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Good News for Holiday Cheer

by bdietrich on December 23, 2012

When I worked as a journalist, I was a professional worrier. So are many academics, politicians, non-governmental “cause” groups, charities, lawyers, doctors, government officials, religious leaders, and Moms.

Americans tell each other things are bad so we’ll make them better.

Well, the world didn’t end Dec. 21. And this holiday season, let’s take cheer that our pessimistic system actually works. A lot of progress keeps being made, fiscal cliffs and guns notwithstanding.

Google terms like “good news trends” on the Internet and you’ll soon be humming Jingle Bells.

Violent crime and murders, for example, are down by half since 1991, despite the “if it bleeds it leads” credo of the evening news.

American life expectancy is up another two years since 2000, now averaging 78.5 for men and women combined.

Income taxes, as a percentage of the gross domestic product, are lower than in either the Eisenhower or Reagan Administrations. Our tax burden as a percentage of GDP is lower than 27 of 30 industrialized countries.

House fires are down 60 percent since 1972, and fire fatalities have been cut in half.

Farmland has shrunk slightly since 1982, but agricultural production is up 50 percent.

Traffic fatalities are at the lowest level since 1949. Aviation and railway accidents are down, too.

While the American economy has tripled in size in the last 40 years, our oil consumption is up only 1 percent.

Our rate of energy consumption, per capita, is half of what it was in 1973.

U.S. carbon emissions are lower than in 2005, and expected to stay that way for at least the next 15 years.

Air quality is generally better, with 18 of the 25 biggest cities posting the lowest smog readings since measurements began.

Teen alcohol and drug use is at its lowest level since 1975.

Teen pregnancy is at the lowest rate in 70 years.

Reported child sexual abuse has fallen 60 percent since 1992.

Divorce rates have fallen slightly.

So has the number of homeless, even during the recession, because of more public housing options.

Women’s pay is overall getting closer to parity with men, more women attend college than men, and 40 percent of working wives earn more than their husbands.

Depending on who’s counting, we’ve added up to 5 million jobs the last three years. True, that has yet to fully replace the jobs lost during the 2007-2009 plunge, but we’re staggering back.

Household debt is down sharply from 2008 as people pay off their cards and pay down their mortgages.

Because house prices and mortgage rates have plunged, the median U.S. house cost has fallen from $1,247 a month in 2006 to $889 now.

Terrorism incidents have fallen globally since 2005.

There has been a general decline in wars, and war casualties, since 1991. Global violence, per capita, may be at one of the lowest rates in human history.

As a professional worrier, I could find “yes, but” statistics to rebut all this optimism. But I do think that after all our hand wringing – or because of it – life is getting better, not worse.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mary Tod January 1, 2013 at 11:47 am

Hello William – these are good bits of news indeed and, as of today, the fiscal cliff just might be avoided! I’ve just read your inaugural post on creating characters for a series and wanted to comment that I enjoyed it very much, however I could not find a comment button. Could just be ineptitude on my part. In any event, I’m looking forward to reading more posts.

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