2005 & Beyond
The New Year is upon us and I feel moved to make predictions. Move over Nostradamus, there’s a new kid in town.
DISCLAIMER: My past performance as a prognosticator is no measure of future performance -- for which we can all be thankful. DO NOT use any of the following predictions as guidance for personal investing – (unless you would like to purchase my Global Crossing, WorldCom and Enron shares. )
Okay, now on to predictin’
THE MIDDLE EAST
Let’s start with Saudi Arabia, because that’s where a lot of the trouble will start. The Saudi “Royal” Family will not survive Bush’s second term. If they don’t leave peacefully, they will leave piece-fully.
They will be replaced by a coalition of conservative Islamic clerics who will serve behind a cadre of compliant/intimidated civil bureaucrats. Leaders of radical Islamic groups currently working to overthrow the Royal family will be given posts in the nation’s defense, police and intelligence agencies.
What Saudi Arabia’s new owners will not do is cut off the West’s oil supply. They know we are hooked on the stuff and would probably attack them if we withheld the oil from the markets. Instead sell us all we want and use our own money to build towards their dream of a Middle East free of Western influences. (Lenin once noted, “When we hang the capitalists they will sell us the rope.”)
The desert kingdom’s vast oil revenues will be redistributed. Hundreds of millions of dollars a year will flow into public works, services and charities in order to build public support for the new regime. Millions more will be used to buy political support from tribal leaders and Saudi companies.
With funding and support from Saudi Arabia flowing to insurgents in Iraq, Bush can kiss his vision of a “free and democratic Iraq” goodbye. Saudi petro dollars will also be used to invigorate terrorist/insurgent activities in Afghanistan and to destabilize western-friendly Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan.
Of most concern is Pakistan. As this well-financed radical Saudi juggernaut gets rolling it will not take more than one warning phone call to Pakistan’s adroit leader, General-President, Pervez Musharraf, to get him to change sides – again. Overnight the world will have the first nuclear-armed radical Muslim state on its hands. India will not be amused. Just how worried India becomes will determine whether or not the world also sees its first use of nuclear weapons since 1945.
Once Pakistan jumps back to the Axis of Evil camp, Iran will quickly reconnect with its Pakistani nuclear mentor, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and rush work to finish its own nuclear weapons.
Syria will be emboldened by all this and will demand Israel return the Golan Heights – now! With Iran now outfitted with both nuclear weapons and missiles that can reach Israel we will see a Middle Eastern version of the Cuban Missile Crisis develop. It's be white-knuckle time all around once again as each side refuses to back down. How will it end? Well, considering that almost everyone who lives in that part of the world is certifiably crazy… , you do the math.
The French may be annoying – (okay, the French ARE annoying.) But, they have also been right when deciding where and how to get mixed up in Bush’s ill-defined war on terrorism. Jumping into the tar pit Iraq was not the French’s idea of a successful strategy. Instead the French are working within the European Union to create a second world superpower.
While the US wastes its blood and treasure on a war that cannot be won in Iraq, the Europeans are making hay. With US budget deficits soaring the dollar becomes weaker by the day and the Euro stronger and stronger. Steadily the long-held dream of a United States of Europe is taking form. And, just as the US grew by adding states over time, so too is the EU. Turkey – a Muslim country – is in line for membership and a host of former Eastern Block nations are filling out the forms for membership.
By the end of Bush’s second term the EU will emerge as the superpower with a voice of reason. At the UN the unified EU will increasingly vote as a block. That will only further infuriate the knuckle-dragging US Neocons who will demand the US quit the UN.
THE UNITED STATES
Here at home it will be four years of chickens coming home to roost. Big-ass chickens. Mean-ass chickens. Hungry chickens.
Thanks to Bush’s numbskull supply side economic theories, tax cuts targeted at big business and the rich will not have trickled down to create jobs and prosperity for the rest of us. Instead mounting deficits due to reduced tax revenues will boost interest rates and increased government borrowing that will in turn starve capital markets of the very kind of private investments that do create jobs.
If you lived through Carter presidency the term “stagflation” will send shivers up your spine. Stagflation happens when, despite a flat and sluggish business climate, inflation ignites and prices begin an upward spiral. Raw material prices will soar, driven by demand from a more prosperous and rapidly growing Asia and E.U. Oil, coal, steel, copper, tin, you name it. If you can make something out of it or burn it to produce power, demand will drive the price up – even for us, despite our own slow economic growth.
It’s an economists’ worst nightmare because once this process begins it takes on a life of its own and none of the Federal Reserve’s traditional tricks work any longer. As prices go up people start to buy stuff, even stuff they don’t need, simply because they know it will cost more later when they might need it. That, in turn, drives prices higher yet.
