We have just been through one of the most negative political campaigns in history, one that set a new standard for pettiness and being just plain ugly. But, as an eternal optimist, I have been looking for that silver lining at the edge of the dark cloud, that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and I have found some 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, where deranged gunmen shoot innocent people who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. We should take no solace in the fact that these tragedies seem to occur more often in Europe than in our country. 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 news media does not make the news. Instead, they report what others say and do. And, much has been negative in our country over the past several months. That is especially true in this election year when those not in office know they can't get elected by telling us how well everything is going.
Well, here is some 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 and military news back to 2009, eight years ago, to compare with our situation today.
Unemployment: … was 9.2 percent, is now 4.9 percent. Gasoline: ….was $3.24 per gallon, is now $2.21 nationwide.Foreign oil purchased: …..was 11 million barrels, is now 4.5 million. National GDP growth: ….was -0.3 percent, is now + 3.7 percent.Growth of National Debt each year: …..was 1.65 trillion, is 298 billion.Stock Market: …..was 8,850, is now pushing 20,000.Military in war zones: …..was 187,000, is now 10,300.Military killed in war zones: …..was 341 in 2009, is 15 so far in 2016.
So, shall we give President Barack Obama credit for the improvements in our economic situation? My answer is, "No." Presidents actually 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 when President Donald 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 inventions and innovations in the oil industry and our economic recovery. Certainly we can all celebrate having our soldiers home instead of on some foreign field in the Mideast. There, at least, President Obama can claim some credit.
The polls tell us that at least half of our population is concerned about future actions of our new president. We should not be overly worried. Much of what he promised to do when he takes office is not in the purview of the president. He may influence change but Congress has control of new laws and the budget and The Supreme Court is still the protector of the Constitution. Change may come but it will be slow and measured, and much less so than campaign rhetoric led us to believe.
Considering what we have been hearing in the political wars, any good news at all is worth celebrating. The improvement in our economic numbers and the fact that our soldiers are home from the mid-east should cause us all to pause here at the end of another year and be thankful for small favors.
-- Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. You will find Hopkins' latest book, "Journey to Gettysburg," on Amazon.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.