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Political Predictions for 2009

Russ Stewart 30 January 2009 No Comment

It is often said that those who make predictions invite the opportunity to be made a fool. For decades, the Northwest side political class has dismissed this columnist as demented, deluded, and/or just full of (expletive), and scoffed at my periodic predictions – even though my accuracy has been over 70 percent.

Now, for all you wise guys and girls, here’s your chance to be “Smarter than Stewart.” I predict; you predict; and, a year from now, we find out who’s the dummy. It works like this: Following are 13 speculative questions, requiring a predictive answer. Mine are at the end of the column. By Feb. 1, send your answers to Nadig Newspapers or to my website, with your name and phone number. If you’re “Smarter than Stewart,” you’ll get your name in my column, and I’ll buy you a dinner.

1. The impeachment trial of Governor Rod Blagojevich begins Jan. 26. There is no doubt that he will be removed from office. Pat Quinn, who will succeed him, predicts he will governor by Feb. 12. Blagojevich will be gone by:

a. Feb. 3; b. Feb. 6; c. Feb. 12; d. Feb. 13.

2. As the nation’s economic recession deepens into a depression, unemployment climbs, and consumer spending shrivels, Illinois’ expenditures now exceed tax revenues by at least $5 billion for fiscal 2009. By comparison, California has a $53 billion shortfall. Quinn and the Democratic legislature will:

a. Increase the state income tax; b. concoct a scheme of new indebtedness, bonds, and borrowing; c. cut spending by five percent.

3. It is common knowledge that Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, as the crowning achievement of his long career, wants to make his daughter, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the next governor. Blagojevich’s impeachment removes one impediment. But Quinn, as the new governor, will seek to retain the job. The filing deadline for 2010 is Nov. 2009. Democratic field for the Feb. 2, 2010 primary will include:

a.Quinn; b. Madigan; c. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias; d. State Representative Jack Franks; e. State Comptroller Dan Hynes.

4. It’s just January, so newly-appointed U.S. Senator Roland Burris (D) has plenty of time to erase the stain of being Blagojevich’s choice. Burris is the Senate’s only black, and he is committed to running for a full term in 2010. If any other black, such as U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2) or Danny Davis (D-7), has the temerity to run against him in the primary, they would split the black vote, and a white candidate would win. Giannoulias, Hynes, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, and wealthy lawyer Bob Clifford are exploring a challenge. Blacks comprise about one-third of the primary electorate. If it’s Burris against several whites, he wins; if it’s one electable white against Burris, then Burris loses. In 2010, Burris will be:

a. defeated in the primary; b. nominated and defeated in the election; c. nominated and elected to a full term.

5. Rahm Emanuel his resigned his Northwest Side 5th District congressional seat, and a special election has been set for April 7, and the primary for March 3. The Democratic field includes several heavyweights, including State Representatives John Fritchey and Sara Feigenholtz, County Commissioner Mike Quigley, and Alderman Pat O’Connor (40th). Democratic ward and township committeemen, at their slatemaking session, made no endorsement, but the most powerful are backing Fritchey. Turnout will be anemic. The lower it is, the better for Fritchey; the higher, the better for Feigenholtz. Whoever best postures as the “different” candidate – unconnected to Blagojevich and the corrupt status quo – will win. The next congressman will be:

a. Fritchey; b. Feigenholtz; c. Quigley; d. O’Connor.

6. An image, once obtained, is indelible. Todd Stroger, the black Cook County Board president, and an ally of Chicago Mayor Rich Daley, is widely perceived as inept and incompetent. But, in the 2010 primary, with Burris on the ballot, black solidarity will lift all boats, including Stroger’s. White county commissioners Forrest Claypool and Quigley have been relentless in their criticism of Stroger. Both plan to run in 2010 – unless Quigley wins the congressional race. Two whites would divide the anti-Stroger vote, and Daley’s South Side white allies will divert a few votes to Stroger. Paul Vallas, the former Chicago schools CEO, will soon switch parties and run as a Republican. If it’s a Vallas versus Stroger election, Vallas can win. Stroger hopes that Quigley loses on March 3, as he cannot win a one-on-one versus Claypool. Those filing in November will be:

a. Stroger; b. Claypool; c. Quigley; d. County Commissioner Larry Suffredin; e. Vallas (Republican); f. County Commissioner Tony Peraica (Republican); g. County Commissioner Liz Gorman (Republican).

