Analysis & Opinions - Politico

Trump Year One: Place Your Bets

| January 31, 2017

Think you can predict what will happen in 2017? Try our contest.

Yogi Berra warned against making bets—especially about the future. Pundits and experts heed his warning to avoid their greatest fear: being found to be wrong.

We all know that the future is uncertain. But unless we die in the meantime, we also know that what happens in the year ahead will affect us. On Jan. 20, 2018, the Dow Jones index may be 10 percent higher than it is today—or it may be 10 percent lower. World leaders like Trump, Putin, Xi, Merkel, Erdogan, Sisi, and Netanyahu may be leading their respective countries—or one or more may be gone. U.S. relations with Russia, China, Germany, Israel, and Mexico may be better—or they may be worse.

The safe posture for those “in the know” is to enumerate possibilities, surround them with suggestive ambiguities, but then—and most importantly—to leave enough wiggle room to accommodate whatever happens. Those whose responsibilities require them to make choices, however, cannot simply admire problems or illuminate the uncertainties. Neither investors (responsible for their nest egg) nor policymakers (responsible for their country) can avoid making bets.

Making informed bets requires recognizing uncertainties, assessing all the factors as best we can, but then sucking our thumb and stating our best estimate. The attempt to "play it safe" by standing on the sidelines only offers protection from criticism for being explicitly wrong—not from the consequences of the unavoidable future.

To make this less abstract, consider your own personal savings. Will the U.S. stock market go up in the year ahead—or down? Unwilling to place a bet, many leave their liquid assets in savings or money-market accounts, and inflation usually eats whatever meager interest they earn.

Surveying the international chessboard, if events in Syria or Mexico, Ukraine or the South China Sea just take their course, this time next year policymakers will likely face an even more difficult array of hard choices. By choosing not to act in 2012 as the Syrian tragedy unfolded, President Barack Obama found himself confronting an even less attractive set of choices each year thereafter. By choosing not to act in Syria in 2015, Obama left a vacuum into which Russia’s Vladimir Putin could move. By forecasting that Putin's intervention would only result in Russia finding itself in a “quagmire,” Obama missed the possibility that Putin could demonstrate that there was a military solution in which Bashar Assad could reestablish control over most of Syria. Moreover, he missed the possibility that a nation he dismissed as a “regional power” could reestablish itself as a major player in the Middle East—and displace the U.S. as the leading power shaping the future of Syria.

In sum: The real world offers no opportunity to opt out. We may try to escape responsibility by refusing to choose. But we cannot escape the consequences. Whether we make our bets explicitly, or only implicitly, stuff happens. Whether we act on the basis of our bets or not, the real world grinds on. Painful as it is, therefore, we must analyze the confusion as best we can, place our bets, and take the consequences.

What will happen in the world of foreign affairs in the first year of the Trump presidency? Obviously, no one knows. But this article invites readers to summon their courage and register their bets. Readers have two opportunities. First, they can make their bet on any of the 20 wagers offered below. To qualify for listing in the Belfer/POLITICO Magazine Bet Book for 2017, readers need only to answer the multiple-choice wagers at this link (and stated below). In addition to each answer, they are encouraged (but not required) to add a sentence summarizing their reasoning. The best of these will also be listed on the Belfer/POLITICO Magazine Bet Book site with attribution. All bets on the 20 wagers must be received by February 7, 2017. On Jan. 20, 2018, the panel will determine who won which bets, announce the winners and award the prizes.


