Merry Christmas, America! As we gather with families and enjoy this holiday season, let us pause to consider: things could be much, much worse. Some perspective is in order.
The Christmas holiday this year delivers a welcome and much-needed time out. Our country is anxious on many fronts. Our nation’s leaders appear unable and unwilling to lead, and financial markets have turned volatile and fearful, giving up the gains of the past year as traders prepare for a slowdown.
The much-admired Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has announced his retirement and China has made only token gestures towards resolving our trade disagreements.
Meanwhile, Democrats – especially those planning to run for president in 2020 -- are desperate to topple President Trump.
To top it off, we must suffer daily encounters with Senator Chuck Schumer who, with his incessant scolding of President Trump and eagerness to play the blame game, is quickly becoming unbearably annoying.
So, where’s the good news?
How about this? Notwithstanding the gloom factory that is the liberal media, the country remains upbeat. The University of Michigan reported just recently that consumer sentiment rose in December, defying expectations. The report notes that “over the past half century, sentiment was higher in only two other time periods: 1964-65 and 1997-2000.” Only 12 percent of respondents said they were concerned about the stock market.
Americans are feeling good partly because the jobs market remains red hot. Unemployment, currently at 3.7 percent, is the lowest ever for blacks, Hispanics, Asians, teens, and women. Jobs are plentiful and not just entry-level jobs; manufacturing employment is up by 288,000 over the past year.
Moreover, opportunities abound. At last count there were 7.1 million jobs available, and only 6 million Americans unemployed. Five years ago, the picture was bleaker, as there were only 3.9 million jobs available, and 11.3 million Americans out of work.
Wages are rising at the fastest rate in a decade. Not only are paychecks improving, middle class Americans are seeing those gains amplified by the 2017 GOP tax cuts, which, according to the Tax Policy Center, has added from 7.5 percent to 11.5 percent to worker’s take-home pay.
Hiring shouldn’t slow any time soon. Bank of America’s recent Small Business Survey reports that 80 percent of entrepreneurs expect their businesses to grow in 2019 and 67 percent are planning to expand. The bank notes that “hiring plans…have peaked to their highest levels in three years.”
Like other surveys, the report shows employers having to boost pay to hire workers. This bodes well for wages, but has not yet resulted in any significant increase in inflation which is restrained by falling oil prices and a strong dollar.
President Trump campaigned on reinvigorating our sputtering economy; the left is not keen to celebrate his accomplishments.
Meanwhile, for the first time in a decade, the World Economic Forum has designated the U.S. the most competitive country in the world. That honor stems from our country’s vibrant entrepreneurship, our deep and able worker population and our sophisticated financial system – the envy of the world. Those attributes are contributing to U.S. outperformance today as well.
The WEF survey doesn’t include energy availability in its roster of advantages, but it should. The U.S. is blessed with abundant oil, gas and coal; for the first time in decades our country in November became a net exporter of oil. Not only do we have copious supplies, we have the cutting-edge technology needed to extract them and a White House eager to exploit them.
It is worth reciting these positives because the liberal media refuses to do so and instead has done an excellent job of highlighting negative developments. According to the Media Research Center, network TV coverage of President Trump during the third quarter (leading up to the midterm election) was 92 percent negative. More important, most of the broadcasts focused on the Mueller investigation, the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, North Korea and Russia. Only one percent of the airtime, or 14 minutes over three months, had to do with the economy. And 88 percent of that was negative alarmism about Trump’s tariffs.
President Trump campaigned on reinvigorating our sputtering economy; the left is not keen to celebrate his accomplishments. In particular, liberals detest the idea that tax cuts boost growth, because taxes feed Big Government and they hate starving the beast. They are vitally self-interested in seeing the Trump agenda fail.
To be sure, we do have problems. First and foremost, the ongoing downbeat reporting on the economy could well undermine confidence; there are signs it has already done so. Also, growth elsewhere in the world is slowing and our trade battles with China have caused some uncertainty. Moreover, the Federal Reserve is taking some of the fizz out of the economy by raising interest rates. President Trump and many others oppose the program designed to restore more “normal” interest rates and to reduce the Fed balance sheet, since inflation remains low.
None of these problems is likely grave enough to throw us into a recession. There have been, according to ISI Evercore, seven market corrections since 1984 without recessions. They believe that is what we are experiencing now. In all seven cases, they point out, the Fed has acted to deter a slowdown; if need be, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will do so next year.
Of course, none of the above holds a candle to the good news which we soon celebrate: the birth of Jesus Christ. That tops everything. Let us take a moment to “show forth in our lives the true meaning of Christmas,” as the prayer book says.
I’m going to do my bit by not saying another negative word about Chuck Schumer… at least until Wednesday.