As so many blogs, periodicals, and other wags have done, so shall I make my predictions for the year to come. Your own predictions are encouraged in the comments (as are your criticisms of the prognostications below).
- The House, but not the Senate, votes on (and passes) the Employee Free Choice Act. A surprisingly effective P.R. campaign by business and Republican leaders, utterly ignored by the media but well-received by the public, results in extreme political pressure to protect the secret ballot in union elections. President Obama and the Senate ultimately choose to “postpone” action on the bill in the midst of an economic crisis. Union leaders do themselves no favors when they threaten to strike at selected businesses in retaliation for their leadership in the pro-election movement. The bill will never resurface in the 111th Congress.
- A significant rise in church attendance and tithing lead to a media blitz on an emerging “faith movement” in the U.S. in response to dreadful economic conditions. Some on the far left complain that these new contributions aren’t reaching the people “who most need them,” arguing that they should be taxed by the federal Treasury. California’s legislature takes them up on their suggestion in a desperate move to avoid bankruptcy (and, for some, to punish proponents of Proposition 8). Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoes the bill, but the backlash causes more legislators (Republicans and Democrats alike) to lose their seats in 2010 than in any election in state history.
- Sen. McCain enrages his one-time supporters by backing the Democrats’ $1 trillion stimulus bill. McCain stands, beaming, next to President Obama as he signs the bill into law, and the President personally thanks his “good friend and former adversary” for his crucial assistance in passing the legislation. As McCain jettisons his one remaining economic principle in pursuit of popularity, Republicans, making great strides in renewing their brand as opponents of big government, believe they may have dodged a bullet. (update: Rick Santorum agrees with me on this one.)
- Eschewing a high-profile battle on greenhouse gas cap-and-trade legislation, which he knows would compound the recession, President Obama orders his energy and environmental team to issue dozens of stealth regulations intended to promote “energy efficiency” and “green development.” The new rules, which are technology-specific, prove to be a huge boon to selected contractors and vendors but impose such enormous costs on business that many companies are forced to shut down older factories or close altogether. President Obama decries such behavior as “polluters forcing their workers to pay for their crimes,” and he orders the Justice Department to explore ways to seize these “unpatriotic” companies’ assets and redistribute them in payments to laid-off employees. Meanwhile, American manufacturing quickens its pace to the grave.
- Open violence in Palestine, ongoing revelations about the scope of the Madoff scandal, a botched attack on Iran by Israel (and subsequent nuclear brinksmanship that destabilizes the world for weeks), and several oddly-blunt media reports about the number of Jewish men and women leading big firms on Wall Street during the financial crisis lead to a shocking rise in anti-Semitic sentiment among Americans, and American youth in particular. Journalists attribute the trend to economically-impacted Southern whites returning to their base prejudices, but anti-Semitic violence and opinion are most prevalent in the blue states of the Northeast, which have been particularly hard-hit by the financial sector’s troubles. European journalists decry a “new American Holocaust” after a particularly vicious attack against an elderly Jewish woman, but in doing so ignore decades of virulent anti-Semitism in their own countries. Without irony, international media reports continue to portray Israel as a warrantless aggressor in the Middle East. (update: Obviously, this is the prediction I least wanted to be true. Sadly, it seems to be.)
- Hollywood, having been freed from the *&@%!#^ Bush Administration, begins filming a gush of relentlessly romantic, unironic, optimistic, and almost-patriotic films. Revenues shoot up when these films are released in 2010, leading studios to believe that their fortunes have turned. By winter, however, the made-for-Oscar flicks revert to postmodern portrayals of human despair. The boomlet recedes, and all lessons are unlearned.
- After a sudden and unexpected collapse, at least one major U.S. city is left without a daily newspaper. In its wake, talented writers of all stripes join to create a multifaceted “blogalition,” in which the city’s local, sports, and cultural news is reported through a series of trusted and high-quality blogs. The model spreads to other cities, and the resulting ad wars put already at-risk papers in serious jeopardy.
- Economic conditions place a highly-popular Major League Baseball team publicly on the brink of bankruptcy. The resulting media firestorm leads the commissioner to call an emergency meeting of team owners to vote on a new revenue-sharing plan. Owners refuse to sign on without getting a revised salary scale with caps from the union. The union balks, and a standoff ensues. The stalemate is broken when the owners of 10 small-market clubs reveal how close each of them are to closing their doors, and faced with unemployment for almost half of their players, the union agrees to a team-based salary cap beginning in 2011. Faced with mass divestiture of its clubhouse, the Yankees get special dispensation to grandfather its current roster, resulting in the aging of its team into competitive oblivion.
- The U.S. economy will surprise everyone by showing actual GDP growth in the third quarter 2009. Unfortunately, this is the beginning of a long-term trend of low-level (1-1.5%) growth for the remainder of the Obama Administration, as the government is saddled with enormous debt, huge deficits, a weak dollar, expanding entitlement obligations, and poor tax receipts. A crippled bond market, combined with volatile equities markets, keep businesses from finding reliable means of financing expansion, despite apparent opportunities for growth. Some 40% of all mortgages are refinanced in 2009, but home sales and prices never make any measurable recovery from historic lows. Economists begin propounding that this is the “new normal,” and that Americans must begin to accept austerity and immobility as a fact of life. The case against hope and change begins as a grumble in the grocery line.
Here’s hoping the new year is happier than I’ve made it out to be! What do you think 2009 will bring us?