Fifty Things to Feel Good About
Board: Macro Economics
There are no jobs. Washington is a mess. Greece is nearly bankrupt. Italy isn't far behind. North Dakota is flooded. Arizona is an inferno. Oil is nearly $100 a barrel. Forty Mexicans were killed by drug violence in one day last week. This guy fell to his death catching a baseball in Texas as his six-year-old son looked on.
Welcome to 2011. And welcome to the 24-hour news cycle. It lives on this stuff.
Good news is out there -- you just have to look for it. In the spirit of optimism, here are 50 things you should feel good about.
50. Biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey thinks the first person to live to see their 150th birthday is already born. Medical technology is awesome.
49. The average American spends less than half as much of their income on food today as they did in the 1940s. No one ever talks about long-term food deflation.
48. Stock returns only look awful if you use the dot-com bubble as a starting point. Since 1995, the Dow has returned about 11% per year (including dividends). That's a healthy return by any standard.
47. Mark Zuckerberg has made over $3,400 per minute of Facebook's existence. Capitalism is alive and well.
46. A cancer-stricken man from Eritrea just received an artificially grown trachea derived from his own cells. More awesome medical technology at work.
45. Bad news: 68% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. Positive spin: The exact same percentage felt that way in 1991. Pessimism is nothing new.
44. Part of the reason Medicare and Social Security are money pits is because people are living much longer than expected. I can think of worse problems.
43. The U.K.'s economic dominance fell sometime in the late nineteenth century, but for the most part, it's been a nice place to live ever since.
42. Many fear the U.S. economy will end up like Japan. Next time you hear that, remember that unemployment in Japan hasn't been above 5.6% in the past 20 years.
41. MIT just created solar cells that can be printed on paper or other fabric.
40. If you're reading this article, you're part of the 30% of the world with Internet access. 70% of the planet would love to be in your shoes.
39. Nine percent of American households are millionaires. It's not just the very top who are doing well.
38. GDP per capita in the United States is 12 times higher than it is in China. Remember that next time someone mentions how domineering China's economy is.
37. 9.2% of the population is unemployed, or 16.4% if you count those who've given up looking. Positive spin: 83% of the country is gainfully employed.
36. Overall cancer death rates in the U.S. fell more than 1.5% per year from 2001-2007. Falling cancer death rates have saved nearly 1 million Americans over the past two decades.
35. 2010 was a record year for both patent applications and patent grants. Innovation is nowhere near dead.
34. Today's personal savings rate is six times higher than it was in 2005.
33. American households' debt load is now the lowest since the early 1990s.
32. Life expectancy for someone born today is eight years longer than someone born in 1960.
31. Three years ago, many thought Ford (NYSE: F ) was toast. Today, it's profitable and growing, all without a bailout. Smart management still wins.
30. One of corporate America's biggest challenges right now is what to do with record amounts of cash. Nice problem to have.
29. TARP will cost taxpayers an amount that rounds to zero in the grand scheme of things.
28. 115 stocks in the S&P 500 are within 10% of their all-time highs.
27. Retirement savings are nearing an all-time high.
26. A BMW plant in South Carolina gets two-thirds of its power from methane siphoned off a nearby trash dump.
25. Even in inflation-adjusted terms, the U.S. is exporting more stuff than ever before.
24. Real manufacturing output is 75% higher than it was in the 1970s.
23. Some of the best universities, including MIT and Harvard, are putting video lectures of entire courses online for free.
22. Some think the U.S. has a 200-year supply of coal. If they're only fractionally right, you and I never have to worry about turning the lights on.
21. In 1900, 44% of all American jobs were in farming. Think about that: Almost half of all ingenuity was devoted to eating.
20. Ten years ago, cell phone technology consisted of a calculator and game called Snake. Today you can watch full-length movies, file your taxes, get driving directions, and watch live TV on a phone half the size and a fraction of the price.
19. Nearly 30% of Americans over age 25 have a bachelor's degree. In the 1960s, that figure was less than 10%.
18. Unemployment fell by 60% from 1933-1936, and by 35% from 1982-1984. Once a recovery finds its footing, the rebound is usually swift.
17. Average gas prices today are lower than they were three years ago.
16. The average American now retires at age 62. One hundred years ago, the average American died at age 51.
15. As a percentage of GDP, the federal government was in substantially more debt after World War II than it is today.
14. Almost all news on the Internet is free -- even the really good stuff.
13. You had to be rich to get on an airplane in 1950.
12. In the U.S. and Europe, death by stroke has fallen 70% since the 1950s.
11. As a percentage of income, housing hasn't been this cheap in over a decade.
10. Before 1975, it could cost thousands of dollars in commissions to buy or sell stock. Today, it costs somewhere between nothing and $10.
9. In the early 1970s, an influential study using a computer model called World3 predicted the world would exhaust all known supplies of oil and natural gas by 1992. Dire predictions are nothing new.
8. Last year's payroll tax cut will save the average household $1,000 this year.
7. "Five years have seldom passed away in which some book or pamphlet has not been published pretending to demonstrate that the wealth of the nation was fast declining ... manufactures decaying, and trade undone." Adam Smith wrote that ... in 1775. Again, pessimism is nothing new.
6. The home ownership rate is plunging. Most of those who never should have owned a home in the first place no longer do.
5. New home construction is now one-third the trend rate of household formation. Nothing bodes better for an eventual housing rebound.
4. Traffic deaths per 100,000 people have fallen by half since the late 1960s.
3. If you've owned stocks since early 2009, you've enjoyed one of the biggest bull markets in history.
2. Dollar weakness is a matter of perception. The U.S. Dollar Index today isn't far from where it was in the late 1970s.
1. Only 4% of humans get to live in America. Odds are, you're one of them.