Much to be thankful for

Much to be thankful for

As 2021 comes to an end, we have much to be thankful for. Yes, it was a challenging year that tested us as never before. But the fact that we are here to count our blessings is an accomplishment that should fill us with pride. Let’s take a moment to reflect on what went right in 2021.

A good place to start is the economy. Despite the supertankers of ink and flood of news alerts devoted to trash-talking the economy, the truth is that 2021 was a banner year for the economy by almost every measure. Dana Milbank’s op-ed in The Washington Post is a must-read for anyone who has been fooled by the media’s negative narrative. See Opinion: This is the worst economy we never had. Although Fox entertainers posing as journalists predicted empty shelves and coal in our stockings for Christmas, President Biden was able to correct major supply chain disruptions in time for the holidays. But the economic recovery was much broader than just supply chain issues. Milbank writes:

“America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden’s first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years notwithstanding the contrary media narrative contributing to dour public opinion,” Matthew Winkler, former editor in chief of Bloomberg News, wrote last week. Among the gains: The economy expanded an estimated 5.5 percent in 2021 (fourth-quarter growth dramatically outpaced Europe and even China). Unemployment plunged to 4.2 percent. Record-setting U.S. stock markets (the S&P 500 is up nearly 30 percent) outperformed the world. Productivity jumped. Corporate profits are the largest since 1950 and corporate debt the lowest in 30 years. Consumer credit expanded. Confidence among CEOs is the highest in 20 years. The American Rescue Plan cut child poverty in half.

Tucker Carlson is no doubt sputtering, “But, but, but . . . inflation!” Even there, reason for optimism exists. It is true that inflation outpaced wage growth for the first three quarters of 2021, but that situation began to reverse itself in the fourth quarter. As Business Insider noted, economists expect that the current bout of inflation is temporary while strong wage growth that began in 2021 appears to be permanent. See Business Insider, “Inflation Has Been High for Most of 2021. Pay Growth May Soon Overtake It.” For Democrats, the timing may be just right for the 2022 election cycle. Last month, pundits were predicting Democrats would lose on the economy in 2022. If Democrats can create effective messaging, they can win on the economy in 2022.

There were also many positive developments on the political front. Of course, we should be thankful for the inauguration of Joe Biden and the triumph of democracy over treachery on January 6th. But we cannot overlook the blessing of Trump’s banishment from Twitter! We no longer wake up to the dreaded thought, “Oh, God. What has he tweeted today?” Salon has catalogued a host of similar items to be thankful for in its article, “It was a bad year for the world: But yes, there were 10 good things in 2021.” Included in the Salon list are the following:

  • QAnon has effectively been removed from Twitter.

  • Trump’s “Justice for J6” rallies designed to glorify the insurrection fizzled.

  • The U.S. re-entered the Paris climate accords.

  • Forty-four industrialized nations agreed to phase out their use of coal.

  • The U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan after two decades of war.

  • The murderers of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery were convicted.

  • Wages are growing and unions are re-emerging as a potent force.

  • The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons went into effect.

  • The U.S. passed a massive, long-overdue infrastructure bill.

  • Child poverty in the U.S. dropped to a forty-year low.

Other positive developments are listed in The Washington Post, “Opinion | 10 positive things that happened in American politics in 2021.” Amid the Omicron onslaught, we should be thankful that America has made great strides in defending itself against severe disease. Per WaPo, “More than 70 percent of Americans . . .  have received vaccines that dramatically reduced their chances of dying from the coronavirus.” Let’s not forget the election of Jon Ossoff and Raphael G. Warnock in Georgia. And we should be thankful that Rep. Liz Cheney “torched her career and her family’s legacy in Republican politics to stand against Trump.”

I am no fan of Attorney General Merrick Garland, but the Department of Justice made good progress in 2021 in repairing the damage inflicted by Trump and Barr. Aaron Parnas published a list on Twitter that reviews improvements at the Department of Justice in 2021. Highlights include:

  • Establishing a joint task force to investigate threats against election workers;

  • Doubling the number of attorneys devoted to protection of voting rights;

  • Suing Texas and Georgia over election laws and gerrymandering;

  • Issuing guidance that Title IX covers discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics;

  • Rescinding the policy of the Trump administration that curtailed use of consent decrees relating to “patterns and practices” of discrimination within police departments;

  • Placing a moratorium on federal executions;

  • Withdrawing the policy that required US Attorneys to always charge cases in a way that maximized potential prison time; and

  • Indicting Steve Bannon, prosecuting 727 individuals for the Capitol insurrection, and securing over 130 guilty verdicts from insurrectionists

That’s an impressive list, by any measure. The credit goes to Merrick Garland.

Concluding Thoughts.

Of course, there is much more to be thankful for—beginning with family and friends. In expressing gratitude for our blessings, we are not ignoring the threats to our democracy. We can be grateful and vigilant at the same time. Indeed, in order for us to remain vigilant over the long-term, we must be able to find gratitude and joy along the way. Otherwise, we will deplete our emotional and physical reserves.

At this moment of equipoise between two years, we face another variant of the coronavirus, one that seems to be moving more swiftly than any other. But even in that, there are glimmers of hope. In South Africa, the initial locus of the Omicron variant, it moved so rapidly through the population that the rapid increase in infections was matched by an equally rapid decline. If that pattern holds in the U.S., we may be in for a rough month or two, but not a year-long lockdown as in 2020-21. In addition, researchers are making good progress on a “pan-coronavirus super vaccine” that may be effective against current and future strains of the coronavirus.  Another development to be grateful for!

I am grateful for the amazing activists who read this newsletter and share their wisdom and fortitude with me. Every day, I am humbled and inspired anew by readers whose activism and accomplishments make me feel like an amateur and slacker. Indeed, it is one of the reasons why I am so optimistic about our nation’s future.  We are fortunate to have hundreds of thousands of citizen activists who are working tirelessly to preserve our democracy. I am grateful for them. You should be, too!