One morning last week, I flip-flopped out of the house to grab the paper and found a world shrouded in light fog. Figures. This was the day I planned to write my annual predictions column, in which I attempt to peer into the fog of the future.
Some predictions are easy. The people who send me monthly bills will try to raise them. The crabgrass will return. In 2011, I won’t get around to repainting the garage.
Other predictions are hard. In 2006, I said the Republicans would keep both houses of Congress and Jim Talent would beat Claire McCaskill for Missouri’s Senate seat. The opposite happened, in both cases. In 2008, I said the Dow Jones Industrial Average would hit 15,000. Instead it cratered, ending up nearly half that.
Actually, I don’t feel too bad, given some of the dopey prognostications made by others. Here’s a favorite, from former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean: “The idea that we’re going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong.”
Then there were all those Obamacare supporters who said the more the public learns about what’s in the bill, the more they’ll learn to love it. Oops: In a recent Rasmussen poll, 60 percent of likely voters favored repeal.
Speaking of repealing the health care law, the Republican House will do just that soon after it takes over this week. Then the measure will die in the Senate.
The House leadership will try mightily to change Washington’s spending culture, but with the Senate and the presidency still in Democratic hands, only incremental progress will be made. And let’s not forget the GOP has spending barons of its own; some will soon be heading key committees.
The state-government debt crisis will come to a head. California, Illinois and New York will scream for a bailout — and likely get one, despite protests from the tea party and small-government Republicans. Congress will go along for fear of sowing chaos in the bond markets, but more attention will be paid to the need for a new chapter in U.S. bankruptcy law, allowing states to declare insolvency.
Economic growth will accelerate. The signs are already there: Hiring has been picking up and new claims for jobless benefits have been trending down. Adding to the buoyancy was the decision to continue the Bush tax rates for two years, eliminating a major source of uncertainty. As part of the deal, workers will have a bit more to spend thanks to a cut in the payroll tax.
Even so, housing will continue to be an economic drag, thanks to the enormous foreclosure overhang. The housing market won’t bottom until 2012.
Sarah Palin will run for president. She won’t be able to resist all those ordinary Americans urging her on. Big mistake: She has a great gig as things stand, and joining the primary scramble may well ruin it. She may have a wonderful knack for triggering entertaining reactions on the left, but I still think she’s unelectable.
The stock market will add roughly 10 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average will finish at around 12,700.
Europe’s rolling debt crisis will intensify. One or two of the weaker countries will dump the euro.
Gasoline prices will hit $3.50, but fall well short of $4 — the fear-and-loathing line crossed in 2008.
Growing inflation in China will force the Beijing leadership to deal more firmly with the overheating economy, especially China’s bubblicious real estate market. Many of China’s problems will become more evident: widespread corruption, environmental mismanagement, and most of all, its looming demographic collapse — too many aging citizens, supported by too few young workers thanks to the one-child policy.
China’s slowing growth will curb the global rise in commodities, as well as the appreciation in precious metals.
Here on the home front, Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser’s bid for re-election will die in the primary.
Through it all, life will go on, and much of what tops the news in the coming months will be as fleeting and forgettable as last year’s World Cup and the vuvuzelas, or Lady Gaga’s latest outfit. Only in human affairs is time linear — one discrete event after another.
In nature, time is cyclical and rejuvenating. The leaves that will appear this spring on the pear tree near my garage are the same leaves that were there last year. One last prediction: This year, I’ll spend some time on a bench under that tree, doing absolutely nothing.