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Ups and Downs - Summer 2023



It still feels like a mad, mad, mad world out there. On the climate front, it’s been quite a summer. We’ve had heat waves, smoke-filled skies, boiling oceans, and flooding rains. In politics, everyone seems to have gone completely nuts. A former President with four indictments (and counting) will probably be the Republican candidate for President in what can only be described as the battle of the geriatrics in 2024. In Chicago, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that the CTU is now more or less in control of the city – which is a way of saying the foxes are in charge of the hen house.

I guess it makes sense that, with the cacophony constantly spinning around us, there is little band-width to take in some of what is actually going right in our country and our economy.

The good news certainly includes continually declining inflation for the past year, now running at about 3% annually. Unemployment has been below 4% since nearly the beginning of 2022, and unfilled jobs continue to outnumber people looking for work by a goodly margin (about 1.6 jobs per job-seeker last time I looked).

Housing has not crashed, despite the big increase in lending rates. And while office vacancies are certainly too high, jobs have returned to downtown Chicago and other downtowns across the nation, even if many of the workers have not. These days, a lot of workers do their downtown jobs from home or from other remote locations, either some or all of the time.

So, even while the headlines continue to scream “the world is on fire and the end is nigh,” the economy seems to be saying things are finally calming down after the intense weirdness of the COVID-19 pandemic and the bizarro boom-bust of the post-pandemic recovery.

I recognize that, by the time anyone reads this, everything could have fallen apart again. The stock market could plunge on news of some new environmental-political catastrophe. Trump could rack up a few more indictments (this seems likely) or Brandon Johnson could announce plans to nationalize rental housing in Chicago (this seems unlikely… but you never know).

For me, I have to say – it’s been a lovely summer up here in Madison which has largely missed out on the burning temperatures south of the Mason-Dixon line and has only occasionally been trapped in smokey air. We did have a bit of a dry spell earlier in the season, but recent rains (not too much – no floating houses or burst dams) have turned everything green again. It’s kind of nice. I find myself relaxing a little, despite the insanity that surrounds me.

This feeling has prompted me to want to make a few changes to how I live my life and spend my time. I recognize that there is an end-date to everything, myself included. Simply put, I’m starting to want a simpler life and maybe a bit more distance between myself and all the craziness that surrounds me.

So, I’ve decided to take a few concrete steps to make this happen. For one, I am going to step back from Newsletter writing duties at the end of this year (this edition and one more in the fall will be my last two Newsletters for RPBG). Soon, I am going to ease my way into something resembling partial retirement by reducing or eliminating some of my work responsibilities. I don’t know how many more summers I have to enjoy (a whole bunch, I hope), but I’d like to put more emphasis on the enjoyment part and less emphasis on the constant whirl of activity and responsibility that we all let ourselves get caught up in.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop listening to the latest news about climate change, politics or the foibles and insanity of the human race. But I would like to be a little more intentional about how I spend my time and what I choose to do with it. Stepping back from the noise and simplifying my life seem like two positive steps I can take to make things better, at least for myself. One thing I know for sure – as much as I have enjoyed writing it, the world will keep spinning with or without my RPBG Newsletter.




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