Year End Predictions and Suggestions for the Reasonably Insightful

I had a mentor called Bob Kutak who favored making predictions because they were thought provoking, and nobody remembered them. His mentoring took place before there were far out calendar reminders to send us back to look at our own.

Last January, Frazer Rice and I did a podcast on predictions for the coming year. It was recorded in late December of 2019. There was one reference to China, but it was in the context of Hong Kong and it related to an anticipated contretemps at the Tokyo Olympics, which did not end up happening at all.

There was not a single reference to COVID, which was about right for the time, but definitely points out the flaws in predicting. The unexpected can be lurking, but we have to know about it before reacting to it.

Bravely, here is a link to a discussion between two reasonably insightful people that shows just how far off the mark reasonably insightful can be.

I know I am a sucker for a well-reasoned “sounds good” assessment even though they don’t always turn out to be right. I also think that I stick too close to consensus reasoning and am probably not brave enough. Then there is the conflict between what I think and what I hope.

Frazer made a reference to pop culture and I replied, “my playlist includes Peter, Paul and Mary; actually, I don’t have a playlist but, if I did, it would.” In 2020, I subscribed to Spotify, which was an excellent decision. The late 50s/early 60s trio figures prominently.

We tut tutted about the role of the Federal Reserve having not the smallest idea of what was to come.

We reflected on the 20% increase in the stock market in 2019, again without the smallest notion of what would happen in 2020 or how unlikely that would be during an epidemic.

When I began typing, I was all set to say what a boob I had been, but I really did not do so badly in a most unusual year. Here are my three from last year with some contemporary observations.

  1. The “get elected” industry will have record revenues in 2020. It did. More than $14 billion. They must have been ecstatic about the windfall of the two Georgia Senate runoffs. Nobody seems to care much that the masses of small dollar contributions are being siphoned off to other purposes.
  2. The value of thoughtful writing and editing will continue to decline. This is subjective but it seems to me that it did. Newspapers seems to have given up being thought leaders and have become thought followers. They might keep readers temporarily by telling them what they want to hear, but eventually the readers will become bored. I have and I am looking for an alternative method of being informed.
  3. The things we don’t hear about or read about will continue to be more important than the things we do hear about and do read about. COVID and presidential mental health certainly make the case for that proposition.

For 2021, instead of predicting, I will make three suggestions of things that ought to happen.

  1. President Biden should make his entire agenda about restoring the capabilities of the federal government and restoring trust in elected officials. Use a meat axe. The risk of getting rid of something useful is far exceeded by the risk of keeping things that are useless. When every member of Congress is enraged, and Biden’s approval rating is at 30%, he will know he is on the right track. A good start would be the elimination of every privilege that differentiates elected officials from others. Specific shaming would be salutary. If he were to succeed, his legacy as a great President would be assured.
  2. Pop the balloon of higher education. It is not doing what it needs to do and at great expense. Its abject failure to lead is shameful. During COVID, the selfishness of charging full tuition and fees for services not rendered has shown the most elite institutions to be mere “credentialers” not educators. Soon, there might not have any prestige left to sell.
  3. Create an alternative to news media that provides the information that reasonably insightful people need to have. TV news is hopeless; cable news is worse. Newspapers have become reader followers rather than thought leaders. You build it and I will come. I will not be alone.

If Bob Kutak had any thoughts on making suggestions rather than predictions, he never shared them with me. My guess is he would have liked these.

Add your own thoughts in the comments and have a Merry Christmas and a most improved 2021.


35 Responses to “Year End Predictions and Suggestions for the Reasonably Insightful”

Diana, December 24, 2020 at 6:24 pm said:

Good comments Haven. Yes lets eliminate the privileges of elected officials. (What have they done???).

Media is scary but i will give a-shout out to the NYT and i think public tv remains a class act.

Lots to be done in 2021. Id start with a 2021 Civilian work force. Sen Casey is shaping a bill on this score. It saved us back in the 1930s. Now more than ever we need a program thar raises us all up.

Stay well Haven!!


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 7:21 am said:

I suspect your media choices contribute to making my point. The NYT and PBS are feeding back what you want to read and hear. If you’d like to be told that the only issue in America is race, then you will be well served. Actually, in the opinion of many, there are other important issues as well.

