Jewish World Review May 6, 2003 / 4 Iyar, 5763

Lou Dobbs

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Optimism is unfashionable, but here's some anyway | Here we go again. Media criticism of the Bush administration is mounting, and those nine or 10 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination seemingly can't find anything the Bush administration has done right.

Oh, sure, there's been regime change in Iraq, but the U.S. military required three whole weeks to take Baghdad. In the three weeks since Baghdad fell, the United States, United Kingdom and the coalition haven't been able to create a democracy in Iraq. And, as of right now, it looks as though President Bush won't be able to cut taxes by more than $350 billion.

What a terrible mess.

But let me suggest that we may not be in as sorry a state as some of Bush's critics claim. Please don't make too much of these positives, because there's a premium now on hand-wringing and negativity.

Confidence in the direction of the country is up. Confidence in the economy is up. Confidence in the markets is up.

The president recently declared that the major combat in Iraq is over. Saddam Hussein has been deposed. There are also new indications that terror attacks throughout the world are declining. The State Department's annual report on global terrorism says the number of terror attacks fell 44 percent last year, to the lowest level in three decades. And international mediators have formally presented Israel and Palestine with a new plan to bring peace to the Middle East after more than half a century of conflict.

In terms of the economy, recent developments are also mostly positive. First-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are running nearly 14 percent higher than they were a year ago. Oil prices are down sharply from prewar levels. Mortgage rates are back near record lows. Washington will likely deliver another boost to the economy by passing a version of President Bush's economic growth package. And according to an ABC/Washington Post poll from mid-April, 65 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with the way things are going - up sharply from February.

There's also good news on the financial markets. Investor confidence is improving. The UBS/Gallup Index of Investor Optimism is now at its highest level in 10 months, with more than half of those surveyed saying now is a good time to invest. And judging from the market's performance in April, they may be right. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 6 percent - its biggest one-month advance in six months. The Nasdaq Composite surged 9 percent.

And Wall Street regulators are cracking down on corporate abuses. Last week, Wall Street securities firms and regulators finalized a $1.4 billion settlement to stop biased stock research. And the Justice Department on Thursday announced charges against eight former Enron executives.

I realize it's unfashionable in some quarters to be optimistic now, but let's put these positive developments in the context of the disturbing events of past three years.

We had the bursting of the telecom and technology bubble. We had the first bitterly contested presidential election in 130 years. We had the end of the longest economic expansion in our country's history. We had the worst market collapse since the 1930s. We had the recession of 2001. We had the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. We had the worst corporate corruption scandal in our country's history. We had the war against Saddam Hussein. And now we have the outbreak of the SARS virus.

Against that background, things are beginning to brighten a bit. If I weren't afraid of offending the naysayers, I'd have to say that all the positives we're seeing in our political economy could well add up to something that could actually be called progress.

What the heck. I'll say it: We're making progress.

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Lou Dobbs is the anchor and managing editor of CNN's "Lou Dobbs Moneyline." Comment by clicking here.

04/29/03: Nuclear nightmare
04/22/03: Naysayers ignore signs of economic recovery
04/15/03: Game over--but for whom?
04/08/03: No more fool's games
03/31/03: United States must seriously review foreign economic and political relationships
03/24/03: Delusional Chirac may be a thorn in coalition's side, but new alliances are forming in response to 21st-Century threats without him and UN
03/18/03: Bush critics offer little more than hyperbole
03/11/03: Geopolitical visibility
03/04/03: Freedom: Our best export
02/27/03: Guns, butter and greasing the way
02/18/03: Looking for a silver lining
02/10/03: Space program remains a valuable investment
02/04/03: Hi pal, come back
01/28/03: Bush address a chance to bolster confidence
01/22/03: Here we go again!
01/14/03: Bush's bold bid
01/07/03: The only thing certain is uncertainty
12/30/02: No need to be so negative as new year approaches
12/23/02: NY's AG deserves credit for settlement
12/18/02: Critics of Bush nominees should tone down rhetoric
12/09/02: A lot rides on prez's Treasury pick
12/04/02: A fast fix for corporate credibility?
11/26/02: Urge to merge is hard to resist
11/19/02: Are we really so bad off?
11/12/02: Bush's lucky week bodes well for recovery
11/05/02: Wall Street firms treat investors as fools
10/29/02: Earnings estimates offer some hope
10/22/02: Economy's strength tied to national security
10/17/02: Harvey Pitt, get real!
10/08/02:Are we experiencing the fall before the rise?
10/01/02: Concerns about earnings are justified
09/24/02: Business leaders must abandon stall tactics
09/17/02: Wall Street's reality check
09/12/02: There's no better time for leaders to show resolve


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