As we move into the winter holidays, I find myself torn between fear for the near future and hope that perhaps we are turning a corner.
The source of the fear is obvious: inflation, social unrest, supply chain issues, and rising prices. In the U.S. we face a divided Congress and the run-up to the political mayhem of another presidential race.
Globally, there is cause for fear too. The war in Ukraine is scary enough, but the ongoing impact on political stability, energy costs, and food availability are real issues impacting all of us. Inflation is an issue everywhere, in some countries running double digits. And in China we see a move away from free capitalism and a strengthening of party control that could impact supply chain issues globally.
But this blog isn’t about all the fear. There is plenty of that to go around. After years of COVID, I am sick of talking about scary stuff.
Instead, I want to talk about the other word: hope.
We made it through a global pandemic and even though we still feel the effects of it, especially in our supply chain, things are moving toward normality (outside China, where they continue to employ strict local lockdowns and isolation protocols). That’s worth a ray of hope in and of itself.
Energy costs have certainly not dropped to 2019 levels, but we aren’t in the stratosphere like we were in 2020. And the World Bank is forecasting an 11% decline in energy costs next year. While the labor markets remain tight, we are seeing some glimmers of hope in the service sector. In many countries, millions of people left the workplace permanently (for example, over 3 million older workers retired in the U.S.), but as older workers leave, opportunities for younger workers improve. The percent of service workers under age 30 seeking employment went up in October after years of decline, according to the U.S. Census bureau.
And finally, politically, I have a ray of hope, too. The U.S. elections rejected, for the most part, the radical fringe candidates. The House and Senate will be forced to work together to accomplish anything, and that has to be a good thing. Could it be we are inching our way back to a less caustic, more collaborative political climate in the U.S.?
And most important of all, the results of the midterm congressional elections have been accepted. Instead of thousands of lawsuits, violence at the polls, and all the other threats to democracy many feared, we had a by and large “normal" election.
Faith the in the sanctity of the democratic process isn’t just a U.S. issue. Confidence in the American electoral process builds confidence in the way of law, the right to free speech all around the world. The fact that we didn’t descend into tyranny and chaos has to be a ray of brightness in an otherwise cloudy world.
So, this holiday season, as we gather with family and friends, I am hopeful for the future. It won’t be easy and there are certainly many obstacles to overcome, but this year I look forward to being thankful for where we are, and optimistic for a brighter tomorrow.