Recovery is on the way. It won't come from any of that silly stuff like corporate investment or a safer world. Its roots will be found in what we Americans do like no one else in the world.

Consume.

Here are my Fearless Forecasts for 2003.

•  Congress Will Pass A Broad Easing of Personal Bankruptcy.   This will happen after an obscure policy analyst notices the economy has been sinking since Congress started work on a tougher bankruptcy bill. Although passage of the tougher law has failed, the mere prospect of a tough reform bill has hung over today's economy like Smoot-Hawley hung over the stock market in 1929. Under the quickly written (and looser) law, bankrupt consumers are not only relieved of all obligation, they are given brand new identities (and credit ratings) under the new Consumer Protection Program. Organized much like the Witness Protection Program, the new legislation kick-starts the economy. Spending soars.

•  Air Travel Will Boom. The United Airlines bankruptcy will start the Great Air Miles Panic of 2003, stimulating the post 9/11 travel recovery. Fearing the major airlines will no longer honor the billions of air miles outstanding, consumers will be willing to go almost anywhere. Several people will visit Cleveland. Unfortunately for the airlines, no cash is involved.

•  The Buyer CD Idea Spreads. Started by a furniture store in Houston, more stores offer "CDs" for purchases. In a typical offer, the purchase of a $1,000 TV set will create a $1,000 Consumer Note that will earn the buyer $50 at the end of 12 months. With one-year bank CDs earning little more than 1 percent, the Federal Reserve starts to worry about a new form of dis-intermediation. Consumer spending rises sharply. More consumers see spending as saving.

•  Big Magazines Will Merge.  In the continuing advertising drought, it will be noticed that many of the stories in Cosmopolitan are very similar to stories in Money magazine. Cosmo, for instance, regularly features titles like, "7 Sure-fire Ways To Make Him Hot" which isn't that far from a Money magazine article like,   "7 Funds That Will Make You Rich By Tomorrow."   The Cosmo/Money merger will be followed by the Redbook/Kiplinger merger, Playboy/Smart Money, etc. Unexpected savings will come from consolidating editorial staff.

•  The Sierra Club Will Sue Citibank and Other Credit Card Issuers. Citing the hundreds of millions of credit card offers mailed each year to the same high-income zip codes, Sierra Club attorneys will assert that credit cards are one of the largest environmental hazards in America. "We need to put a lid on this before all the redwoods are turned into plastic," the Sierra Club attorneys will say. Looking for new distribution methods, banks will acquire privately held smut purveyors for their ability to send spam to anyone, anywhere.

•  Congress Will Consider a Tax on Terrorism. Financed on a "pay as you go" basis, a $100 billion 60-day war in Iraq would require a tax of $4.50 a gallon. Spread the cost out over a year in 'easy payments' and it would cost 75 cents a gallon. The move will be defeated in 2003 because Congress, which truly represents the people, would rather talk about sacrifices than make them. Years later, some will say it was just a "trial balloon." Others will say it was more like "the camel's nose under the tent."

•  It Will Be Revealed: Barbie Has Had More Plastic Surgery Than Michael Jackson.   I say this with authority, knowing that the famed doll graduated from high school around 1958, the same year I did. She hasn't aged a bit, which is more than a bit suspicious. Ken won't explain it, but he's spent as much time in Mexico as Barbie. Mr. Jackson will call Mattel to find out who did the work. They won't tell him.

Earlier Fearless Forecasts?

2002: missing from website: file 020101TU

2001: missing from website: file 001231SU

2000

1999

1998