By Rick Morris
HONORABLE MENTION: The rescue of the Chilean miners, the WikiLeaks fiasco, widescale withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, release of the iPad keynoting amazing continuing technological developments, ongoing difficulties in Afghan war.
5 Haiti’s earthquake inflicts untold misery. One of the most ferocious natural disasters of recent times inflicted massive misery on a population that has dealt with more of it than most. Relief efforts, funded by heartwarming generosity, made an impact, but realistically, nothing could fully address this nightmare.
4 The Gulf oil spill batters the Gulf of Mexico once again. With the Saints’ victory in the Super Bowl symbolizing the long-awaited comeback of the Gulf area in the minds of many after Katrina, the BP disaster inflicted another grave body blow on the area. It appeared on pace to be the top news story at mid-year, but by late summer was under greater control than many thought. Nonetheless, long-term implications of the mess will live on for many years, including the choking-off of offshore oil drilling.
3 The debt crisis continues to build and foreshadows a grave 2011. Locations as far and wide as Greece and Harrisburg, PA grappled with the issues of governments having extended themselves too far and wide. And of course, alarm about the tens of trillions of dollars in future federal debt obligations hangs like a sword above the neck of the body politic. Government debt is becoming an increasingly serious issue that almost certainly will be the only major factor responsible if the present (halting) economic recovery falls apart in the new year.
2 The Great Recession continues on, regardless of what the statistics say. The laughable notion that the recession ended midway through 2009 proved like no other example Mark Twain’s famous saying about lies, damned lies and statistics. With unemployment consistently around 10% and underemployment near depression levels, it’s amazing that any progress was made at all in the economic picture. But corporate profits were extraordinarily strong and a rebound in the stock market may have helped fuel a very healthy holiday shopping season, leading to hope that the tenuous rebound may continue.
1 The Tea Party builds on its start in 2009. While President Obama secured the biggest tally of wish list items for a Democrat in many decades, the backlash against his view of a mammoth federal government was continuing to build and it crested in the midterm elections. This development intersects with #2 and #3 on this list in the new year, as small-government elected officials will be resistant to further Keynesian efforts to revive the economy and they will push for strong cuts in the face of government insolvency at all levels.