When I look at the state of the economy, the first thing that strikes me is how easily it could be much worse than it is. I mean that. That the United States is not locked in a depression right now speaks volumes about the resilience and perseverance of most of the people. Consider what might have happened:
- One year ago, we could have seen the worst flu outbreak ever, with a tenth of the U.S. population too sick to work. But the summer flu outbreak never made it to late fall or winter, mainly because so many people were diligent about simple things like washing their hands.
- Unemployment could be double what it is if millions of people weren’t going to extraordinary lengths to find new jobs for themselves, or to keep the businesses where they work from going under.
- Somehow, in the middle of everything else that’s going on, people have found ways to reduce energy use to an unprecedented extent. As a result, energy went from being more than half of U.S. imports to less than half, reducing the immediate financial pressure on the country.
What makes this all the more impressive is that all this effort is coming at a time when Americans are more pessimistic about economic matters than they have been in my lifetime. When times are tough and everyone seems to feel discouraged, you usually can expect people to scale back their efforts — to not try quite so hard. Instead, it’s easy to see that Americans are working harder than ever, and that is what is keeping the economy going.
Today on Thanksgiving, I want to say thanks to everyone who kept going when things seemed bleak or the work kept getting harder; to everyone who said, “I’ll just have to do it myself,” when they couldn’t pay to have something done; to everyone who stepped outside their personal comfort zones to take a hard look at their spending habits and put their financial houses in order. As a result of all of our extra efforts, here we are. Thank you.