The bad news: 2023 is already shaping up to be a very, very bad year
As the new year approaches, it is time to consider how 2023 might unfold.
Of course, the starting point, the contemporary context, would be the recent history of COVID lockdowns; massive government spending and inflation and constrictive energy policies driving up energy and food prices, as well as most “downstream prices,” and wiping out retirement savings; Fed strategies depressing the market; war in Ukraine threatening nuclear confrontation; China’s rising political aggression; political corruption of government institutions and apparent government-led attacks on the First Amendment, at least according to the “Twitter Files”; rising urban crime; a surge in illegal immigration bringing drugs, crime and a disrupted labor market; a growing culture war on women, fueled both by the Dobbs decision and the rising political activism of the trans community; and chaos in the American educational system, leading to a sharp decline in student performance.
Few would call 2020, 2021 and 2022 “good years” for America. Some might call them disasters — and 2023 may well be worse.
To begin with, there is no sign that the forces fueling these problems will abate or be reversed. If anything, they may become more intense.
Rightly or wrongly, the White House and the Democrat-led Senate, as well as most progressive interest groups, read the midterm elections as support for current policy directions. The White House will not make any centrist tack and will continue full speed ahead on high-spending and fossil fuel-constraining policies. The suicidal support for the omnibus budget and spending bill by Republicans in the Senate handicaps the incoming Republican-led House from moving to get the budget, appropriations, and spending under control. It also assures another round of inflation, and insulates the Democrats from political attack since Senate Republicans went along with it and now partly own the coming inflation, rising interest rates, and economic contraction or recession predicted by many financial leaders and economists.
At the same time, the White House will continue to push fossil fuel energy restrictions, even though it is totally futile since America lacks the battery storage to support rapid conversion to solar and wind; unsubsidized solar and wind (with the exception of utility-scale solar) are dramatically less economically efficient than fossil fuel, nuclear and hydro power; and the national grid to support full electrification will take three decades to install. Foreign adversaries will continue to burn coal and make our “conversion” both pointless and a huge threat to national military and economic security. The national strategic energy reserve has been substantially drained and cannot continue to cushion price spikes, and the White House foreign policy has completely failed to get our oil-producing foreign adversaries to cut us a break on price or supply.
Economics is economics. The national debt-to-GDP ratio is higher than it has ever been — some might say approaching bankruptcy. The Inflation Reduction Act (a sad joke on Americans), the omnibus bill that no one read, and all the other huge spending bills will drive up the debt. Printing more dollars to cover the debt is the definition of inflation. It weakens the dollar as the world’s reserve currency (a budget, trade and national security disaster), as well as drives up the price of everything for U.S. consumers, especially hurting the poor and most middle-class Americans. Those non-working or part-time working Americans cushioned by COVID relief will see it run dry. The rising debt levels of most Americans will get a crushing blow as interest rates continue to surge. Retirement accounts and home values will decline. The likelihood of rising taxes will be the final blow to American households.
Of course, continued unrestricted illegal immigration — the White House shows no real seriousness at all in fixing it — takes jobs away from poor Americans, brings in record amounts of drugs, drives up social welfare costs (i.e., spending, inflation, taxes), and destabilizes communities.
In health, America is spending more and more on health care, yet Americans are getting sicker and dying younger. Food is becoming less and less healthy and more and more expensive. The majority of American youth no longer qualify for military service. The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health was dominated by the consumer food industry, Big AG, and Big Pharma and was a huge disappointment for some who hoped it might reverse current trends in 2023. Nope.
On the foreign policy and national security fronts, both our allies and especially our enemies have taken the measure of President Biden and the defense, foreign policy, intelligence and domestic security leadership and found them to be politicized, feckless and incompetent. In 2023, we should expect Russia to continue to intensify its war with Ukraine and issue more threats of nuclear confrontation; China to increase its aggressive posture in Asia with an increasing possibility of an attack on Taiwan; Saudi Arabia and other oil producers to become more difficult; Iran and North Korea to become more provocative; Latin America, including Mexico, to continue to transition from vibrant, democratic economies to stalling and increasingly socialist threats to our South; and Europe to succumb to political and energy pressures, which could fragment the solidarity that arose over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The thought that the incoming Republican-led House could create sufficient pressure to move the administration and the Senate more toward the center is rapidly evaporating with Republican Congress factionalism and Republican Senate appeasement. Any chance at Republican unity will further implode with another run for the White House by Donald Trump.
In short, all that was bad over the past three years likely will get worse. Anything that might have moderated or reversed the trend appears to be evaporating. I hope I’m wrong, of course. Happy New Year.
Grady Means is a writer (GradyMeans.com) and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Follow him on Twitter @gradymeans1.
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