By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.
Problems are not hard to find, but there’s also much good in the world if we look for it. In the spirit of this Thanksgiving season, let’s do that for a change.
In Iraq and Syria, ISIS is all but defeated. After taunting the world with their cruelty and barbarism, the jihadists have lost one city after another. When Iraqi and American-led coalition forces last week retook the city of Rahway, ISIS was left with only isolated rural areas in that country, and Syria is in a similar situation. Remember that black-clad spokesman who would threaten the world and then behead an unfortunate victim, all captured on video? He’s long dead, and the fighters that remain are now surrendering.
The defeat of ISIS is liberating Iraqis and Syrians from that horrible group. Meanwhile, millions worldwide are being freed from another type of bondage. In 1990, 1.9 billion people lived in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 a day, according to MDG Monitor, published by various United Nations agencies. In 2015, that number had been more than cut in half, to 836 million. That’s more than a billion fewer people, even as the world population has grown. In 1990, nearly half of all people in developing nations lived in extreme poverty. By 2015, that figure had been reduced to 14 percent.
An improving economy
Americans, meanwhile, live better than the vast majority of people who have ever lived – even in a “poor” state like Arkansas. Nationally, the economy is uneven but growing. The unemployment rate in October was 4.1 percent, compared to 10 percent in October 2009 during the height of the Great Recession. In Arkansas, the unemployment rate is at historically low levels: 3.6 percent in October after falling as low as 3.4 percent in May. True, part of the reason for the low rates is the way unemployment is calculated – not including discouraged workers who have left the workforce. Still, things are much better than they were. One example: the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 20,000 in January and as of noon Tuesday had reached 23,600. On March 9, 2009, it was at 6,500.
A stable political system
Every day, we see examples of the American political system’s problems, but those problems also reflect the system’s strengths. Congress seems completely dysfunctional, and yet despite that, the American government remains stable – showing once again why the United States is the world’s oldest democracy.
Americans are extremely divided about their president, but regardless, he was elected by the people, will remain in office for a certain time, and then he will leave, just as all the other presidents have done. Love or hate President Trump, you should take comfort in that. In contrast, in Zimbabwe, that country’s 93-year-old dictator, Robert Mugabe, this week was forced from office after 37 years by a military coup after he tried to engineer a transfer of power to his much younger wife. I’m thankful I live under this messy, messed up system. Aren’t you?
Innovation and entrepreneurship
Meanwhile, the United States, for all its flaws, remains a bastion of innovation and entrepreneurship. Advancements in oil and gas production, increasing fuel efficiency, and the development of cleaner, renewable fuels has made the United States far less dependent on foreign oil – eventually, perhaps completely independent. Because of that, we no longer are held hostage by OPEC’s oil barons. Tesla furthered that trend last week by displaying its new electric 18-wheeler, which Arkansas companies Walmart and J.B. Hunt are already buying. In the future, automated vehicles will make our roads safer.
It’s easy to look at what’s happening in the world today and become cynical. But cynics don’t accomplish much. Neither should we strive to be the opposite – naive – though being naive is probably preferable.
Somewhere in the middle is realism, and there are times when it is realistic to be thankful – at least for a day. Happy Thanksgiving.