What would New Year’s Eve be without a few predictions?

1.  China begins to implode.  I think this will be the year that things begin to unwind.   The herculean task of uniting and keeping peaceful the masses in China hinges on keeping those masses busy.  That means employed.  With the downturn in the consumer driven world economy, fewer products will be made and there will be fewer jobs.  Restless, unemployed and without female companionship, millions of young men will cause trouble.  These young men are from some 50+ nationalities and they speak a multitude of languages from at least eight different language families.  In the past, they were peaceful mainly because they had work, food, and basic necessities.  Look for all that to start to change in 2009.

2.  Major newspapers, and their influence on politics, the arts, and business, will begin to wither away.  This will be the year (already begun last month with the bankruptcy filing for the Chicago Tribune group) that major newspapers either change radically or die.  I see some changing to a new model – printed Sunday paper and daily email/internet subscription news.  Others will just lower costs of content by severely cutting editorial staffs.  Ad revenues will be down drastically.  The biggest sources of revenue for most papers is local auto, real estate, and shopping ads.  Local auto retail companies are in deep trouble and likely to slow expenditures on newspaper ads.  Ditto local real estate agencies.  

3.  Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress will fight early and often.  The new President will understand something that partisans in Congress never do.  He has responsibility for the whole nation, not just his party.  Many of the over-the-top pieces of legislation sent to him by the likes of Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid will be for the good of entrenching the paty and not for the good of the country.  It is my hope and my belief that Mr. Obama will veto many and Congressional Democrats will not be unified enough to overturn the veto.

4.  Mrs. Clinton will be a model citizen and will publicly support Mr. Obama in all the safe moves he makes.  She will quietly distance herself from his bold decisions.  Her main efforts for the next four years will be to position herself for a last run at the Presidency in 2012.  She will play both sides always leaving herself room to say she only did “x” because she was being a good trooper.  She will also be able to take credit for anything that goes right in foreign policy.  I think that foreign affairs will define the 2012 election and she will be in the catbird seat.

5.  The Republicans will not yet start to get their act together to work as a team.  They will be pushed around by the Democrats in Congress and will lose ground further in midterm elections in 2010.  In 2009, they will try to prepare Sarah Palin for bigger and better things but it will only exacerbate the rift between the religious right and the rest of the party.  No dynamic new leader will emerge in the Grand Old Party in 2009.

6.  The bottom of the housing market will be found in most areas of the country.  By mid summer, bargain hunters will start picking up great opportunities before they lose the best chance in their lifetimes.  The increased activity from these speculators will prop the market just enough to let normal people feel safe moving back into the housing market.  Commercial and Industrial property values will take longer to recover, certainly not before the end of 2009 in most areas.

7.  The price of gas will slowly rise back to over $2.50 per gallon by the end of the year.  This will not be high enough to justify many of the alternative fuel projects and many will lose steam.  It will also do great damage to the likes of Mr. Chavez in Venezuela and Mr. Ahmadinejad in Iran.  Both countries have huge programs based on oil revenues that will suffer – read the people will suffer.   Both will have their hands full keeping power.  Don’t expect either to go quietly.  Mexico will suffer from low gas prices more than any nation.  With dwindling production, huge costs fighting (and currently losing) the battle with the drug lords, a low gas price could be the death knell to Mexico as we have known it for the past two decades.

8.  Mr. Obama will make little progress on his Universal Healthcare initiative.  I admit this prediction is based more on hope than data.  I keep hoping that all those smart people in the field of medicine will take action.  They will rise up and shake off the control of the insurance industry.  They will take medicine back from the lawyers.  Unfortunately that would require voters to allow liability limits.  It will require Docs to police their own and drive out the quacks who prescribe rather than treat, who eschew prevention in favor of much more profitable curative medicine.  These are tall orders.  I am afraid we don’t have the stomach for such changes and will opt for the easy (and wrong) fix of socialized medicine.  Like I said my prediction is based on hope.

9.  Government spending and taxes will rise rapidly starting in 2009.  Without a counterbalance in Congress and with a Community Organizer as President, I see the standard solution to all our problems will be to create new government programs and the taxes to pay for them.  This in turn will start a cycle of inflation unlike any we have seen since Jimmy Carter’s days.  It will start slowly but will be a huge issue by the time Mr. Obama wants us to reelect him.