Well, as the cliche’ goes: “It’s that time of year again” for my annual “Predictions” edition of Mugsy’s Rap Sheet, when we look back at how well I did last year, a little schadenfreude examining just how badly the so-called “psychics” did, and ending with my own predictions for the coming year. My own record (with all humility) is incredibly good, averaging well above 50%. But I think my call on the Constitutionality of “ObamaCare” (see more below) will stand out for years to come. Off-election-year political predicting is more difficult because there are no races to call, and politicians are far more predictable in an election year. Conservatives pick fights over things they might otherwise have ignored, attempting to rile their base to score cheap political points. Democrats trade their spines in for Jell-O as they try to look like “the reasonable ones” by compromising on everything they way voters claim to want (but really don’t because Republicans have no respect for people that don’t stand up for their principles, while Liberals become infuriated by Democrats repeatedly caving-in to GOP blackmail.) 2012 was one wild ride with the election & all. And despite my confidence in my predicting ability, there were plenty of times when I thought I’d be lucky if I got even one prediction right. And while I missed my share this past year, I think my hits outweigh my misses. So without further ado:
My 2012 Scorecard (17 predictions):
- Correct! – “President Obama will win reelection. Handily. I’d say by roughly the same margin he beat John McCain (around 5% of the popular vote).” President Obama’s Electoral Vote victory was 332 to Romney’s 206, with a popular vote margin of nearly 4-percent (even with widespread attempts at voter disenfranchisement.)
- Correct! – Romney will be the GOP nominee. As noted, other candidates came and went during the 2011 Debates as Republicans desperately searched for “anyone but Romney”, but Romney always hovered in the top-3 while his competitors imploded around him. (Gingrich did give me a fright there momentarily when he came back a second time to win South Carolina. But thankfully, his enormous ego did him in again.)
- Correct! – A lack of enthusiasm for Romney will have an effect “down ballot”, with Democrats making big gains in the House and holding onto at least five seats in the Senate. My final “pick-up” totals might have been off, but that “enthusiasm gap” did indeed crash the GOP. Appalling “gerrymandering” of voting districts ensured the GOP lost only 6 seats in the House despite receiving 1.2-million fewer votes. In the Senate, Democrats won all but 1 out of 22 incumbent races and picked up two more for a 54/46 majority (including two independents.)
- inconclusive – The “Arab Spring” uprisings will finally reach Iraq. A string of “Arab Spring” uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya all leading to the ouster of their corrupt leaders and historic political reform, followed by a series of protests in Iraq led me to believe that Iraq would likely follow. And while weary Iraqi’s did not overthrow their corrupt government over the continued violence and lack of services in 2012, hints of such protests did indeed surface on Friday (in just under the wire), so I’ve upgraded this miss to “inconclusive” because if it is the dawn of an “Arab Spring” in Iraq, it will have definitely started in 2012 as predicted. Only time will tell.
- Wrong – Gas prices will hit a new record high momentarily next Summer. Mercifully, this is one prediction I don’t mind getting wrong. While gas prices did indeed hit record highs in parts of the country or for “that particular time of year”, the “National Average” peaked at $3.92 last March, never breaking the $4.10/gal record set under President Bush in July of 2008.
- Wrong – Syria’s King Assad won’t still be in power by the end of 2012. While I could rate this “Correct” on a technicality, I never expected him to hang on this long. The revolution in Syria had already begun in mid-2011, and by the end of 2011, the Arab League had already sent 60 Monitors into Syria to witness/prevent the reported slaughter of civilians. Other “Arab Spring” nations fell in only a matter of months. But shocking support from Russia & China, even vetoing the use of force against Assad in July as part of the UN Security Council, allowed him to cling to power all year. And Arab League observers were forced to retreat barely a month later after incidents of violence against some of their own people by Syrian troops. Recent appalling acts of genocide could pressure Russia and China into reconsidering their longtime support for Syria sometime in the coming year. We’ll see.
