A significant segment of Americans sees this nation in decline, if not free fall. Never has the United States been in such bad shape, they say, and it is getting worse.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I would ask today’s naysayers to identify a period in our recent history when the nation was in better shape — economically, socially or in any other way than now.
It certainly could not be any time between 1925 and 1950, a period of economic depression, war and its aftermath. I am 88 years old. I was born near the end of the 1920s and grew up in the Great Depression, when one-third of Americans were out of work. There were bread lines; those who could worked for the U.S. government in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Progress Administration or other such programs. It could not be the 1950s or ’60s, with the Korean War, the Vietnam conflict, riots and unrest. Would they select the 1970s to 1990s and the mortal dangers of the Cold War? Perhaps they would select the dawn of the new century to 2008, as we slid into the worst recession since the Great Depression.
I know they would not choose 2008 to the present day. But in 2008, at the close of the George W. Bush administration, the financial crisis sent unemployment marching upward toward double digits and the nation lost 2.6 million jobs. The Dow Jones industrial average in 2009 fell below 8,000; people’s retirement accounts and other investments lost up to half their value.
After almost eight years of President Barack Obama’s leadership, the Dow is over 18,000. Those investments have recouped their losses and made significant gains. Job growth is averaging more than 170,000 a month, and the jobless rate is 5 percent.
Are things perfect? No. And they never will be.
The nation has not solved all its race-relations problems. But I remember the days of Jim Crow, when I was part of a group of four young lieutenants on a helicopter training flight in Texas, all wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army, who couldn’t buy a cup of coffee because one member of our group was black. We have come a long way since then, but still have a ways to go. Neither we nor any other nation has solved the problem of race relations.
The world is going through a revolution similar to the Industrial Revolution. Some are being left behind as a result of the change. Robots have replaced some manufacturing workers, and information technology has replaced the guy with the eye shade and the pocket protector.
I have lived in other countries. I have traveled the world and still do. The United States still has the best economy in the world. It is the best militarily and the best in innovation and development. We don’t have to reopen outdated manufacturing plants to stay No. 1, but we must remain first in innovation and development.
Of my 88 years, this is the best of times, not the worst of times. To argue otherwise is to deny history and reality.
Gerald S. Rose, a retired U.S. Army colonel and foreign service officer, lives in Falls Church, Virginia.