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The 3 Worst Policy Predictions of 2014

Gay marriage will lead to polygamy? Marijuana will cause more crime? Obamacare will increase premiums?

Part of a series about the worst predictions of the year.

Every year at this time, reporters and analysts and prognosticators engage in one of their favorite pastimes: predicting what will happen in the year to come. Sometimes those predictions can be downright prescient, but more often they are wildly—sometimes laughably—inaccurate.

As 2014 comes to a close, The New Republic looks back at some of the worst predictions made at the beginning of the year, starting with three very bad predictions from policymakers. 

Obamacare will lead to massive spikes in health-care premiums.

In January, the health insurance marketplaces created with the passage of the Affordable Care Act opened for the first time. Slow participation rates in the first few months of open enrollment—thanks in large part to a disastrous rollout of—didn’t look promising for the Obama administration, and Republicans were quick to jump on lower-than-expected enrollment figures as evidence that the whole program would never be financially solvent and lead to premium hikes.

"I fear we could see a fundamental breakdown of the insurance market with coverage gaps and premiums skyrocketing—pricing millions of Americans out of health care," said Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI).

By spring, enrollment was back on track. The administration announced on March 31 that it had met its goal of 7 million enrollees right on schedule, and HHS continued to revise its figures upward as the year went on. Even correcting for a miscalculation that folded dental insurance plans into the overall enrollment figures uncovered earlier this fall wasn’t enough to derail a successful first year of the insurance marketplace. The rate of uninsured fell by approximately 22 percent, while insurance premiums remained flat.

Legalizing marijuana will lead to higher crime and more drug users.

Colorado and Washington became the first two states in the country to legalize recreational marijuana use. Voters in both states overwhelmingly passed ballot initiatives despite the objections of law enforcement officials and lawmakers who claimed that legalizing the narcotic would lead to upticks in violent crime and drug use.

“Thugs put on masks, they come to your house, they kick in your door. They point guns at you and say ‘give me your marijuana, give me your money.’” That was the dire warning from Sheriff Tom Allman, who urged voters in Colorado to reject the bill.

Within the first three months of 2014, data from Denver—Colorado’s biggest city and the largest hub for recreational pot sales—suggested that it was Allman who was blowing smoke.

Murder, assault, rape, and burglary rates all fell precipitously in the first quarter of 2014. Car break-ins fell 36 percent, the homicide rate fell 53 percent, and sexual assaults tumbled 14 percent from the same period a year prior. Meanwhile, the monthly revenue generated from taxes and fees associated with recreational marijuana sales more than doubled between January and July, surpassing $7 million over the summer. 

Gay marriage will destroy the sacred institution of marriage—and lead to polygamy.

Predictions that legalizing gay marriage will rip the moral fabric of the United States have been made for decades, but no year has tested that theory more than 2014.

When the Supreme Court declined to grant certiorari for pending marriage equality cases in October, they nearly instantly redrew the map of marriage equality in the United States. In the weeks since, more and more states have been ordered to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples by federal judges, and now more than two-thirds of all states, accounting for 64 percent of the population, allow same-sex marriages.

To no one’s surprise, this has not led to the erosion of marriage or surge in polygamy that conservatives have promised. “When you say it’s not a man and a woman anymore, then why not have three men and one woman or four women and one man?” asked Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

Polygamy is still illegal as of publication time.

Others, like former Georgia Republican Party chair Sue Everhart, worried about the potential for fraud. “I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this, it’s unreal.” No such widespread abuse has been documented, nor has it been made clear why straight couples couldn't abuse the system in the same way.