Beyond Politics, America Enjoys an Era of Amazing Innovation

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Is America Depressed?

Okay, so America’s seen some bad news lately. The economy stinks, and no one is confident. Mediocre economic numbers are greeted as a triumph. Obamacare’s a mess. The federal government is one cluster-you-know-what of venality and incompetence after another. The Millennials seem spoiled, self-absorbed and incapable of achieving in the modern workplace. Trouble is brewing from Ukraine to Syria to Iraq to Libya to the South China Sea to the Korean peninsula. Our allies are unnerved, our enemies acting bolder.

There’s a particular gloom among a lot of conservatives lately, too: The country has more takers than makers. Everybody’s addicted to “Uncle Sugar.” Too many Establishment Republicans just want to replace the Democrats’ crony capitalism with their own crony capitalism. Our popular culture makes Sodom and Gomorrah look like Mayberry. Time to start putting our savings into gold and shopping for real estate in Belize.

We can’t let our perspective of our fellow Americans get defined by every idiot on Twitter or the comments section. We’ve always had idiots. We’ve always had loud idiots. The good folks working hard, taking care of their families, and living the American dream don’t spend a lot of time arguing on the Internet.

This is still a country packed to the gills with innovative, driven, hard-working, ingenious, generous, kind-hearted folk of every race, creed, and color.

Don’t believe me? Here are some bits of good news you may have missed:

Faith in the future is returning; we’re making more new Americans – a.k.a. “babies” – again.

The newest child birth rate numbers have just been released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the report indicates that there were 4,736 more births in 2013 than there were the year before, which shows an increase that America hasn’t seen in five years.

We’re doing this while reducing teen pregnancy, births, and abortions:

In examining birth and health certificates from 2010 (the most recent data available), Guttmacher Institute found that approximately 6 percent of teenagers (57.4 pregnancies per 1,000 teenage girls) became pregnant—the lowest rate in 30 years and down from its peak of 51 percent in 1991. Between 2008 and 2010 alone, there was a 15-percent drop.

At 34.4 births per 1,000 teenage women, the birthrate was down 44 percent from its peak rate of 61.8 in 1991. The abortion rate is down too: In 2010, there were 14.7 abortions per 1,000 teenagers, which is the lowest it’s been since the procedure was legalized.

According to the CDC, the numbers are going in the right direction for life expectancy, heart disease, and cancer death rate:

Americans are living longer than ever. According to the report, in 2010, life expectancy at birth for the total population was 78.7 years — 76.2 years for men and 81.0 years for women. Between 2000 and 2010, life expectancy at birth increased 2.1 years for men and 1.7 years for women. The gap in life expectancy between men and women narrowed from 5.2 years in 2000 to 4.8 years in 2010.

The report also notes a 30% decline between 2000 and 2010 in the age-adjusted heart disease death rate, from 257.6 to 179.1 deaths per 100,000 population. But in 2010, heart disease was still the most lethal disease in the US, with 24% of all deaths, the report says.

The age-adjusted cancer death rate decreased 13% between 2000 and 2010, from 199.6 to 172.8 deaths per 100,000 population. Still, in 2010, 23% of all deaths in the US were from cancer, close behind heart disease. In 2012, 18.1% of adults aged 18 and over were current cigarette smokers, down from 23.2% in 2000.

The Mayo Clinic just scored “complete remission” of a form of previously-untreatable cancer using an engineered measles virus in a human being. Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute recently announced that adult stem cells from bone marrow tissue can specifically target and kill brain tumors.

The hunt for a cure for AIDS continues, but treatments have become effective and widespread in ways that were simply unimaginable a generation ago. It is a much less deadly disease:   “The age-adjusted HIV death rate has dropped by 85% since its peak, including by 14% between 2009 and 2010.” There are indications that some people can be “functionally cured” of HIV.  There are other beautiful anecdotes: A Vancouver, Canada hospital repurposed its AIDS ward because the number of cases dwindled so rapidly.

The scale of the U.S. energy boom is jaw-dropping: “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of new jobs in the oil and gas industry (technically a part of mining) increased by roughly 270,000 between 2003 and 2012. This is an increase of about 92% compared with a 3% increase in all jobs during the same period. The BLS reports that the U.S. average annual wage (which excludes employer-paid benefits) in the oil and gas industry was about $107,200 during 2012, the latest full year available. That’s more than double the average of $49,300 for all workers.”

We’re on the dawn of the era of private spaceflight: “SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada are building new manned spacecraft with the goal of restoring U.S. human spaceflight capability by 2017.”

Yes, it’s a dangerous world. But our men and women in uniform, the companies that supply them, and the researchers that equip them regularly produce breakthroughs that sound like science fiction. The Pentagon is developing a hypersonic missile that can hit anywhere in the world in 30 minutes.  They’re developing brain chips to treat PTSD. There’s some mysterious plane – allegedly a stealth transport  — flying over Texas. University researchers may be on the verge of developing functional invisibility. And, as Kevin Williamson notes, brainwave-driven exoskeletons may help the paralyzed rise and walk.

As David Plotz lays out, there has never been more news published than there is today; web sites of media organizations from the New York Times to Fox News publish literally hundreds, sometimes thousands, of new items a day. Sure, you can say a lot of it’s crap. A lot of anything is crap. But the barrier to entry in the news world is obliterated. We’re no longer in an era where the number of pages and column-inches in the New York Times, and the time limits of the nightly news, set the limits for what the public sees and reads. Despite the commencement mobs and the political-correctness enforcers, this is a golden age for free speech.

In fact, things are going so well in the apolitical or non-political aspects of American life… all that talk about a second American Century may not just be happy talk or tired campaign rhetoric. We just have to get our government to work better – and in many circumstances, do less, and get out of the way! – and our best days may indeed be ahead of us.

So cheer up, conservatives!