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Ponnuru: Predictions for ‘13, audacious and otherwise

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Some things about 2013 are easy to predict. We know that taxes are going to rise, and so will the federal debt. We know that there will be more guns in circulation at the end of the year than at the beginning. We know that Donald Trump will get attention for saying something boorish.

It will also be a year of unexpected setbacks for President Barack Obama’s health care law. (Unexpected, that is, except by readers of this column.) Its supporters may believe that with the Supreme Court having mostly upheld the plan, and Democrats having kept control of the White House and Senate, the law is no longer vulnerable to attack. It is still, however, vulnerable to its own flaws.

Predictions: Premiums will go up, especially for young people. The Washington Post’s recent report that “Obamacare exchanges will open for business” on Oct. 1 will be proved false when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admits the federal government won’t be ready by then. The Obama administration will propose further delaying the law. Democratic hopes that it will one day prove popular will continue to be frustrated.

The controversy over contraceptives and Catholic institutions isn’t going away because of the election, either. Most federal courts will rule that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act means that employers with religious objections to covering contraceptives and abortion drugs – even employers who aren’t running religious organizations – can’t be forced to do it.

The Supreme Court won’t decide that the Constitution requires state governments to recognize same-sex marriage. It won’t rule out the possibility that it includes that requirement, either. Instead, it will find a way not to settle that issue.

There will be no tax reform, because members of Congress will look at the biggest breaks in the tax code and realize that they don’t actually want to get rid of any of them. There will also be no corporate-tax reform, because small business and big business don’t see eye to eye on it. There will be another debt-limit fight, which will cause another credit downgrade that will again have no detectible influence on the markets in labor, stocks or credit.

The Syrian regime will fall, and hopes for a liberal future in that country will fade just as quickly as they are fading in Egypt. Japan and South Korea will adopt increasingly independent, and militaristic, foreign policies in their region.

In happier news, the continuing economic trouble in Europe will become a smaller and smaller problem for the global economy. The main reason: The United States, Britain and Japan are all moving toward a new monetary regime that limits the effects of demand shocks.

There are typically only a few high-profile political races in the years after presidential elections: those for governor of New Jersey and Virginia and for mayor of New York. Political reporters tend to invest the first two of those with outsized importance as indicators of political trends. This year they will get a split decision, with Republican Chris Christie winning re-election in New Jersey and Democrat Terry McAuliffe narrowly winning in Virginia.

Christie’s victory in a solidly blue state will renew speculation about a presidential run in 2016. He will have a lot of company in the rumor mill, because no Republican has a sufficiently strong national network to push other candidates out of the field the way Mitt Romney did in the last campaign. One subplot sure to get an increasing amount of media attention is tension between Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. Both are Cuban-American Republicans thought to have presidential ambitions; however either feels about the other, those ambitions will collide.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will find that the constraints of serving in the House make it impossible for him to mount a serious presidential campaign. He will therefore resign, saying he wants to promote new conservative ideas from outside Congress. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, rebounding from low poll numbers, will start exploring a presidential run of his own.

A slew of Catholic Democrats – Vice President Joe Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley among them – will wait to see Hillary Rodham Clinton’s plans before deciding whether to run. In another close contest, Illinois and California will compete to see which of the blue states can go bankrupt first.

And the entire Internet will crash when it is revealed that Kate Middleton is having twins.

I haven’t gone out far on any limbs in this column. Still, if any of these predictions prove mistaken, I’m not giving you a refund.

• Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor at National Review.

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