You see, predictions are just that--a composite of “pre” meaning before and “dictus” meaning a saying. In effect, predictions are a “telling before” an outcome happens. Omens, on the other hand, are occurrences (or snapshots) which give a person a warning and, in hindsight, should have been taken as a heads-up for what is to come in the future. The events experienced in 2005 and those to unfold in 2006 should prepare us for what we can expect.
The Federal Reserve, America’s central bank, is perhaps the most important institution on the planet and is a significant omen provider. In January Chairman Greenspan will retire after serving 17 years and Ben Barnacke will take the helm. We’ve seen 13 consecutive quarter percent rate increases with another expected in January, and a 15th expected when Ben assumes leadership. There is much speculation regarding other resignations/retirements with a significant exodus expected. Is this a case of “new coach, new team,” or is the crew nervous about serving on the continued voyage of the Titanic in the troubled waters ahead?
2005 saw record deficits in our trade imbalance and that of our federal budget. The US required a daily infusion of over a BILLION a day in NEW foreign capital at the start of the year. By year’s end, this mandatory external funding was approaching two BILLION a day. Foreign entities now “hold” approximately 45% of our “publicly” held national debt. Watching the weekly auctions for continued rollovers and additional investment from these external entities and governments will be a key omen source.
Employee benefits, namely health care coverage and retirement pensions, were frequent stories on page one in 2005. The recent transit workers strike in New York City was not about wages, but rather focused on continuation of the expected benefits. One airline after another has gone thru bankruptcy restructuring and the “key” to the restructuring was seeking absolution from the promised benefit obligations. The auto industry has followed the “resolutions” closely with GM and Ford both looking for a similar escape from their benefit commitments. How much can be “forgiven”--with the remainder passing to the government, and the taxpayers?
2006 will be an election year. This will provide us with many omens (and me with the subjects for numerous columns). Will we see our indistinguishable major political parties--Tweedle-tax-and-spend and Tweedle-borrow-and-spend, the Siamese twins tied by a mutual addiction to big government--break from their profligate ways? How dirty will the summer’s campaigns be? How will the candidates and their parties “re-invent” themselves to get elected?
The “I” words--investigations, indictment(s), and impeachment--will figure heavily in the rhetoric from the beltway in 2006. Will Libby/Plame take down Rove, and Cheney? Congress is hot to trot to investigate what truth was told about the Iraqi war, the Downing Street Memo, the Abramoff scandal(s), and domestic surveillance without benefit of warrant(s). The White House is hot to trot to investigate who’s been leaking info. As these dramas unfold, we the people will be inundated with omens, but will anything really happen, or change?
Energy, or rather the access to it, will be a constant source of omens. The Tehran Bourse (exchange) begins in March and marks a frontal assault on the US dollar as the “official” currency for global energy purchases. The US now imports over 2/3rds of its energy needs. Venezuela and Nigeria figure heavily in providing it. What will new treaties, pipeline proposals/construction, multinational acquisitions, diplomatic deterioration, and global warfare/unrest signal regarding the future of Uncle $ugar’s essential (and external) sources?
Be on the lookout for the omens of 2006 and watch for my coming columns, we’re in for quite a year.
This story was published on December 31, 2005.