NOTE, 1/8/2024: I had to make a big edit, as I left the entire quotation of the “War” predictions out of the original. Mea culpa.
A year ago, I put on my prognosticator’s hat and made some predictions for what 2023 held in store. How good a soothsayer was I?
Unfortunately, we still need to keep an eye on this. If one can believe what’s coming out of China, there are a lot of folks dying. Why may be a different subject. Our home-grown control freaks are not letting this subject go either, and with good reason. It worked so well before. What they miss is that it also opened up a lot of people’s eyes to their shenanigans. My expectation is for them to try using this latest outbreak to reinstate mandatory masking, business closings and the whole panoply of stupidity from 2021. Watch for a lot of people to strenuously object.
All bets are off if China has released a new and improved version of the creature. Time will tell.
I’m going to give myself a “partial” on this one. For a couple of months it’s felt like they were prepping us for a new round of this manufactured crisis. “Oh, there’s this new variant and it’s passed along easier, and the Chinese are warning that New Year’s travel will bring more cases and lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” Three slave states are already on the mask mandate thing. I’d give myself a higher score if this had happened sooner.
I expect little good news on the economic front. I think inflation will stay in the teens% range, based on Shadowstats numbers. I think the Fed is going to ease up on Quantitative Tightening as well as rate increases, which will lead to a boost in inflation perhaps exceeding its 2022 high of 17%. Expect to see more “going out of business” sales no matter what. Even if inflation goes down, people are spent out because of food and energy. If inflation goes up, people will have even less to spend than if it goes down. Welcome to Catch-22 Land.
All bets are off if the US/NATO gets involved in a war in Europe or if China moves on Taiwan. If either one of those happens, expect the Shit Show to turn into Shit Festivus or worse.
This was a swing and a big miss. Even by Shadowstats numbers, inflation is in the single digits. The Fed has not–yet–eased up on QT. People are still spending with wild abandon as if they know they’ll never have to pay those bills. And while we end the year with more wars rather than fewer, they only seem to be having minor economic effects so far.
The energy situation will get worse. Europe is trying to hoover up whatever natural gas anyone, including Russia, will sell them and will pay nearly any price for it. China wants whatever is left over because they expect sanctions that will far exceed those placed on Russia if they move on Taiwan.
In the US, I don’t expect to see the Strategic Petroleum Reserve refilled. I expect gas, diesel and fuel oil shortages to continue and prices to rise. I expect electricity prices to increase and the grid to become slowly less reliable. I expect more generating facility closures for various reasons. I expect more sabotage of substations and possibly transmission lines. I expect more backdoor moves from Washington to further cripple oil and gas exploration and transmission. I expect more refineries to close because refinery companies can’t make any money running them.
Don’t be surprised to see some damn Leftist propose a “BTU Tax” that taxes every BTU of fossil fuel and watt of electricity you use to help pay for their precious Green Energy BS.
Stri-i-ike two! Unexpectedly warm winter weather bailed out Europe last winter. While the SPR remains un-refilled and there were some half-hearted attempts to make more moves to screw up our electrical generation capacity, nothing new came up. Ditto exploration and transmission. And no refineries closed because of economic issues. There were some “Thing go boom!” issues, but that doesn’t count.
This is a new category for this year.
Expect to see food prices rise and availability to decrease. Expect more spot shortages and expect both the number and size of the spots to increase. Expect less variety and depth in product lines. Expect the availability of red meat to decrease. Expect higher prices as the cost of every input goes up. Expect to see government blame the farmers and ranchers for the problems.
If you can, start a garden of any size. Start making friends with the vendors at the local farmers’ markets. Stock up whenever you can on what you can. It’s better to have an unbalanced, crappy diet than no diet at all.
I’m going to be charitable and give myself a partial. Food prices have gone up relentlessly this year. The rate of increase may have slowed, but the numbers are simply going up slower. The availability of foodstuffs has improved across the board, even if some of the brands are new. I hear trying new things keeps you young…
The Supply Chain
If things stay pretty much the same, expect no radical changes. If we see the inflation I expect, then things will get worse as the price of fuel adds to the cost of goods, which will cause demand destruction which will actually lessen the need for shipping services. If inflation lessens, I don’t see a big increase in the need for shipping services since everyone is tapped out at the grocery store.
If war starts, especially in the Pacific, all predictions are invalid. I don’t know if we’ll see WWII-style shipping attacks, but shippers will curtail sailings simply due to risk.
I think this one is a win, although not on the details. I’m giving it to myself because there have been no really radical changes. Ships are moving everywhere. Even the Houthis’ bombardment of shipping in the Red Sea hasn’t caused much heartburn. I suspect this is telling us something, but at the moment I’m not sure what.
As far as the availability of various goods, that has been static in terms of it’s still going on. It’s Item A that I can’t get this week, Item E next week and Items R and U But Item A is back in stock the next. Shopping can be an adventure.
This is a new category for this year, God help us.
While some posit that WWIII has already kicked off, I remain unconvinced. However, every day the war in Ukraine continues the chance of WWIII gets larger. All it takes is one mistake, one misinterpretation, one stupid grunt doing the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the balloon goes up.
I’m even less sanguine on war in the Pacific. I do expect China to move on Taiwan this year. They don’t have enough time remaining for their normal slow march tactics to work. It will start with an embargo, and if that doesn’t move the needle, an invasion. Taiwan will militarily oppose the landings, and there will be a lot of casualties. China can absorb them, Taiwan can’t. Taiwan is also under-equipped for war. They have low energy stocks and not enough military equipment. Taiwan will be reunified with China, one way or the other. Their best move is to try and cut a deal, a la Hong Kong, before the embargo starts. That sucks, but it sucks less than the other alternatives. I expect them to cut a deal simply because they too are Chinese, and they look at things through a very different lens than we do. We might fight to the bitter end for freedom, but they aren’t wired like that.
If it goes to a shooting war, the US is not positioned to really make a difference. China won’t be warned off by rhetoric, and our military is stretched too thin. We’ve shipped endless stocks of military supplies to Europe and don’t have enough left to fight a protracted Pacific war. Our forces on the ground are few. We’ve allowed the Global War On Terror to take our eye off the strategic ball, and we’ll pay for that. We’ll pretty much sit this one out, and we’ll look like the weak old man we are for doing so. The fallout in many areas will be very, very painful.
The best we can hope for is holding China to taking Taiwan and its associated islands. We need to keep them out of the First and Second Island Chains at all costs. Losing Japan and the Philipines will turn the Pacific, all the way to Hawaii, into a Chinese lake, and that will lead to the end of the West. Losing Taiwan may just buy us enough time to save the islands and contain China to some extent.
If the war goes nuclear, we can probably kiss our asses goodbye.
Stri-i-ike three, I’m happy to report. Not that we aren’t still slowly staggering our way into it, but it hasn’t went fuul-goose bozo yet. Yet. I will say that yes, WWIII has started. While the Chinese inexplicably haven’t went after Taiwan, we have the new Israel vs. Hamas/Hezbollah/Iran war now. While I was really expecting things to go hot elsewhere, this is now my best guess about where the balloon goes up.
So, I’m 1-3-2 for the year. I probably should keep my day job. Or get a job at CNN–I’m right about as often as they are. 🙂