During the Great Depression and World War II, truly challenging times, there were songs that boosted the spirits of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. "There'll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover" was one; "Look for the Silver Lining," was another. More recently, the Broadway musical "Annie" lifted theatergoers out of what Jimmy Carter, in 1979, called our "malaise" with the song "Tomorrow" -- "The sun'll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there'll be sun..."
Where is that optimism today in the midst of the sharp economic downturn? One doesn't hear much of it from politicians and especially not from the media, which trades exclusively in gloom and doom. President Bush has said he believes things will get better. That's not exactly a rousing sentiment. Barack Obama hasn't displayed much optimism, other than his campaign rhetoric for undefined "change." OK, so the economy is weak. Who thinks this is a permanent condition? Americans have always been optimists. Where is that optimism when we need it most?
Ric Edelman, the best-selling author of money management books, in his online newsletter (www.ricedelman.com), reminds me of some things that ought to increase our optimism and keep us from judging the future by the current condition of our anemic retirement accounts.
Edelman notes that the United States remains the largest, most powerful economy in the world. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 95 percent of the consumers of American goods live outside the United States. According to Ambassador Susan C. Schwab, U.S. Trade Representative, in the first seven months of 2008, U.S. exports of goods and services "were 18.3 percent higher than in the same period in 2007." Schwab added, "The United States remains a global leader in manufacturing, services and agriculture." The U.S. produces nearly one-fourth of the world's industrial output, making it the world's largest manufacturer. And, most importantly, significant growth is projected for many sectors of the economy. One example: employment in computer systems design and related services, according to the Department of Labor's Outlook Handbook, is projected to grow nearly 40 percent by 2016. Jobs in education services are expected to increase by 11 percent by 2016; health care service employment is projected to grow by 22 percent. Other sectors also expect sizeable job growth, such as energy, insurance and professional services.
You say that's not much solace to someone who has just been laid-off? Maybe not if that person sits at home waiting for opportunity to knock. But maybe so, if that person leaves the house and starts banging on opportunity's door.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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