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By Tom Cushing

What Are Your National Stories of the Year, 2014?

Uploaded: Jan 7, 2014

Now that the weirdly long, drawn-out Holiday season is past, do we dare we look into the murky new year's crystal ball? Of course we do! Which tales will be the tops in 2014 when we revisit this post in December? Take a shot at your Top Three from this list – and add your own write-ins. There may be prizes for the best prognostications – although it may be difficult to award them to alter-egos. Anonymity has its privileges, and also some costs – anyway, we have all year to figure it out.

So, here are some candidates for top stories, in no particular order. We'll do national issues this time, and international, state and hardy perennial stories later in the week.

* -- immigration reform passes/fails: much has been made of the GOP's need to attract Hispanic voters, who make-up a growing, identifiable political bloc (that will nearly double to 40M by 2030). Immigration is a significant issue for them, although it's easy to oversimplify the interests of a community more diverse than some gringos might suspect (in fact, that issue ranks fifth among Latino voters: education's number one). Texan George W. Bush attracted 44% in 2004, whereas Mr. Romney garnered a much lower percentage (27%) of a larger number last time around.

That news has reached the Senate, which passed a pragmatic bi-partisan compromise in 2013. That bill has languished in the news-immune House, but Speaker Boehner has signaled some interest. It IS an election year, after all.

I believe it will happen, piecemeal and painfully. That said, it's too little, too late for the GOP – especially when combined with strenuous state and local GOP efforts to restrict voting, in the flimsy guise of fraud avoidance. Most folks can differentiate window-dressing from commitment.

* -- systemic inequity issue gains traction: the Dems have been suckered into adopting the unfriendly term "income inequality" to define the problems of middle class malaise, wage stagnation, a stale economy, deindustrialization, etc. No one is calling for equality of incomes, which is a dog-whistle for dreaded socialism (and an 'out'come, anyway). What is sought is a rebalancing of the domestic table that is now slanted toward the most fortunate – inequitably and unsustainably.

With even the Pope is calling for some reform, this issue will get attention. If the feds conclude that they can address it by simply throwing a minimum wage bone to the rabble, however, a huge opportunity to invest in a better future for all our progeny will have been missed.

* -- the Dems/GOP take the House/Senate: the midterm election outcomes will be significant in their own right, and color everything else. This season's electoral Sweeps will have two stages, with pitched Primary battles for the Republican Party's soul, followed by the general elections. The TeaPers handed the Dems a huge favor by driving their ill-considered government shutdown – which those fair-minded Dems promptly returned by bolloxing-up the ACA roll-out.

* -- speaking of which, ObamaCare will remain in the news. Sign-ups, by pace and age distribution, will continue to make news, but when the sky fails to fall, resistance is likely to recede. Perhaps then the society can come to focus on the other major problem with medicine (besides access to it): its co$t. The unholy alliance of providers and insurers to keep pricing information away from patients and corporate payors, unnaturally inflates treatment costs, often several-fold. It will begin to crumble, as corporate America begins to focus, and get creative with it.

* -- A definitive same-sex marriage ruling? I'm guessing this is a 2015 issue, based on timing. Utah's case will be argued at the intermediate appeal level in March or April, leaving too little time before the SCOTUS goes on hiatus in June. Given the bob-n-weave routines of these Supremes on the issue (you can't hurry love, after all), the budding political consensus in favor of S-SM may actually work against it. If enough states are trending rational on this issue via the political process, the Justices may conclude that they can duck the important Constitutional mandate. BTW, does anybody else despise the acronym SCOTUS? To my ear, it manages to sound both pretentious and vaguely carnal.

* -- Secrecy/Security/Spying/Snowden: revelations about the excesses of unfettered secret NSA processes will continue, as will the debate about whether they even make us safer. The NY Times recently called-for an amnesty for whistleblower Snowden. While that seems unlikely, pressure for some manner of compromise regarding his status will build, assuming his leaks continue, and continue to be credible. Those who question hisbona fides, and his manly bits, based on his preference to bargain his fate from beyond the jurisdiction have never contemplated the terrible risks he's taken by bearding the might-and-majesty of the federal government lion, in its den.

How'd I do? What are your domestic issues for the new year?

Next time: Global, State-wide and Hardy Perennial issues.