- Wrong – Charges of “racism” surrounding Ron Paul will hurt him badly in early primary states. – While Paul’s notorious racist history always lingered just beneath the surface, he never drew enough “mainstream” support to make it an issue. Nothing could shake Ron’s loyal “Revolution” devotees’ fawning adoration of him, and “racism” doesn’t make the Top-10 List of Concerns in Republican primaries searching for the old white guy that will rescue them from the nation’s first black president whose very place of birth they question. So it came as no surprise that Paul’s racist past had little to no impact on his campaign.
- Correct! – With Gingrich & Perry failing to get on the ballot in the Virginia primary, Romney will win Virginia easily (but with low voter turnout); Gingrich will take the state to court while Perry simply drops out. The headline after the VA Primary: “Mitt Romney Wins Virginia Primary With Lethargic Voter Turnout”. I was right on the legal challenge but got the names reversed. Perry was the one to go to court, dropped out after losing and endorsed Newt Gingrich.
- Wrong – The “99%” Movement gains strength. Obama hosts a “99%” rally while the GOP candidates host “Tea Party” rallies. While the “Occupy Wall Street” movement did indeed have a substantial impact on the election… most notably in response to Romney’s devastating “47%” video… the President did not host/attend any OWS rallies, nor did the GOP candidates host any “Tea Party” counter rallies.
- Correct! Correct! Correct! – The Supreme Court will declare “ObamaCare” Constitutional, citing the government’s power to tax, in a 5-4 split decision. On June 28th, the Supreme court ruled “The Affordable Care Act” constitutional. The deciding vote in a 5-4 split decision was cast by none other than Conservative Chief Justice Roberts (now THAT I didn’t predict!) who specifically cited the government’s power to “tax” as what made the “mandate” portion of the law legal. I’d call that prediction a slam dunk! I’m counting it as three.
- Correct! – Someone will FINALLY get around to asking the GOP candidates that “if they repeal ObamaCare, what would they replace it with?” The idea of simply “just going back to the way things were” before Health Care Reform was finally recognized as unacceptable. Many sources did indeed start asking about the “replace” portion of the GOP’s call to “repeal & replace”, but this exchange on “Fox news Sunday” on June 30th particularly stood out.
- Correct! – The return of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan won’t strain the job market as much as expected, but in fact have a mini stimulative effect with the increase in consumer demand. The return of all troops from Iraq in December of 2011 and 33,000 troops from Afghanistan last September did not push the unemployment rate up as soldiers returned home looking for work. Economic growth continued to rise slowly but did not in fact contract.
- Correct! – Unemployment will be under 8% in time for the election. The unemployment rate fell to 7.8% at the end of September, ticking up to 7.9% by the end of October, but indeed below 8.0% as predicted.
- Correct! – Gitmo will still be in service by the time of the November election. Probably not the most difficult of predictions. Such issues have a way of falling onto the back burner when attentions are drawn elsewhere.
- Wrong. – The planned removal of
23,00033,000 additional troops from Afghanistan by September 2012 will hit a snag. Not much to say here. I expected protests in Iraq that never materialized, coupled with civil war in Syria to derail the withdrawal of “Surge” troops from Afghanistan. I should of had more confidence in President Obama.
- Correct! – The London Olympic Summer Games will go off without a hitch. No violence, terror threats, or major disruptions of any kind.
- Wrong. – If Mitt Romney does win his Party’s nomination as predicted, Virgina Governor Bob McDonnell will be his running mate. A last minute prediction I tossed in just before midnight on December 31st. McDonnell was campaigning hard for the job, and probably would have been the pick if he hadn’t gone off the rails and pushed a “mandatory vaginal ultrasound” law for rape victims seeking an abortion. I suppose he thought it would endear him to the whacked-out Evangelical Right, but instead made him the poster-boy for the GOP “War on Women”. Not even I could have seen that coming.
And the “Should have quit while I was ahead” award goes to:
The final tally: 12 of 18 (I’m counting #10 as three) correct, 6 wrong and one “inconclusive”. 66%. That’s a heck of a lot better than I thought I’d do after Newt won South Carolina and McDonnell imploded. Even if you count #10 as just one prediction, I still scored an impressive 62.5%.
