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Happy New Year
December 29, 2011 - Stephen Browne
Over the weekend we'll be welcoming in 2012. Jeez, I used to read science fiction stories set in 2012.
Oh who am I kidding? I used to read science fiction stories set in 1970!
Well the future didn't turn out quite like expected. In some ways we're way behind. We were supposed to be galavanting around the solar system by now. In person not with robots I mean.
On the other hand, who expected lap tops and smart phones?
Did anybody foresee the collapse of the Soviet Union back in 1970? Well yes some did, but nobody foresaw how soon. Those who did expect it generally guessed it would be happening about now.
Lasers were first demonstrated in laboratories in the early 1950s. Back then people imagined all kinds of fanciful uses for them, like sci fi ray guns. But did anybody imagine that we'd be using them on a daily basis in things like DVD players? Or for the most mundane use of all - a laser pointer?
The coming year is a presidential election year. An incumbent African-American president is going to be running against... somebody. And serious candidates for that somebody included women and second-generation immigrant/minorities.
I remember when the serious speculation revolved around whether a Jewish guy could get elected in America.
All this is by way of saying that change happens, and can happen rapidly. I expect 2012 is going to ring in some changes, for good and ill.
On the one hand, in April the U.S. congress finally arrived at a budget deal to avert a government shutdown. Both sides agreed on some spending cuts, which are showing up in reduced expenditures on programs people have grown fond of.
Those cuts amounted to $38.5 billion or 0.002 percent of the federal deficit. That's right, two-thousandth of one percent, in case you thought that was a typo. And that's the deficit, the rate at which the national debt grows every year, not the national debt itself. The national debt in terms of money owed and unfunded obligations undertaken by the government has reached a figure that can be summarized, "not enough money in the world."
Financially, our country is headed for a cliff at full speed and nobody has the political will to slam on the breaks.
On the other hand, petroleum geologists have confirmed that underneath the U.S. and the Western Hemisphere in general, are seas of oil in places we never expected, now accessible to modern drilling technology. There's oil under New York state for heaven's sake! Enough to meet our needs and become an oil exporting nation again.
Our people are showing a resilience in dealing with tough economic times that some pessimists thought we didn't have in us anymore. New business ventures still get started, and most of the major advances in science and industry are still made here.
All in all, I expect this to be an interesting year.
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