America’s Future: My Baseline Scenario
1) employment is not going to recover to pre-great recession levels for at least a generation, maybe more, in terms of % of people employed. The late Clinton economy is the best you or I will see in our working lives.
2) Politics will continue to be dominated by monied interests and that dominance will increase, rather than decrease. They will use their power to fight over the shrinking pie, rather than to increase it, and will make any real systemic restructuring of the economy essentially impossible.
3) a right wing “populist” will get in after Obama. Since the only sort of stimulus they can do is war stimulus, they will pick a war with someone. Who, I’m not sure. In economic terms they will have all the wrong solutions to various real problems.
4) Under both Democrats and Republicans the deterioration of civil liberties will continue.
5) Median standards of living will take at least a 20% drop within 10 years or so. Maybe more. Not sure exactly when, but if anything, the % may be an underestimate.
6) Resource nationalism will continue to rise as will 1/1 deals between countries. China has already restricted rare earth sales, for example. Countries will start insisting on doing the value add in their own countries rather than shipping raw materials overseas, if they have the ability to do this.
7) As state and local governments loose their ability to govern (a process which will proceed in cycles), there will be cyclical of cuts in basic services, including police, road repair, schooling and so on. Get thee to a very affluent neighbourhood, if you can.
8) Entitlements will be cut, perhaps openly, perhaps through statistical tricks, but it will be done. There is a bipartisan consensus on this, and when Republicans get in charge they will be able to find enough Dems to sign off this time. (If Obama can, he’ll do it before then, but Republicans want to use this against him.)
9) There will be another major economic crisis, probably within 8 years. In principle it could happen within a year, the timing depends on political actions I’m not sure how to predict. I consider this nearly inevitable.
10) I expect an end to the war on some drugs, because States are going to want to tax the drug trade and need to. Likewise the prison-industrial complex is likely to suffer. Its constituency is not as powerful as some other important constituencies.
11) New Oh yes, I should mention that I expect an actual population decrease when things get really bad, a la Russia’s collapse.
In the longer term I expect severe water shortages, for both people and crops, in large areas of the world including big chunks of the US, China and India. Climate instability will continue to increase, and in about 10 years (according to a friend whose judgement has been good on this) various sinks will be overloaded and we’ll start seeing some really serious global warming increases on top of the instability. Expect food to be short and much more expensive, expect inland areas to devolve back towards local manufacturing and for megashops to start collapsing. Expect coastal vs. inland to a big division, until global warming starts wiping out coast areas.
Americans will put off cutting the military, I think, till they’ve gutted virtually everything else. I expect the military will probably win the fight against financial interests when the moment comes, though we’ll see.
There will be various break-points along the way, where decisions can be made which will make a difference but I think it’s close to impossible to avoid a failed Obama presidency and a right wing backlash against that Presidency. Once the right wing fails, there will be another chance, a slight one, to turn things around.