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Davis, California

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Sterling Compass

“[Expletive deleted]!” This basically sums up 2008. You don’t need to read this column to realize it was besmirched with hard times. It saw the tragic deaths of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (don’t worry, they’re banks). The housing bubble popped, destroying the national money market and creating a credit crunch.

Seriously, what was up with those gas prices? Like an unstable girlfriend they went from a record high during the summer to a 5-year low in the fall. It seemed almost random.

People lost their jobs. Lots of people lost their jobs. It was a tough year to be an investment banker. Hell, it was a tough year to be anyone. Job security was no longer offered in the benefits package.

The American Auto Industry was (and still is) in the gallows. Its collapse would create an unprecedented economic disaster.

The oppressive Chinese regime was allowed to hold the 2008 Summer Olympics (need I say more?). Oh wait, I do. They murdered over 400 Tibetans five months before the opening ceremonies (which most world leaders still attended). Way to go, China.

The Iraq War saw modest improvements overshadowed by increased violence in Afghanistan.

But some good things did happen in 2008.

Decisive victories in the battle for racial and gender equality; the first serious African-American presidential candidate (sorry, Al Sharpton) fought a brutal battle against the first serious female presidential candidate. We shook the world when we elected the first African-American to the presidency.

A new experiment that used the European Large Hadron Collider to slam protons into each other at 99.9% the speed of light did not create a massive black hole capable of consuming the earth (trust me, it didn’t).

Someone even threw their shoe (size 10) at George W. Bush. Well, we all wanted to give him the boot…

So, the question remains; what will happen in 2009?

The prison at Guantánamo Bay will finally close, putting an end to the nightmare that has stained America’s image abroad.

Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States at noon on Jan. 20 (and yours truly will be at his inauguration). And yes, the day most reliable polls say 70% of us have been waiting for will finally arrive; the day we send George W. Bush packing back to Texas. Or wherever it is Bushs come from (Massachusetts).

Maybe history will be kinder to him than the Gallup Polls. On second thought, I wouldn’t count on it.

President Obama will inherit one of the most troubled legacies since Harry Truman; two wars, a $10 trillion national debt, and of course, the shattered economy.

Even with Obama’s pledge to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office, everything depends on the conditions on the ground. A premature withdrawal would prove disastrous. But at least now we can work towards a gradual withdrawal. As we speak, more troops are being sent to Afghanistan to fight the resurgence of violence there. Iraqi troops were finally given control of the Green Zone in Baghdad, an unmistakable symbol of progress in the war effort. George Bush may have made our bed, but Obama is going to have to sleep in it.

As for the economy, Obama will need to balance propping up the ailing masses on Main Street with instilling investor confidence on Wall Street. This won’t be easy, as the government coffers are spewing moths (recall the $10 trillion dollar debt). In other words, don’t count on universal healthcare anytime soon. But you should expect more stimulus checks in your mailbox. The key to getting us out of this rut is to get Americans spending and investorsinvesting again. If only this were not easier said than done.

Now that I have either bored or scared you half to death, don’t despair (the world’s not supposed to end until 2012, anyway). But in all seriousness, the world is not on the verge of a Great Depression, at least not like our grandparents experienced. More hard times lay ahead, but we will soon have an intelligent and charismatic man in the White House to get us through it. In time we will overcome these challenges and become stronger for it. We’re Americans. It’s what we do.


MICHAEL HOWER wishes you luck in your pledges to visit the ARC more often and lay off the curly fries at Jack in the Box. You just might be able to reach him at mahower@ucdavis.edu.



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