We are nearing the first-year mark of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president. Most would attest to the fact that this has been one of the most unusual first years by any president in memory.
The naysayers have been out in force and, if one believed what they said, it would be easy to visualize that our 241-year experiment in democracy was nearing an end.
However, this writer is not so pessimistic. To paraphrase Mark Twain, "Our demise has been greatly exaggerated."
I have been looking for that silver lining, that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and I have found significant reason for optimism.
First, why are things so negative? We know that we are living in a time when public figures say terrible things about others, when fake news on Facebook seems to become reality, when deranged gunmen shoot innocent people who just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Such can happen anywhere at any time and we need to be constantly alert to potential problems.
Why is our news media loaded with bad news with not much good news to balance it? The reality of our news media is that they do not make the news. Instead, they report what others say and do. Unfortunately, much has been negative in our country over the past several months while our leaders in DC have found it difficult to get their act together.
Here is some positive balance that, perhaps, has not been at the front of your mind. One must go back several years to get a true perspective on what is happening, which is why I have traced our nation’s economic news back to 2008, almost a decade ago, to compare with our situation today.
• Unemployment: was 9.2 percent, is now 4.1 percent.
• Gasoline: was $2.69 per gallon nationwide, is now $2.48.
• National GDP growth: was -0.3 percent, is now + 3.7 percent.
• National debt: was $1.65 trillion, is $555 billion.
• Stock market: was 8,850; is now pushing 24,000.
There is also more good news not in comparison to 2008.
• High school graduations reached 84 percent in 2017.
• Cancer mortality has dropped 25 percent over the past 25 years.
• Issues related to terror are constantly with us but ISIS is on the ropes, as is al-Qaida.
So, shall we give President Trump credit for the improvements in our economic situation? Actually, presidents don’t have much leverage when it comes to the economy. They can’t tell business/industry how many people to hire or how many products to produce. We should remember that fact when President Trump is trying to fulfill his many campaign promises related to jobs and the economy.
Rather than crediting the president for past successes in the economy, we should credit innovations in the oil industry and the wisdom of our leaders following the Great Depression who envisioned circumstances similar to what became reality in 2008 and set up regulations to forestall any repeat of that national disaster.
The polls tell us that at least half of our population is concerned about future actions of our president. We should not be overly worried. Much of what he promised to do during the campaign is not in the purview of the president. He may influence change but Congress has control of new laws and the budget. The Supreme Court is still the protector of the Constitution. Change may come but it will be slow and measured, much less so than political rhetoric would lead us to believe.
Some may call me an eternal optimist, but from my perspective, any good news is worth celebrating. The improvement in our economic, health, and graduation numbers should cause us all to pause here at the end of another year and be thankful for significant successes in a number of areas of national importance.
Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and the Anderson Independent-Mail in South Carolina. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states. Contact him at email@example.com.