The United States recorded a milestone the other day, but the news didn’t make much noise.
On the day before Thanksgiving — appropriately, perhaps — the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans filing initial unemployment claims dropped to 199,000.
That’s the lowest number since November of 1969 — 52 years ago. Roughly 70 percent of Americans weren’t even alive the last time joblessness was this low in this country.
This news accompanies other good news.
The stock market has more than 50 record highs in 2021 alone. This means not just that wealthy Americans are doing well, but also that the retirement funds for middle-class Americans are growing, too.
In part, this is because the pressure is beginning to ease.
While the cases and deaths resulting from COVID-19 still are high — higher than they should be, in fact — they are not where they were at this time last year. Many Americans couldn’t have extended family celebrations out of concern for the vulnerable among us.
This year is different.
Families are gathering again. The airports and highways were packed with people traveling back and forth to see loved ones.
The difference has been the trio of vaccines and the aggressive campaign to get Americans to take them.
As I write this, nearly 60% of Americans eligible to receive shots have been fully vaccinated. That percentage is still too low — many lives doubtless would have been saved if more of us did the wise and the right thing and took our shots — but the fact that about three out of five of us used good sense is the reason we’re able to celebrate again this year.
There still are, to be sure, problems — some of them big ones — to solve.
The rate of inflation is worrisome. So are the hiccups and blockages in the supply pipeline.
But those are worldwide challenges. They were brought on because of pent-up demand, which had been caged by the pandemic, being unleashed and a supply system that had been curtailed by the same pandemic struggling to catch up.
Leaders around the world, including ours, now work to resolve these problems.
Are their solutions perfect?
Not by a long shot.
But they’re trying and, by and large, things are getting better.
This brings me to my point.
I often am asked why I don’t direct the same sort of harsh criticism at President Joe Biden, a Democrat, that I did at his predecessor, Donald Trump, a Republican.
The answer is that I don’t do so for the same reason that I have treated Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, much more gently than I have his rabid far-right critics in the Indiana General Assembly.
For that matter, it’s the same reason that my assessments of U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, often are kinder than my takes on his colleague, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana.
I don’t agree with Biden, Holcomb or Young on everything. In fact, some of my disagreements with each of them are profound.
But then, I can’t think of a single political figure, living or dead, with whom I have agreed on every issue.
No, the reason I tend to view these leaders with more charity than others is that I’m convinced they’re trying to solve problems, not create them. They’re more interested in helping people than they are in starting fights.
That’s because they’re decent fellows.
Absent the varied insanities of this political age and left to their own devices, I suspect they all could sit down, resolve differences and arrive at something resembling the common good. And they would do it quietly, without boasting.
Because this is an insane age, I’ve come to value those qualities in leaders a great deal.
It intrigues me that so many people view everything through a partisan filter.
Does this help or hurt Republicans?
These are not the most important divides I see in our country and communities these days. The biggest gulf is between those who want to solve problems and those who want to exploit them.
Between those who want to help people who are hurting and those who want to profit from the pain.
The truth is that, regardless of which party to which one belongs, decency matters.