We hope that the big "2009" on our cover caused you to pause. To be sure, it's an odd benchmark, even if it is a half-decade away. Goalposts placed five years apart hold a certain credence for those of us who spent our childhoods doing school drills in which we hid under desks. The "other side" lived and, unfortunately for its peasants, died by five-year plans. (We found out only later, though many suspected at the time, just how painful social change could be when engineered by those who tote guns.)
Even in our society, however, eras often overlap neatly placed decade markers. The calendar indicates that the 1960s lasted from 1960 until 1969 (or 1961–70, if we think back to the Y2K discussions). Many say the '60s action, uneven as it was, occurred between November 1963 and April 1975. A long decade. The 1990s, too, were nonstandard, lasting from November 1992 until September 2001. Sure these are arbitrary markers, depending on how you regard events as varied as John F. Kennedy's assassination, the fall of Saigon, Bill Clinton's election, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Still, the mere passage of time, as many woebegone realized on Jan. 2, is not, in and of itself, such a big deal. (Certainly not worth that extra toast, was it?) Events happen whenever.
Who's to say that, when all is recorded, 2009 will not be the watershed mark for health care and that neat, marketable 2010 is just the first of the many years that followed?
In our cover story we ask prominent and thoughtful experts to ruminate about what we'll find in 2009. It's an impressive lineup: Helen Darling, Leonard Schaeffer, Kenneth S. Abramowitz, Joseph Newhouse, Alice Gosfield, Paul Fronstin, Newt Gingrich, and J.D. Kleinke. They say some interesting things — some of which challenge conventional wisdom circa 2004. (Abramowitz, for instance, doesn't think consumer-directed health care, will fly.)
For those of us with really long memories and an organizational bent that borders on the scary, it might be worth saving their predictions for when that magic year does arrive. Who was right? Who was wrong? We'll probably be too busy trying to predict what will happen in 2014 to notice.