The end of the year is a good time to look back, and an even better time to look forward. The following are some 2019 predictions. Most of these go beyond the daily headlines and 24-hour news cycle to hypothesize what will break through the noise to see what will be focused upon next year.
Housing Crisis Will Hit America, Politicians Will Make it Worse
I live in Las Vegas and the immigration here has made Nevada the fastest growing state in the nation. I marvel at the irony of what that means for the state. Much of this migration comes from California due to its high cost of living and extremely expensive housing market. But then the people come here and vote for politicians that will create the same conditions! While the blue wave wasn’t that strong in the rest of the nation, it was devastating for Nevada Republicans who lost national and state elections. Democrats were 28 votes away from giving Democrats a super majority needed to pass tax increases without Republican support in the state senate.
Just as they do with pertinence to taxes, elected officials are following policies that are leading to a sharp increase in housing prices. Housing is a product of supply and demand, and politicians artificially restrict supply while demand increases (Las Vegas also has the hottest housing market in the country), resulting in price spikes. Politicians don’t come out and say that a burned-out shack will cost a million dollars. They simply say stuff like we want to protect the environment or Red Rock from development. We want to preserve the character and density of neighborhoods or harness solar energy. And the end result is a mess of restrictions that make it tough to build houses, limits their supply, and increases the cost. Thomas Sowell has entire books that explain the matter in simple terms, but nobody listens.
Politicians want to get re-elected, and the best way they can do so is by saving the people from a crisis. Even if it’s a crisis they made, they will then propose things that often make it worse. They will further limit supply by taking units off the market and demanding that developers set aside a portion of their building to low-income housing. They provide housing subsidies that essentially put a Band-Aid on a broken housing market and demand more money and taxes, which also makes housing more expensive. They are following that playbook to the point that on the day I wrote this I received three different cold calls and two different letters asking me to sell my house in this overheated market. Lather, rinse, and repeat…all over the country in the name of compassion for those suffering from the housing crisis.
Homelessness Puts Cities Under Siege
This is somewhat related to the previous point. Many people in California live in RVs because of housing costs. (Located towards the bottom of that linked article is a mention of spending $950 million on affordable housing, which ironically reinforces the previous point above.) Seattle has spent even more money on the homelessness problem; they have simply made it worse without truly addressing the root causes of it.
Many organizations point to housing costs and domestic violence, and downplay the role of mental illness and addiction in homelessness, but that is not accurate. 80 percent of the homeless suffer from drug and alcohol addiction and 30 percent suffer from serious mental illness, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The solutions to the homelessness problems end up becoming magnets for additional homelessness. For example, studies have found that over 50 percent of the homeless in Seattle migrated from other areas to take advantage of their generous policies.
Of course, talking about the homeless might upset many because they believe that virtue and caring is the most important quality. As a result, they propose everything from not enforcing bans on public urination, to having safe drug injection rooms. Consequently, hardworking Americans that work three jobs and can barely pay their bills will get yet another tax increase that supports those who like free stuff as they shoot up.
So the compassion brigades from America’s major liberal cities will continue to use all sorts of rhetoric that attacks capitalism and major industries like Amazon and Walmart, but they will end up causing more harm than good. As the City Journal wrote about Seattle:
“Public complaints about homeless encampments from the first three months of this year are an array of horrors: theft, drugs, fighting, rape, murder, explosions, prostitution, assaults, needles, and feces. Yet prosecutors have dropped thousands of misdemeanor cases, and police officers are directed not to arrest people for ‘homelessness-related’ offenses, including theft, destruction of property, and drug crimes. As Scott Lindsay, the city’s former top crime advisor, reported to former Mayor Ed Murray: ‘The increase in street disorder is largely a function of the fact that heroin, crack, and meth possession has been largely legalized in the city over the past several years. The unintended consequence of that social policy effort has been to make Seattle a much more attractive place to buy and sell hard-core drugs.'”
The New NATO
A great deal of noise has been made about President Trump’s mistakes and missteps with allies, and this has been amplified in recent days with the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Of course, I noticed the irony of how Mattis is now considered an unimpeachable source when his appointment originally inspired concern over a possible military junta. Beyond that, I think there is reason for optimism about a new NATO. Britain is mired in a messy divorce from the EU and is headed for a hard exit. France participates in Syria but they face their own financial problems. Germany’s military is fading into decrepitude, but the Eastern front looks different.
Largely because they are far closer to the threat of a resurgent Russia, Poland and the Baltic States gladly hosts American soldiers, and the former wants to build a permanent base and name it after Trump. Politically, Poland seems more aligned with President Trump than the EU in regards to immigrants. Speaking of immigrants, Italy elected a new government that is taking a hardline against immigrants from North Africa, remarkably similar to Trump’s responses to the caravan originating from Central America. Hungary joined the U.S. in defying a pro-immigration pact from the UN. They have further penalized giving assistance to illegal immigrants, similar to the assistance given to the migrant caravan on the U.S. border.
Montenegro and Macedonia are small members that aren’t expected to commit a great deal, but they have made necessary changes that help the strategic situation. At the very least, being American allies means their warm weather ports won’t be Russian and that they have additional ability to resist Russian meddling. They are beginning to standardize equipment to increase interoperability with NATO. Macedonia is taking meaningful steps to solving long-term issues with their Greek neighbor.
The end result is that the media focuses on the attitudes of Western European allies which may have frayed a bit. But due to common threats from Russia and massive illegal immigration, Trump has solidified America’s position with Eastern Europe. This will become a key American strength in countering Russian aggression in 2019.
The Emperors Have No Clothes
Speaking of Russian aggression, both Russia and China often make the news for their aggressive behavior which results in many ominous and click-bait news stories. Every new weapon system should be assessed. But both of those countries are facing difficult economic outlook. Chinese spending has resulted in a housing bubble that dwarfs the American crisis of 2008. Russia has little staying power in a long-term war, and their aggression has resulted in a coalescence of their neighbors (see above.) New whiz-bang technology promises the world but they are used by soldiers in combat conditions and directed by strategy, both of which could prove faulty in war. In 2019, the emperors will be shown to be largely talk but not nearly as scary in real life.
What do you think will be the biggest developments in 2019?