A new year is upon us. I wish that optimism for 2016 was in order, but a conflagration of events suggests otherwise. Storm clouds gather on the horizon – economically, socially and politically. While there are many things that give us hope, there are also numerous reasons to be concerned. Indeed 2016 may become known as the “Year of Living Dangerously”, with apologies to any vague Hollywood references.
There are many reasons I believe that 2016 may be a pivotal year in the history of this great experiment in liberty we call the United States of America. American influence across the world has been strong, dominant and even pivotal in bringing positive change and prosperity to ourselves and other nations for almost a century. Also at times, our influence has been less than helpful as we feel our way about in situations that we may not have completely thought out. President Obama trumpeted fundamental change for America in 2008. And indeed things in America, and across the globe, are changing. To that extent, he has kept his word. But what has improved? And what cost will we pay for years of misguided, ineffective and expensive policies? Why do we fear, for the first time in American history, the upcoming generation will not be better off than the last?
The shining light to the world that was the American dream has been tarnished by left wing liberalism that seeks a false sense of equality and justice based on socialist principles that have proven historically ineffective. The philosophical underpinnings of the Obama administration have weakened America in several areas. An era of bigger and bigger government with accompanying runaway spending is counterproductive to the fiscally conservative and entrepreneurial foundation that brought America to its current status. Combine economic stress, executive overreach and meddling with an increase in social and moral decay and you have a cocktail of change that is problematic indeed.
The following issues are markers that we need to watch carefully to understand what outcomes for our country and for our daily lives we might experience in the year ahead:
1) Keep an eye on the stock market. Many analysts have trumpeted careless Fed policies and the unrestricted printing of new money. Too many learned voices are stating that the market is seriously overvalued and is in for major adjustments…corrections that could make 2008 look like child’s play. This would seriously impact both the middle class and the “one percenters”. Problem is, those are many of the Americans that captain industries which provide jobs for many of the rest of us. The cumulative wealth of our country, even the very currency we value, is under increasing pressure and risk.
2) In conjunction with American stocks, issues surrounding the petro-dollar need to be watched carefully. It is well known that China and Russia are working behind the scenes to subvert the U.S dollar as the world’s standard currency. With the U.S trying (but currently inhibited by radical environmentalist policies) to become energy independent, OPEC nations may indeed view China as the future primary consumer of their oil. Such change could have profound national and global impact on the value and utility of the dollar.
3) Stay tuned to the leftist rhetoric out of the White House talking about gun control and climate change as the most critical issues. Be aware that executive actions proposed by the President may overstep the bounds of the Constitution. Such actions create a test to see if executive overreach will be challenged in its legality or simply further erode constitutional liberties and set the stage for even more far reaching executive abuse. It is not really about the guns or global warming; it is about who is in control and making the rules.
4) Worrying about federal overreach, the states may have to look hard at the implementation of constitutionally granted states’ rights. Governor Herbert faces many challenges, such as the defeat of Planned Parenthood funding, but his plate, along with many other conservative Governors, will be full in the coming year seeking to counter an ever more progressive federal government. Vying to recover more Federal lands within the state or coping with same sex marriage issues may be the least of his worries in the months ahead.
5) In conjunction with gun control and climate change rhetoric, continued failures in foreign policy, open borders and a lack of comprehensive screening for refugees will bring problems that are currently isolated to other countries in the Middle East, Africa or Europe right onto our doorstep. Terrorist organizations like ISIS and other radical factions in places like Iran have made their aggressive goals against America very public. It might be time to believe them and take real steps to prevent another San Bernardino, or worse.
6) Other foreign aggression against the U.S deserves some attention. Chinese and Russian military sail or fly to the edge of our borders. China is claiming dominion in the South China Sea counter to international law. Everyone is watching to see if the U.S. stands up to the bullying or backs down. Cyber warfare is conducted almost daily. Ted Koppel in his latest book “Lights out America” wonders if we are already poised to suffer a catastrophic cyber-attack to our national infrastructure. Our posture and more strategic and sound policy will go a long way to countering further aggression. Weakness on our part, as demonstrated by Obama’s current policies and lack of productive congressional action, will only encourage and increase in international aggression, with America square in the bullseye.
7) The last trillion-dollar-plus spending bill is just one more nail in the coffin of the U.S economy. If the national debt is not already at unsustainable levels, it soon will be. Combine the ballooning debt with the inevitable rise in interest rates and it spells economic trouble with a capital T. Serious fiscal and tax reform has to be undertaken immediately. There is no more room for additional fiscal irresponsibility. We must claw our way back from this abyss or we are plunging over the edge soon.
8) The breakdown of the family and the continuing racial tensions spurred on by left-wing groups sowing discontent among minorities and the economically underprivileged, coupled with a media-spread defense of toxic social engineering through political correctness, combine to tear apart an already fragile social structure. Single parent households, traditional marriage, and the critical relationship between the sexes are under tremendous stress. Will Salt Lake’s new mayor help advance a more soothing dialog on many of these issues, or will she reflect the national pressure to accept or be scorned and labelled as intolerant, thus reinforcing only one perspective?
Police, health institutions and municipal authorities are regularly labeled as part of the problem, not part of the solution. Will the average citizen be able to see through the caustic rhetoric and be able to trust any of the more established public institutions? We have not yet borne the full social costs and burdens of these fundamental moral and societal breakdowns, but that bill may soon come due. When all institutions, both public and private are viewed as corrupt, there is little to hold back an inevitable wave of anarchy.
9) And most obvious, we have local and national elections to deal with. A Trump versus Clinton ticket seems more and more likely on the Presidential front. But does that really offer Americans a helpful choice? It is obvious that a Clinton presidency would continue with more of the same failing leftist policies. But would Donald Trump be the one to right the ship of state? That is a question even most conservatives struggle to answer. And what will happen locally, as many candidates seem to be under fire and satisfaction rates barely hover in the 50% range for nearly everyone? Be prepared for some real political fireworks leading up to November.
Despite our many challenges, there is always good news. There are a number of innovations, in energy, technology and other areas, which could give a big lift to the American economy and move us forward as a world economic leader. Oil prices have nowhere to go but up with the requisite reinvigoration of local and national fossil fuel industries. But will these upcoming new technologies and resurgent industries be enough to lift us out of years of economic neglect? Will we actually develop a real strategy for energy independence? Will we finally realize we have to balance our budget? Only time will tell.
There is still reason to hold out hope for the American spirit and the devoted efforts of God-fearing, hardworking and innovative Americans. But one thing seems painfully clear. America needs to undo much of the “fundamental transformation” we have experienced over the last eight years. If not, we are in for some very difficult times ahead. And so I label 2016 as the “Year of Living Dangerously.”