Office Pool 2011
With apologies and thanks to William Safire.
1. The biggest news Ron Paul will make in his new job as head of a Congressional subcommittee charged with overseeing the Federal Reserve will concern a) emails between Ben Bernanke and China's central banker, Zhou Xiaochuan b) a hearing in which the incoming chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Columbia president Lee Bollinger, is pressed on potential conflicts between his Fed role and that leading Columbia, which is both a big borrower and a big investor c) a probe of the consulting work of former Federal Reserve officials, including Alan Greenspan's work for Pimco.
2. The surprise breakout nonfiction bestseller of the year will be: a) Walter Olson's Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America b) Joshua Foer's Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything c) Daniel Sharfstein's The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White d) Seth Mnookin's The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear.
3. Bipartisan cooperation will break out a) as Republican deficit hawks join Democratic class warriors to ratchet back Social Security benefits for the "rich" b) Republican deficit hawks join Democratic peaceniks to cut defense spending c) Republican deficit hawks join Democratic anti-plutocratic forces to levy a 5% "estate tax avoidance fee" on those who act on the Buffett-Gates "giving pledge."
4. Business page headline: a) Cable companies hemorrhage subscribers as customers move to 4G cellular wireless broadband b) Bertelsmann, Lagardère among Barnes & Noble bidders c) SEC probes companies that announce layoffs, then, without disclosure, hire same employees back as "consultants."
5. Health care endgame: a) Supreme Court rules individual mandate unconstitutional, leaves rest of law standing b) Republican House refuses to fund implementation, creating disarray until c) Doctors, drug, insurance lobbies get enough Republicans to fund implementation with enough minor changes characterized as improvements, including elimination of the 1099 requirement.
6. Republican 2012 front-runner by December will be a) John Thune, appreciated in Iowa for his pro-ethanol activism b) Chris Christie, the consensus "not Palin" candidate of big-money Republican donors c) Sarah Palin, appreciated by the right for the way she drives the left crazy d) Paul Ryan (born January 29, 1970), aiming to take the youth vote away from Obama e) Rick Perry, drawing Tea Party and evangelical Christian support away from Palin.
7. Obama's approval rating recovers thanks to a) stock market and job-creation gains driven by the business cycle, the tax cuts, and the congressional "gridlock effect" b) capture of Osama bin Laden c) a new wave of tell-all memoirs by White House insiders that disclose his dismissive comments about Nancy Pelosi and Senator Schumer d) a decision to expand offshore drilling drives gasoline prices lower.
8. The short-seller whose bet turns out most surprisingly bad is a) Whitney Tilson, when Netflix turns out to have the algorithms and customer relationships that make it a leader in the streaming movies space just as cable customers are quitting for Internet-based entertainment. b) David Einhorn, when St. Joe turns out to benefit from a faster-than-expected Florida real estate recovery driven by newly jobless baby boomers retiring South to avoid state and local tax increases c) Steve Eisman, when, from a student's perspective, the for-profit colleges look more and more like bargains compared to their non-profit competitors d) John Paulson, whose investment in gold (and against the dollar) goes sour when the Fed raises rates sooner than expected to tap the brakes on a surprisingly torrid economic recovery.
The last time I helped try this, back in 2007, the piece predicted, or at least raised the possibility of, both the stock market crash and Attorney General Cuomo's probe into the New York state pension fund scandal. Hang onto your hats, and an early happy New Year to all.
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