Thanksgiving is on Thursday, and it would be easy to argue from a national perspective that this country has little to be thankful for. Syria continues to look like a policy fiasco for the Obama administration. The Paris attacks have caused Americans to be more concerned about terrorist threats than they have been in recent years, which is exactly what terrorists want. Our college campuses seem consumed by protests. Oh, and a known liar and possible fascist is leading all of the polls for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
And yet, there are many reasons to be appreciative this Thanksgiving. Here are five of them that I’ll be happy about as I
eat as little turkey as possible and load up on the sides because the sides are the best part sit down with my extended family:
1. The Russia-Turkey clash that started on Tuesday is not spiraling out of control. As I noted on Tuesday, while extremely disconcerting, there were good reasons to think that Turkey’s shootdown of a Russian warplane would not spiral out of control. And if Wednesday morning’s Washington Post report by Andrew Roth, Hugh Naylor and Brian Murphy is any indication, that is how the war of words will play out. Despite lots of chest-thumping in that article, here are the key details:
- The Russian foreign minister and the Turkish foreign minister talked to each other.
- After that conversation, Russia’s foreign minister made sure to say that, “We’re not going to war against Turkey.”
- Turkey has not invoked Article V of NATO.
- NATO, while backing Turkey, is not giving Turkey carte blanche to continue to provoke Russia.
- Russia seems to be contemplating mostly symbolic economic sanctions as a response.
None of this guarantees that things won’t escalate, but the more time that passes, the less likely it is that Russia or Turkey will take further provocative action out of nationalist resentments. Which is good for the rest of the world.
2. The U.S. economy is improving. The Federal Reserve is making it as clear as possible that it will raise interest rates for the first time in more than eight years next month — and no one is all that upset about that hampering a fragile economic recovery. And that may be because all of the data show that the economy isn’t so fragile at this point. Job growth has been pretty robust over the past 12 months. The most obvious concern is the low labor force participation rate, but a lot of that might be the result of structural factors and not economic weakness.
As BloombergView’s Barry Ritholz points out, it is time to realize that the economy is doing pretty well:
The data show the economy is expanding and creating jobs in a manner consistent with recoveries from credit crises: getting better, slowly, though maybe not fast enough to lead to a general sense of optimism. . . .
I still see plenty of data showing the recovery as lumpy and unevenly distributed. Regardless, even the states with the worst recoveries are seeing their unemployment rates reach lows not seen in almost a decade. That is something to be thankful for.
3. Positive election outcomes in Myanmar and Argentina. There’s a lot of loose talk about a global recession in democracy, although how much of that is true is debatable. But over the past month, there have been two significant elections in two significant countries where the outcome is beneficial to the citizens of that country. In Myanmar, a successful election and the current president’s promise of a peaceful handover of power mean the democratization process will continue to go forward. Meanwhile, Argentina elected the candidate who symbolized the rejection of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s disastrous economic policies.
4. There are some new movies that I’m a wee bit excited to see.
Oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God!!!!!
5. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are fighting and the rest of the world are the winners. So Wednesday was a good day for Amazon chief executive (and Post owner) Jeff Bezos, as he got to announce a successful test of his Blue Origin reusable rocket:
Which prompted SpaceX’s Elon Musk to respond with:
You can read Business Insider’s Jessica Orwig’s refereeing of this Twitter fight — basically, Musk’s reusable rocket came first but Bezos’s rocket goes much, much higher.
I, for one, hope that Musk and Bezos continue to jab at each other on Twitter and compete on space exploration. Because for the rest of us non-reusable-rocket-owning folks, this is exactly the kind of healthy competition that produces better rockets and makes the prospect of commercial suborbital and orbital flights more likely. And in a time when some are asking whether the United States has lost its capacity to innovate its way into higher economic growth rates, this is the kind of technological arms race you want to see.
So have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone — there are really good reasons to be thankful in 2015!