2018 Predictions – The Cost of Leaving, Dictating Despots, Vive La Revolution, Lessons Learned, and of Course, Ironman

By: - December 31, 2017

At the end of each year, it’s always good to take a second to look back. But it can also be good to take some time to consider the future. Predicting is always tough, as those betting on the stock market in 1928, the housing market in 2007, and peace in 1913 can attest. But it’s worth taking a brief moment to consider what will likely happen in 2018.

Britain Will be Primed for Hard Brexit

Britain voted to leave the European Union in what was seen as the nation’s version of Make Britain Great Again.  They’ve been in negotiations ever since – little progress has been made. The official exit occurs in 2019, but 2018 will not see them very prepared for it. They agreed earlier this month that they can move to phase two, but talks will only get tougher.

The British House of Commons asserted their right to vote on any negotiation, which leaves any tentative deal more fragile and harder to achieve. Because the negotiations cover everything, including free trade deals, immigration, and exit fees, a “hard exit” without existing agreements will be like the 2008 housing crisis and the chaos over the first immigration ban combined.

North Korea Will Go Nuclear, Leading to Significant Chance of War

North Korea has made significant progress on missile technology and shows no willingness to stop.  They have already begun launching missiles on a regular basis, including one over Japan this month.  20 years of negotiations and sanctions haven’t stopped their progress. Their tests have included ICBM’s that can reach the continental US. Donald Trump and the North Korean leader continue their war of words, which escalates tensions. At one point, the US had an unprecedented three aircraft carriers in the region.

Any strike will be costly, but a nuclear North Korea that can’t be contained is just as bad.

Foreign policy experts give a 50% chance of war with North Korea in the next year — I agree. If US chooses military action, it will likely feature extensive air power early in the war, including preemptive strikes on missile sites. North Korea is capable of hitting Seoul with over a million shells in the first hour of a war. Any strike will be costly, but a nuclear North Korea that can’t be contained is just as bad.

Venezuela Will Be the Next Revolution

South America has been the scene of its fair share of revolutions. Venezuela could be next, as its current president, Nicholas Maduro, moves the country towards a left-wing dictatorship. He has stacked a new legislative body with his followers — this body is charged with changing the constitution to give him more power.  He is not letting opposition run for local office and has jailed many others.

The descent into a socialist paradise has resulted in black markets, massive immigration, and increasing crime.

Despite rather generous oil wealth, Maduro has nationalized the industry, leading to production issues. Price controls and subsidies in Venezuelan currency have led to runaway inflation. He even instituted forced labor in the farming industries. The descent into a socialist paradise has resulted in black markets, massive immigration, and increasing crime.  This undermines neighboring countries, and makes it likely that people will turn their weapons on the government.

Republicans Will Lose Seats but Maintain Control of the House and Senate

Republicans have had control of both houses of congress and the presidency for the first time in a decade. They had high expectations, as well as a long list of priorities. For three cycles, they ran on repealing and replacing Obama Care, and made additional promises about tax reform, the budget, and the debt ceiling.  But they whiffed badly on Obama Care several times, and are barely squeaking through a mild tax reform bill.

They haven’t come to long-term solutions about the nation’s debt and the budget. In fact, they are having difficulty passing an extension to the debt ceiling, let alone passing reform that will reduce the underlying drivers of the debt. Every year that goes by, prospective Social Security reform gets tougher. Radical Republicans, led by Steve Bannon, nominated a candidate that was so terrible he lost in deep red Alabama, which makes passing bills in the Senate even more difficult.

This all suggests a rather lousy record. The Republicans will pay for it. Due to the concentration of liberals in urban and coastal districts, and the contested senate seats largely being in states that Trump won, Republicans will maintain control of at least the House and probably the Senate, but not with the majorities they once controlled. Maybe after getting spanked, they will learn how to rise above the angry base and partisan politics.

Wild Card Pick – Infinity Wars Will Be Bigger Than Star Wars.

Not everything is doom and gloom.  Starting with Iron Man almost ten years ago, and continuing with a roster of characters that are now household names, Marvel’s Infinity Wars will bring together Earth’s mightiest (comic book) heroes to save the universe from Thanos, and his Infinity Gauntlet.  I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to this more than Star Wars.

If only the Avengers would help with domestic and foreign policy.

The new Star Wars films have been okay — Rogue One was actually pretty good. But they’re mostly running on nostalgia. The Marvel films in contrast have earned the hype through a dozen great movies over the past ten years (forgiving an occasional Iron Man 2 or Age of Ultron). Because of the brand they’ve built, and the track record they have, my daughter will likely tell her kids about watching Infinity Wars for the first time, not the rebooted Star Wars films.

If only the Avengers would help with domestic and foreign policy.

Good luck and best wishes in 2018!

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