In any given week, our senses can get flooded with negative news. This constant barrage tends to weigh on our hearts and minds, whether we realize it or not. It’s human nature to believe what we’re told, especially with the 24-hour news media releasing a steady stream of emergencies, crimes, disasters, and scandals.
The media’s penchant for negative financial news takes a toll on us as investors. We could be having a great time, riding high on the bull, but then the media arches an eyebrow about one small aspect of the economy, and instantly our confidence is shaken.
It’s understandable; we’re not designed to sit and take punches. We are, after all, creatures of action. But when it comes to investing, we need to commit – to be in for the long haul. So, when we’re bombarded by minute-by-minute updates on the most recent bad news story, we become vulnerable to our emotions. And if we listen to fear and pull out of the market, we are now vulnerable to losing momentum in our marathon race towards a stable and secure retirement.
As investors, citizens – and parents — we need to remember that while the news may not always be good, America is generally doing great and becoming greater.
Even I need to be reminded of this sometimes. When you’re being hit with 1,000 reasons why this country is supposedly going to hell in a handbasket, it’s important to stick to the facts. And the hard data show that the US is going strong.
Take a look at these three significant areas where America is excelling.
1. Energy Independence and Efficiency
I’m always surprised how little attention this topic gets; there’s massive news here. Only ten years ago the US was number one on the list of energy beggars – we needed other countries’ oil and natural gas. We were producing roughly five million barrels a day here at home.
Today, the tide has turned. Our energy exports now match – and will soon exceed – what we import from the rest of the world. As of this month, we’re generating about 12 million barrels a day. That number represents more than a 100% increase in just a decade! As an illustration, we’re currently getting more oil from the state of Texas alone than we were from the entire US ten years ago. The Lone Star state today produces more oil than Iran and Iraq. That’s progress. (Oh, and who’s begging now? That would be China.)
How did we make this tremendous leap? Technology. The average output of a frack well is up ten times since 2008, and the cost of drilling is down seven times. That’s efficiency. That’s innovation. That, folks, is America.
2. Environment and Health
Speaking of energy and efficiency, the EPA reports that, while total US vehicle miles driven in the US have increased almost 200% since 1970 (from 1.1 trillion miles to 3.2 trillion miles today), carbon dioxide emissions are up only 25%. And, Aggregate Emissions (meaning the six most common pollutants – particles, ozone, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide) are down by 73%. This improvement happened while GDP ballooned almost 325%.
So, for over forty-five years, the Clean Air Act has been working for America, cutting pollution while industry, transportation and overall productivity have grown. This is no small feat, considering that 92% of our globe’s population breathes air with unhealthy levels of pollutants.
In addition to making America a generally healthier place to live, The Clean Air Act proved conclusively that public health and economic prosperity can go hand in hand.
3. Medicine and Research
American doctors and researchers are on a cutting edge in treating many of the illnesses that plague humankind. Gene therapies, for instance, are now being effectively used to target and treat conditions ranging from retinal degenerative diseases to certain cancers.
In the campaign to understand, treat and cure cancer, we have made significant progress. It’s not perfect, but the death rate in the US from cancer has been steadily declining for the past 25 years, according to data from the American Cancer Society. From 1991 to 2016, the rate has dropped by 1.5% per year, which translates into 2.6 million lives saved.
As you can see, these are three pillars of foundational growth for America. If we look to these broad, evidence-based domains as a temperature check of where the US stands, I’d say we’re looking pretty darn healthy. I’d even go so far as to say America is doing great. And we’ll only get better. No matter what the nightly news has to say, here’s to a bright future.