We’ve come to the end of not only the year, but the decade. Before we review the predictions of my cracked, duct-taped crystal ball at the beginning of this year, let’s take a look back to the start of the decade.
On Jan. 1, 2010, Democrats had full control of the federal government, even holding a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the U.S. Senate (which the Republicans have not had since the early 1920s). That gave us the Democrats’ signature achievement, the Unaffordable Care Act, signed into law March 23, 2010.
Compared to today, 2010 doesn’t look much different, other than we’ve changed eras from Obama to Trump. The decade began with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. On Feb. 18, 2010, a disgruntled taxpayer committed suicide by crashing a plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas. On April 23, a new Arizona law cracked down on illegal immigration. On Nov. 23, North Korea launched artillery at South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, killing two South Korean marines.
On May 1, a car bomb planted by a Pakistani-American in Times Square was disarmed before detonation. On June 23, Gen. Stanley McChrystal resigned after Rolling Stone magazine ran an article in which the general was critical of the way the war in Afghanistan was being run. On June 25, Wikileaks released 75,000 documents related to the Afghan War. On Oct. 29, bombs hidden in printer toner cartridges were sent by al Qaeda operators in Yemen to Jewish organizations in the United States, but were intercepted by customs officials before detonating.
On Nov. 7, 2010, Republicans regained control of the U.S. House 242-191; Democrats continued to hold the U.S. Senate. In Minnesota, Republicans gained control of the state Senate for the first time since legislative party designation was established in 1970. The body went from a 41-26 DFL majority to 37-30 GOP. The state House of Representatives also flipped parties, going from an 87-47 DFL majority to a 37-30 GOP majority. Minnesota’s governor changed from Republican Tim Pawlenty to DFLer Mark Dayton.
And so, the decade started. As for 2019 …
A year ago, my crystal ball came up with 19 predictions, but the first one caused the ball to explode. I’m just now sweeping up the pieces. The old ball’s first prediction was that the Democrats would continue to “pummel Trump like a pinata” but not impeach him. As the year comes to an end, we are being told that they did impeach, but in the next breath may be saying, “Oh, never mind,” with a Senate trial.
The ball’s prediction that the government shutdown over the border wall would be the longest in history came true, as did its prediction that it would end in compromise. Trump wanted $5 billion for a border wall, and the Congress gave him only $1.4 billion. He found most of the difference by declaring a national emergency and shifting Department of Defense monies from other construction projects.
Also true was that 20 or so Democrats would try to offer up the most outrageous debate responses in an effort to become the anti-Trump standard bearer in 2020. The year’s theme was “Free stuff for everybody.”
And the ball was dead on in predicting that nothing would be done to attract skilled and educated immigrants to the U.S., because unskilled workers dependent on government would be more likely to fall in line to support Democrats, some even after becoming citizens.
Also as expected, no energy was wasted on debt reduction. Congress’ reaction to the Trump tax cut, in fact, was to increase spending faster than inflation, thereby keeping the annual deficit above $1 trillion. Nor did Congress spend any political capital trying to fix the Social Security and Medicare deficits.
The prediction orb also said 2019 would see U.S. viewing habits flip for the first time away from regular TV programming to streaming. In April, Variety reported that 56% prefer to stream movies and 53% prefer to stream TV shows, while only 45% prefer to watch TV over the air, on cable or dish. That flip was accomplished by the 14-25 age group. Older demographics still prefer TV the old-fashioned way. OK, Boomer?
As for the orb’s multiple predictions about Minnesota’s new Gov. Tim Walz and the state Legislature, it got more wrong than right — thanks mostly to the resistance of the pesky state Senate. The orb thought recreational marijuana would be legal by now, that the state would increase the tax on diesel fuel to get trucks to pay for more road reconstruction and would expand scholarships greatly for low-income toddlers under age 3, and that Walz would try to fix the state software system for licensing vehicles instead of starting over. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.
However, the ball beamed when the state funded enhanced school security before any more kids got killed.
And it was a better year for sports than the crystal ball thought possible. Only two of the 10 major Minnesota professional and U of M coaches were replaced; the crystal ball was expecting four.
The main difference from 2010 to now was the rise of populism under Trump. Otherwise, health care remains expensive, the border still leaks and the nation remains polarized.
Tom West, now retired, is the former general manager of this paper. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.