The Shape of Things to Come
Lambro, Donald, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Political and economic forecasting is a risky business at best, whether it's predicting how high the Dow will go, which party will win the White House and control of Congress in 2000, or the length of women's hemlines (which some soothsayers think is a fairly accurate predictor of the Dow).
The history forecasting business is littered with boneheaded predictions that seemed credible to many when they were made. For example:
Lord Kelvin, president of Britain's Royal Society, confidently predicted in 1895 that "heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
Noted economist Irving Fisher of Yale University stoutly declared in 1929 that "stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
And who can forget IBM Chairman Thomas Watson's prediction in 1958 that "there is a world market for about five computers," or Microsoft founder Bill Gates' forecast that "640K `of memory' ought to be enough for anyone."
My all-time favorite is from Charles Duell, the U.S. Patent Office commissioner, who announced to the nation in 1899 that "everything that can be invented has been invented."
Well, with all those fearless forecasts in mind, here are a few of my own predictions about politics, policies, economic trends, defense and the global economy.
The 2000 elections: The Republicans, with Texas Gov. George W. Bush as their nominee, will recapture the White House next year. Poor Vice President Al Gore is viewed as insufferably boring by the rank-and-file of his own party and irretrievably tied to a president and an administration that have become synonyms for unending scandal. There is no "up" for him, politically.
Mr. Bush will win in an electoral landslide, making historic GOP inroads among minority voters with an inclusive message of lower taxes aimed at opening up opportunities for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. The expanding investor class will also find this message appealing.
The House will remain tight, but in GOP control, though as things stand now either party could gain or lose a few seats. But Mr. Bush will have coattails, and his party will pick up at least two Democratic Senate seats as a result. That includes the seat of retiring New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (Rudy Giuliani will beat Arkansas carpetbagger Hillary Rodham Clinton) and that of Virginia Sen. Chuck Robb, who will lose his re-election bid to former Gov. George Allen.
The budget: The surpluses will be much larger than currently forecast for the next 10 years. Economic growth, as measured by gross domestic product, will average about 3.5 percent annually over the next decade, pushing cumulative surpluses up by $1 trillion or more - giving the next administration much more room to cut taxes while meeting the government's current and future obligations.
Social Security: Sometime in the next decade, Congress will enact legislation allowing workers to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in their own retirement stock and bond portfolios. …