So let’s look at how the so-called “psychics” and Political Pundits did:
Psychic Blair Robertson, who claims to have predicted the 2011 Japanese earthquake (which is a bit like predicting snow in Winter), the plane crash that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski (no link to original prediction provided, so no way to verify the claim), along with some unnamed Soccer and Oscar predictions, was touted as a psychic whose track record of “successful forecasts” demonstrates he has the ability to “see into the future”. Let’s see:
Mr. Robertson predicted:
…a GOP Presidential victory, major volcanic activity in the Northwest and a “good chance” of a large eruption (none of which occurred), the “bombing of a cruise ship” (which I expect Robertson will point to the “Costa Concordia” being run aground by its captain as fulfilling his prophecy of a “cruise ship disaster”), North Carolina heavily damaged by storms in April, Jennifer Aniston will marry (nope), major riots in Miami and London, a train crash in Southern Europe caused by sabotage (nada)… okay, by this point, I’m just rubbing it in. Of Mr. Robertson’s 26 “psychic” predictions, only one came to pass (arguably): “a baby for the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge” (pregnancy but no birth yet). 1 for 26 (0.4% accuracy).
Here is a sample of predictions from Cable TV’s “well known Long Island psychic” Janet Russell for 2012 (excuse me for picking on her for a second year in a row, but how is she “famous”? She truly sucks as predicting. 0-for-20 over the past two years):
…more people will be forgiven for their [home] loans and will be able to forgo foreclosures (I found no such widespread movement).
…one state will be open to “alternative lifestyle” and people will move to that state because they feel more comfortable (actually, same-sex marriage was on the ballot in four states in 2012, and passed in support of gay marriage in all of them. No mass migration into those states was reported.)
…the government will admit that we do have contact with other beings in other dimensions. (Uh… no.)
Several other “psychics to the stars” predictions appear on that same page (ibid: “Janet Russell”). Of the 50 or so predictions listed, I’m not sure a single one came to pass.
But that’s Hollywood. How did our friends over at Fox “news” do?
A Fox list of “5 Medical Advances in 2012” is interesting:
- Medicine gets closer to treating cancer with vaccines. – There was actually plenty of news in 2012 to grant this a bonafide “Correct”. Vaccine treatments for cervical, lung, and breast cancer were all announced in 2012.
- An anticipated “Malaria vaccine” did not pan out.
- Millions will breathe easier, thanks to new EPA air pollution Regulations. – Gotta give this one a “No”. A minor “Cross-State Pollution Rule” was passed in 2012 (no surprise) that even their own best estimate was that it would improve life for up to 820,000 in the region, not “millions”. I think Fox’s own unfounded belief that Obama is a “regulation-crazy” president, played a part in that prediction.
- Many crucial drugs will become cheaper. – While a WSJ report claimed “Name-brand Drug Prices Rise, But Generics Get Cheaper”, with some generics falling as much as 22%, reading the Fox prediction, the basis for their prediction was that the price of many “name brand drugs” would fall as their patents ran out, while insurance companies (under ObamaCare, seeking maximum profit) would push doctors into prescribing cheaper generics. This did not happen, so I rate this prediction a “No” as well.
- Legislation will make it easier to choose health insurance. – There really was no “new” legislation specifically to aid in “choosing” a health insurance provider, so this is another swing & a miss.
Five predictions; one right: 20%. The fewer predictions you make, the easier it is to get a high score. Make one prediction and if you’re right, you score 100%. But even with that in their favor, they still tanked.
But medicine really isn’t in Fox’s wheelhouse. How did their “political” predictions go? On the Christmas Day 2011 edition of “Fox news Sunday”:
- Steve Hayes of “The Weekly Standard” predicted: “It’s more likely than not that Republicans win the White House in 2012 (later, “Probably Mitt Romney”), win the Senate in 2012, [and] despite some good Democratic recruits, keep the House of Representatives.” – One for three there, Steve. And the other two weren’t even close. Go fish.
- Liz Marlantes of the CSM predicted an Obama reelection and Republicans holding onto the House, but Democrats only “narrowly hold onto the Senate” losing “at least three seats”. For the record, Democrats increased their margins in both the House and Senate.
