- The US economy will strengthen moderately in 2014. The stock market will decline slightly from its current heady heights, but interest rates and inflation will rise slightly (although not enough to divert the Fed from its current oh-so-accommodative course). Oil and other commodity prices will decline, but real estate will continue its recovery. The EuroZone will recover as well, but far more sluggishly, with continuing unrest (but no major upheaval) over the severely distressed PIIGS economies.
- Barack Obama's approval ratings will continue to decline, weighed down primarily by Obamacare, which will continue to accumulate angry "losers" (people whose health insurance has become narrower, more expensive or both). Numerous other minor "scandals" will pop up over the course of the year, but none will gain significant traction with the press, and the November elections will see only small shifts in Congress, with the Republicans gaining a mere handful of House seats, and the Democrats (just barely) retaining control of the Senate. Until then, the Republicans will content themselves by blocking various White House legislative initiatives, the administration will respond by doubling down on various expansions of executive power, and the Republicans will counter by initiating various legal actions (mostly unsuccessful) against them.
- At least one Supreme Court justice will resign or die, and Senate Democrats will abolish the filibuster completely to prevent Republican obstruction of the resulting nominee's confirmation.
- The Israelis and Palestinians will sign a "framework agreement" modeled after the Iranian-American accord. Like its predecessor, it will say absolutely nothing concrete and definitive, and will be interpreted by all sides as perfectly aligned with their own official position on every issue. It will therefore accomplish absolutely nothing, apart from allowing both sides to maintain the status quo while asserting at the same time that they've made progress toward their strategic goals. Meanwhile, redoubts of anti-Israel animus--academia, the press, Europe--will respond to the process by doubling down on their anti-Israel campaigns, including more American Studies Association-style boycotts. However, violence will be confined to sporadic incidents, and Israel's economy and trade will continue their stellar trajectory.
- Elsewhere in the Middle East, the civil war in Syria will drag on with no end in sight. The related unrest in Lebanon will increase substantially, led by relatively new radical Sunni elements rebelling against Hezbollah's dominance. Muslim Brotherhood violence in Egypt will continue at a low level, but the military will tighten its overall grip on power. Sectarian violence in Iraq will escalate, and the Erdogan regime in Turkey will shed all pretense of democratic rule, formally instituting structural changes that will in effect establish an AKP dictatorship, with a bit of democratic window dressing.
The first part, at least, seems to have panned out...
And now for 2015's
- The US economy will continue to be robust, leading towards a new recession in the 2016-2018 timeframe. The fed will back off on its easing, keeping inflation in check, and interest rates will climb slightly in response. Oil prices will bounce off their lows, but still remain well below their $100-ish average of the last few years. The US market will rise modestly from its current already-frothy highs, setting the stage for a major correction post-2015, leading into the aforementioned next recession. Real estate will also continue to climb moderately.
- The EU will face another year of turmoil, with massive bailouts to Greece and possibly Spain looking necessary to save the Euro. Eventually the currency will break up--as Herb Stein famously said, "if something cannot go on indefinitely, it will eventually stop"--but it probably has a couple of more years of stagnation, bailouts and general economic misery left in it before it finally gives up the ghost.
- President Obama's recent modest approval ratings increase (near, though not above, 50 percent) will generally hold up through 2015 following the Republican takeover of the Senate, much as Bill Clinton's did once he became the sole bulwark against the GOP-dominated Congress in 1994. This will enable him to continue implementing his executive amnesty for illegal immigrants, defend Obamacare against legislative attacks, and support local anti-police initiatives. The effects of these policies will be as intended: increased illegal immigration, rising crime, and erosion of affordable employer-provided health care. Republicans in Congress will launch legislative measures to counteract all of these, as well as various tax reform and pro-business proposals, but they will all fail, some due to internal GOP squabbles and the rest after being vetoed by the president.
- By the end of the year, the frontrunners in the Democratic and Republican presidential candidate races will be Hillary Clinton and (out-of-the-box call, here) Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.
- The Israeli elections will produce an inconclusive result followed by weeks of complex political wrangling, out of which Bibi Netanyahu will once again emerge as the prime minister. He will lead a center-right coalition little different from the current one, although possibly including more ultra-Orthodox representation. Israel's policies will therefore remain largely unchanged. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority will continue its current strategy of war-by-legal/diplomatic-means, while quietly continuing its security cooperation with Israel. The EU will similarly make a grand show of supporting this international campaign, while quietly undermining it at exactly the moments when it threatens to cause concrete harm to Israel (as in the case of the recent UN Security Council vote). Hamas and its Gaza-based partners will continue to launch terrorist attacks on Israel, with public encouragement from the PA, but those will gradually decline in frequency and effectiveness as Israel's counterterrorist forces--assisted by the PA's internal security agencies, happy to betray their Hamas rivals--get a better handle on combatting them.
- The Islamic State will weaken considerably in the face of stiff resistance from the Kurds, the US, and internal elements tired of their incompetence, corruption and indiscriminate brutality (with emphasis on the "indiscriminate" part). Its foreign supporters will respond by shifting their generosity towards new candidate Sunni radical forces in Syria and Iraq, who will be little better in their behavior but less enamored of the kind of grand international gestures that bring on Western countermeasures, and more willing to take on the Iranian proxy governments in Syria and Iraq directly. The result will be continued slaughter in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
- Nuclear talks between the US and Iran will continue to be extended without resolution, as Iran continues to refuse to denuclearize. US sanctions will remain mostly in place--they were enacted by legislation, not by executive choice--but their effect will be eroded by increasing international disregard for them. Fortunately, the global fall in oil prices will have roughly the same economic effect, limiting Iran's economic resources--although not enough to block its continued heavy involvement in its proxy wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, of course.
- Elsewhere, the decline in oil prices will weaken Vladimir Putin's Russia, forcing him to pare back his aggressive moves against European neighbors as he deals with his domestic economic crisis. China, on the other hand, will get an economic shot in the arm from cheaper oil prices and more robust exports to the US.
- The recent Sony-North Korea-"The Interview" incident will turn out to be the harbinger of a trend, with more hackers making "hacktivist"-style outrageous behavioral demands of their corporate victims, and more studios milking horrible films for quick pay-per-view profits by finding a way to link them to some major current-affairs controversy.
- This year, for the first time, someone reading this list will finally have the courage to post a prediction of their own in the comments.