  1. Economics: The “Trump bounce” in the 7 weeks after the election of 2016 that added $1.5 trillion in value to U.S. equities will
    (a) have extended through 2017 to become the “Trump boom,” pushing the Dow above 21,000, where it will remain at year end;
    (b) have stalled by mid-year, settling between 20,000 and 21,000; or
    (c) have fallen back below 20,000 by the end of 2017.
  2. Economics: The U.S. economy in 2017 will
    (a) grow above 3 percent for the first time since the Great Recession;
    (b) remain around the 2 percent level seen in the later Obama years; or
    (c) grow less than 2 percent.
  3. Trump impeachment or resignation: On Jan. 20, 2018, Trump
    (a) will be president; or
    (b) will not be president, having been impeached, resigned, or otherwise left office.
  4. China: Trump will
    (a) spotlight China’s cheating as the primary cause of American economic decline, but not take meaningful action to inhibit trade with China; or
    (b) engage in a serious tariff or trade conflict with China; or
    (c) make a deal to reduce China’s trade deficit with the U.S. over the next several years.
  5. Russia: The most frequently used adjective in the policy community for describing Putin’s Russia at the end of 2017 will be
    (a) “down”;
    (b) “out”; or
    (c) “back.”
  6. Russia: Assessed from the perspective of American national interests, relations with Russia will be
    (a) substantially better than they were in the last 2 years of the Obama administration;
    (b) substantially worse; or
    (c) about the same.
  7. Israel: True or False: The United States will move its embassy to Jerusalem:
    (a) True;
    (b) False.
  8. Sanctions: Imposed in 2014 to punish Russia for aggression against Ukraine, U.S.-EU sanctions will be
    (a) substantially relaxed;
    (b) maintained in essentially their current form; or
    (c) tightened.
  9. Oil prices: The price of oil (which today is around $53 a barrel) will next January 20 be
    (a) about where it is today;
    (b) $10 higher;
    (c) $10 lower; or
    (d) 30 percent higher or lower.
  10. Moving to Canada: The number of Americans moving to Canada will be
    (a) fewer than 10,000;
    (b) between 10,000 and 100,000; or
    (c) more than 100,000.
  11. Mexico: The Mexican economy will
    (a) fall into recession as its currency continues a decline that so far has brought about a 13 percent loss in value since Trump’s election; or
    (b) stabilize and return to positive growth.
  12. The wall: True or False: The United States will have begun construction on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border
    (a) True;
    (b) False.
  13. Deportations: In year one, the Trump administration will deport
    (a) fewer than 100,000;
    (b) 100,000-500,000;
    (c) 1/2 to 1 million;
    (d) more than 1 million undocumented immigrants.
  14. Trade: The big international trade deal of the year will be
    (a) no deal;
    (b) a renegotiated TPP;
    (c) a renegotiated NAFTA; or
    (d) a Chinese-led Asian regional agreement.
  15. Iran: Obama’s signature nuclear agreement with Iran will be
    (a) overturned by Trump;
    (b) canceled by Iran
    (c) or maintained despite additional U.S. sanctions.
  16. World leaders: In addition to Obama, by the end of 2017, which of the following will be out:
    (a) Germany’s Merkel;
    (b) China’s Xi;
    (c) Japan’s Abe;
    (d) Britain’s May;
    (e) Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei;
    (f) India’s Modi;
    (g) Pakistan’s Sharif;
    (h) Israel's Netanyahu;
    (i) North Korea’s Kim Jong-un;
    (j) Syria’s Assad;
    (k) Russia’s Putin?
  17. Terrorism: The number of major terrorist attacks on the scale of the 2016 Nice truck attack or Belgium airport bombing that will occur in Europe in the year ahead will be
    (a) 0-1;
    (b) 2-4; or
    (c) more than 4.
  18. Terrorism: True or false: There will be a major terrorist attack (causing double-digit fatalities) on U.S. soil.
    (a) True;
    (b) False
  19. Polls: The benchmark Gallup poll that asks Americans whether they believe the country is going in the "right direction" or the "wrong direction" will
    (a) continue to find that a majority say “wrong” as they have throughout the 21st century; or
    (b) for the first time this century find a majority saying “right direction.”
  20. Polls: President Trump’s approval rating in the RealClearPoliticsAverage will be: 
    (a) above 50 percent;
    (b) below 50 percent.


To conclude: readers are invited to submit their bets on the Belfer/POLITICO Magazine Bet Book site here no later than February 7, 2017. On February 8, the site will print my own bets on each of the 20 wagers. And at the end of Trump’s year one, the site will announce the winners.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Allison, Graham.“Trump Year One: Place Your Bets.” Politico, January 31, 2017.