Predicting what won’t happen in 2012

Having had little success in predicting what will happen in a new year, let’s try forecasting what will not occur.

Having had little success in predicting what will happen in a new year, let’s try forecasting what will not occur.

The world will not end on December 21 despite all the attention being given to the end of a cycle in the Mayan calendar.

If this prediction is entirely wrong, my mistake won’t matter in the bigger scheme of things.

People will not lose their fascination with the idea of an apocalypse even though the latest version of such prophesies received so much attention.

There is obviously something very attractive about an end of the world which we can do nothing about.  Maybe it’s because we can lay aside for a little while our worry over what we could change.

Turning to those things which humans could change, government at every level presents opportunities for predicting what won’t happen.

Even if the national economy begins to grow at a healthy pace, people will not agree about the cause — especially when the cause might be something done by their political opposition.

If the economy continues growing at a snail’s pace, or falls back into recession, people on both sides of the political spectrum will not be able to prove what specific policies failed or what other policies would have helped.

Whether the economy is good or bad, government leaders at the state and local level will not bring spending into line with revenues while also continuing to provide services at an appropriate level.

The alternative to things like furloughs, reduced hours of operation, and eliminating programs is too politically painful to do, i.e., reduce employee compensation.

At both the state and local levels, certain aspects of total compensation appear to be contributing to the problem of budget imbalance.

The rising cost of medical insurance benefits paid as part of total compensation has outstripped revenue growth partly because state and local government employees pay a much lower share of their premiums than do their counterparts in the federal government.

This situation won’t change, at least not enough to make a substantial dent in the budget gaps that appear each year.

Spending that increased during the “bubble” economy prior to 2008 presents an obvious target for reductions, but not every target can be hit.

As an example, many school districts agreed to increase the compensation of their instructional staff by adding the equivalent of several days’ pay into their supplemental contracts.

This was possible because of an increase in state funding under the terms of Initiative 728 — funding that has now disappeared.

While alternatives such as reducing the number of days in the school year are discussed and the number of teachers is reduced, that increased pay in supplemental contracts continues for the teachers who remain employed.

Despite the frequent advocacy by the public school establishment for smaller class sizes, reducing this supplemental pay to the pre-bubble level in order to retain more teaching positions won’t happen.

On the revenue side of the equation, the limit on annual property tax levy increases that has been in effect for 10 years will be noted by our county commissioners as a problem, but they will not develop a proposal for a lid lift that voters might approve.

The limit also has affected revenue from the state levy which can only be spent on public schools, but our representatives will not turn to this possible source of increased revenue to avoid cuts in state school funding.

Finding a middle ground where both spending cuts and revenue increases balance budgets without reducing levels of service inappropriately could be done, but it will take such changes in expectations and habits that it won’t be this year.

We’ll see if predicting what won’t happen is any more successful than saying what will occur.

It has an advantage over the usual forecasts of coming events — I won’t mind being wrong.

Well, probably I’d mind being wrong about that Mayan calendar thing.


Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.