It’s easy to get discouraged when all you hear about is, well, bad news. Obamacare is a technological nightmare. The income disparity between the rich and the poor is almost unbelievable. The National Security Administration is spying on all of us. And the string of disheartening news just doesn’t seem to quit.
In all actuality, though, as bad as things seem, we have been through a lot worse. For those of us who made it out alive after some of the darkest times our country had seen in recent history, we are starting to experience a tangible rebound. Nothing is perfect but, certainly, we can see and appreciate the silver linings. For Thanksgiving this year, we rounded up five things that we can all be thankful for.
1. Lower gas prices
It was only about a year ago when we saw gas prices soar — at one gas station in Simi Valley they hit as high as $6 gallon. It was a profoundly tough time for all of us, and throwing away a good portion of our paychecks just to get to work only added insult to injury. This month, however, gas prices around the country fell as low as less than $3 a gallon, and California — always the leader in high gas prices — saw some relief at the pump at an average of $3.50 a gallon, though Ventura County residents have certainly seen it as low as $3.23 in Oxnard. While we saw all-time record highs not too long ago in the summer of 2008, and we know that the state of gas prices is completely volatile, we are trying not to look a gift horse in the mouth and just count this as a win this holiday weekend. And for proponents of “Drill, baby, drill,” domestic oil production is at a 24-year high.
2. Curbing Iran’s nuclear program
Given the United States’ justification going to war over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it’s a sign of progress that at the very least Iran and six world powers are in talks about moving toward ending the possibility of nuclear war. Sure, the agreement only limits Iran’s ability to sustain a nuclear program, but it’s better than nothing. One baby step in the process to end mass destruction is certainly progress. We’ve already had enough bloodshed.
3. Unemployment rate on the way down
During the height of the economic boom — which was based on an unrealistically inflated housing market — the U.S. unemployment rate fell to an astonishingly low number of 4.4 percent. But with every boom, or rather bubble, that simply wasn’t sustainable and the bubble burst. In October of 2009, the U.S. saw a painfully high rate of unemployment — 10 percent, meaning one in 10 was jobless. Thankfully, for the time being, we are seeing better times. Ventura County’s jobless rate dropped to 6.6 percent in May though it stands at 7.3 percent for October, in step with the U.S. jobless rate. While there is much to be said about the income disparity, it’s still progress that fewer people are unemployed and more jobs are being added to the economy every month.
4. Value of U.S. stocks on the rise
Even if you aren’t a religious follower of the trading prices of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ or Standard & Poor, the fact that they are hitting new records or reaching levels not seen since before the recession shows that America’s marketplace is a good place to invest. While we aren’t professionals in the world of buying and selling stocks, certainly the higher value of our companies lends itself to a positive outlook for the U.S. economy.
5. California’s budget surplus
For the last 10 years, residents have cringed when it came time to talk about California’s budget. Officials had consistently mucked things up so badly that for an entire decade, the state was working with a deficit and was consistently late to come up with a budget. This year, not only was the budget on time, California was slated to have a surplus. And even better, the surplus is higher than expected, $2.7 billion instead of $872 million. If the state keeps up a similar pace over the next several years, according to one projection, it could have a surplus as much as $10 billion by 2018. While it couldn’t have happened without the voters passing 2012’s Prop. 30, which increased sales tax by a quarter-cent and income tax for those making more than $250,000, it’s reassuring that legislators most likely won’t be hitting any emergency tax increases for years to come; and funding for our schools, among other services, is secure.