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Published: Friday, 1/1/2010

Pollyanna sees wonderful things ahead in new year

PUNDITS-R-Us was short on help during the holidays and, in its haste to fill caustic commentary slots, inadvertently hired a passing Pollyanna to opine. Needless to say the cup-half-full applicant was brimming with optimism about the New Year and gleefully submitted the rosiest predictions in no particular order.

Sports: If hope springs eternal, football fans will celebrate the Cleveland Browns winning the Super Bowl in 2010, and Tribe ticket holders will cheer as the Indian's pitching staff wins another Cy Young, leading the team to division championship and greater glory.

Tiger Woods will join a monastery and dedicate the rest of his life to helping monks improve their swing. In a show of solidarity with the philandering pro golfer, politicians will abstain from adultery and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford will actually take a hike.

Politics: Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland will propose casinos at all the rest stops in the state to fund schools, but Senate Republicans will veto that along with school-funding reform. In Washington, President Obama will refrain from talking everything to death and try to use his bully pulpit for more than a middle-of-the-road marker.

He may even summon anger at members of his own party for not giving him the mandate voters did. In the next 12 months the President will stand for something - anything - and aggressively hold people's feet to the fire to effect bona fide change.

More politics: Over on Capitol Hill, the majority party will, at long last, find its backbone and with it surprising boldness to withstand the bluster of obstructionists. But the ranting of the just-say-no crowd will dissipate after Republicans, who see the light of working with Democrats in the national interest, abandon old tactics of impeding whatever the opposition proposes.

Health-care reform is realized with cost-savings, universal coverage, and lower insurance, medical, and prescription prices for all. After health care, federal deficit reduction will be a breeze.

The GOP hopes winning in 2010 will be too. Just in time for the elections, the party will stop destroying itself from within and unite around celebrity standard-bearer Sarah Palin. You betcha the madcap maverick will go mainstream after going rogue, churning out position papers on economics, global warming, world affairs, and moose-hunting.

Meanwhile, feuding Democrats will make peace with each other but hold a grudge. Nancy Pelosi will grimace less as House Speaker but glare more at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will compromise himself out of a job.

And speaking of sellouts, Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman will once again represent his Connecticut constituency instead of insurance conglomerates in his state. But the move will leave businesses unfazed as they rebound across the country, embracing long-range profit-building over quarter-by-quarter jitters.

Finance: Banks will realize the errors of their ways and renegotiate mortgage loans to rescue every homeowner sweating foreclosure. And Wall Street fat cats will put limits on excesses and reinvest in America, rather than China, India, or Mexico.

Shuttered factories will reopen, new enterprises break ground, and double-digit unemployment disappear. Prosperity will finally arrive along with peace on earth.

Foreign: In Afghanistan, the Taliban will lay down their arms, switch growing poppies for bio-fuels, and move to join the European Union. Pakistan makes lasting peace with India and expels extremist Muslims from its borders, forcing Osama bin Laden to crawl under a new rock.

In 2010, America finally sees Iraq in its rear-view mirror and watches Iran desert its nuclear program, open Starbucks, and initiate fair and democratic elections to facilitate national and regional harmony.

Inspired Palestinians elect a reasonable leader to negotiate with Israel, and Benjamin Netanyahu brings an olive branch to the table. But with North Korea leader Kim Jung Il still crazy after all these years, even a passing Pollyanna can't dream up a positive prognosis for his starving, isolated, xenophobic, threatening dictatorship.

Wishful thinking: Through rose-colored glasses, sports teams without a chance become champions, progress advances despite politics, health-care reform is real, education is funded, the economy flourishes, and warring tribal factions in ancient lands choose modernity over mortars.

But if wishful thinking could make one prediction come true, I'd hope for jobs - good-paying, stable jobs.

The unemployment that has sidelined hundreds of thousands of Americans for long, painful periods of time is a crushing curse that needs to be lifted if the nation is to ever regain lost ground. That may not be how Pollyanna would put it, but she has a job.

Marilou Johanek is a Blade commentary writer.

Contact her at: mjohanek@theblade.com

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