To differ again, what about a bill the enabled people to lift themselves up rather than be lifted by the government?


Diana, December 25, 2020 at 8:40 am said:

Yes but i like to think nyt and pbs check their sources and focus on numerous topics. On second point, id note that in the middle of major crises we need National leadership to address the pandemic, economic inequality, the environment etc!! Always good to have strong local leadership too. Look at my home city Spokane. Its fighting mightily and well against the Virus. But its a losing battle because its Idaho neighbor is less engaged!!


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 11:53 am said:

I recommend this article from the Harvard Business Review

One way the politics industry maintains control is emphasizing partisanship. Everyone says my team is great, it is the other guys that are bad. And quietly the beat goes on and a corrupt system continues.


Sandy Faison, December 24, 2020 at 6:39 pm said:

I agree with all three. My impossible wish would be term limits. At least start with eliminating all pensions for Congress. It might motivate a few to go out and get a real job, if they haven’t already unduly enriched themselves in office.


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 7:14 am said:

It will not happen easily and will require much concerted effort.


Dick Friend, December 24, 2020 at 6:40 pm said:

Small consolation, Haven, that you are not alone. Australia has exactly these three issues: a political class that see themselves entitled to help themselves; a “higher” education industry that has become a slave to throughput (particularly overseas students); and mass media dominated by a couple of ideologues.
With your three “OUGHT” to happen wishes having “NOUGHT” chance of success if Australia is any example, I can only suggest we Biden our time, and gird our loins for a long haul recovery of intelligent public policy.
Meantime, have an excellent Xmas Day. Cheers!


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 7:12 am said:

Nobody seems to give up power and influence easily. It is at once disappointing that Australia has the same problems, but it also suggests the assessment is similar in both places. Similar problem, similar solution? Happy Boxing Day since you are hours ahead.


Richard Meyer, December 24, 2020 at 6:59 pm said:

Haven: I would exempt Bloomberg News and The Economist from your criticism of the media.


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 7:08 am said:

I will definitely try Bloomberg. The Economist has been a staple for several decades.


Jim Green, December 24, 2020 at 7:20 pm said:

Always good to look back and muse and even better to look forward and hope. Time, for better or worse, will tell whether “we” have learned anything from a most tumultuous year…cheers to all.


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 7:07 am said:

It would be nice if hopes were not so frequently dashed.


Chip Oat, December 24, 2020 at 8:52 pm said:

If not for the privileges, why would almost anyone bother?


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 7:05 am said:

Hmmmm, there is much to ponder in your comment, perhaps beginning with “if the privileges are the only reason, who do we get in those roles?”


Tom Resron, December 24, 2020 at 9:14 pm said:

How wonderful to hear Bob Kutak’s name called back. He was a prince among men. He had the courage to call things as he saw them, but he wrapped his blunt opinions in a first-rate and cheerfully welcoming spirit. What a guy!


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 6:59 am said:

Tom, I had no idea you knew him. He was the reason I went to law school and the reason Simmy and I moved both to Omaha and to Washington. His death in January 1983 was the second career changer for me.


Rick Spellman, December 25, 2020 at 10:04 am said:

Reformation of healthcare and pharmaceutical industries is on everybody’s list. Bob Kutak mentored many—- a contagious leader.


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 11:45 am said:

As a 10-day veteran of knee replacement surgery, I have a soft spot for the health care industry. Leave aside what it costs, we are pretty darned good at it.


Diana, December 28, 2020 at 8:12 am said:

Haven now its 12 days out. But wait til Wednesday to celebrate two weeks out!!


Jim Arundel, December 25, 2020 at 10:37 am said:

Merry Christmas Haven, I really appreciate your reference to Bob Kutak. I know there are many of us who try, sometimes in small ways, to keep his legacy alive as he inspired so many! It’s amazing what he accomplished in such a short time. Related to your post, I have been worried for some time about cyber security and we may have recently seen the beginning of what this new form of warfare may take in the future. Let’s hope 2021 is better for everyone and thanks for continuing to be the pundificator.


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 11:36 am said:

Thank you Jim. I am glad you enjoyed it. Bob’s is a memory well worth preserving for all the reasons you describe.


