It feels like 2021 flew by compared to the snail’s pace of 2020. I attribute this primarily to the hope that the COVID-19 vaccines have generated, and the slow crawl back to what would qualify as normalcy. Even as the world deals with the new omicron variant, most of us want to believe that 2022 will feel more like 2019 than 2020. As is customary in my column at the end of the year, I am publishing my wishes for the upcoming year.
First and foremost, I hope that the world will achieve herd immunity and the COVID-19 pandemic will be on a stiff retreat in 2022. This will entail getting as many people vaccinated and booster shots as possible. However, this also depends on people who have not been vaccinated to trust science and take the vaccine, not only for their own personal health, but also for the health of their family and community. Yes, there have been breakthrough infections in people who have already been vaccinated, but the chance of severe illness or death in these people is miniscule. When more people are vaccinated, the chances of virus mutations go down.
The omicron variant, which seems to have originated in South Africa, clearly shows us that it is not enough to vaccinate our own citizens and let other countries fend for themselves. Virus mutations that occur in other countries will eventually find their way to the U.S. In order to protect their own populations, the developed countries of the world need to facilitate other less-developed countries in obtaining vaccines for their citizens.
We must learn from the current pandemic and not get caught flat-footed for the next one. The chaotic scramble last year for Personal Protection Equipment, such as face masks, sanitizer, and medical equipment, needs to be seared in our memory. The U.S. government must focus on declaring and developing strategic industries/products that can be manufactured within our borders. We cannot again be vulnerable or subject to obtaining production of critical supplies from other countries, especially those who are not friendly to the U.S.
In 2022, I wish for major supply chains of goods and raw materials to regain efficiency and stability. I feel for consumer goods merchants who placed their orders months ago, only to see the delivery of their goods delayed until after the Christmas season. On the bright side, some materials, such as refined fuels seem to be catching up to the demand in the market. Prices for gas seem to be coming down in many parts of the country as the supply increases. Logistics experts are predicting that most supply chains will return to what approximates normal by summer of 2022. Let’s hope that normal comes even sooner.
Related to supply chain disruptions is the inflation associated with the pandemic that the Federal Reserve says is “transitory,” meaning that when the pandemic is in check and supply chains stabilize, the current uptick in inflation should decrease. The current buzz during the holiday season is how much the cost of goods has increased. Let’s hope that inflation is under control in 2022.
I hope that American and foreign companies producing in regions such as Asia keep interested in returning production to North America. Reshoring means that they would return production to the U.S., while nearshoring means that they chose either Mexico or Canada to bring production back from a foreign country. Moving production across an ocean does not happen overnight, and reshoring and nearshoring take time. The current pandemic and the Japanese tsunami of 2011 demonstrated how catastrophic events can wreak havoc on global supply chains. If companies and business leaders have not learned from these events to hedge their production in order to mitigate risk, shame on them. Yes, producing certain products in North America for the North American market can be more expensive than producing in a place such as China. However, how much are smoother, shorter supply chains worth in the long term?
And last, but not least, is my wish that our nation can return to civility in both social and political spectrums. I am embarrassed to see elected officials at all levels of government spreading misinformation, and sniping like junior high kids at the opposition party. By creating chaos and vitriol, we are showing the rest of the world that we are indecisive and weakened. Our economic and diplomatic strengths are diminished by the take-no-prisoners approach, with compromise impossible due to politics. Our government operates on compromise, as is the case in the U.S.-style of democracy. I long for the days of politicians such as Tip O’Neill, Pete Domenici, and Jeff Bingaman, who were loyal to their party, but put the good of the nation first. They were willing to reach across the aisle, negotiate, and compromise. I wish that in 2022, Americans will steer the political sector to the system that made our nation great, and a beacon of democracy in the world.