The economy will be a huge issue in 2010. The stock market lost 34 percent of its value in 2008. Unemployment is at 6.7 percent. Retail sales are at their lowest level since 1969. The national debt is nearly $10 trillion.

The Obama Administration can pursue one of five historical options: (1) Corporatism, with the federal government intervening to prop up businesses, and a goal of sustaining the status quo. (2) Keynesian economics, with the government borrowing and running up huge deficits so as to fund public works projects to combat unemployment. (3) Conservatism, with a reduction in spending or increase in taxes to reduce the deficit and avoid inflation. (4) Reflationism, with a vast expansion of the money supply to counteract declining asset values. And (5) structuralism, with wage and price controls, and a break-up of monopolistic corporations.

Option three will exacerbate the recession, constricting credit and spending. Option five will stagnate the economy, and invite later inflation. President Obama appears likely to adopt a mix of options one, two and four. Here’s some economic predictions:

7. Unemployment was 20.3 percent at the height (1935) of the 1929-42 depression, and dropped to 4.7 percent at the beginning of World War II. It was 6.6 percent in 1961, nine percent in 1975, 10.8 percent in 1982, and 5.4 percent in 1988. It’s now 6.7 percent, and 7.6 percent in Illinois. In 2009, the nationwide unemployment rate will be:

a. 7.5 percent; b. 8 percent; c. 8.5 percent; d. ten percent.

8. The Bush Administration bailed out the Big Three automakers in December with a $34 billion loan. Executives of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors claim to need $75 billion to survive 2009, and Congress is demanding structural and environmental changes in auto manufacture. Which will be in bankruptcy by the end of 2009?

a. Ford; b. Chrysler; c. General Motors; d. all three.

9. Job losses, poor credit, price deflation and lack of cash availability for a down payment (or refinance) has paralyzed the housing resale and refinance markets. Existing owners, desirous of selling, fear a meager profit. Buyers fear that, after purchase, their property’s value will decline further. Another torrent of foreclosures will occur in 2009-2010, as sub-prime borrowers with adjustable rate mortgages will by compelled to refinance property valued at less than their mortgage balance. Home sales were down 41.3 percent in Chicago in 2008, and down 32.3 percent in the suburbs. It hasn’t been this bad since 1990. Property values are down 15.9 percent. In 2009, the value of real estate will be:

a. stable; b. decline by five percent; c. decline by ten percent; d. decline by 15-20 percent; e. increase.

10. The area housing market will be rebound – meaning that home values will begin to increase – in:

a. 2009; b. 2010; c. 2011; d. 2012 or later.

11. The consumer price index declined by 1.7 percent in November, as the cost of homes, energy, autos and department store items dropped. Holiday season spending was horrendous. A recession is defined as two or more quarters of negative gross domestic product growth – and we’re in one. Congress has passed a $825 billion “stimulus” package. By the end of 2009, America will be in:

a. a recovery; b. a deepening recession; c. a depression.

12. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama reiterated that he opposed the Iraq invasion, opposed the troop increase, and would immediately begin to remove the 146,000 troops if elected, with all home in 16 months. By the end of the year, there will be:

a. total withdrawal; b. no withdrawal; c. a drawdown of a couple thousand.

13. Barack Obama promised “change we need” in 2008. By the end of 2009, the president’s approval ratings will be:

a. 70 percent; b. 60 percent; c. 50 percent; d. 40 percent.

**

Russ Stewart is a regular contributor to the Chicago Daily Observer

**

How to respond: There are 13 questions. E-mail to russ@russstewart.com with your predictions by Feb2 .

My predictions: 1c, 2a, 3ab, 4a, 5a, 6abef, 7c, 8ab, 9c, 10c, 11c, 12b, 13c.

E-mail russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com.

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