Monday, December 29, 2008

predictions for the year 2009

One of the most wonderful and most frustrating characteristics of my friend Sharon Astyk is her seemingly inexhaustible ability to write good stuff. I have, on many occasions, been moved to write about a particular world event only to surf over to her website and see that she has already written about it as well or better than I would have been able to, and hours or sometimes days before I get the chance. I have a theory that there are actually three of her making the rest of us look bad.

I had planned to do a list of predictions for 2009 in large part because I think the year ahead will be so damn nutty it’ll be interesting to look back and see the difference between my thinking in December of 2008 and my thinking come December 2009. Then Sharon went and published her predictions for 2009 and after reading them writing mine was like trying to write music while listening to it; it was just so hard not to simply agree and add, “Yeah, what she said.” So definitely read her predictions but let me add a prediction post albeit very similar in vein. By the way I was planning to call this post, ‘no the world really is round’ as a way of poking a little fun at the Thomas Friedman book, _The World is Flat_ but it seems that James Kunstler beat me to that punch with some predictions of his own- also worth a read. Here goes.

1. 2009 will be the year when citizens of the United States begin to seriously question beliefs that until recently were widely held and never questioned. Perhaps one of these conventional beliefs to be challenged will be the idea that we aren’t simply consumers but are in fact citizens. But I think this challenge of the status quo will play out most evidently in the questioning of economic growth. The credit crisis is and will continue to play out with real consequences in the lives of ordinary Americans. We got drunk. We’re bound to be hung over for a while but as we begin to investigate how we got so drunk in the first place we’re bound to question the people who brought the punch to the party or at very least check the punchbowl for the smell of liquor and ask ourselves if we real do in fact need to spike the punch going forward. I’m not suggesting we’ll move seamlessly into a steady state economy but I think asking questions about recently unquestioned aspects of our society will be much more acceptable and widespread and growth economics will be seriously questioned.

2. We will see food-related violence next year. One of the ways I expect the credit crisis to play out is more farmers forced out of business and long food supply lines broken. I’m certainly not hoping this happens but it’s likely that 2009 will be the year we see if not full fledged food riots then at least a certain number of incidences in which hungry people get mad and break stuff and possibly hurt other people. The growing number of unemployed Americans will add to this trouble. Last June in Milwaukee fights broke out amongst people waiting for food aid and this past November more than 40,000 people showed up to glean food from a farm outside of Denver. The farm was expecting 5,000 to 10,000. It was quickly overwhelmed. Unfortunately I think we’re going to see more of this and when people show up to such events hungry, we’re likely to see violence take place.

3. Shortages of goods which were previously very accessible to you and your family will no longer be readily available. This is a tricky one and I’m definitely taking the easy way out by not suggesting which goods or when. The truth is my crystal ball is cracked but I do think we’ll all go to the store at least once next year only to find that Mal-Wart is out of toaster ovens and doesn’t know when they’ll have more or local grocery store can’t get baby formula for a while. I don’t think all or even most of these shortages will be permanent but it will be a shock to Americans used to buying whatever they want whenever they want it so long as they have the money. Of course commerce like that on ebay or craiglist with people selling used microwaves or stockpiles of baby formula might help to fill such needs. I believe people are already selling used stuff for money. I know wee’re about to sell a spare bicycle. With between 10 and 26% of all US retailers in danger of bankruptcy I’m just guessing will see less stuff available in retail stores.

4. President Barack Obama will not save us. I voted for Obama. And yes we need a change. But I think George W Bush is handing him such an extraordinarily bad situation that Obama would need real superpowers to “fix” things. I’m not talking about Xray vision or the ability to calm jittery squirrels, I’m talking *real* superpowers like the ability to fix the housing crisis in a single bound and I think that’s asking to much of him. Plus I’m not sure he understands what “fixing” things really means. Is he yet questioning growth economics? Based on what he said at his press conference to announce his pick for Sec. Of Agriculture he doesn’t seem to understand food. I keep hearing, “a new direction” but does he even have a map let alone a compass? I’m starting to hear people, arguably the more pessimistic among us, talk about him holding our hand and gently helping us to get used to living with less. Perhaps that’s all he’ll be able to do. Perhaps that’s all we can ask of him; to keep us out of a dictatorial response to the upheaval bound to be apart of his first four years. Maybe he’ll surprise me.

5. Things will get crazy, I mean bat shit crazy. Ok so you’re thinking, “What kinda prediction is that?” And this prediction kind of goes along with prediction number 1 that people will really question basic assumptions in the coming year. But I’m guessing that volatility will lead to some strange stuff in 2009. This is really just a prediction that next year will be a lot like the past few months. I’ve read things I like to categorize as “Cats and Dogs Living Together” which is my own personal category for things that make you go Hmmm? They might be good. Obama might rip up the White House lawn and put in a Victory Garden. Or they might be bad like Gulf Stream currents shutting down. I admit this one is more a gut feeling but I’m guessing aliens will land or something similar in the coming year.

6. The price of oil will spike. Demand destruction just cannot alone explain the huge drop in the price of oil. Once deleveraging works its way out of the market place we’ll see a quick spike in the price of oil. I’ll go out on a limb and say $80/barrel oil again by October of 2009. This dramatic rise in price might not happen until early 2010 but what the heck. I’ll call it for the fourth quarter of next year.

