As 2008 draws to a close I think we can all agree that Americans haven’t witnessed such a tumultuous year in decades. As every morning brought a new head jarring revelation that made even more difficult the process of gaining perspective and mentally arranging fast breaking events we might conclude that 2008 was, literally, extraordinary.
Consider that in January 2008 there existed an assortment of facts and quasi facts (or what I might call, for lack of a better word, a general consensus of belief) that, by year end, were turned upside down.
For example, in the first month of this year it was widely believed that Hillary Clinton would be the Democrat nominee for president, but she never recovered from her Iowa Caucus loss. In the first month of this year the employees of the fifth largest investment bank in the country, Bear Stearns, most assuredly believed they would be in business at the end of the year. Not to be. The same can be said for the employees of fourth largest investment bank, Lehman Brothers. Bankrupt.
The war in Iraq was hinging on the success of the Troop Surge strategy led by General David Petraeus (and its subsequent success was beyond the wildest expectations of its chief critic, President elect Obama). Crude oil prices skyrocketed in the summer of 2008 to over $140.00 per barrel and retail gasoline prices rose above $4.65 per gallon. Gold traded above $1,000 per ounce.
Then, beginning in June, the U S stock market began a descent that would erase 40% of its value in a six month period that was unprecedented in recent U S history. Major U S commercial banks were forced to merge or face runs by nervous depositors. The Congress passed emergency spending bills such as TARP that dwarfed ($700 billion dollars) any other special domestic spending program. Congress nationalized FNMA and Freddie Mac, an act that added an additional five trillion in debt to the federal balance sheet. The pièce de résistance of this debacle was the imminent bankruptcy of the U S auto industry if the federal government did not offer assistance.
Any student of U S history would acknowledge that the economic and political volatility that characterized the year 2008 was extraordinary. The obvious question is, where are we headed in 2009?
To borrow an idea from DJ, it would be interesting to know where readers think politics and the economy will be at the end of 2009 so I’m going to begin a series of maybe five or six posts asking readers to predict certain events that may or may not transpire during the year 2009.
For starters let’s combine politics and the economy, plus a bonus question.
1) If given the opportunity, who will be President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court?
2) Will Republicans actually fillibuster legislation in 2009?
3) What will be the Dow Jones Industrial Average on 12/31/2009? ( Use this link for help).
4) What will be the price of crude oil on 12/31/2009? (Use this link for help).
5) Who will win the MN Senate seat, Coleman or Franken?
6) Will Rahm Emanuel be President Obama’s Chief of Staff on 12/31/2009?
7) Will IL Governor Rod Blagojevich go to prison?
8) Which team will win the 2008 NCAA college football championship, Florida or Oklahoma?
Good luck and I look forward to reading your predictions.