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A Look Back At The Year Ahead
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A Look Back At The Year Ahead

To:
Daniel Franklin
Executive editor,
The Economist

Dean Baquet
Executive editor,
New York Times

Dear Messrs.
Franklin and Baquet:

Both of your benchmark journalistic products produce an end-of-the-year review; this year was no exception. But as a millennial might say, that’s so retro. In the coming year, forward looking is in, hence this is the 2015 year in review a bit early.

National politics

2015 was the year that saw politics never end. By the end of the year, it was clear that a strange form of political redux started to take shape: Clinton vs. Bush. While no delegates had been chosen either by caucus or primary by the end of the year, the “money vote” was well in hand. In a less-noticed development, due to compromise legislation adopted at the very end of 2014 as part of the spending bill, contribution limits to political party accounts were greatly increased. This had the effect of increasing the leverage of the “money” frontrunners in both major political parties.

In Congress, with one exception, only those things that had to be done got done. Hundreds of tax deductions, which had expired on Jan. 1, 2015, were finally approved retroactively at the end of 2015—just like 2014. While no business would run this way in the real world, this became business as usual in D.C.

The one legislative exception was the Keystone XL pipeline project. While the ninth compromise legislation dealing with the Keystone pipeline project remains stalled at the writing of this column, it appears that it will ultimately pass with several hundred amendments, many of them aimed at immigration reform. In other words, business as usual.

U.S. economy

To the surprise of nobody, and as predicted in 2011, the Federal Reserve actually increased its discount rate by one-quarter of 1 percent in Q2. Oil dropped below $60 a barrel, and even though many pundits had predicted the end of the U.S. economy, to many people’s surprise, cheap energy turned out to be a positive for the growth of the national economy. While many were hoping for a happy return to the explosive economic expansion days of the Arab oil embargo of 1973, lower oil prices led to steady economic growth.

Social media

The social media revolution continued to remake our economy. With social media being the disruptive force remaking the hotel industry, the travel industry, even taxi cabs, the year started to see the emergence of a new social media phenomenon—Uber Alles—which completely replaced the need for any human interaction of any kind and substituted the use of avatars.

Minnesota political scene

2015 saw continuation of the civility that inexplicably crept into the 2014 Minnesota elections. A begrudging undercurrent developed that Gov. Mark Dayton was indeed doing a competent job. Part of this was no doubt the result of no legislative effort at governmental shutdown, as in 2011. Readers will recall that shutdown ended when it became clear that beer distributors would be unable to extend their licenses and consequently, a beer shortage was about to grip the state. No one in the State Capitol wished to face a similar beer problem and that, coupled with a $1 billion surplus, made 2015’s legislative session uneventful.

Sports

While the Vikings and Timberwolves had disappointing seasons, the Wild went deep into the playoffs and the Twins had a resurgence under their new manager, Paul Molitor. Terry Ryan and Jim Pohlad surprised the Twins’ fan base by re-signing Terry Steinbach as a catcher and bringing Bert Blyleven back to pitch (but only home games). The reinstitution of Herb Carneal and Halsey Hall audio clips to run before innings also proved to be popular. The ageless Torii Hunter hit .280 again. Astute fans noted an undersized boy from Chicago in a Twins uniform trying to enter the players’ locker room.

The Strib

The state’s largest newspaper, under the new ownership of Glen Taylor, expanded its coverage in 2015, including a daily six-page supplement called Wolf Whistle, which featured every basketball player who had either visited or played in Minnesota. Sid Hartman received the newly created AARP Journalism Award for writing his 1,000th column lauding Flip Saunders.

Twin Cities

Mayor Chris Coleman continued his steady leadership of the Capital City with no controversy. The mayor did announce plans for the creation of a downtown miniature golf course to help compete with the money spent in Minneapolis for its baseball park, football stadium, refurbished Wolves’ stadium and TCF Bank Stadium. In Minneapolis, Mayor Betsy Hodges gave up her not-so-secret membership in the Disciples Motorcycle Gang.

Airline travelers

The Twin Cities is fortunate to be served by Delta Air Lines, because a lack of direct service would hurt our economy. And it was Delta that announced first the creation of five classes of service, but by the middle of the year, announced a sixth class of service called “pole” service. In announcing this service, the airline noted that almost all of the seats were indoors and that it was inaccurate to refer to its pole service as “cargo” service. The new service, which relies on converting Airbuses to actual buses, featured strategically located poles that fliers could grab on to while they enjoyed the unique “customer support” system. Relying on its Northwest Orient heritage, the airline made use of men wearing white gloves to pack the customer space. Other airlines quickly followed suit.

All in all, 2015 was a very good year. The economy continued to improve, and we all became more forward-looking.

Looking forward to 2016, I remain,

Sincerely,
Vance K. Opperman
A Forward-Looking Non-Millennial

Vance K. Opperman (vopperman@keyinvestment.com) is owner and CEO of MSP Communications, which publishes Twin Cities Business.

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