Why not some good news?
While our media, pundits, and any political opposition tend to make their living from criticism, why not take a moment in the dog days of summer to take note of the good things going on in 2013.
First, a do-less-than-nothing Congress, pridefully noting it should be measured not by its accomplishments but by its denials, deferrals and denouement attempts, has actually done a good thing: the passage of a student loan package that reduces the cost of financing education.
Most significantly the bill, now heading to the President for a signature, was passed with broad bipartisan support, an event rare enough in the House of Representatives to be a photo op at the very least, and, at the best, a broad, sweeping false claim that the days of cooperation are back for Congress.
And in the Senate, there was a retreat from the nuclear option of changing Senate rules to end the incredible abuse of the filibuster. While this is certainly an example of bipartisan cooperation to step back from the brink of change, it is fair to wonder if it would not have been better for governing to have the explosion that changes senate rules
Also in the Senate this summer, again with bipartisan support, a thoughtful immigration bill passed with bipartisan support. While the bill is more or less dead on arrival in the more irrational House, it does mark the re-appearance of sense and sensibility in the Senate, once known as a deliberative body.
In the White House there is continued appreciation that the gradual implementation of Obamacare is unfolding in all positive ways. From a shrinking prescription “donut hole”, to the end of pre-existing conditions, the end of caps on coverage, and the extension of student/parent insurance coverage to the age of 26, all is going better than expected.
About 80 percent of hospitals have converted to digital records, as have 50 percent of private practices, in a change that will both save money and help patients. The re-admission penalty from within Obamacare has already reduced re-admission rates and improved preventative care.
The newest positive for Obamacare is the not-so-surprising news that the insurance exchanges in various states have all led to lower policy costs, a free market outcome that is reducing the higher than average inflation costs of health care in America. This can help stabilize the consumer cost of Medicare and save the federal budget some money.
And the deficit for the year is now predicted to drop by nearly 60 percent compared to the last fiscal year, a result of Freddie/Fannie profits, a growing economy, and cuts in federal spending. Now that is good news.
The economy continues to recover at about a 2 percent annual rate, hardly a boom time, but still better than all of our European friends and allies. Housing sales and auto sales are up significantly, consumer confidence is at an eight year high, corporate profits continue to exceed expectations, and the stock market is making money for investors.
In foreign policy, our plans to mostly exit Afghanistan continue forward, ending both wars this administration inherited and, by doing so, reducing the deficit at the same time.
The fledgling peace process once again underway between Israel and the Palestinians is encouraging if only in a very cautious way. But talking can always lead to something, where silence cannot, so it is good that the discussions will begin once again.
None of this good news is to suggest we ignore the many problems the nation has, but only to take a momentary breather from the claims and counterclaims of the horror that await us to appreciate that, even now, there is good news in America.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.