The new year doesn't look very new. Rather, it's shaping up to be a 2012 rerun. Americans may find it hard to look ahead when persistent troubles threaten to spoil the future like a bad New Year's Day hangover.
President Obama cut short his Hawaiian holiday and return to Washington Thursday to deal with the "fiscal cliff" that has loomed large since 2011. Americans await the outcome of his negotiations with Congress to see whether they will go over the cliff now -- or later. Either way, overspending has already rung up $16.4 trillion in debt and hard times lie ahead both here and abroad.
U.S. economists are feeling the pessimism with forecasts of persistently sluggish growth of around 2 percent for the new year. This falls well short of the 4 percent or better needed to put a kick back in the American industrial engine. Overseas, the economic outlook for America's trading partners isn't much better. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has downgraded its forecast of global economic growth for 2013 from 3.4 percent to 2.9 percent and predicted the eurozone would follow an estimated economic contraction of 0.4 percent in 2012 with another shrinkage of 0.1 percent next year.
Still, while Western nations languish, unable or unwilling to rein in their overspending, Asian nations look to forge ahead in 2013. China, which expects to finish 2012 with an annual growth of around 7.7 percent, is forecasting a stronger result in the new year of about 8.2 percent. India is likely to improve its 2012 growth rate of about 7.1 percent with 7.7 percent next year.
Meanwhile, tensions in the Middle East persist as the Islamist movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood consolidates its power in Egypt and Libya. The new year is likely to see the regime of Bashar Assad fall to the extremist forces in Syria that include al Qaeda. Moderate Jordan will probably become the next target for the anti-Western forces. If it too succumbs, the encirclement of American ally Israel will be complete.
Away from the front lines, Iran continues its relentless quest for nuclear weapons, which its hard-line rulers have threatened in metaphorical code to use on the Jewish state. All the while, Tehran prosecutes a stealth campaign against its regional rival, Saudi Arabia, as evidenced by its Aug. 15 cyber-attack on Saudi Aramco, the kingdom's largest oil company. A threat against oil is a threat to the global economy, extending doubt far beyond the Middle East.
One thing different about this new year is the numeral 13 -- not exactly a lucky number. Troubles that have bedeviled the new century showing no sign of subsiding. We have an old president sent back to the Oval Office to implement ideas borrowed liberally from President Jimmy Carter, who never won his shot at a second term. All Americans can do now is return to the task of hoping for change.
The Washington Times
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