Several weeks ago I wrote about how January brings an opportunity to shape how the new year will be. I am always optimistic that things will turn out alright. What other choice do we have?

I am not ready to concede that my optimism was misplaced, but three weeks into the new year, that optimism is a bit tainted.

The nation’s news announces new reason to be angry or frustrated. A visit to the local grocer demonstrates the effects fo the global supply chain problem; we once were greeted with fully stocked shelves. Now? Not so much. It is human nature to want to place the blame for this problem on someone or something. 

For many of our ills today, blame it on COVID. At the beginning of the pandemic, manufacturers across all industries slowed or shut down production due to lack of demand and sick employees. It was not only manufacturers, but also the transportation and shipping sectors. If you have been waiting for a gadget for months, it is most likely stuck on a cargo ship sitting outside the ports of southern California. 

President Biden tried to alleviate the bottleneck by ordering ports to work around the clock to unload ships, but that is slow going. Recently Biden allowed teens to drive the trucks that deliver goods. That’s a partial solution, but those teens need to be trained and certified. No comments about teen drivers, please; we have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Inflation is running at the highest level in over 40 years. Many thought the days of hyper-inflation was a thing of the past. Prices are up 7 percent in the past year and experts think that trend will continue far into 2022. The higher prices you are paying is due not only to supply chain issues, but higher wages employers have to pay.

There are many tasks computers and artifiical intelligence can accomplish, but jobs of service and healthcare workers cannot easily be foisted onto a HAL 9000.

The rush to spend trillions of COVID relief dollars to America’s workers and households led many in the workforce to conclude they were better off living on the public dime. Millions of employees at all levels have decided to quit. When a business faces a worker shortage, potential employees are in the driver’s seat and demand higher pay than is offered. Pay employees more, you have increase the price of what you sell.

Dealing with a pandemic that spawned an economic crisis should not have been any different to address than the Great Depression of the 1930s. It required the full force of our nation’s leaders, using every weapon in its arsenal. The country pulled together during the Great Depression, yet our response to COVID was defined by the polarization that cripples the nation.

By a 7 million vote margin, the country elected Joe Biden as president. More than 80 million people felt they were voting for experienced, stable leadership that would know what to do. 

America needs leaders who will put their country in front of their political needs. They will do that when the people demand it. We may never completely eradicate COVID and its disasterous results, but if we all don’t put our own and others wellness ahead of politics, we will continue to face challenges we have no control over.

If nothing else, people want some semblence of control of their lives. I am optimistic tha,t in the end, we Americans will pull up out books and do what needs to be done.

(Lyndon Zaitz is publisher of the Keizertimes.)