From time to time, despite pervasive bad news, it is well to focus on the silver linings instead of the clouds. Since I am writing this on Christmas Day, it is a wonderful time to count our blessings. I am keeping my fingers crossed that, by the time you read this, my optimistic tone will not be vitiated by untoward events.
There is much angst about the difficulties employers are having about hiring adequate staff. On the other hand, was there ever a better time for those who wish to work to find a job? Wages have been rising substantially, especially at the lower end of the scale. You may have noted the absence for some time now of political wrangling over the minimum wage. Not so very long ago a $15/hour minimum wage was on the political front burner, but now that labor shortages have become acute, a legislated $15 has been overtaken by events. A free economy, left to its own devices, has once again delivered a better outcome.
Although threats of war are always present, actual war itself seems to have taken a holiday. American soldiers, at the moment, are not at risk in a war zone. Perhaps the withdrawal from Afghanistan could have gone in a better manner, but at least that was the last active involvement. Let us hope this state of affairs lasts.
Climate alarmists never cease in their cries that the world is about to end if we don’t switch to Green Energy. I just read a recent forecast that by 2040 we’ll all have our gooses cooked — literally. But for the rest of us, the climate seems to be humming along just fine. The Arctic is still frozen over, the polar bears are doing just fine, billionaires are still building mansions right at the edge of the beach, and hurricanes seem to be as nasty as they ever have been, but not discernibly worse. Bonnie and I have experienced a dozen or so since we’ve lived in South Carolina, and except for a couple of trees down a few years ago, we’re no worse for wear.
Inflation certainly has its downsides, but for those of us who own homes — and that’s the majority of households in the U.S. — the gain in value has been gratifying. Maybe you have to pay three or four thousand more for gas and groceries, but the tens of thousands of dollars rise in the value of our homes rather more than makes up for it.
Coronavirus, alas, is still with us two years on. The omicron variant seems particularly contagious, but seems far less virulent, so far, than the earlier variants. Since most medical scientists agree that those who have actually had an infection have natural immunity superior to vaccines, perhaps omicron, by delivering the long-awaited herd immunity, may signal the end of this awful pandemic. Besides that, for me personally, coronavirus has saved a lot of money due to canceled cruises and trips abroad. One canceled cruise (we’ve had three) will buy a lot of groceries, even at inflated prices.
The stock market has done very well this year, despite all the problems — depending on which average you select, up about 20%. While we worry about the national debt approaching $30 trillion, retirement accounts of all kinds contain around $35 trillion. This means, taking an average gain of 20%, Americans with such accounts gained somewhere north of $6 trillion dollars in 2021. Not bad! (Spoiler alert: For this reason our friends on the left are ever more floating proposals to raid those accounts via wealth taxes.)
Christmas Day is a good day to gain perspective. Think of flying on an overcast day. No silver linings to be perceived, just lowering gloom in every direction, but once you’re up to 35,000 feet, all you see is silver as far as the eye can see.
For those who accept the reality of Christ's birth, no matter how pervasive the overcast, nothing but silver lies ahead.
Charles Milliken is a professor emeritus after 22 years of teaching economics and related subjects at Siena Heights University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Telegram: Charles Milliken: Focusing on silver linings instead of clouds