[Update: Title changed thanks to Henry in comments.]
This is the time when people are making predictions for 2009 (with the understanding from the reader that the diarist is pulling a good portion out of his you-know-where.
Given what the world looks like in early January 2009, this is bound to be more sober and somber than usual.
Before I get to the "list" part of this, let me say that in certain ways I am optimistic about this year. Obama is a charismatic, capable leader who has the broad support of the American people, and plans to move American policy, both foreign and domestic, in a decidedly more progressive direction. Anyway:
1. The headline Unemployment Rate will exceed 12% by year’s end.
I really hope I'm wrong on this one, but I don't see a significant turn-around in 2009. Stimulus will take time to show itself in the employment numbers; the economy is currently in free fall, and the first six months of 2009 will be looked back on as the nadir.
2. The Employee Free Choice Act will pass over the strenuous objections of Southern conservatives.
The Provisions of Taft-Hartley that allow Southern states to ban closed shops may (please, Lord) go down too. Leaving aside questions of social and economic justice for the moment, this would be an extremely shrewd thing to do for Democrats from a purely political perspective; Unionizing the South would allow southern working-class voters to see the benefits of having unions, and get them voting for democrats on a regular basis, forever undermining the "Solid South." The Southern elites know this, of course, so expect a fight of monumental proportions over this; conservatives would be fighting for their very survival, and would use every means at their disposal to try and stop the effort.
3. The US will be effectively out of Iraq by the end of the year. Casualties will be under one per week.
4. Barack Obama will prove to be more popular in his first year than Ronald Reagan, Jack Kennedy or even Roosevelt were in their first years.
There will be widespread support for his economic initiatives; the only exception will be the previously-mentioned conservative anti-union redoubts in the south, but even there cracks will appear (see above).
5. The US railroad system, especially the passenger piece of it, will begin to be modernized on a large scale.
This is essential; not doing this will mean no one but the top income quintile will be able to travel long distances once the economy recovers and fuel prices resume their relentless long-term rise. Air travel as a mass-consumption phenomenon is, I'm convinced, going away rather soon (within 10 years would be my guess). The US used to have a passenger rail system that was the envy of the world. It only declined when Air travel became convenient and cheap; I’m convinced that increasingly-expensive plane fuel will return air travel from mass-transportation back to something only the elites do.
6. GM and Chrysler will still exist, but will also still be described as “troubled.” Ford will be in somewhat better shape.
I predict that the Pontiac division, and the US (but not Chinese) Buick division, will bite the dust, leaving GM with only the Cadillac (for luxury cars) and Chevy (for the rest of us) car-building divisions standing; GMC will remain as a truck-building enterprise.