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This is not a good way to end a year.

2018 had such promise. Tax cuts promised to stimulate a sluggish economy -- and they did -- the stock market opened the year strong, boosting consumer confidence and retirement portfolios, unemployment was steadily dropping and wages were finally climbing.

North Korea showed signs of backing away from its nuclear ambitions and ISIS was breathing its last gasps in the Middle East.

But as the year ends, there's a "to hell in a handbasket" air about things.

While most economic indicators remain strong, sentiment is trending toward the inevitability of a recession, and perhaps sooner than anticipated. 

The trade war declared by President Donald Trump is taking its toll, particularly on the automotive and agriculture industries. Six months into the president's tariff strategy and there's still no clear end game. What does the president want, and how long is he willing to play an economic attrition game to get it?

Interests rates are climbing, some would say faster than warranted, and combined with the uncertainty over trade is tanking the stock market. The markets were on track to post the worst December since the Great Depression before a record, 1,000 point-plus comeback Wednesday, driven by outstanding holiday spending reports. 

By Thursday, though, the market was in turmoil again, with a late turnaround after a steep dive.

Overseas, progress on the denuclearization talks with North Korea seem to be going nowhere, although we are still in a better place than a year ago, when Kim Jong Un was firing test missiles over Japan.

In the Middle East, Trump surprised even his own top advisors by announcing a pull-out of American troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The seemingly rash decision led to the resignation of respected Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. 

And Russia handed the world a chilling New Year's greeting by announcing it has successfully tested a hypersonic missile impervious to American defenses. And it intends to deploy it in the Caribbean perhaps as early as next year. 

It seems almost a fitting capper that the federal government ends the year in a partial shutdown that has no end in sight. The standoff between Trump and Congress over funding for a southern border wall is now a week old and neither side seems willing to give an inch.

While most Americans have not been impacted yet by the shutdown, that will change if it drags on. Government workers can't be expected to stay on the job forever without a paycheck.

2018 was a good year gone bad for no good reason. Most of the misery that surfaced at year's end was self-inflicted.

Hurry on out of here 2018. And may 2019 be more stable, rational and productive.

  

 

 

 

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