In this political season where the slogan “Make America Great Again” is the excuse for vicious, dishonest demagogues to threaten civilized life, it’s important to keep the facts in mind about our recent accomplishments. This piece in Politico (of all places) pulls together where we are at the moment:
Unemployment has dropped from 10 percent during the worst of the Great Recession to 5 percent today….The housing market has also rebounded from the crisis, and after-tax corporate profits are at an all-time high….The oft-predicted doomsday scenarios of the post-crisis era—double-dip recession, runaway inflation, runaway interest rates, out-of-control energy prices, a health insurance death spiral, a Greek-style debt crisis, a run on the dollar—are still stubbornly refusing to materialize. Growth is modest but steady. Inflation is low….About 17 million uninsured Americans have gotten coverage in the past few years. The federal deficit has plunged from $1.4 trillion in 2009 to under $500 billion, while the dollar has gained strength against foreign currencies.
….Meanwhile, other recent developments—cheaper gas, free birth control and preventive care, the elimination of annual and lifetime caps on health insurance, expanded tax credits for the working poor, increased efficiency measures that lower energy bills, and much more—have put more money in the pockets of American families, even though their incomes have grown slowly.
….Crime in big cities dropped about 5 percent in 2015, and has been cut in half since 1990. The teen birth rate is down more than 60 percent since 1990….Carbon emissions have dropped 10 percent from 2005 levels. High school graduation rates are at an all-time high….And despite all the rhetoric about border crises and wall-building, America’s population of undocumented immigrants has remained stable for the past five years.
….Legislative gridlock in Washington eased significantly in 2015. After four years of divided-government paralysis, President Obama signed a slew of major bipartisan laws last year, including a bizarrely responsible reform of a long-standing Medicare funding problem and a sensible overhaul of the unpopular No Child Left Behind education law.
In non-economic news, …crime in big cities dropped about 5 percent in 2015, and has been cut in half since 1990. The teen birth rate is down more than 60 percent since 1990 … U.S. oil imports are at their lowest level in nearly three decades, while wind generation is up more than threefold and solar generation is up 25-fold since 2008. Carbon emissions have dropped 10 percent from 2005 levels. High school graduation rates are at an all-time high, with the most striking gains for minorities and the poor….And despite all the rhetoric about border crises and wall-building, America’s population of undocumented immigrants has remained stable for the past five years.
Do we still have problems? Well of course. There are always problems. We still have stagnant wages, increasingly meaningless, precarious jobs, stupid wars, the blood-sucking, vampire squid of casino capitalism, racial animus that never seems to diminish, and the global threat of climate change. It may be that complacency must be shattered in order to be ascertained. But on the other hand none of our problems are solved by forgetting accomplishments that a decade ago seemed unachievable.
Apparently, Monday is my optimistic day this week.Follow @dwightfurrow