Francisco Franco Is Still Dead
Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Do It Now

Wessel the Amazing Makes Four Predictions

David Wessel makes four predictions for 2006. Hasn't anyone told him that you predict either a number (or an event) or a date, but not both? - Capital : Making predictions in a column requires balance between the provocative (and implausible) and the plausible (and dull). With that goal, here are four educated guesses about 2006.

Ben Bernanke's first interest-rate move as U.S. Federal Reserve chairman will be to cut rates.... Mr. Bernanke aced his confirmation hearings. Now come... Avoiding quips that unintentionally move markets.... And... moving rates the right way.... The next call is Mr. Bernanke's.... with oil prices receding, and with wages rising (painfully) slowly while productivity climbs (encouragingly) briskly, inflation is barely stirring.... Mr. Bernanke may... leave [interest rates] alone until a weakening economy some day causes him to cut rates.

A big bankruptcy will rattle the U.S., and shake political support for unfettered global trade. Maybe it will be General Motors, maybe Ford Motor, maybe some other old, unionized industrial company... bankruptcy court... is a way to shed not only debt, but also union contracts and health and pension benefits.... The workers who get hurt are those who played by all the rules. That doesn't sit well with the public, even with consumers who cheerfully buy Japanese cars or Chinese sweaters.... An epochal bankruptcy could push Congress to impose tariffs or to force the Bush administration to do more than jawbone China on exchange rates or to block approval of new free-trade pacts.

Health care will emerge as a big issue in the 2006 U.S. congressional elections, forcing 2008 presidential candidates to promise action. In 1991, neophyte politician Harris Wofford became the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania in about 30 years by arguing that every American should have the right to health care.... now big companies, which helped thwart the Clintons and shunned John Kerry's health-care proposals, are really worried. When the public and big business agree on an issue, it finds its way onto the national agenda....

The gap between winners and losers in the U.S. will keep widening. In a 1998 book, a colleague and I predicted technology would propel faster economic growth and a growing supply of educated workers would narrow the gap between high- and low-paid workers over the ensuing 20 years. We were right on the first, and only temporarily (in the late 1990s) right on the second. Next year won't help our case. By nearly every measure... inequality is growing.... The politicians in charge believe resisting these forces is counterproductive.... Mr. Greenspan, a card-carrying conservative, sees a need to do more than we are. "Equal opportunity requires equal access to knowledge," he has said. "We cannot expect everyone to be equally skilled. But we need to pursue equality of opportunity to ensure that our economic system works at maximum efficiency and is perceived as just."