Mon, Apr

Predictions: Wrong and Right for 2023


GELFAND’S WORLD - The New Year is full of stories and predictions about what will befall us in the next 12 months. 

Typical perhaps is this story from NBC about what we can expect from the next congress. What's interesting is that none of it looks to be anything productive. Here are the four major issues that NBC says will be taken up

Fighting over who will be Speaker of the House

Averting government shutdowns

Preventing a catastrophic debt default

GOP investigations -- and impeachment? 

In brief, each and every one these involves some internal Republican Party fight over who is more purely right wing or an attempt to punish the Democrats for some perceived slight. 

Not a one of these issues will further the interests of the country as a whole, and the middle two involve damage to the American economy through gross political malpractice. There might be one legitimate argument that the new Republican majority could make -- that there is a legitimate concern over running up government debt endlessly -- but this is the stuff of economists and their competing views. In a more rational universe, the Republicans could hold hearings not too unlike the January 6 hearings in which the subject is explored. 

Does anybody want to put money on the likelihood of that happening? 

Using the crystal ball

--If I were to make New Years predictions the way we used to get them in the supermarket tabloids, they might go something like this: 

--Kevin McCarthy will get elected speaker after abasing himself (one out of two of these has already been accomplished) 

--The Republican House of Representatives will debate the debt ceiling while a few Constitutional scholars will argue that the 14th Amendment makes the whole idea obsolete 

--Eventually a new debt ceiling will get passed with Republican help in the Senate. 

--Republican support for Vladimir Putin and against Ukraine will continue at a lesser frequency, but merely to support Trumpism and the House committee investigating Hunter --Biden. 

--The drought in the west will abate microscopically this winter but will continue to be a long range problem. 

--The buildup of heat in the earth's atmosphere along with CO2 and methane will continue. 

--The human population will continue to grow. This continues to be a long term topic of enormous importance, with resistance coming from cultural and religious groups all over the world. 

--Sometime this spring, Donald Trump will be charged with a couple of counts of possessing top secret documents, but by then he will be considerably weaker politically than he is now, which is already considerably weaker than he was in October of 2020. 

--The effect of a Trump indictment will be increased polarization in which one-fourth or one-third of potential voters will be out-and-out Trump supporters, about 40 percent will be supporters of the indictment, and the remainder will no longer care one way or the other. 

--The indictment, trial, and sentencing of the January 6, 2021 attackers will continue, with a few of the worst leaders getting substantial prison sentences. The overall effect will be to cast a bucket of ice-cold water on the revolutionary fantasies of the far right wing. They will continue to exist and continue to buy guns, but they will begin to understand that millions of patriotic Americans will not be following them into the streets. 

--A certain number of aging revolutionaries and non-revolutionaries alike will look at what is happening, then look back on the days of 1968 and give little shakes to their heads, but without talking about it much. 

As we continue to endure approximately one mass shooting every day of the year on the average, the popularity of gun culture will diminish ever so slightly over the next ten or twenty years. 

A few fantasies about what an enlightened congress could do 

Suppose we could have a congress something along the lines of what the founders imagined. It would still include people with their own axes to grind, but it wouldn't be such a rigidified two-party system. 

--They would talk about the draught and water distribution. 

--They would talk about the intensifying weather extremes in the southeast and what we can do to preserve life. 

--They would talk seriously about global warming. 

--They would talk seriously about the continuing human population explosion and what we can do about it. They would even talk seriously about reproductive rights. 

-They would talk about technological improvements that would move us away from the worst of global warming. 

--Instead of holding hearings on Hunter Biden, they would talk about technological progress. Just for fun, here is a link to the sort of thing that is intended to provide larger scale storage for wind and solar electricity without using lithium

--And of course they would talk about economics, but with a little respect for mathematics and for what the science of economics has been able to tell us. 

An aside: Just for fun, we would talk about replacing our commuter cars with cars that weigh 800 pounds and are powered by about 400 watts of pretty clean electric storage. We would of course have to talk about reorganizing our freeway commuter system to allow safe passage of those cars. Just to make this idea really fun, let's figure out how to build those cars for $800 plus the cost of the electric storage. One little note: I raised this idea in my very first column for Ken Draper around fifteen years ago. It seems even more timely now, in an era where three-dollar gasoline is something to be wished for. 

And for one last bit of fun, predictions that won't come true 

There is a left wing (well, it's not left in any real sense of the word, but it's anti-right, so I'm searching for a word) -- and they have an argument that goes something like this: Donald Trump will lose the presidential primaries, start his own party to run for president, and in so doing destroy the Republican Party. It's a centrist fantasy that parallels the way the Ross Perot candidacy cost George H.W. Bush the presidency. Only Perot didn't really have followers, and Trump has nothing but dedicated followers. And there will still be Republicans whether or not Trump remains an active candidate. 

It's a matter of timing, because Republican strategists are not stupid. The advent of a third party serving the interests of truly angry people, and self-creating six months before the 2024 elections would have an effect. Right now, there is little evidence that Republicans are boycotting the polls out of ideological commitment. Rather, they have been loyal to the Republican Party brand to an extent that exceeds independents and even Democrats. That accounted for many of their 2016 voters. But dedicated Trump followers could be convinced to vote against Republicans if Trump were the one to ask. What's interesting and amusing is that we can actually imagine Trump doing so. 

A longer term prediction with dire outcome: As global warming continues, one effect will be warming coastal waters off the Gulf Coast and along the eastern shores of Florida. The result will be super-storms perhaps every 5 years or so, gradually grinding down civilization along our southeastern coasts. 

The Big One: Will we have a huge earthquake? It's entirely a matter of chance and probability. The optimistic view is that most of us would survive it, although we will be uncomfortable for a while. One positive is that we have a large seaport right here, so we would probably be not-long in being resupplied. Likewise, the Port of Los Angeles should be able to resupply anywhere along the west coast within days. An aside: I will be talking about CERT training in weeks to come. 

Ron DeSantis will roll to an easy presidential primary win: Uh, maybe. But he doesn't seem like a sweet guy. Kind of the opposite, actually. Perhaps there are some Republicans who are getting tired of the constant ranting. Ronald Reagan tried the upbeat, optimistic approach and it worked for him. Will that guy from Arkansas gain any ground? Impossible to know right now, but that Clinton guy did OK, as did that Carter candidate. 

California will be destroyed by liberal Democrats because we are sinking into crime and poverty: This is always an interesting conclusion that one would reach if one only listened to talk radio. But notice: We're not 4th ranked in the United States economies. We're 4th ranked in the WORLD'S economies. There are a whole lot of European and Asian economies we look up to in terms of work ethic and culture, and they are looking up to us in terms of wealth and economic influence. We are about fifty percent larger economically than the next most productive state, and after that it's turtles all the way down. That doesn't mean that distribution is optimal, but that's not what the right wing is about anyway. 

So Happy New Year and we'll keep talking.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)