Since we seem to highlight all of the troubles in our world, especially in the height of a political campaign, the good news stories sometimes get overshadowed or are downplayed, which I find amusing in its own right. So, here are few that caught my eye over the past few days. I will organize them around a few overarching themes.
We have seen the unemployment rate dip for the first time below 8% to 7.8% in a long while. This issue has been downplayed by people from an opposing political view, which I view as the second team rooting for the first team to not play well, so they can get into the game. Some have even called foul on the numbers. As I mentioned in a comment on someone else’s blog when non-partisan bureaucrats agree with your point of view, they are non-partisan, yet when they don’t they are biased. The unemployment decline is part of an overall trend over the past many months of a slow recovery.
Yet, to note a couple of other data points I saw today, courtesy of the Associated Press the 2011-12 deficit fell by $207 Billion as reported by the Treasury Department for the latest fiscal year close. It is still high at over $1 Trillion and we must deal with it, but the reason for the fall was encouraging – tax revenue rose by 6.4% as more people got jobs and received income. Corporations also contributed more tax revenue than in the 2010-11 fiscal year. That is more good evidence of our recovery out of the abyss.
Housing has also continued to improve, but I wanted to highlight two other stories in the paper today. The Charlotte Observer reported both Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase had record profit third quarters largely due to the refinancing of mortgages. Banks usually recover first and are a leading economic indicator. Just this year, the Wells stock price is up 24% and the JPMC stock price is up 25%. Bank of America is up 64%, but they had more problems to deal with as their price had fallen further. The overall stock market per the S&P 500 is up 13.6%, with the Dow up 9%. My blog friend Vincent Mudd at www.vincentmudd.wordpress.com shows how much the stock market has climbed over the past four years along with some other measures. These are very positive signs, especially with stock market performance like bank performance usually leading recoveries before for significant job growth.
Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the set aside of 285,000 acres in the western US for the purpose of creating 17 new solar energy zones. These zones are primarily in six states – California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. These zones are for large-scale solar power plants. I reported earlier that similar activity is being undertaken around the globe and country. It was reported earlier this week in NC that Apple, Google and others are leading a push for solar powering of their new electricity intense data centers. Several 15 – 20 MegaWatt sites are sprouting all over the place. I noted in an earlier post that the state of the art photovoltaic solar panel is being made in Durham, NC by Semprius which is owned largely by Siemens, a German company. This panel is a significant improvement over previous panels and helping to lower the cost of solar energy.
In some undertold news, wind energy is now being produced in 38 states. I like to say this as some who represent the fossil fuel lobbying efforts portray these industries as futuristic. They are here and are working. And, they are creating jobs. Germany is ten years ahead of us and, while I love Siemens, it is not ironic that they are the largest owner of Semprius based here in the states. I would add if you are looking to invest in US-based alternative energy, note that GE is one of the largest makers of wind turbines. And, none other than Warren Buffett and T. Boone Pickens are big investors in solar and wind energy.
The shooting of Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old educational activist in Pakistan is a terrible tragedy. The Taliban has sworn if she does not perish, she will again be a target. Her alleged crime was speaking out in favor of educating girls. Yet, what I had hoped would happen seems to be happening. Regular Pakistanis and leaders are denouncing the Taliban for this uncalled for violence. Yesterday, Islamic clerics have condemned the shooting. This may the lightning rod the world has been waiting for.
Islamic extremism can only be solved by the rest of the Islamists. They have to say enough is enough. This is not easy when your life and lives of your family are impacted by standing up against the worst kind of thugs. The bright spot we have not highlighted enough in Libya after the embassy bombings of last month is the group condemnation of the bombing by a growing number of Libyans. This is what it will take. The leadership has to follow suit or these countries will be destined to hold themselves back. One has to only look to Turkey to see how passionate religion can co-exist with secular governance. Turkey is thriving.
This is one brave little girl and I hope she survives. To do what she did at age 11 is stunning. I hope this terrible incident will change the course of history. The reaction by the saner people in Pakistan seems to indicate it might.
That is all I had for now. We should celebrate the steps forward as we do tend to highlight the fall backs. As imperfect people in an imperfect world, we do tend to make our mistakes. So, please join me in spreading the good news.