There is certainly plenty to worry about these days. North Korea is saber-rattling again. Yet the grim headlines obscure a number of remarkably positive trends. Wochit
Grim headlines obscure a number of remarkably positive trends: Our view
There is certainly plenty to worry about these days. North Korea is saber-rattling again. The globe is warming. And the president is, well, the president.
Yet the grim headlines obscure a number of remarkably positive trends in economics, education, health care and more. Here are a few to keep in mind this holiday season:
The economy is gaining strength. The stock market has been on fire this year, and the U.S. unemployment rate has dropped to 4.1%. Even more impressive is the recovery abroad. The International Monetary Fund projects healthy global growth of 3.6% this year and 3.7% next year. This includes recovery from economic malaise in Europe and Latin America and rapid expansion in developing markets. Among the fastest growing economies this year have been Bhutan, Ethiopia, Ghana, India and Ivory Coast. With this growth, the Brookings Institution estimates that 160 million people will join the middle class worldwide over each of the next five years.
ISIS is on the ropes. Rising in a vacuum left by al-Qaeda, the radical Islamic group ISIS shocked the world in 2014 by capturing huge swaths of Syria and Iraq. But now it, like al-Qaeda, is on the ropes, thanks to work of the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. arms, airstrikes and logistical support as part of a strategy launched by President Obama and accelerated by President Trump. Less than two weeks ago, the Iraqi military proclaimed that its country had been “fully liberated” from ISIS terror. That does not mean an end to the threat. ISIS could rise again or be replaced by yet another group. Its online propaganda continues to inspire lone-wolf attackers. But the rollback of ISIS means that two strategies for recruiting and radicalizing Muslims to wage war against the West — one built around spectacular attacks like 9/11, and one built on acquiring land and resources — have been thwarted.
Education is fundamental. The U.S. high school graduation rate reached 84.1% last year, an all-time high. That’s good news on a variety of fronts. High school graduates make an average of $8,000 per year more than dropouts, are less likely to be incarcerated or require social services, and are more likely to vote. The scores of people taking Advanced Placement tests have also jumped, even as more students take them. A long period of increases in the number of people going to college (combined with the death of many senior citizens without college degrees) has led to a record number of college graduates as a percentage of the population.
Teen pregnancy is in decline. In 2015, the last year for which data are available, 22.3 babies were born to every 1,000 females ages 15 to 19. This represents another in a string of record lows. The reasons for the decline are not entirely clear. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which puts out the numbers, says more teens abstaining from sex and more teens using birth control — rather than an increase in abortions — appear to be the biggest factors. The decline is good for female teens, who will have more job and economic opportunities if they are not raising kids. It is also a positive for society to have fewer children raised by people who are not yet ready for the responsibility of parenthood.
Cancer mortality is dropping. Since peaking in the early 1990s, the rate of death from all forms of cancer has decreased by an astounding 25%, saving 2.1 million lives over the past quarter-century, according to the American Cancer Society. Some of the drop is the result of specific causes, such as fewer people smoking and contracting lung cancer. But more screening and better treatments account for much of the drop. This decline is likely to continue with the advent of gene therapy treatments that are tailor-made to a patients’ body and immune system.
Your vote is important. Lots of Americans don’t vote because they think their vote doesn’t matter. For evidence to the contrary, look to Virginia. The race for a key seat in the state legislature appears to have ended in a tie vote of 11,608 for Republican David Yancey to 11,608 for Democrat Shelly Simonds. In other words, anyone who didn’t vote could have determined the outcome. The election, and with it the control of the House of Delegates, will come down to a drawing of lots scheduled for Wednesday. However that draw turns out, the outcome is a welcome reminder that in our democracy, every vote still counts.
Space does not allow us to cite many more positive developments — in air safety, smoking rates, alcoholism, infant mortality, pay for women and a host of other areas. For all these reasons, as well as much more personal ones, even inveterate worriers ought to be able to find some reasons for Christmas cheer.
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