Bob Silbermagel Column November 02, 2008

Predictions of coming apocalypse are highly exaggerated

Remember the mass exodus to Canada and Mexico four years ago, after George W. Bush was re-elected president?

Neither do I. But I do recall that many people — from celebrities to my own friends — said they would leave the country rather than live more years under the Bush regime.

Now, with most polls pointing toward a Barack Obama presidency, it is conservatives who are feeling depressed. I haven’t heard declarations yet that they will flee the country. But, some are predicting the worst — a new president who attempts to take away their guns, tries to force them to bow to Mecca, and turns the U.S. economy into the equal of, say, Bangladesh.

As I have said in previous columns, I am a John McCain supporter. And I am glad to see the poll numbers narrowing. But I am not an Obama hater and I don’t think the world as we know it will end if he does become president.

Immediately after the election four years ago, I wrote down 10 things that doomsayers predicted could happen if Bush were re-elected. Here is the list, followed by my predicition from that time of the likelihood of each occurring, then what actually occurred:

1. Secession of blue states because most are net taxpayers, not federal revenue receivers, and because Roe v. Wade will be overturned.
Possibility of this happening: Aw c’mon. What in the world are these people smoking?
What actually happened: Nothing.

2. Roe v. Wade will be overturned:
Possibility: Almost nil. Bush may get to name three new Supreme Court justices, but one will replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is already very conservative.  Even if he does get very conservative justices appointed, the conservatives on this court have been reluctant to overturn.
What actually happened: Nothing. But a federal ban on partial-birth abortions was upheld in 2007. Bush named just two new justices, one to replace Rehnquist.

3. Civil liberties will be eliminated at an increasingly rapid pace:
Possibility: Very unlikely unless there is another 9/11-like attack. The Patriot Act will remain but people will be hard-pressed to show any erosion of their liberties.
What actually happened: The Constitution remains intact. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled against the Bush administration in its attempts to limit civil rights for accused terrorists, whether they are U.S. citizens or foreigners held by this country.

4. The economy will tank:
Possibility: Not likely, again with the caveat about a repeat of 9/11.  The housing bubble may burst and cause a boost in unemployment. But the Bush team will push aggressively to expand trade with China, which will mean a reduction in the trade deficit and more sales of U.S. products. Also, things like the capital gains tax and accelerated write-offs for business probably will be extended, boosting the economy.
What actually happened: Whoops! I’m glad I didn’t bet my entire 401(k) on that one. That housing bubble was a little more serious than I and many others thought.

5. Jobs will continue to move overseas:
Possibility: All but guaranteed, and wouldn’t have changed if John Kerry had been elected. The net is actually more jobs in this country, but not necessarily the high-paying blue-collar manufacturing jobs.
What actually happened: The U.S. lost 3 million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2006. (The most recent numbers I could find.) With domestic automakers now seeking government bailouts, that isn’t likely to improve, but not all of those lost jobs have gone overseas.

6. The environment will be trashed:
Possibility: There will be more and more drilling for gas and oil on public lands and a more sensible approach to dealing with potential forest fire areas. But there will be no large-scale rollback of environmental laws because even conservative Republicans in Congress don’t have the votes for it. It’s unlikely that drilling will be approved in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, even though it impacts a miniscule acreage. Slightly higher chances that the Endangered Species Act might be finally addressed, but probability of change is still slim. So are the odds that this administration will do anything related to global warming.
What actually happened: More gas drilling in our region, and now the possibility of more offshore drilling, but otherwise, I was on target.

7. Iraq will become the next Vietnam:
Possibility: Who knows? There will be an election in January, but there will also be a lot more deaths caused by terrorists. My hope is that sometime after the election, things will begin to calm down, but it’s anybody’s guess.
What actually happened: Thank God for Gen. David Petraeus and the surge.

8. Relations with our allies will worsen:
Possibility: They’re already improving and will continue to do so, especially if Palestine and Israel reach a real peace. The next hot point may be over the U.N. oil-for-food scandal. But Europeans are nothing if not pragmatists and they realize they must work with the U.S., even if Bush is president. They are doing so on many fronts, from Iran nukes to problems in Africa.
What actually happened: Continued strained relations, but cooperation on many issues. The economic crisis has increased that.

9. Draft will be reinstated:
Possibility: Not likely. Bush doesn’t want it. Republicans don’t want it. Pentagon doesn’t want it. Despite what’s happening in Iraq, recruiters for all services are reportedly making their quotas. But backdoor draft needs to end or recruitments will drop.
What actually happened: The draft remains deceased.

10. Interest rates will skyrocket.
Possibility: This is based on the presumption that they were held artificially low through the election in order to help Bush get re-elected. But there is no evidence to back up that claim, and little evidence that it will happen, unless by “skyrocket” you mean “go up a minor amount.” I think they will increase over the next few years, but I doubt if the prime will get much higher than 7 or 8 percent by the time Bush’s second term ends.
What actually happened: Far from skyrocketing, interest rates probably remained too low, helping to fuel the housing bubble and its eventual bursting.

This doesn’t mean George W. Bush has been a great president. He hasn’t been. It is meant to show how off-base the gloom-and-doom predictions of the time were. While I certainly have concerns about some of the policy ideas of both candidates, I don’t believe the election of either Barack Obama or John McCain will result in a catastrophe for this nation.


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