Pendulous Crystal Balls

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Even though there are a few weeks left in the year, it’s started to really feel like 2020 is over. Things are quieting down, and the end-of-year “wrap-up” articles are increasing.

I don’t tend to be a fan of the “predictions for next year” kinds of articles that appear, mainly because I have yet to see a meaningful prediction actually come true. Try to find me a list of predictions from December 2019 that came even close to anticipating what 2020 had in store. Still, I’d like to offer three general predictions in which I believe.

ONE: The news about Covid, and its effect on the population, are going to be much worse than expected: Most of 2020 has been saturated by politically-driven good news about Covid. It’s going to be gone by Easter, like a miracle. It only is affecting a few people. Operation Warp Speed is going to fix the problem. And on and on and on. Now that the political pressure is off, the bad news (AKA reality) is going to have a chance to show up, including the fact that all of these small businesses that have been propped up with PPP and emergency loans are going to start vanishing into bankruptcy by the thousands. Here in prosperous Palo Alto, it’s starting to look like the Great Depression. Seriously.

TWO: The vaccine is not going to be the miracle cure we’re being told: Again, the news has been nothing but good, because it’s all been pushed for political reasons. Have you seen the polls about how many people are actually willing to get vaccinated? It’s about 40%. And I strongly suspect a portion of that 40% will change their minds, be too lazy to get it done, or have some other reason for it not transpiring. So maybe 30% will get vaccinated. And will the vax be perfect? Of course not. Will it have zero side effects? Of course not. Everything is as good as it’s going to be right now, because people are able to use their imaginations to project how great things are going to be next year. Reality will sully that.

THREE: The wheels are going to start to come off the economy and the market: In spite of all evidence to the contrary, there is still no such thing as a free lunch. You cannot print your way to prosperity. (You may now insert any other trite cliché or aphorism here, but you get the idea.) 2020 has been one gigantic lie, in the fact that the trillions of dollars of stimulus have convinced people that Things Aren’t So Bad. Well, my view is that Things Are Worse Than Bad, and as long-term structural unemployment sets in, and bankruptcies flood in, and violent resentment against the ruling centibillionaire class takes hold, you’re going to have a situation in which, at long last, the light bulb is going to appear over people’s heads, and they’re going to realize how utterly shafted the vast majority of people have become. There’s one thing that’s going to create meaningful change, and that one thing is millions of outraged people who aren’t getting bought off any more.

So there we have it. My doe-eyed, sunshine predictions for a marvelous new year and a marvelous new you. The only flaw is I’m probably being way too optimistic about our future. The future is ink black, yet people cannot stop staring into the bright beam of the artificial floodlight.