Jewish World Review August 20, 2004/ 3 Elul, 5764

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Good news for a change | I've got a little treat for you this week; I'm going to give you some good news. Oh yes, you're reading the right column - this is Greg. The same ol' Greg that beefs about the way people dress like slobs everywhere they go. The same ol' Greg that hates the level of vulgarity which permeates so much of today's culture. The same ol' Greg that bemoans the radically high proportion of liberals in the press, the entertainment industry, and academia. All that stuff and lots more is still with us and it still galls me, but I've come across some rather uplifting stats lately and I thought I'd share them with you. Better sit down first, you may be in for a shock.

According to National Review Magazine, the rate of pregnancy among teenagers is plummeting. Marijuana use by students is also falling. In 1971, college freshmen who considered themselves liberals outnumbered conservatives by around three to one; now the figures are about even!

A recent Harris poll reported that 91 percent of young people want to get married, with three as the preferred number of children. The total number of married-couple families is rising. The number of working women with infants is dropping. And guess what? - more brides are taking their husbands' names.

George Melloan of The Wall Street Journal wrote in a column titled, "Forget the Nightly News; Life Is Getting Better" that "the state of our planet isn't as bad as one might gather from the daily diet of doom and gloom dished out by the press and TV." He sites today's latest cultural trends from a well-researched article by Kay Hymowitz in the spring edition of City Journal, published by the Manhattan Instittute. In the piece Hymowitz describes a decline in youth violence, student drug use, and out of wedlock teen pregnancy. She sees a dramatic change in cultural beliefs "percolating" through American society.

"Americans are looking more favorably on old-fashioned virtues like caution, self-restraint, commitment and personal responsibility," she says. "They are in the midst of a fundamental shift in the cultural zeitgeist that is driving so many seemingly independent trends in crime, sex, drugs and alcohol in the same direction."

Melloan mentions another optimistic analysis written by University of Illinois economics professor, John F. McDonald for the Milken Institute Review. McDonald declares that "the liberal dream of progress in America is alive and well" and goes on to report that life expectancy at birth has increased for all socioeconomic groups, with black men making the most gains, to 68.2 years in 2000 from 60 in 1970.

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Americans are better educated with more than 25% of those over age 25 now holding a college degree, compared to only 7.7% in 1960. In 1960, 22.2% of families were below the poverty line, in 2002 only 12.1% were at that level. The median income of households of all races has risen considerably in the past 20 years, with blacks making the biggest jump.

Professor McDonald says there are signs of a return of the nuclear family after a decline of marriage as an institution in the 1980's and 1990's. He also notes the dramatic decline of crime in America, citing FBI figures that show that the murder rate has dropped to 5.5% per 100,000 from 10.2% in 1980 - that's a 50% drop in 20 years. "Most people are safer, have more money to spend, and can expect to live a lot longer than in the past," he says.

Another Harris poll has found that personal optimism has increased over last year and more people say that their personal situation has been improving.

All of this is to say, no matter what you read in the papers or hear constantly on TV and radio; basically things are going pretty well for Americans.

The press has a job - to find and report bad news on a daily basis. Their stock in trade is dealing in the negative, just like police. Cops for the most part deal with bad guys all day long, every day; but that doesn't mean that most people in the country are bad guys. Likewise, just because all the news that you hear and read about is bad, doesn't mean that only bad things are going on. Look around you - we've got it pretty darn good.

So the next time you see those negative headlines on the front page, or hear the condescending voice of a newscaster warning you of the latest earth-shaking calamity, just remember the reality of the statistics I gave you and know that things aren't as bad as a lot of folks would like you to think.

I'll try to remember that too before I write my next curmudgeonly column.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2004 Greg Crosby