What a difference a terrible year makes.

Last year at this time, my wife, Colleen the travel agent, and I were getting ready to take 40 of her clients on a 15-day cruise out of Dubai to India and back.

This year, thanks to the COVID-19 virus and the strict lockdowns imposed to fight it, the world’s travel industry barely exists and Colleen and I are spending January under house arrest.

Unfortunately, house arrest has become the new normal for 40 million Californians.

We’ve been locked down, masked up and ordered to stay in our basements for so long by Gov. Gavin Newsom that many of us have forgotten what freedom feels like or what it’s like to simply eat in a restaurant.

The news is filled with stories of people and businesses leaving this state in droves because it has become so unlivable in so many ways.

Californians who can afford it are moving to red states like Arizona, Texas and Florida, where taxes are lower, homes are cheaper and governors are not nannies and wannabe dictators.

Life in Los Angeles is especially unpleasant, which is why I’ve rented an escape house for my family two hours away in the sleepy Santa Ynez Valley.

Most of L.A’s 10 million people are not so lucky.

They’re stuck living 24/7 in a locked down city with tens of thousands of homeless people and drug addicts living under overpasses and on the sidewalks.

But many well-to-do citizens are buying second homes outside the city in places like Palm Springs, Desert Springs and up here in the Santa Ynez Valley.

My friends here in Santa Ynez tell me the local real estate market is on fire. Houses sell in a day. One real estate guy predicts home prices will double in two years.

Ditto for homes in Palm Springs and other places close enough to L.A. for people to commute to but far enough away to escape the slow-motion destruction of a great city.

Life has gotten so depressing in L.A. that a friend of mine flew five hours to Miami just so he could eat dinner inside a restaurant.

That’s the kind of madness that 2020 has brought us.

Some folks are saying that the COVID-19 vaccines will let people go back to normal in 2021.

But based on what our future pessimist-in-chief Joe Biden has been saying, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Listening to his dark speeches about the sad state of the union, how it’s only going to get worse and what dumb things he plans to do about it is like listening to Jimmy Carter squared.

Carter had his problems in the late 1970s with a high Misery Index, which was a way to gauge the economic conditions of the average American based on the inflation rate plus the unemployment rate.

But the future Biden is talking about will be Total Misery for all Americans.

He’s saying we won’t get the vaccines to enough people, and even if we do, we’re still going to be living in a masked and locked down country that resembles 2020 California, not 2019 California.

Pessimism like that from a U.S. president is not normal — or healthy for the country.

You may hate President Trump for a lot of reasons, but you can never fault him for not being optimistic and upbeat.

Other presidents — most recently my father, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — looked on the bright and hopeful side of things.

Biden is the opposite. He looks on the dark side, the Jimmy Carter side.

He and the liberal media sing the same grim tune — that things are bad and they’re going to be bad in the future, maybe forever.

On Jan. 20 we’re going to lose the only guy in Washington who was consistently optimistic in 2020, one of the most horrible years in our history.

I’m an optimist and I used to think 2021 couldn’t be any worse than 2020.

But with Biden and his crew about to take charge of our lives, now I’m not so sure.

In other news

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