Future shock

Predicting the future is risky, tricky business. For example, go back 60 days and who would have predicted the situation we’re all in? But in spite of that trickiness, here are a few predictions I’ll make about 2020. We can look back at these in December and either laugh about how silly they were or cry about how optimistic they were. Meanwhile, you may need a drink after reading this. See picture above.

  1. The final US death toll from COVID-19 is very hard to predict, but one thing that isn’t hard to predict is the new minimum number.  We’re at about 70,000 today, and I sure don’t think we’re at a peak. IF we were at peak, we’d see about the same number of deaths coming down the curve as we saw going up. So given that and given that many states are now relaxing restrictions, I’d put the minimum 2020 death toll at 150K-250K. The minimum.
  2. Most people won’t feel safe and start traveling via airline again until late in the year – say November/December.
  3. The roads this summer will be packed. Absolutely packed with people wanting to travel but deciding to drive rather than fly.
  4. Trump will use every tool in the Trumpian toolbox to attack the integrity of the 2020 elections. He will ultimately lose, but it will be a bloody fight. The two months between the election of a new President and his actually leaving office will be a crazy, dangerous period.
  5. Most of the country will be back to work in July. No amount of concern over illness will keep workers from reclaiming their paychecks and trying to reclaim a normal life. The 30 million currently out of work may nick down to 10-15 million over the summer. It’s fatalistic, but it’s inevitable.
  6. Food is going to get expensive. Real expensive. With Trump’s continued attacks on migrant workers, the toll of the virus on the same workers, the disruption of supply chains and the extant problems in the meat industry, expect to pay about double what you used to for the same basket of goods. Pretty good year to go on a diet.
  7. Expect taxes to go up. Maybe a lot. With the huge debts that federal and state governments are taking on, plus with the loss of billions of payroll taxes, the government beast is going to be hungry. It’ll be perfect timing for the R’s to blame the new taxes on the D’s, but that’s just normal. But…it occurs to me that offshore retirement might be advantageous after all.
  8. Commercial real estate will permanently contract by 10-20% overall. Now that it’s proven that many, many jobs can be done remotely, there won’t be as much need for permanent office space.
  9. The stock market will take another huge plunge once a second wave of the virus happens. We’re about 20% down from the Q1 peak now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up 40-45% down from that mark of 29,000 for the Dow. It will be ugly.

That’s about it for now. It’s gonna be a wild ride.

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