People and businesses begin to stockpile stuff. Such overhanging stockpiles later become a hindrance on any attempt at stopping the slide in business activity. After all, what widget maker is about to hire workers to make more widgets if they know millions of widgets are stockpiled already and that those widgets will be dumped on the market the minute the widget shortage ends?
You will hear a lot of talk about out of the Neocons during the first year of Bush’s second term about how Social Security is in crisis and MUST be fixed. When you hear them say that you need to remember the following phrase form the Bush first term:
“Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.”
You get the point? They were lying then and they will be lying again to convince you Social Security is in crisis. The current trust fund can support all retiree needs at current levels through 2052. After that, if nothing changes, Social Security would still be able to fund 82% of its commitments. Is that a crisis? If so then the entire US government is in crisis right now since at current tax and spending levels we can only fund 70% of our annual budgetary needs. We borrow the rest.
So, if the Neocons wanted to fix something they could fix that first, one would think. But that’s not what they are up to. What they want to do is trim back all federal programs they believe are socialistic. The biggest would be Social Security, followed by Medicare. That’s what they are up to and, though they will not get what they want in one bill they will begin the process of chipping away at those two programs until they provide so little in benefits and coverage people are eventually forced into the uncaring arms of the private sector.
Democrats will spend the first two years of the Bush second term in a tug of war between Democrats on the right and Democrats on the left. So-called “moderate” democrats have been playing political Monopoly for so long they have have become tacticians only and have long forgotten the principles and values that made a Democrat a Democrat. Joe Liberman is the worst example of that.
After they lose more seats in the midterm elections the leftwing of the party will finally mount a purge of the corrupt and valueless moderates and begin channeling party money and decision making towards state and grassroots organizations. The party will return to its roots focusing on assuring a living wage for working families, basic healthcare for everyone and affordable drugs and secure retirement for the elderly. And not a moment too soon.
The evangelicals are on a holy roll. They like to remind us that fundamentalist Christians founded this country. What they choose to ignore is that the Puritans did not come to to America voluntarily. They were kicked out of Europe because they were getting up everyone's noses all the time. People just get tired of other people telling them what they can and can't do all the time, so they got 86'd. Of course the evangelicals have framed that exodus as a flight from “persecution,” because nothing fires up a religious nut more than the notion that sinners are out to get them. In reality it is a condition they create themselves – but it takes a while.
History will repeat itself here now, because there is no pleasing these people. No matter how many concessions a society makes to one fundamentalist there are ten behind him who are even holier. Bit by bit every aspect of secular life becomes a matter of religious concern; how your kid dresses, what foods you eat, how you eat it and when you eat it. Do you pray once a day, or five times a day? Do you drink liquor? Dance? Swear? Scratch your ass with your left or right hand? There’s no end to religious obsession. And concessions only feed that fire.
Evangelicals are relentless in their religious values engineering. Sooner or later, everyone will realize that granting them one concession only leads to a dozen more – like paying ransom to blackmailers. When it reaches this point everyone's ox is getting gored in one way or another and society cuts the holy reformers off -- or as they will describe it, begin "persecuting" them -- again.
But I fear we are at the earliest stages of the process. We have a long way to go before those who describe themselves as “values voters,” figure out what happens when you mix religious beliefs/superstitions with politics.
So, buckle up. Abortion, prayer in school, gay marriage, teaching sex and evolution in schools.. it's all up for grabs over the next four years. And, we will lose some of these battles, at least in part. Leading Dems are already considering softening their position on a woman’s right to choose an abortion. They are figuring that selling a few poor women down the river of political expediency is a price worth paying for getting reelected.
So, we have way to go before secularism stops meaning Satanism to Red State voters.
Footnote: Speaking of Satanism, did you know that 1.2 million Americans describe themselves as worshipers of Satan? Evangelicals don’t seem to understand that once you let religion into public schools it means all religions.. even Satanism. It will come as a shock to them when it happens.. and it will. At that point they will become born again secularists, at least when it comes to prayer in public schools.
TERRORISM (and a million other things that can kill you)
Over 125,000 humans died in single natural disaster this week in Southeast Asia, Another 35,000 will die in auto accidents just in the US this year. Breast, lung and other cancers will claim millions more. Shit happens - and that includes terrorist attacks. Deal with it and stop over-reacting to it. Chasing terrorists into the briar patch is just what they want. Homeland security is fine. Do as much as you can to protect against the obvious threats and go on with life. Because no matter how right we get it, none of us is getting out of this alive anyway.
Those are my predictions for the Bush second term. If they all prove right it will be a first for me and I will move on to bending spoons, levitating, and discovering images of the Virgin Mary on every imaginable earthly object.
Happy New Year
Happy New Year
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