Welcome to another year of protest and instability
Category: World of Business
By Jeferry SACHS / January 02, 2012
I bravely predict more of the same in 2012. By this I mean the following.
First, Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination after the party has exhausted its one-week-long love affairs with each of the non-Romneys: Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. Mr Romney is the only one of the list that is even plausibly qualified to be president. Somehow the Republican party’s bizarre reality TV-style nominating process, much closer to American Idol than to politics for adults, will actually sort this out.
Second, Barack Obama will win re-election. This will not be a triumph of party, accomplishment or experience. It will not have been earnt by economic recovery, political bravery, or long-term vision. It will not reflect a renewal of the love affair with Mr Obama in 2008. It will occur because his one consistent strategy – to stay one step towards the centre of the rightwing Republican party – will prevail. The Republicans and Mr Romney will have cornered themselves.
Third, the presidential elections will do nothing to reinvigorate American society. Government will remain corrupt, incompetent and shortsighted. Both political parties will remain firmly to the right of centre. The rich will keep most of their existing tax breaks. Loopholes and lack of enforcement will offset any increased taxes that might be enacted on paper. Good jobs will remain scarce for the young, returning veterans and many others. A chronic budget deficit will lead Congress to continue to slash education, family support, health for the poor, infrastructure, and science and technology. American exceptionalism will mean that the US is the only leading country at war with its own teachers and children.
Fourth, the world will become less stable. Though word has not yet reached (drought-stricken) Texas, climate change is real; so too is a rapid increase of population whenever families have no access to family planning and basic healthcare. As a result, our world of 7bn inhabitants (8bn by 2024) will be buffeted by more droughts, floods, food shortages, natural disasters, epidemics and violence. These will turn into more coups, drone missiles, UN Security Council resolutions, but not more common sense to invest in poverty reduction, population control and mitigation of climate change.
Fifth, Asia, Latin America, and now Africa will continue to outpace the sluggish or stagnant economies on both sides of the northern Atlantic. Convergence will remain the dominant macroeconomic force of the global economy.
Sixth, the young generation will increasingly tire of the increasingly turgid baby-boomer politics. The groups that took to the streets this year from Tunis to Cairo to Tel Aviv to Santiago to Wall Street to Moscow will be back. By the next US election in 2016, America will have at least a third, if not a fourth, major political party building on the progressive energies of the millennial generation.
This, then, is the meaning of more of the same: the continuity of change. As the great A-lister of the sixth century BC, Heraclitus, put it much better: “All is flux, nothing stays still.”
The writer is director of the Earth Institute and author of ‘The Price of Civilization’