It would seem that the United States has little to be thankful for in 2014. It seemed like U.S. foreign policy fell apart during the course of this year. The tragedy in Ferguson, Mo. has gone national in response to the grand jury’s decision not to indict anyone for the police shooting of Michael Brown. Campus rape appears to be something of an epidemic. Inequality continues to skyrocket in this country. One side of the political divide is frustrated over the outcome of this month’s midterm elections; the other side is frustrated over the president’s abject refusal to acknowledge the outcome of those elections. Oh, and to top it off, the IMF now estimates that China has surpassed the United States to become the largest economy in the world — the first time it hasn’t been the United States in well over a century.

So what is there to be thankful for as a country?  Quite a lot, actually. Here are three big things worth appreciating as 2014 draws to a close:

1) The U.S. economy is performing quite well in comparison to the rest of the world. The Wall Street Journal’s Eric Morath sums up the current situation nicely:

The economy expanded at its fastest pace in more than a decade during the spring and summer, showing the U.S. has strengthened its economic footing despite increasing global uncertainty.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.9% in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.
The upward revision from a first estimate of 3.5% put the combined growth rate in the second and third quarters at 4.25%, affirming the best six-month pace since the second half of 2003. The output figures are inflation adjusted.
“The nation’s economic prospects are improving,” said Moody’s Analytics economist Scott Hoyt. “The divergence between the U.S. economy and that of much of the rest of the world is striking.”

The fact that this growth has occurred with an average monthly increase of 200,000+ jobs and without triggering any semblance of inflation is particularly good news. It suggests, contra Neil Irwin’s concerns, that the U.S. economy is poised to continue relatively robust growth for the foreseeable future. When you compare the U.S. outlook to that of, say, China or Russia, the comparison is quite favorable to the United States.

2) Crime is continuing to decline in the United States. It doesn’t matter if you look at violent crime or property crime or what have you — all the numbers point in the same positive direction:

The estimated number of violent crimes in the nation decreased 4.4 percent in 2013 when compared with 2012 data, according to FBI figures released today. Property crimes decreased 4.1 percent, marking the 11th straight year the collective estimates for these offenses declined.

The violent crime levels have fallen to their lowest level in more than 35 years. It’s particularly noteworthy that this decline persisted despite the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession, when simple economics would have predicted an upsurge in crime. This seems like pretty good news.

3)  High school graduation rates continue to rise and dropout rates continue to fall in the United States. According to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the high school graduation rate is now over 80 percent — the highest level in close to four decades.

According to Pew, a big driver of the increased graduation rate has been the steep decline in dropout rates among Hispanic and African-Americans:

Among Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds, 79% had completed high school compared with 60% who did so in 2000. High school completion rates have also been rising for other racial and ethnic groups….
The dropout rate for black youth also was at a record low in 2013 (8%) and has fallen by nearly half since 2000 (15%).

These data points are worth remembering when people express fears that the United States cannot assimilate more immigrants.

I could point to other trends as well — favorable long-term trends in geopolitics and expanding health care coverage — but you should get the general idea.

To really appreciate the current situation, however, I would strongly encourage you to read Drake Bennett’s Boston Globe essay from six years ago about what America would have looked like if an actual second Great Depression had hit. The Great Recession was severe enough for some of Bennett’s predictions to have a ring of truth to them — but what’s striking is the number of things he predicted that didn’t happen. Housing prices have rebounded. Novelty has certainly not lost its luster. and the long lines in hospital emergency rooms were a mirage.

The United States is a flawed country — like all countries. But if you look past today’s headlines, the deeper trends actually point in a positive direction for the country. Five or six years ago that would not necessarily have been the case.

So it’s OK to be thankful – in fact, it’s necessary. It’s only when Americans realize everything that is going right with the country that we can focus on the things that appear to be going wrong with the proper perspective.

So from everyone here at Spoiler Alerts, a happy Thanksgiving!!