7. Which is about the time the stock market will reach a low of somewhere in DOWJ 5000 territory. I’m not suggesting this is the absolute bottom. And many people are predicting an Obama bump come January. We are, after all, likely to see a stimulus package as part of the early Obama presidency. If it’s like the last one though it won’t prove up to the task. Oh and as a sidenote I predict that people will be mad as hell when they realize that last year’s stimulus “rebate” was really a loan on this year’s tax return. Surprise!

8. I’d like to end this on a more optimistic note but it is with all sincerity that I suggest this last prediction. A growing sense to community will build in town and cities and neighborhoods all over this country. We won’t all be singing Kumbaya and holding hands and roasting marshmallows but I do think the citizens of the US will step up to the best of their abilities and try to take care of each other. One of the post-Katrina stories that struck me was that of several Duke University students who just got in a car and drove to New Orleans to help in the wake of that disaster. They even had to sneak in posing as journalist. They saw a need and met it and we are all capable of doing that too. Personally I lost my day job several weeks ago. I was the sole bread winner (and baker) for the family. It was amazing how people responded. All sorts of offerings from gift cards to baby sitting just poured in from friends and family. My wife and I saw this coming. I won’t say we’re ready to face an almost total switch to the informal economy but we’re in fine shape. I share this and the example of the Duke students to suggest that inside almost all of us is the want- the need to be useful and to help others. We will be a more impoverished nation next December but that doesn’t mean we can’t express our capacity for compassion, generosity and caring along with the other positive emotions that quite frankly I don’t think we’ve had much of an outlet for in recent years. Or at least we have much acted like it.

2009 will be a tough, exciting and intense year. I wish all of you the luck, joy and strength.



Anonymous said...

You had me going until the "... I think George W Bush is handing him such an extraordinarily bad situation that Obama would need real superpowers to “fix” things."

GWB didn't destroy the economy. It has been made to look "good" or "bad" depending on who twisted what statistics for well on 30 years. Did GWB help? I'm not saying that. Did he do a good job? Nope, not that either.

But the idea that "poor Obama got handed a raw deal" just isn't accurate. He is part and parcel of the true problem in our nation - POLITICIANS SUCK and are only in it for themselves. Even Obama. Who I voted for, btw. Just my two cents.

nulinegvgv said...

Well it's good to know that there are in fact people more cynical than me roaming the Internet. ;-) I should clarify. I think GWB was a terrible president and I think he did his best, consciously or by surrounding himself with morally bankrupt and ignorant, self-centered people to flush this country down the toilet. We needed leadership and he failed us during a crucial point in this country's history.

Having said that I agree that US leadership at the highest level has been bad for a long time. I urge people to go and listen to Jimmy Carter's Crisis in Confidence speech from 1979. It's called 'The Road Not Taken' speech for a reason. I'm not sure Carter had it in him to actually address his 'Moral Equivalent of War' with enough effort to get traction with the American people but his predecessors have utterly failed the US citizenship to even try.

The Bush regime and it's appointed financial people have burned through more than 7 trillion dollars in a failed attempt to resuscitate a dying economy. It sure would have been better to let Obama spend that cash in my humble opinion.

Thanks for the comment.

sheila said...


I wanted to see if I could get your quick help. I'm not sure if you've heard, but there's a movement of citizens inspired by the presidential campaign who are now submitting ideas for how they think the Obama Administration should change America. It's called "Ideas for Change in America."

I've submitted an idea and wanted to see if you could quickly vote for it. The title is: a 4 day work week will to reduce unemployment by 75%. You can read and vote for the idea by clicking on the following link:

The top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by, MySpace, and more than a dozen leading nonprofits after the Inauguration. So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy.

Thanks for the support,


By the way I used your quote to support my idea.
please write your 16 reason for a 4 day work week on the site if you visit

nulinegvgv said...

Hello Shelia,

As you know I'm a huge fan of the 4 day work week. I clicked on your link and then copied and pasted it into my browser but it just kept dumping me onto the frontpage of I tried to find your specific suggestion but I couldn't. Then I tried to add the article you mentioned but there is a 2000 word limit and that would cut it in half.

If you're looking to promote the 4 day work week as a change Mr. Obama could support I would suggest contacting Gregory Wright. He is a tireless support of the 4 day 36 hour work week. You can read more about his ideas here:

Or send me your email address and I'll put him in touch with you.

Wendy said...

I think your predictions are spot-on, and I say that, because several of them are already happening.

#3 - Following the recent ice storm that hit the northeast (US), I went looking for lamp oil to replenish the supply we'd used during the three-day power outage. Our local grocery store usually has that sort of thing, but they'd sold out (we were told), and they have, yet, to restock.

#6 - I read an article not long ago in which an OPEC leader said $40 per barrel for oil is too low. He said a "fair" price is more like $75 per barrel. I believe it will go back up to at least $75 - maybe higher.

#8 - Over the past few years, my community has been trying to revitalize our downtown area. Most of the effort was in hopes of making our "seasonal" community more attractive to potential residents, and in hopes that we could have more year-round activities, but I also read an article where the authors encouraged communities to develop downtown areas so that they could save the money they spent providing utitlities and services to more "rural" areas. Seems Kunstler's vision of smaller, more "walkable" communities is coming true, too - at least where I live ;).

I think we're in for a wild ride this next year, and I have no hopes that our "gub'mint" will save us. I think the last two "stimulus" efforts were a joke, as will this one be. It's like trying to reanimate a corpse, and we're fresh out of Dr. Frankensteins.

Jennie said...

Hey man, just thought I'd give you a hand with the site. If you find the link for "Ideas" either at the very bottom or the top right corner and click it, you'll get to the section where you can vote on people's ideas to send to Obama.
Hope that helps.

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