- Susan Ferrechio of “The Washington Examiner” disagreed with Marlantes, predicting Republicans regaining control of the Senate for an “all-Republican Congress”, but losing the White House. (Amazing how many Republicans, even back then, were pessimistic about unseating Obama.)
- Charles Lane of “The Washington Post” refused to reveal his prediction for the winner of the election, but was willing to predict they would “win the Electoral vote but not the popular vote”. Maybe he should have revealed his pick because it’s clear to me he was expecting Obama to win, so he would of gotten at least ONE thing right. And sorry Chuck, but Obama won both votes handily… just as *I* predicted.
- Hayes also predicted “economic growth will be under 2.5 percent every quarter of 2012”, and “unemployment on Election Day of 8.5 percent” (seconded by panelist Liz Marlantes.). – Sorry Steve & Liz. Economic growth was 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter, and the unemployment rate was under 8 percent by election day (again, as *I* predicted.)
- Lane called a General Motors rebound looking “a little iffy right now”. – To be clear, General Motors saw its second straight year of “robust profits”, earning “$1.48-Billion dollars” in 2012, well above Wall Street expectations. Hang it up now, Chuck.
Okay, enough of that. Conservatives suck at predicting politics because their predictions always follow their own personal biases and ignore reality. It’s a waste of time to guess what Republicans think because they are so damned predictable themselves. Time for my “Predictions for 2013”:
- I can’t really make a prediction regarding whether or not we’ll go over the imaginary “Fiscal cliff” because Congress is likely voting on it as you read this on December 31st, so let me split my 1st prediction depending on whether a deal is struck or not:
- o If a deal is made before the clock expires that comes very close to what President Obama already wanted ($250K ceiling with no cuts to Social Security & Medicare), Republicans will have done so only because they intend to hold the “Debt Ceiling” hostage once again to get what they want when they think they’ll have more power… an astoundingly dangerous and irresponsible game, playing Russian Roulette with “the full faith & credit of the United States”. Too many Teanuts in Congress mistakenly believe the Debt Ceiling has something to do with future spending, and refusing to raise it somehow means we’ll be forced to “live within our means”, instead of an agreement to raise money to pay for past obligations already passed by Congress.
- o If a deal is struck with Democrats making wholly unnecessary concessions, President Obama will have fudged on the cutoff figure, possibly agreeing to raise his “$250K” ceiling to “$500K”. But since 20 Republicans in the House already rejected Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” that set the ceiling at “$1-Million”, the likelihood they’ll agree to a much lower “$500K” ceiling seems unlikely. And no sane Democrat should be willing to accept that deal either. Not only would it be a bad deal that makes the entire point of this fight moot, producing lots of pain for very little gain, but voters have already sided with the president, blaming Republicans for the obstruction. Caving in to GOP Blackmail is pointless because Democrats could obtain almost everything they asked for if they just hold out for a couple of weeks.
- o If no agreement is made before midnight and we “go over the imaginary cliff”, that puts Democrats in the cat-bird seat. The Bush Tax Cuts will expire for everyone, and Democrats will then propose The Obama Tax Cut in the exact form proposed by the President during the 2012 campaign. Until that time, the Stock Market will quake a little for about a week (or wildly roller-coaster for a month or two until the new tax cut is passed). Democrats will dare Republicans to vote against a tax cut for 98% of Americans, and anyone that refuses will only be proving to the entire country just where their loyalty lies: protecting the rich at the expense of the Poor & Middle Class. Since Republicans will have no choice but to vote for The Obama Tax Cut, it’s an absolute certainty that they’ll hold the “Debt Ceiling” hostage once again to get the concessions they lost in the tax fight.
Of the three options, I expect the second to be the most likely. Which brings us to #2:
(Dec 31, 2012 Update: Senate agrees to a last-minute compromise with the tax-cut threshold pushed up to $450K with spending cuts postponed for two months… so the end result was basically a hybrid of the first two scenarios. We shall see if the inevitable “Debt Ceiling” fight… and now a fight over the “sequester” at roughly the same time… will be a “hybrid” as well.)
