Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tim Michels joined the group for lunch last week, celebrating the bright red wave that carried him to victory over incumbent Tony Evers in November’s mid-term elections.
That only happened in the alternate reality the often wrong but never in doubt members of the hapless group known only as Forecasters Anonymous predicted at the end of December 2021.
For newcomers to the subject—congratulate yourselves for remaining blissfully unaware to this date of such a pitiful exercise in futility—here’s a brief introduction to Forecasters Anonymous. Every year for longer than anyone can remember—even the elder member at age 91—the group has gathered near the end of one year to make predictions about the next. Members tend to be household names in the region, longtime leaders in industry, finance, academia and business. Not sure why I get in, although it’s probably because I work cheap and have a skill set sorely lacking among other members, namely the ability to make nouns and verbs fit into a coherent (sometimes) sentence.
Members insist on anonymity for good reason, because publicly revealing the names behind their sorry predictions would prove embarrassing in the extreme and strip away any carefully crafted images of competence. As Lincoln said, “Better to remain silent (or, in this case, anonymous) and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”
How wrong can one be in a random survey of questions about local, state and national conditions? Well.
The best among the group got 12 out of 30 questions wrong. That’s 60% right. I’m still able to recall, so long ago, the teachers who routinely shook their heads in disappointment as they graded my papers. A 60% score translated to an F, not that I ever received one of those—and, remember, journalists never lie.
So what was the lowest score among Forecasters’ members? It was 20 wrong out of 30. That, of course, is a third right—or .333. A score guaranteed to draw the teacher’s scorn. On the other hand, as a batting average it would put you in the Hall of Fame. Everything is relative.
Here are a few of the wild misses for 2022 recorded by the Forecasters:
The Green Bay Packers did not win the Super Bowl. The victory went to the Rams.
Home buyers could not get 3-4% mortgages toward the end of the year. The going rate is about 6-7%.
Gasoline prices? Most believed it would stay sky-high, while falling prices are in the $3 range.
There was doubt the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, but that’s exactly what the justices ruled.
Almost no one saw season attendance at ABC Supply Stadium games reaching six figures, but the number turned out to be 102,794.
Would a disabled Tiger Woods play a PGA Tour event? Most said no, the answer is yes.
Enough of the past. Let’s look to the future.
Past records of futility aside, Forecasters members have boldly tried again. Here’s what the Forecasters see for 2023:
The U.S. economy will fall into recession. It should be noted, by the way, that members struggled to define what constitutes a recession, so take it with a grain of salt.
The price of gasoline will be stable, at around $3.25.
Mortgage interest rates will dip slightly, to around 5.5%.
The Dow Jones average will end the year at about 34,000.
The Astros will win the World Series. Either Philadelphia or Kansas City will win the Super Bowl.
Former President Trump will be indicted on criminal charges.
Hunter Biden will not.
The Republican-backed candidate for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court will win in the spring election, maintaining conservatives’ 4-3 majority. It’s a nonpartisan election, so it’s wrong to say the voting pits Republicans and Democrats against each other. Right?
The School District of Beloit’s proposed referendum will be defeated.
But the district will change its grade configuration model. Again.
Both Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom will seek their party’s presidential nomination.
Beloit will hire its next city manager from outside the community, shunning any potential inside candidates.
There’s more, but discretion suggests the Forecasters can only stand so much embarrassment. We’ll see how it all turns out next December.
Meanwhile, Dear Readers, the group wishes you a Happy New Year and urges you to live your lives without concern for whatever dire predictions may be heard. After all, they’re probably wrong anyway. As the old saying goes, life is what happens while you’re making other plans.
Bill Barth is the former Editor of the Beloit Daily News, and a member of the Wisconsin Newspaper Hall of Fame. Write to him at email@example.com.