this man, Andy Grove. We as a country need that kind of wisdom guiding us.

#9: He knows and respects fear, but rises above it. Grove's harrowing childhood experiences, writes biographer Richard Tedlow (Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American Business Icon), stayed with him as an adult, and steeled him for future challenges.

Grove knew only too well that sometimes your worst fears really do come true. He was a man determined not to become a victim. Initial fear was usually Grove's response to a new challenge. He was frightened at CCNY and at Berkeley. It says a lot about him that he never let fear prevent him from giving his all to something new.

This is the kind of leader--um, superhero--we need.

#8: He's successful and happy. Successful, happy people inspire us. In 2006, Kevin Maney (USA Today) asked Tedlow where he would put Andy Grove on the list of U.S. business all-stars. Tedlow (a Harvard Business School professor and prolific biographer of CEOs) said, without hesitation, that Andy Grove would be Number One.

Maney explained that he had interviewed Andy Grove many times, and always found him "happy and balanced--unlike many of the driven, tortured souls who run companies." Tedlow agreed. "The man's life is an inspiration." He survived not only childhood traumas, but prostate cancer in middle age. He now has Parkinson's disease. He saw Intel nearly fail in 1986 but he didn't allow himself to be defeated. Tedlow's right. The man's life is an inspiration. We need him, front and center, as Captain America.

#7: He was named Man of the Year…for good reason. Time magazine has, in the past, made controversial choices for its Man of the Year. In 1938, it chose Adolf Hitler. Sigh. But in 1997, Time chose well, and gave Andy Grove the nod. Irony in abundance, considering Grove's Hitlerian-ravaged childhood.

Read the following, published in Time (by Walter Isaacson) to explain the magazine's choice of Andy Grove. Try not to weep at how our country's economic health has deteriorated since:

Andy Grove has made real the defining law of the digital age: the prediction by his friend and Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that microchips would double in power and halve in price every 18 months or so. And to that law Grove has added his own: we will continually find new things for microchips to do that were scarcely imaginable a year or two earlier.

The result is one of the great statistical zingers of our age: every month, 4 quadrillion transistors are produced, more than half a million for every human on the planet. Intel's space-suited workers etch more than 7 million, in lines one four-hundredth the thickness of a human hair, on each of its thumbnail-size Pentium II chips, which sell for about $500 and can make 588 million calculations a second.

The U.S. now enjoys what in many respects is the healthiest economy in its history, and probably that of any nation ever. More than 400,000 new jobs were created last month, bringing unemployment down to 4.6%, the lowest level in almost 25 years.

Driving all this is the microchip. The high-tech industry, which accounted for less than 10% of America's growth in 1990, accounts for 30% today. Every week a Silicon Valley company goes public. It's an industry that pays good wages and makes both skilled and unskilled workers more efficient.

Are you weeping yet? Have no fear. If I get my way, Andy will soon be here!

#6: He's only human. Andy Grove is far from perfect. In 1994, after Intel released millions of flawed Pentium chips, Grove instructed engineers to tell customers not to be concerned. "Just as quickly," says Crown Heights, "he realized he had made a horrible mistake. He reversed course and led a $475 million product recall...He had a quick violent temper which, in 1984, caused Fortune magazine to name him one of America's toughest bosses."

Kevin Maney wrote that Andy Grove has a "complex personality that can be affectionate, vulgar, demanding and funny."

In other words, despite Grove's brilliance, he's one of us. He could wear the red, white and blue body suit and still be Andy Grove, superhero with an attitude, come to help us out of a jam.

Next up: Top 10 Reasons Why Andy Grove Should Be Our Captain America continues.