Forecasters take another stab at predictions

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ONE MIGHT think, to be included in a group known for making bold predictions each New Year, individuals would have to possess a long and impressive record of seeing over the horizon.

Such individuals would be uncommonly wise, with extraordinary knowledge of matters large and small.

They would set a standard of excellence people could count on to plan strategies to succeed over the next 12 months. The pronouncements eagerly would be awaited by an adoring public, awaiting guidance from the best and brightest our region has to offer.

INSTEAD, readers each year get this mostly laughable recitation of miserable predictions from Forecasters Anonymous, a group hiding behind the veil of secrecy to avoid accountability for its legendary rate of failure.

Forecasters meet each year at the close of December to go over predictions made the year before, followed by a new set of look-outs for the following 12 months. The event includes lunch but no liquor - which is unfortunate, because at least then there would be something to blame for the annual aggregation of wrong answers.

How bad is it?

Well.

Usually, there are 30 questions posed for the members to answer with their best predictions.

The best performer got 20 right and 10 wrong. That's a score of about 67 percent. Back when most of us went to school - and that was a long, long time ago for the majority of this outfit - a score of 67 percent was an "F."

The worst? That would be the pathetic soul who got 18 wrong - a score of 40 percent, so far into the failure category readers now understand the necessity to maintain strict anonymity. That level of shame could cause a person to become phobic about going out in daylight.

MY JOB each year is to record and report this mess. I wish it was "fake news," and I could report the amazing accuracy of the group's predictions. But that would be a lie and I'm one of those old-fashioned journalists who tries to tell the truth - except, perhaps, for a harmless lie about how much weight I've gained during the holidays.

So, let's get on with last year's predictions and how Forecasters Anonymous - mostly high-ranking folks from the worlds of business, finance, academia and more - fared:

• Most thought both Lori Luther and Tom Johnson would still hold the top city and school jobs. Johnson resigned recently due to health issues; Luther is still city manager.

• Most expected Democrats to filibuster President Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, Neil Gorsuch sailed through without much trouble.

• The group was optimistic, and expected the Dow Jones average to be around 19,000 to 20,000. But not optimistic enough; the Dow closed around 24,750.

• About half the group thought Tiger Woods would win a golf tournament. He didn't even play most of the year.

• File this in the "homer" category. Most expected (wanted) the Packers to win the Super Bowl.

• Here's one they got right: Golden State would win the NBA championship. That's almost as sure as predicting Wisconsin would be cold in winter.

• Speaking of sure things, the group expected Scott Walker - whose ambition for higher office is no secret - to run for a third term as Wisconsin's governor.

• The group thought nearly four feet of snow would fall last winter. Thankfully, that was way off and the ground stayed mostly bare for much of the season.

AS FOR this year's predictions looking out over the next 12 months? A few highlights:

• Town of Beloit voters will approve incorporation, cementing the divorce from the city.

• No one from President Trump's family will be indicted.

• Scott Walker will win a third term, and Tammy Baldwin will retain her seat in the U.S. Senate.

• About half believe Democrats will capture control of at least one house of Congress - and that's from a group of business folks, tending to lean right.

• Kevin Leavy will do another term as Beloit's city council president, and Laurie Endres will remain president of the Beloit school board.

• The Supreme Court will not interfere with partisan gerrymandering.

• The Bears will still suck.

• The Patriots will win the Super Bowl, and those Warriors again will capture the NBA championship.

• The Purple Knights will have to wait another year for a winning football season.

• America will not go to war with North Korea (say a prayer, everybody).

• The Dow will keep rising, finishing 2018 around 26,500.

• South Beloit voters will approve a new city hall/library complex, Beloit Turner's facilities referendum will pass.

• The Oscar for Best Actor? Give it to Gary Oldman for his portrayal of Winston Churchill.

SO, WHO knows, maybe next year the group's overall accuracy will improve.

Then again, part of the fun of life is never knowing what's around that next corner.

Just live well, be healthy, take care of yourself, your family, and our shared great community.

William Barth is the Editor of the Beloit Daily News.

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