As we march, brave but shoeless, into yet another year of human accomplishment, let us remember the immortal words of United States Representative Charles B. Rangel.
"It may be stupid, it may be negligent, but it's not corrupt."
Let’s hope we can live up to his high standard in 2011. Given recent history, it is doubtful that we will. Here is what your columnist, occasionally known as the Oracle of Dripping Springs, predicts for the coming year:
The Madoff Shoe Collection in the Museum of Modern Art. Realizing that the personal artifacts of Bernard Madoff were auctioned off without thought of their historical importance, a hedge fund manager will use his vast resources to quickly assemble all 250 pairs of the famed con man’s shoes for exhibition at MOMA. Before the exhibition goes to its permanent home it will travel to every major city in America where high bidders will be allowed to pick a pair of shoes and walk a mile in them. The proceeds will be used to create a caviar fund to benefit the few white collar criminals unfortunate enough to be in prison.
Newspapers will rebound. I have this on the authority of Thomas Jefferson. He wrote, in 1787: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” While the country has been going in the wrong direction the last 100 years, with more government and fewer newspapers, Jefferson’s preference will ultimately prevail. One reason is that a nation of newspapers without government is beginning to look like very welcome change. Another, preferred by pragmatists, is that governments can print worthless money, but newspapers can print valuable coupons.
Consumer debt will continue coming down. This won’t happen due to lender sensitivity and insight. It will happen because more people will decide personal bankruptcy is a reasonable defense against lenders who raise credit card interest rates on troubled borrowers. Lenders do this on the benighted theory that if borrowers are having trouble repaying at 14 percent, it will be a slam dunk at 32 percent. By the next Presidential election, bankruptcy will have become a new form of political protest. The biggest media event will be the construction, in Washington, of a genuine “house of cards,” a replica of the White House. It will be constructed with millions of cards, all defaulted in protest against the ongoing bipartisan policy of “Bankers First, Bankers Forever.”
The age of Extreme Voting will begin. Following passage of the omnibus spending act for fiscal 2011— an act with 6,600 earmarks and enough pork to bring Jimmy Dean back from the dead— citizens will start to vote for anything that isn’t a member of either political party. The leading candidates will be the many dogs who have been elected mayor in towns across America. In Texas, the goat mayor of Lajitas will win as a write-in candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Apple will not buy Dell. Although Apple could buy Dell and still have about $25 billion left in its cash reserves, it won’t. Steve Jobs will never explain why. This will offend Wall Street analysts who will continue to carp and make helpful suggestions about possible uses for Apple’s $50 billion of cash throughout the year. Steve Jobs will do what all of us should do: Ignore them.
Network Television will die again. It has been dying for a long time, but when viewers do the math, Netflix will provide the last coffin nails. The average American watches television 4 hours a day, of which 80 minutes is advertising. This means we can escape 40 hours of advertising a month for only $7.99. Is that a deal, or what? Honk if you will pay 20 cents to avoid an hour of advertising.
Sherman will march again! Not to be confused with the historical General Sherman, this Sherman will be an unemployed Blackjack dealer. He will organize fellow citizens of Las Vegas to march on the city’s foreclosed housing. His “scorched earth policy”— burning every foreclosed house in his path— will restore the Las Vegas housing market and make Sherman a national hero, with requests to bring his citizen army to other cities.