WASHINGTON -- Christmas, the season of good will, charity and hope, is a time when America, at least for a while, seems more united as a nation and as a people.
Goodness knows there are many things that divide us throughout the year, but perhaps this is an appropriate time to focus on what holds us together, what we have to be grateful for, and what is right and good in our country and much of the world, too.
The world of course is still a dangerous place, even more dangerous after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But in a spirit of unity that we had not seen perhaps since World War II, we recovered and took a number of sensible steps to guard against another attack.
We have kept our country safer for the past half dozen years -- despite the fear-mongers who maintain that another attack will happen again sooner or later, regardless of our precautions. I do not think that is foreordained as long as we remain vigilant and keep the protections in place that have, if truth be told, foiled many plots against us. We must never let down our guard.
Americans are deeply pessimistic right now about the country's direction, and especially about the economy. But I continue to believe that much of this negative feeling has a lot to do with the news media's slanted reporting on just about everything, focusing on the bad news and ignoring the good.
More Americans are working than at any time in our history. Despite the housing decline and credit crunch, more people own their own home than ever before and most homeowners are paying their mortgages on time.
As for the subprime debacle, it took us a while, but we seem to be fixing the excesses that led to it. The Federal Reserve Board has approved new rules aimed at preventing deceptive lending practices and disqualifying buyers who lie about their incomes in order to obtain an unaffordable mortgage.
This has been a year of turmoil in the financial markets but it was also a year when the stock market soared to record heights, and then, typically, fell back a bit to take only modest gains, allowing the economy catch up and move on to the next plateau. With half the country invested in stocks, more than any nation on earth, a majority of Americans now own a chunk of corporate America.
Americans continue to believe that we don't make much anymore, that everything we buy comes from abroad. But the truth is that U.S. factories produce more and sell more abroad than at any time in our history. This year, American exports will exceed $1.4 trillion, up from about $1 trillion the year before.