- IF Republicans play chicken with the Debt Ceiling” once again and take us down to the wire once more (and #3 below does not come top pass), President Obama won’t play that game a second time around. The moment it looks like the GOP’s hostage crisis might jeopardize our credit rating again (and cost us BILLIONS in interest on the money we barrow), President Obama will circumvent Congress and raise the Debt Ceiling all on his own, invoking The 14th Amendment. To say the GOP will have a conniption will be an understatement. Had the GOP of won control of the Senate, we would assuredly see another round of “impeachment hearings” as the GOP attempts yet another coup against the second Democratic president in a row (which would not have gone well with the public). Thank your lucky stars the GOP didn’t win control of the Senate in 2012. (Addendum: See #3 below.)
Which leads us to #3:
- While I despise making predictions that will be proven right or wrong within a day or two, expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to hold true to his word and pass a rules change on day one of the new Congress to reform the filibuster. I think it unlikely he’ll get all the reforms he wants, with plenty of Senators concerned about “the slippery slope of 1st day rules changes passed with a simple majority”, but passing a simple agreement to force a “standing filibuster” (also known as a “talking filibuster”) is almost certain to pass w/o much of a fight. With Republicans still in control of the House for another two years, and another shot at retaking the Senate in 2014 and changing the rules back, there really isn’t much of a downside for them. The GOP House will ensure Republican Senators don’t have to filibuster anything that draws public fire, and they get to look like the reasonable affable ones by agreeing to “those power-crazed Democrats”. And let’s pray I’m right because should that “Debt Ceiling” fight come to pass, the change in the filibuster may be the only thing standing between us and default. I’m trying to imagine the public response to seeing a single GOP Senator holding the Senate hostage for hours… even days… and it won’t be pretty, making the likelihood of an extended challenge less likely. (Addendum: If I’m right and the Rules Change comes to pass, there will likely be no need for the President to invoke the 14th, negating prediction #2.)
UPDATE 1: Sen. Reid delayed voting on filibuster reform on the first day of the new (113th) Congress, calling for a “recess” rather than an “adjournment” so that upon their return in three weeks, the Senate will still in its opening session.
UPDATE 2 (1/24/13): In a move that has shocked Democrats, Reid has agreed to only mild changes to the filibuster rule, but otherwise leaves all of the GOP’s obstructive powers intact. When asked for an explanation, Reid said that he “didn’t feel it was time to get rid of the filibuster. But that argument does not wash since none of the proposed rules changes would have actually “abolished” the filibuster.
- Election Reform: Despite what President Obama said in his victory speech last November, since 2013 is not an election year, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of Election Reform this year… which is a shame because NON-election years are the best time to tackle the problem. More time to implement changes, and less paranoia on the Right over what those changes will do (everything from “helping ACORN… which went defunct in 2010… steal the election” to “helping illegal aliens vote”). I’ve finally come around in support of abolishing the Electoral College. I didn’t (and still don’t) like the idea that candidates can ignore less populated areas and simply focus all their efforts on big cities, but baldfaced attempts by the GOP to gerrymander electoral votes by district despite receiving over a million fewer votes in the House nationally, and an insane amount of focus on just one state (Ohio) deciding our election, I’m finally convinced that it is time for it to go. It’s a moot point, but I’m predicting little to no action on Election Reform in 2013. Damn shame too.
- The Unemployment Rate: Hmm, that’s a tricky one. Again, it depends on the “Fiscal Cliff” and “Debt Ceiling” votes. If the votes go (arguably) smoothly, I expect unemployment to be very close to 6.9% by the end of the year (give or take 3/10ths of a point). If however these votes become a long and protracted fight that drives the Stock Market nuts, it’s going to be very close to where it was in October (7.8%, give or take 3/10ths of a point.)
- Afghanistan: People are already asking, “why are we still there?” and the “Debt Ceiling” debate will thrust the cost of the war into the spotlight. I’m predicting that towards the end of the year, the idea of waiting another full year “until the end of 2014” to bring our troops home will become increasingly unpopular, with calls to end the war in Afghanistan… if not by the end of 2013… then by early 2014 at the latest.
