For the rest of us, here are my 100 percent nuance-free Fearless Forecasts for 2005.
Congress will have a new mission: Save the rich from Luxury Inflation. Early in 2005 luxury inflation will be recognized as a national problem. It will be given its own index by the Department of Labor instead of Domaine Chandon. It will no longer be something worried about in the Wall Street Journal or W magazine. In the event you haven't heard about it due to your sorrowful peonage, marketers and economists have observed that the price of luxury goods is rising much faster than the stuff normal people buy.
Call it the Cake Crisis, in honor of the late Marie Antoinette.
This is happening because the number of millionaires is now in the millions. They are hard pressed to maintain their exclusivity. Hordes of wealthy people now compete desperately to set new norms for consumption. Members of Congress, who tend to be in this group, will work assiduously to address the threat.
The elections for 2006 will be cancelled. This will not happen, as left-wingers feared before last years' election, because of a right wing plot. The elections will be cancelled when a study reveals that 95 percent of all political candidates are guilty of a Nanny violation--- failure to pay employment taxes and unemployment insurance for household help. The remaining 5 percent? They inhaled.
In a surprising bipartisan move, the federal government will be disbanded. Republicans, noting the rising cost of Social Security and Medicare, will argue that eliminating wasteful spending such as the Justice, Health, and Parks departments, is the only way to pay the bills. Democrats will observe that no one will miss the federal government because it hasn't done anything in years. Besides, being a minority party in perpetuity isn't any fun.
Skeptics should consider the record. It was the states, not the Federal government that brought the tobacco companies to heel for decades of lies and obfuscation about the harmful effects of smoking. California, not the Federal government, voted to float bonds to support stem cell research. California, not the Federal government, set new emission standards for cars in California. The California Air Resources Board declared carbon dioxide a pollutant and voted to adopt new regulations that would reduce car and light truck emissions by 30 percent in a decade.
It was New York's Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, not the Securities and Exchange Commission that exposed and prosecuted the mutual fund industry. It was New York's Eliot Spitzer (again), not an agency of the federal government that exposed price fixing and consumer gouging by insurance companies. We've got 50 states. Who needs a federal government?
The next great mutual fund category will take off. The Vice fund, sponsored by Dallas-based Mutuals Advisors, Inc. and launched in 2002, will be seen as the godfather (apologies to Mario Puzo) of a new specialized fund category, Vice and Mayhem. This will happen when the investing world becomes aware of the funds' near 25 percent return in 2004, following its 34.3 percent return in 2003. As the prospectus notes, "It is the Advisors' philosophy that although often politically incorrect, these and similar industries and products…will continue to experience significant capital appreciation during good and bad markets. The Advisor considers these industries to be nearly 'recession-proof.'"
At the end of November the fund's $14.8 million portfolio was diversified in this way: 25.4 percent gaming, 23.6 percent defense, 22.7 percent alcohol, 14.1 percent tobacco, and 14.2 percent "other." We can only assume that "other" is vices too embarrassing to discuss. Read more about this no-load fund (ticker: VICEX) at www.vicefund.com.
Dallas billionaire Mark Cuban, not to be left behind, has gone Vice Fund one better. He proposes a Hedge fund that will gamble rather than invest because gambling is a better deal. "Unlike the stock market," he notes on www.blogmaverick.com, "you know the rules exactly. You know without question the house is going to play by the rules. The gaming commission appears to actually enforce rules of play, unlike the SEC."
Housing prices will hit a high water mark, literally. I know this for a fact, having seen an advertisement for a house currently for sale in the village of Siasconset on Nantucket Island. The 2,800 square foot house, on 2.5 acres of land with 300 feet of beach frontage, is located on a bluff that overlooks the beach. The house is offered for a tasty $5.9 million or $2,100 per square foot.
Unfortunately, the beach is moving toward the house at the rate of 1.5 feet per year as the bluff erodes. That makes the house a "wasting asset" that will disappear, along with the land it is on, in about 100 years.
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