Peter W. Bragdon, December 25, 2020 at 12:32 pm said:

I am in your camp regarding a “soft spot” for modern medicine. I am alive because of medical treatments ranging from a new aortal valve from a cow to successful chemotherapy for Multiple Myeloma — one miracle after another.
Be safe- Pete


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 1:09 pm said:

And we are the better for the work they did on you. But shhhh… or people will start taking up for the cows.


John Austin Murphy, December 25, 2020 at 2:15 pm said:

Haven, it is just a coincidence, but this morning (Christmas 2020), on my WRIU-FM radio program, I played a recording made by Peter, Paul & Mary in Newport, in 1965. Perhaps you were there in the audience. The song I played, “Jesus Met A Woman At The Well”, clearly shows that Mary possessed an incredible talent.


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 6:14 pm said:

We could create a resurgence!


Garrard Glenn, December 25, 2020 at 4:37 pm said:

I had a healthcare company. Hence, I had an inside look at why our healthcare costs are twice what they are in all other developed countries. With lesser outcomes across the board. Nonetheless, when our system is at its best, there is none better.
Even so, 150,000 people die every year in the U.S. on account of bad drug interactions. 250,000 die because of medical mistakes and misdiagnoses.
The next decade will likely produce the beginning of a revolution in healthcare, which will rely increasingly on biotech and gene manipulation, so that ultimately fewer people will become ill in the first place. Let’s all resolve to be here to welcome these changes!


Haven Pell, December 25, 2020 at 6:15 pm said:

Let’s resolve to be here to welcome almost anything!


Tim Warburton, December 25, 2020 at 6:38 pm said:

Few bits of wisdom that haven’t changed much:

“The short memories of American voters is what keeps our politicians in office.”
“The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.”
“We always want the best man to win an election. Unfortunately, he never runs.”
“If we ever pass out as a great nation we ought to put on our tombstone ‘America died from a delusion that she had moral leadership.’”
“When I was a kid, I was told anyone could become President. Now I’m beginning to believe it.”
“For every nation and every individual, the principal worry is debt.”
“America has the best politicians money can buy.”
“There are men running governments who shouldn’t be allowed to play with matches.”
“Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re actually paying for.”
“A man in the country does his own thinking. Get him into town, and he will be thinking second-handed.”
“I would love to see Mr. (Henry) Ford in there, really. I don’t know who started the idea that a President must be a Politician instead of a Business man. A Politician can’t run any other kind of business. So there is no reason why he can run the U.S. That’s the biggest single business in the World.”
“Democrats are the only reason to vote for Republicans”

Courtesy of Will Smith who died in 1935…. many of these sayings are verging on a near century of accurate insight.
And on those news channels and newspapers, they are still only interested in adverting dollars.
Don’t forget what Will had to say about that:

“Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need.”


Haven Pell, December 26, 2020 at 9:12 am said:

Not only does Tim win the comments, he beat the story itself. Well done.


Tim Warburton, December 26, 2020 at 3:12 pm said:

One minor detail:
It was Will Rogers (NOT Will Smith)
It might be fair to say that while pleased to be so kindly singled out by old pal Haven, the applause surely belongs ever to Mr. Rogers, whose singular insight into the vanities of politicians has but few peers.


Haven Pell, December 26, 2020 at 3:18 pm said:

It is also more than slightly reassuring that the same problems have existed for eons and yet here we still are. This suggests that politics are not nearly as important as we are being “sold” they are.


Tim Warburton, December 26, 2020 at 4:13 pm said:

Well, when one thinks, as you so astutely mention in your opening statement that 14 Billion was spent this year, it certainly makes for plenty of employment. All for the election of individuals who offer “the best that money can buy”.

Haven Pell, December 27, 2020 at 9:50 am said:

They often argue that we spend less on elections than on potato chips or some other trivial product. They don’t seem to care that their services do far more harm than most other products.

Russell Seitz, December 25, 2020 at 9:19 pm said:

The First Night New Year’s eve celebration Clara Wainwright launched in Boston four decades ago has long since becom a national phenomenon but it’s not too late to repurpose the 2020 event as Last Night.

Such a gob-stopping Annus Horribiliis deserves fireworks enough to scare it back whence it came.

Happy Year End to us all !


Haven Pell, December 26, 2020 at 9:10 am said:

Strong chance of 2021 winning most improved year award


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