I expect 2013 to be a very challenging year, even though there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future. As Americans, we have a lot to be thankful for. But, there are significant dangers and landmines on the horizon that may very well disrupt our lives in the coming days and months. I have created a list of some of these contingencies for us to consider as we decide which presidential candidate is the best choice.
My list excludes huge systemic issues such as climate change, global terrorism and the threat of disease. These will require decades of research and diplomacy to overcome. Rather, I have focused on ten events that could change the world, as we know it, in a matter of days.
1. A nuclear Incident: The use of nuclear weapons of any kind in any country would dramatically impact our world in the worst way. It would set a new precedent for the way nations disagree and conflict with each other. What’s frightening is that such an occasion could actually take place in many parts of the world because of the extent of nuclear proliferation.
India and Pakistan have threatened each other with nuclear violence for years. Iran is on the cusp of developing a WMD that many “geniuses” around the world think is not very significant. “Surely, Iran would not employ a nuclear weapon,” they say. Frankly, I’m not sure why any sensible person would trust the Ayatollahs to be prudent in these or any other matters. North Korea has WMDs, and their leaders are crazy enough to use them if threatened.
Ironically, the major powers including Israel are the least likely to use a WMD, and yet some of them have a cavalier attitude about the development of powerful weapons by their neighbors (Russia/Iran and China/N. Korea are the best examples).
2. An Economic Collapse: Economic Armageddon could arise in a number of ways. The most obvious would be a failure of a large financial institution. The domino effect of such an event could result in the evaporation of trillions of dollars in the stock markets, housing, commodities, etc. It appears that regulators around the world are diligent and prepared to act, but some scenarios could be uncontrollable.
3. Oil Shortages: Like it or not, our world is highly dependent on fossil fuel. Businesses, automobiles, factories and homes are totally reliant on it. In the 1970s, America got a taste of what it would be like to be without adequate supplies of petroleum products. It was a horrible experience for those of us who were living at the time.
Oil shortages can occur for many reasons including wars, embargoes, economic sanctions, etc. Suffice it to say, in America, our lives would come to a halt if oil products were unavailable.
4. A Large Regional, Conventional War: The Middle East is the most likely place for such an event. It would probably result from a territorial, ethnic, religious, political and/or economic conflict. For a long time, skirmishes around the world have been localized, two Iraq Wars, the Iraq-Iran War, Syria, Libya and various African nations.
Today, small wars could spread quickly if major powers take sides and escalate the violence. The use of American troops could create a multi-year obligation with deadly consequences similar to Iraq, Afghanistan, or worse, Vietnam.
5. The Fiscal Cliff: If Congress cannot negotiate a new deal with the president, there will be another recession. Economic activity will be anemic, unemployment will increase, the housing market will dry up and Americans will experience the same feelings of desperation that marked the past five years.
6. Washington Partisanship: The reelection of President Obama creates the highest probability of continuing and crippling partisanship and obstruction for the next four years. Frankly, the wounds inflicted by Obama’s leadership are so deep that America needs a change to get back on track. Regretfully, I predict an accelerated rate of governmental paralysis in the coming months unless Romney defeats Obama. The president eschewed comity and compromise out of the box ramming health care reform down our throats. After that, he caused a huge separation of the political parties that cannot be rectified with him in the White House.
7. Economic Discrimination: Americans have battled bigotry and unequal rights for nearly two and a half centuries. Some progress has been made, but many problems still exist.
Under Obama, a new form of bigotry has arisen that targets the affluent. Unlike the czars of Russia and the aristocracy of France around the turn of the 20th century, those being targeted have not committed crimes against society. They are accused of having too much money and not paying their fair share, neither of which is a violation of the law. The affluent in America might only represent 1% of the population, but they pay a huge amount of taxes that subsidize the same individuals who now demonize successful people. Ultimately, the offended group will respond to Obama’s rhetoric and indecisiveness by delaying decisions that would help America; after all, they are in so many positions of power. It is their only defense against ill-advised regulation and unfair taxation.
8. Entitlement Erosion for Future Generations: By not reforming entitlements now, specifically Social Security and Medicare, our elected officials are jeopardizing the security of future generations. The amount of resources being devoured by these and other inefficient programs is draining our system. If we continue to kick the can down the road, forty and fifty year-old Americans may feel the crunch when they are eligible to collect these same benefits.
9. The Financial Condition of State and Local Governments: Americans receive a plethora of services from state and local government agencies. Many are going broke because of declining taxes and outrageous labor contracts. It is difficult to be sympathetic to union pleas for compensation under these contracts. Unfortunately, politicians, who are on the job for a limited amount of time as they pass by on the way to greater government positions, are always hesitant to go toe to toe with union leaders and risk a strike on their watch. The result: really stupid arrangements that pay retired workers pensions while they are 40 or 50 years old and create lifetime pension payments based upon an inflated final year of employment. These arrangements must be modified or younger Americans will suffer as less firefighters, teachers, police and garbage collectors will be on the job.
10. Education: I struggled with the final item, as there are many problems that deserve mention. But, education is at the root of a less informed, less skilled and underpaid workforce. The U.S. has lost ground academically with many other nations. It is shameful. Yet, we have unique problems in America, especially in urban areas and because of our diverse society. Some quick fixes might include student performance evaluations, teacher evaluations, immediate dismissal of any teacher who is incompetent or is a pervert and parent engagement in the educational process.
I do not mean to paint a bleak picture of the state of our country. It is still the greatest, most prosperous and happiest place on earth. Yet, there are forces at work, which could change all that we have accumulated to this point. The purpose of this essay is to point out issues that pose a clear and present danger to our way of life.