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Ann McFeatters: Dear America, it’s not so bad

WASHINGTON — Ready for some good news?

Let’s take a breather from wallowing in politics, where the mantra seems to be that we are a nation of faded glory with doom all around us.

Honestly, a lot of good stuff is happening out there.

It’s encouraging that the U.S. economy has added jobs for 72 months straight. Unemployment is down to 5 percent. Yes, everyone wants more money, but we are not in recession. And contrary to the prediction of one of the all-is-dire pitchmen, a massive recession does not loom. The auto industry just had its best year ever. The economy is growing.

Another old shibboleth is that Americans are miserable on the job. Not so. Americans are workers and most Americans like their jobs and get satisfaction from them. Wages are (too slowly) rising but they are going up. The average gap in economic satisfaction between the upper and lower thirds in income is lower than it was during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton or George W. Bush years, according to the respected Index of Consumer Satisfaction.

The world of work is changing, however, as are the tools needed for the jobs of tomorrow. Change is hard, but Americans are some of the best adapters on Earth. Perhaps no people have exploited opportunity as much as those of this nation. And nothing has dimmed Americans’ desire to innovate and make technology work for them.

There have been many flat-out statements that the nation’s new Affordable Care Act would give employers a push to drop health insurance coverage. That has not happened. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, employers are even more determined to provide health benefits than before the law took effect. The percentage of adults under 65 with employer-based insurance held firm for the last five years after steadily declining since 1999. And more than 16 million previously uninsured people now have health insurance.

In another bit of unforeseen good news, SeaWorld will no longer breed orcas in captivity and will no longer catch killer whales for display. Some may groan that this is more political correctness. But it is not. We don’t trust people who mistreat animals, and the theatrical shows have smacked of inhumanity, unbefitting of SeaWorld’s mission of education, research and rescue of marine animals.

This is a good step that shows Americans are caring people, concerned about such magnificent mammals.

The ranks of the Islamic State are filled with badasses who want to kill us and destroy our way of life. And we’ve made enormous mistakes fighting terrorists. But it’s not true the United States is doing little to stop terrorism.

The U.S. has been destroying the Islamic State’s finances and access to cash. Some units of Islamic State fighters have been unpaid for months. More than 10,000 drone strikes have killed experienced leaders of the Islamic State, reducing its territory and destroying its oil reserves. This is not a war won overnight, but also not one without significant victories.

Nuclear weapons could obliterate the planet. But they have not been used for evil, and many are working hard to prevent that.

At the recent Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, 50 top international leaders revealed their progress. They have removed or secured all the highly enriched uranium and plutonium from more than 50 facilities in 30 countries _ enough to create 150 nuclear weapons, and it’s no longer available to terrorists. Fourteen nations have rid themselves entirely of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Ukraine, a war zone, no longer has enriched uranium.

In addition, the U.S. alone got rid of 138 tons of its surplus of highly enriched uranium, enough for 5,500 nuclear weapons. Despite poor relations with Russia, the U.S. is working with it to eliminate enough Russian highly enriched uranium for about 20,000 nuclear weapons, which is being converted to electricity in the U.S.

The next time you hear someone insist this country is in really bad shape, take it with a grain of salt. And, incidentally, a little bit of daily salt is good for you, according to a study of 100,000 people reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.

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