Every now and so often, we are reminded of how much the inexact art of prediction dominates all facets of American society. The numbers that are crunched by non-humans (computers) find their way into reports and models prepared by think tanks. They then become fodder for a whole slew of influential pundits and spokespeople, from town criers to news journalists, from ponzi scheme artists to financial analysts and economists, from weathermen and women, from CEOs and bankers, from preachers to Presidents, from farmers to diners, from sports commentators to the bookies who accept wagers on the big game. This entire country relies on somebody with some influence or swag saying what comes next, with an assured amount of undeserved certainty. Not much of this is very convincing because the results speak for themselves. They are often the complete opposite of what was deemed a sure thing not so long ago. We might all need to sign up for Gamblers Anonymous.
In the past decade, the national focus of prediction has either been on extreme weather disasters, economic upswings or downturns, and elections. Now with the Covid plague, everything is collapsed into one general topic…the number of tests that might be available, casualties and possible death totals, has the peak been reached yet, is the curve being flattened, the rate of unemployment, the state of the corporations and Wall Street, when will professional sports start up again, what about normalcy (?) returning, who will be the next President, will the food last or run out, when will the virus go away, will it come back, and when will the vaccine be discovered. Wait until a deadly monster storm hits amid the health pandemic. The predictors will have to look for an extra gearbox.
Trump’s whole spiel at his daily press misinformation conferences relies on false predictions from snake juice curers to nutty right wing conspiracy devil dodgers and pulpit pounders, and a whole bunch of the lunatic fringe and his obedient poodles in-between, a very disingenuous gang. Then on the ensuing panel, an expert rebuts him and that person is counting on another set of predictions. These may be more reliable than Trump’s (that’s not too difficult to top), but nonetheless they are eventually guesses, just more intelligent. It’s hard not to feel one is in a never ending game of three-card monte, with a different confidence trickster shuffling the deck each time. We are the perpetual marks. It’s akin to the Bill Murray film about the woodchuck.
Not too many of these professional public predictors are clean, no matter how noble or ignoble their intentions. The worst offenders might be the financial gurus, hedge fund bankers, and the Wall Street investment crowd. They will bet on things like the price of commodities (e.g. food) going up or down. Bugger the human consequences, they can convince entire sections of the world community to make drastic life-altering changes, for example to the price and perceived availability of food. But they do this with everything else, from imagined fuel shortages to fictitious capital. How are we supposed to know whether there is a real fuel shortage? We don’t own it, we know who does, and they can fiddle with the supply and cost as they please. The so-called system of checks and balances is thrown out of the window. Hell, it was never in the building.
We might as well spin the wheel with Pat Sajak and Vanna White. At least on Wheel of Fortune, there is a chance of hitting the big prize, possibly a vacation on a cruise ship. Playing the lottery seems like a worthwhile bet, money well invested. And the lottery is most popular among those that don’t stand much of a chance at working or ever earning a decent wage. That’s probably where our stimulus money is being hoarded, from the profits usurped by lucky number sales.
This all speaks volumes to the precarious nature of life under the rule of capital. Words like “expendable” or “essential” are tossed around as if they have no meaning or social import. This is the state of our world and it has been this way for a long time, back, long before Trump and the virus. Gypsies with their tarot cards and palm readings could well be more dependable. Why are the gypsies considered to be hustlers, when the CEO of Goldman Sachs is regarded as a straight arrow? After all, they are in the same business…let me tell you what the future has in store for you and it’s going to cost you.