Monday, December 30, 2013

Looking Forward

It seems to be the season of making predictions for the next year, and I certainly don't want to be the only self-appointed chronicler of the age to miss that boat, so herewith is my take on what we can expect for 2014.

The year will be unpredictable. A bold assertion, I know, but look at where we were a year ago. Obama had just been resoundingly reelected and the right was on the run. They gave in on taxes and spending and agreed to extend unemployment benefits for another year. They were talking about immigration reform and a bargain on spending. It seemed that the left had the right ideas and, led by the president, it would be a year of progress.

How did that work out? We know. Immigration passed the Senate. Sequestration clawed its way through all of the doomsday scenarios and became the budget template for the year. The House became the place where all good ideas went to die. The website was doomed to failure because nobody thought or had the money to test it. The right shut down the government. Unemployment payments have not been renewed. Our privacy either being stolen from Target or abused by the NSA.

So why am I so optimistic about the upcoming year? Because there are some terrific trends in American life that are trending in the right direction. Marriage equality is close to becoming the law of all the land. The Supreme Court will probably slow it down and rule at some point that states do have the power to prohibit it through their constitutions, but that will just be a temporary delay.  State barriers to marriage, and by extension to rights for all LGBTIH and GSD and other capital letters, is in our near future. This is a profound change and one that we need to be thankful, thoughtful and diligent about enforcing.

The next year will also see health care for all. Think about that one and smile. Health care for all. The United States will join the rest of the industrialized world, and some of the less industrialized, in making sure that sickness or injury doesn't mean bankruptcy or worse. There will be more bumps next year related to insurance company payments and recalcitrant GOP obstruction, but this law is here to stay. And the better part is that the law will be strengthened in the next few years. It has problems that need attention and we are looking at the possibility that more employers will begin moving employees to the exchanges rather than covering them through company plans. As one of my conservative friends says, if you thought the fuss over six million people being told their insurance didn't measure up to the ACA and had their coverage canceled, wait until sixty million people who have insurance through work lose it. This is your only warning.

There are other hopeful trends to watch in 2014. The move towards a livable minimum wage is not going away and will probably gather steam next year. The criminal justice system is recognizing that mandatory sentences were a fevered reaction to inner city crime related to drugs and has done more to create a new economy based on prisons, especially in rural areas. President Obama's sentence commutations are a first step towards making sentencing more flexible without going back to the instability of the 1960s and 70s. The Dodd-Frank bill will force financial institutions to curb or make transparent some of the practices that led to the financial crisis. Wall Street will kick and scream, but they will need to abide by the new rules.

And immigration reform will, I think find some success in the coming year. The Senate bill will not be passed by the House, and a path to citizenship might not survive the political process, but this is an idea whose time has come. It might take four or six more years before it comes to fruition, but it will.

The House will stay Republican in November and the Senate will stay Democratic, if only by 51-49 or by a Vice-President Biden Tie-Breaking Constitution Special 50-50. Someone you never considered will announce, by year's end, that they will be a candidate for president in 2016. Someone you thought was a no-brainer will say that they will not run.

And no, it will not snow on Super Bowl Sunday.

Have a very Happy New Year and continue to work to make the United States, and the world, a better, more humane, just place to hang out in.

For more please go to: and Twitter @rigrundfest  

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