The advent of 2014 is ideal for opinionators to cast well-baited hooks into the future, speculating about what could happen in the 12 unexplored months to come.
This time, however, let’s look at what might not happen, based on the events (and nonevents) of the past year and the milestones of the one to come.
â€¢ The safest and surest bet is that Obamacare’s difficulties will not fade away, despite the administration’s crowing that more than 2 million people have “signed up” for the program.
That’s still a million short of the program’s immediate goals, but is itself questionable. No one outside the bureaucracy knows how many registrants actually have paid for the coverage, or how many will be able to afford their policies’ deductibles or find doctors to see them. And the bureaucrats aren’t saying.
(Doctor shortages are projected to top 45,000 by 2020, and a proposal to fund more slots at medical schools was dropped to keep Obamacare’s cost below $1 trillion over 10 years).
Meanwhile, upwards of 5 million policies (covering many more than 5 million people) have been canceled because they didn’t meet the program’s standards (no matter whether their owners liked them or not). So there’s still a huge coverage gap, and we haven’t even gotten to applying the law to businesses (even though many firms already are adjusting or dropping policies or downsizing employee hours or numbers).
One of the things that guarantees this story has legs is that the impact on business has been postponed by a constitutionally dubious executive fiat (an increasingly favorite Obama tactic) until after â€¦
â€¢ The 2014 elections, which if they were held today, surveys say, could lead to the Republicans easily holding on to the House and potentially gaining control of the Senate.
That latter possibility holds more impact now that Democrats have quashed the filibuster (in a limited way so far, but a 200-year-old dam has been broken, and we may never see it return). That’s not a good thing, but it does mean a 51-vote majority has a lot more meaning.
The “not” here, however, is that having Republicans gain control of Congress will be meaningless unless the party comes up with a unified, responsible, affordable plan for truly reforming health care by empowering individuals, not making them more dependent on a rigid government scheme that harms as many people as it helps while drowning the future in red ink.
Making that one of the centerpieces of the 2016 presidential campaign is vital for the party’s success.
But it’s not just health care that bedevils Republicans. The eternal grass-roots-versus-Washington-Beltway conflict has all parts of the party preaching fiscal responsibility, but its elected leaders continually fail to follow through once they grasp the levers of power.
Is this the year that the party’s base finally insists its leaders live up to their rhetoric?
The other big thing on the “not-gonna-happen” hit parade is any effective move to stifle the forces of instability that are heading toward conflicts abroad.
China, for example, is becoming militarily more aggressive, though a deliberate clash seems unlikely. Still, when armed forces butt heads long enough, miscalculation could set off a conflagration (it’s happened before). But the big risk is in the â€¦
â€¢ Middle East, where a Sunni-Shi’a-Israeli triangle is even now tiptoeing along the edge of a precipice. Consider two key facts: Nothing the Obama administration is doing diplomatically will stop the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons; and other nations in the region will not let that happen without some form of resistance.
Some have suggested the Saudis and possibly the Egyptians would pursue the bomb on their own (without spending any development money, but by buying them from nations such as Pakistan).
The Saudis and Israelis, however, are reportedly discussing joint military operations, with the Saudis offering the funding and the Israeli Air Force being the pointy end of the spear.
Some may think that the Jewish state has forgotten the phrase, “Never Again,” but I don’t think it has.
Of course, as the military adage has it, “all plans go out the window when the first shot is fired,” and an attack on Iran has the potential of setting an entire region aflame, with unknown consequences.
Yet, the geniuses who run our foreign policy seem as clueless about that as they are about guaranteeing that “if you like your health care, you can keep it, period.”
So, while many are looking backwards at 2013 without regretting seeing it go, and taking cheer at positive news from the stock market and some other economic indicators (though others, such as labor force participation, remain dismal), 2014 will to bring old and new challenges that will continue to test the United States.
And its people. And their leaders.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. Email at [email protected]