- Gas prices: Unlike during the Bush years where a stream of never-ending chaos kept the Middle East in turmoil for nearly a decade, President Obama has shown his desire not to rock-the-boat in the Middle East. Stability aids recovery. And gas prices go up FAR more easily than they go down. Gasoline over $3.00/gal is the new normal. Assuming nothing insanely stupid takes place like an Israeli attack on Iran sometime next year, expect gas prices to remain close to where they are today, hovering in the $3.50/gal range by years end.
- As such, I’ll also predict no U.S. or Israeli missile strike on Iran in 2013. I honestly don’t think Iran is suicidal. They may even be willing to negotiate in response to their devastated economy resulting from current sanctions. (This is a much easier prediction to make after Bill “The Bloody” Kristol predicted yesterday a U.S. or Israeli airstrike on Iran next year.)
- Syria and Assad: Dangerous territory for me, since I (incorrectly) predicted last year that he would no longer still be in power by year’s end, not foreseeing Chinese and Russian support for Assad. So with that in mind, the only thing left is for the Syrian people to overthrow Assad on their own, which would be a Herculean task. However, now that we know the score, expect the Assad regime to be “economically starved out of power”, with opposing countries refusing to do business with him, and commencing all business with a parallel government formed by the Syrian opposition. Seen as irrelevant, Assad will be left with no choice by to step down voluntarily from a meaningless “Presidency in name only”.
- The DOW: On December 28th, the last day of trading in 2012, the DOW closed at 12,938.11 (down 158 points on Friday, but was averaging above 13,000), up less than 1,000 points over 2011. But, assuming we avoid a nasty drawn-out debate over the “Debt Ceiling” and no missile strikes on Iran jacking up oil prices, a relatively stable economic situation means better-than-average economic growth in 2013. Expect the DOW to be up over 14,500 by the end of 2013.
- They say when the U.S. economy sneezes, the world catches cold. The reverse is also true. Positive economic growth in America will mean the first signs of economic recovery in Europe, particularly the hard-hit countries of Greece & Spain. Of course, a protracted debate over the “Debt Ceiling” would only help destabilize the world economy. With so much at stake, and while there is NO doubt in my mind the GOP is going to threaten to hold the “Debt Ceiling” hostage once again, I don’t think President Obama will let it get that far again. So I repeat my prediction for the first signs of economic recovery in some of the hardest-hit countries in Europe (and Conservatives will credit “Austerity” for their recovery.)
- Is 2013 the year we’ll see some serious Immigration reform? Don’t bet your Aunt Fanny on it. Will we see some “token” reform(s)? Yes. With the 2012 election still fresh in the GOP’s memory, and a recognition that they need to do damage-control with Hispanic voters, Republicans will agree to one or two minor changes in our immigration laws that poll well with Latino voters, but the Republican’s instincts (and deathly fear of offending their Redneck base) will win the day, making sure little to nothing substantial takes place in this non-election year. The time to gild-the-Lilly is in an election year, when pandering is most likely to help them at the polls. So, no, don’t expect much in the way of Immigration Reform this year.
- And finally, do Democrats finally pass an Assault Weapons Ban or pass meaningful restrictions on the amount of damage they can do (like limiting clip size)? This will be an ugly fight, so let’s pray Harry Reid does indeed pass filibuster reform, but yes, I do expect Democrats to pass something similar to the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban in 2013. Early on, many Republicans will express “support” for new gun laws, but when they don’t get their way on some “conditions” (eg: an armed guard in every school but with no explanation how to pay for it), the final vote will split almost straight down Party lines, passing with a few (less than 5) Republican votes in the Senate and maybe 20 in the House.
And that’s my list of 13 predictions for 2013. Seems appropriate, doesn’t it? 13 for ’13? Completely coincidental I assure you. This year is going to be a toughy. So much depends upon things that happen in just the first few days, I could be either incredibly accurate or incredibly wrong by this time next year. We’ll see. I encourage you to add your own predictions in the Comments below.
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