Donald Lambro

-- Factory orders, a pivotal measurement of our economic health, rose by 1.1 percent in December, following an even higher 3.3 percent gain in November. Orders shot up by 8.1 percent for all of 2005 and 9.7 percent in 2004. Who says we aren't making anything anymore?

-- The economy has been growing by better than 3.5 percent a year, a level that is higher than any of the major industrial nations of Europe or the Pacific rim democracies. It's likely to grow by as much this year, possibly by 4 percent or more as a result of an improving export picture abroad.

-- The housing market has cooled somewhat, but it couldn't maintain the overheated pace of the past few years. The dire predictions of a housing bubble bursting and home values collapsing have not happened. Home sales remain in record territory. More Americans own their home today -- more than two-thirds -- than ever before in U.S. history.

-- The price of oil was falling nicely last year until the fears of a sudden interruption in oil supplies from Iran rattled the futures markets. Last week, the price began to tumble again. The administration is signaling its desire to sell oil and gas leases in the Eastern Gulf waters where huge reserves remain to be tapped to boost supply.

The critical news, which gets lost in the market hysteria over impending fuel shortages, is that U.S. oil and gasoline inventories have been climbing, which will eventually apply downward pressure on pump prices.

-- Government deficits and debt are the bogeymen that the doom-and-gloom conmen who like to wreak political havoc, especially in the stock and bond markets. But the feds are expecting higher tax receipts of $2.4 trillion next year, though I think that estimate will be well below the final figure because of higher-than-expected economic growth from a booming global economy.

Look for another $100 billion cut in the budget deficit that will continue to shrink as a share of a nearly $14 trillion-a-year economy.

The bottom line is that the economy is strong and getting stronger. The tax cut pills that Bush prescribed in 2001 were just the right medicine for an ailing economy that has taken some very hard body blows in the past five years but has bounced back faster than the pessimists said it would.

It's time for those doubting Americans to take a fresh look at a vibrant, innovative, bullish economy that deserves much more respect than it has gotten so far.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.