Six years ago, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda weren't just attempting to bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Center. They were trying to smash the American economy as well. Here is what bin Laden himself said about his goals and motivations back in December 2001: "If their economy is destroyed, they will be busy with their own affairs rather than enslaving the weak peoples. It is very important to concentrate on hitting the U.S. economy through all possible means." And here is what al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri said in September 2002: "We will also aim to continue, by the permission of Allah, the destruction of the American economy."
No luck so far, despite bin Laden's recent videotape ravings about our taxes and mortgage debt. Although the towers came down, the resilient American economy didn't. Since September 11, the economy hasn't suffered a single down quarter. In fact, it has notched 23 straight quarters of economic growth. (And despite the subprime mortgage crisis, this is likely to be the 24th straight quarter of growth.) Those numbers are especially amazing when you consider that when the terrorist attacks happened, the Internet stock bubble was in full implosion mode. The economy dipped in the third quarter of 2001 and was slightly negative in two of the previous four quarters. But it's been nothing but growth since then. Overall, the American economy is, adjusting for inflation, $1.65 trillion bigger than it was six years ago. To put that gigantic number in some perspective, the U.S. economy has added the equivalent of five Saudi Arabias, eight Irans, 13 Pakistans, or 15 Egypts, depending on your preference. And while 9/11 did cause the stock market to plunge, the Dow is 37 percent higher than it was on Sept. 10, 2001, creating trillions of dollars of new wealth for Americans. What's more, the unemployment rate is 4.6 percent today vs. 5.7 percent back then. Not bad at all.