“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” As was the period depicted in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, 2009 was a time of tremendous highs and precipitous lows. The year witnessed the inauguration of the first U.S. President of African-American ancestry and the nomination and confirmation of our first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Yet, rising unemployment belied the reports of an economy rebounding from the brink of collapse, and investigative reporting revealed the extent to which Federal bailout funds were misspent.
So, who were the biggest winners and losers of 2009? What follows is my own personal assessment. If you have thoughts on the subject, feel free to share them by commenting below.
The year began on an upbeat note as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger guided his disabled Airbus A320 into the Hudson River in a crash-less landing that saved all 155 onboard and was dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
The professionalism of Captain Sullenberger, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and consummate pilot with more than 40 years experience, makes him one of 2009’s biggest winners.
Days after the “Miracle on the Hudson,” Barack Obama was sworn in as our 44th President and the first African-American to hold the Office. Obama, however, was a winner in more than politics.
Shortly after his inauguration, it was announced that he had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In October, it became official as he became the 21st American to win that distinction. Despite sagging poll numbers as the year comes to a conclusion, one has to number our President as a winner in 2009.
Following Barack Obama’s inauguration, Hillary Clinton was sworn in as the 67th Secretary of State in U.S. history. If you believe the rumors of the time, Hillary’s selection to head the State Department by our President-Elect was made under duress.
Nonetheless, Hillary has proven to be a very capable diplomat and an effective representative for our government among foreign heads of state and other leaders. Kudos to Mrs. Clinton as a winner in 2009.
In June of this year, after many delays, television broadcasting completed its transition to digital signals. For the many millions of households still using older televisions capable of interpreting only analog signals, that meant that they now needed a box to decode the signal.
And so, 2009 was a fantastic year for cable, satellite, and other providers of television programming.
2009 also turned into a good year for former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. In early July, she announced that she was resigning her post as Governor of Alaska and shortly thereafter, commenced a nationwide tour promoting her book, “Going Rogue,” that debuted atop the New York Times Best Sellers List in November.
Palin has been enthusiastically received by large throngs at tour events. The book’s sales and media frenzy surrounding the tour are indicative of her popularity and bode well for her possible Presidential aspirations in 2012. And so, Sarah Palin has made it among my short list of winners for 2009.
It seems that every year is a bad year for Congress and 2009 was no exception. The American public today holds Congress – both the House of Representatives and the Senate – in slightly lower esteem than it holds used car salesmen.
The bailout bill (or more euphemistically, stimulus package), the debate over healthcare, and the general rancor and divisiveness of its proceedings has citizens across the political spectrum from progressives to neo-conservatives questioning the motives and ethics of Congressional actions. And, as the leaders of the majority party in both Houses, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have become the poster-children for political ineptness (although I personally think Harry did a better job than Nancy). In any event, Congress is on my short list of losers for 2009.
And, if Congress is a loser, guess who is not far behind? That’s right: the American people. Rising taxes and fees, shrinking resources, high unemployment, reduced government services, expanding debt, and fewer opportunities to get ahead all blended together in a cacophony that overwhelmed any happy tunes that most average Americans might have been singing.
Like Congress, the American people may be losers for years to come as inflation, rising interest rates, and a plethora of other potential problems await us as the other shoe dropping as a result of our bailout spending spree.
As our economic woes continued in 2009, it is only fitting to include Bernie Madoff as one of the year’s most significant losers. Madoff, former chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange, admitted to operating a Ponzi scheme dubbed “the largest investment fraud in Wall Street history.” The scam accounted for about $36 billion, of which about half or $18 billion (with a “b”) is “missing.”
On March 12, 2009, Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal offenses, including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements, perjury, theft from an employee benefit plan, and making false filings with the SEC. Sentenced to 150 years in federal prison, Madoff has traded his opulent Manhattan lifestyle for a bright orange jumpsuit, a cell, and three squares courtesy of the American taxpayer.
Madoff is not the only of 2009’s losers whose liberty has been curtailed. Acclaimed film director Roman Polanski may finally be extradited to the United States to face sentencing for a three-decade old child sex crime from which sentencing he fled following his conviction in 1978. A dual-citizen of France and Poland, Polanski has hidden behind France’s denial of American extradition requests since that time.
In September 2009, however, he was arrested in Switzerland as he attempted to enter that country to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Zurich Film Festival. He has been placed under house arrest at his luxurious ski chalet in Gstaad as Swiss authorities process his extradition to the United States.
Sexual indiscretions, rather than crimes, were the Achilles’ heel of 2009’s biggest loser, Tiger Woods. Woods’ extramarital affairs with upwards of 14 different women surpassed chatter about the Holidays at water coolers, diners, and gatherings across America and the world.
Arguably the greatest golfer in the history of the sport, Woods has lost his wife, Elin Nordegren who battered him with a golf club, and is now bleeding money in the form of sponsors bailing on the once-revered athlete. AT&T, Accenture, and Gillette have all dropped Woods or pulled advertising featuring him. And, it has been reported that companies sponsoring Woods have lost a total of $12 billion in share value since the news of Woods’ affairs has been made public. Who ever said that love was “free?”