Thursday, January 01, 2015

2015 Predictions

Happy New Year and welcome to my annual post in which I say with false confidence what I think will happen in the coming year. Then I come back 12 months later to see how badly I did. You know, like that post that went up just before this one.

Anyway, per that annual tradition, here is my usual disclaimer: The below list is what I currently think will happen, not what I necessarily want to happen. And the predictions aren't listed in any particular order. I have tried to come up with predictions are are relatively easy to grade at the end of the year. That is, I'm not going to say "the U.S. economy will improve" or "get worse," because in most years you could argue that either way. I am trying to list things that I can later label as either "right" or "wrong" later on.

Here's the list:

1. Obama's approval rating will be higher at the end of 2015 than it is today. To measure this, I will use the Gallup Daily: Obama Job approval number (which is really a three day average), which currently stands at 48%.

2. There will be a federal government shut down in 2015.

3. Obama will block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Congress will pass legislation to overrule that decision, which the President will veto. Congress will override the veto. [Note: this is a reversal of my longstanding belief that Obama would ultimately approve the pipeline. What can I say, I have changed my mind about the President. I used to think he secretly had no objection to the pipeline but was delaying his approval for electoral reasons. After watching his behavior since the 2014 midterms, I now think he is privately against it and being a lame duck, there is no reason for him to approve it.]

4. All five of the current leaders of the five Central Asian former Soviet Republics will still be in power at the end of 2015. [yes, this is a reversal of prediction #8 from 2014, which itself was a reversal of prediction #12 from 2013. Maybe I will just swing back and forth each year on this one.]

5. Although the Palestinian Authority just joined the International Criminal Court, no charges will be prosecuted by that body against Israel or any Israeli officials. The process will be held up somehow, or dismissed on a technicality (most likely due to pressure from the U.S., but that won't be the official reason given).

6. Gay marriage will not be legal in every U.S. state by the end of 2015, but it will be legal in more than 45 states (the current number is 36 + D.C.).

7. By the end of 2015, there will be a declared democratic candidate for President who is not Hillary Clinton and who the media treats as a serious candidate, albeit a long shot.

8. Benjamin Netanyahu will not be Prime Minister of Israel at the end of 2015.

9. There will be no new war in Gaza in 2015 (by "war" I mean a full-scale military campaign, like in Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defense, and Operation Protective Edge. Smaller scale exchange of fire, such as occasional missile launches from Gaza to Israel, and periodic Israeli strikes in Gaza do not count).

10. The Islamic State (or ISIS, or ISIL, or Daesh, or whatever it is calling itself by the end of 2015) will control less territory in Syria and Iraq than it does at the end of 2014.

11. While the U.S. will have diplomatic relations with Cuba at the end of 2015, no ambassador will be confirmed by Congress and the embargo will not be lifted by Congress.

12. Lynne Abraham will be mayor of Philadelphia at the end of 2015. (This is an almost total guess. I do not understand Philly politics as well as I should).

13. Iran and the U.S./international community will not reach a final deal on the Iranian nuclear program.

14. At the end of 2015, Ukraine will remain divided between the Russian sponsored separatist in the East and the area ruled by the Kiev-based government in the West.

15. The cost of oil will be higher than it is at the end of 2014 (currently, it is at $55.91/barrel), but still less than $80/barrel.

16. The Supreme Court will rule that subsidies are not available to individuals who purchase coverage in the federal exchanges in King v. Burwell. In other words, the majority will insist that the card says "moops" and that will raise serious questions about the viability of the Affordable Care Act.

17. The number of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay facility will fall below 100 in 2015, although it will still be open at the end of the year. [With yesterday's releases, the current number is 127]

18. The Dow Jones Industrial Average will be higher at the end of 2015 than it is at the end of 2014. For reference, the Dow closed at 17,823.07. When the NYSE closes on December 31, 2015, it will be higher than that.

19. Vladimir Putin's popularity in Russia will slip substantially in 2015 as the Russian economy continues to decline. But his approval rating will still be in the 50s (i.e. between 50% and 59.999999999%).

20. Crimea will still be controlled by Russia, which will continue to be an economic liability for Russia. (That is, Russia will have to pour money into the peninsula and will spend much more than it gets back in terms of taxes or the benefits of tourism).

21. ISIS will no longer be the baddest bad boy of violent Islamic fundamentalist groups in the world. That is, either the group will get eclipsed by some other group, or ISIS's image as a danger to the world will collapse.

22. The unemployment rate in the U.S. will continue to fall. That is, the rate at the end of 2015 will be lower than 5.8% (the November 2014 number, the most recent available right now), but it will not be below 5%.

23. They still will not have found the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 at the end of 2015.

24. Mitt Romney will be running for President again by the end of 2015.

25. While some Republicans in Congress may talk about using the debt ceiling to wrest concessions from the President, the party's leadership will not get on board with that strategy and there will not be another brinkmenship over the issue whether the U.S. default on its debt. That strategy hasn't worked yet and the GOP leadership will not be so dumb as to do any more than give lip service to the idea.

Tune in on December 31, 2015 to see how badly I blew it this year.