Saturday, January 27, 2018

Things Are Looking Good and Getting Better

I don't think America is going to hell. Contrary to what I read and hear every day, I see a bright side. In fact, it's very bright, a sanctuary for all of us optimists.

The news is so good it's hard to know where to begin.

How about with the roaring stock market? Seemingly setting new records every week, the Dow recently busted through 26,000 and shows no sign of slowing. Creating wealth as it goes, the market benefits nearly everyone. Individual investors make money, but so does the working guy with a 401K and a pension plan, both jacked up by market gains. Higher education is benefitting as well; endowment investments grew by an average of 12% in 2017. (My wife and I upped our charitable donations, skimming from our stock gains.)

Unemployment, at 4.1%, is at a 17-year low. Job creation is up sharply, and consumer confidence is the highest it's been in years.

The effects of tax reform are already being felt, with new bonuses handed out and plans for capital expansion and factory upgrades accelerated. Taxes on reclaimed foreign profits will boost the treasury, and small businesses, relieved of pass-through restrictions, will flourish as never before.

On the environmental front, there's reason for optimism as well. Cheap shale gas has pushed coal out of first place for generating electricity in the U.S., dramatically reducing our carbon footprint. (There's less cause for optimism almost everywhere else, where coal usage is growing, not lessening.)

Things look bright in spite of disconnects between the media and the facts. For example, columnist Ann McFeatters started off a piece today by writing, "Once the most technically advanced and scientifically active country in the world, the United States is losing its edge." I disagree. Enrollments in STEM fields are the highest ever in our colleges and universities, and students from other countries vie to come here. Drug approvals by the FDA set a record in 2017, and issuance of patents is at an all-time high.

Moreover, U.S. technical advances are changing paradigms, and all for the better. Gene- and cell-based therapy is coming into its own, opening the way for personalized medicine. Urban farms and fermenter-grown beef are about to transform agriculture. Flying cars, self-navigating ships and autonomous tanks are just around the corner. And quantum computers, less than a decade away, will change how we solve problems and even how we manage many aspects of our lives.

American science, it turns out, is doing just fine.

Things are looking good on the local front as well. Florida continues to grow at a record pace, attracting northerners from tax-heavy states and pushing real estate values to new highs. And, in spite of Irma, tourists continue to pour in, drawn to our wounded but still-attractive beaches.

The Naples area remains one of the most desirable places to live in the country, rated tops in "well being" for the second year in a row. That's not surprising. It's hard to beat our climate and marvelous restaurants and golf and art and music.

So I happily take my place among the Pollyannas, we naive unsophisticates who try to find the bright side. I didn't have to try very hard today. There's every reason to be optimistic.

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