The Three Card Monte of Generational Warfare

Stock speculator Jay Gould remarked, “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” That, sports fans, is the real foundation of the generational warfare propaganda effort.

It’s being openly pushed on college campuses by billionaire and long term heavyweight Republican donor Stan Druckemiller, and is apparently being worked hard through media channels. I was surprised to see a website that has often featured cogent, articulate political analysis serve up a boomer-blaming piece that was all broad stereotypes, and a couple of tidbits presented as evidence when they were at most decoration (I’m not about to dignify it by linking to it). If anyone had tried running a similarly hate-mongering piece about blacks or gays, they would have been called out. At least this post got some pushback in comments.

We have two events happening that may simply be coincident in time in their genesis, but they are working synchronistically in a nasty way. And the driver of one is unquestionably class, not generational. I can’t get over the way young people are falling hook, line and sinker for the efforts to divert attention from the real perps, which are overwhelmingly the top wealthy and their allies and operatives, such as CEOs and C-level executives at large companies, and the large cohort of neoliberal pundits. (Not all are on board; for instance, I know a private equity firm head who loves annoying people in his industry by telling them they need to pay a ton more in taxes and donates generously to “progressive” candidates, but people like him are few in number).

The first is that a small group of audacious, visionary, committed, radical conservatives set in motion a plan in 1971 to undo the New Deal and cut social safety nets back. They did this via a concerted effort to change values and deeply inculcate pro-business thinking, to give economic “freedom” primacy over democracy, and to train lawyers to think like economists (which is at odds with foundational legal concepts like equity) and over time, pack the courts with corporate-friendly judges. The key figures of this movement and its intellectual leaders were all born well before or during the Depression: former Nixon Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell, Henry Manne (founder of the law and economics movement), and of course, Milton Friedman. Its major funders included Birchers like the Coors family (which provided a large donation to help found the Heritage Foundation in 1973) and the Koch family.

This initiative started to bear fruit quickly; 1976 was the year when you see wages starting to stagnate as corporations stopped sharing the benefits of productivity gains with workers. Key figures who helped carry this effort forward include Paul Volcker (who saw breaking the wages expectations of labor as one of the most important objects of his interest rate policy); Ronald Reagan and Randian Fed chair pick, Alan Greenspan; former Nixon Administration cabinet member and billionaire Pete Peterson, who has funded a newly 30 year campaign against Social Security; and Bob Rubin, who turned the Democratic party (and American policy generally) firmly in a neoliberal, pro-finance direction. None of them are boomers.

On the business side, another factor in the fallen standing of American workers that does not get the attention it deserves was the 1980s LBO artists. Most of them were also older (Carl Ichan, Boone Pickens, Saul Steinberg, Harold Geneen, James Goldsmith, Henry Kravis) but Michael Milken’s original issue junk bonds turbo-charged their efforts. They could initially make juicy returns simply by breaking up companies (the parts would often sell for more than the whole), getting rid of corporate fat like art collections, golf courses, and bloated head office staffs. Many companies restructured defensively.

But to keep the game going, the leverage and the squeezing of workers and suppliers increased, leading to more and more outsourcing and offshoring (which even when it worked increased operating risk). CEOs were effectively bribed by giving them hefty performance based packages if they signed up with raiders, giving other companies the excuse to implement similar deals (to retain “talent”). This was another big driver of the deteriorating standing of the middle class: less job security, which meant less bargaining power.

But weren’t the Boomers enablers? No, it was much more the wealthy across all age groups. Election results in both Reagan elections show younger people less in the Reagan camp than older cohorts, but the income is a vastly more powerful predictor: the richer you were, the greater the odds you voted for Reagan. And separately, age cohorts are not political interest groups. Is there a Gen X party or even lobby? A Millennial lobby? These cohorts don’t have unified interests and you can’t find that sort of group exercising political power in any past historical period either. You do see a lobbying group for the old, the AARP, but most people become old, eventually; this is not an organization that represents a particular birth year cohort.

Now we’ve had periodic enclosure efforts where entrepreneurs seek to strip ordinary people of economic rights, such as access to pastureland; they result in the early years of the Industrial Revolution was nearly two generation of falling living standards for ordinary people in England.

But we have a second factor at work, which is incipient collapse dynamics. For instance, various efforts to relocalize are typical of complex societies that are breaking down. The driver is the strain on planetary resources, driven by population increases compounded by rising living standards (leading to higher levels of resource consumption) in so-called developing economies.

That warning was sounded by the Club of Rome in the 1970s. It was quickly discredited because they called for catastrophe a little too early (and even though they revised their original models, their second set of forecasts didn’t undo the impression made by their first release). But again, remember that the assault on it came not just from business, but also from economists who saw it as not just encroaching on their turf but potentially fatal to their raison d’etre. The power of economists in the West is in large measure due to the Cold War: a command and control economy like Russia was seen as better at marshaling resources for war. Soviet Russia had managed the impressive task of industrializing in the 20th Century.

So the economists’ promise of helping structure a free enterprise system to be productive enough to compete with the Communist bloc gave them a seat at the policy table. They were reflexively hostile to an anti-growth message (and that’s before you get into deeply entrenched societal pressures to have children; I can’t tell you how many of my female peers report being harassed by their parents for delaying becoming parents themselves).

So we have two sources of considerable economic and political pressure converging: one a long arc of the Industrial Revolution reaching its limits and placing dangerous strains on the planet, and the second an overt finance-led class war in the US and other advanced economies.

Societally, turning the oil tanker of our global economy would be enormously difficult, even if there was consensus that that needed to be done. But there are too many who are in denial about the urgency of the task.
And we have more immediate political/social pressures in the US, due to the success of the campaign to put control of the country in the hands of the top wealthy, who unfortunately have come to believe their own PR and for the most part are sorely wanting in the sense of noblesse oblige that constrained the behavior of the upper classes in the past.

Needless to say, this is an extremely depressing outlook and particularly disheartening for the young. But they need to identify the right targets if they are to have any hope of changing this picture. They have no hope of winning on their own, which is why turning them against their allies in other age cohorts is such a promising exercise for the people on top of the heap. Sadly, they’ve been able to manipulate ordinary people to act against their interests for forty years. They look to be succeeding yet again.

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  1. JM Hatch

    In The Revolt of The Masses, Ortega writes simply, the masses mistrust experts. If forced to choose between the considered advice of the learned and the vague impressions of other people just like themselves, the masses invariably turn to the latter. The elite may try to pronounce judgements and take the lead, but fewer and fewer of those down below pay attention. It takes marketing, not direct persuasion, to get the sheeple into doing what the elite want. This disadvantages the academic elite, but is no problem for the business elite.

    1. Jim Shannon

      “The Revolt of The Masses” is exactly the kind of work done to benefit the Elites to perpetuate the status quo! Manipulation of the Masses is historical fact! The Manipulators always seen as good and the masses always used and always bad. Ultra High Net Worth Individuals owe their existence to the masses, whom they continually manipulate for personal gain!

  2. Aaron Layman

    Great points. I think it’s important to call kleptocrats like Druckenmiller out. I’ve seen some of his stuff, and it’s sad that he’s allowed anywhere near a college campus. Lots of misinformation being offered, but little of substantive value which points to the real causes of the hollowing out of the middle class. In that regard, the Wall Street criminal class deserves all the blame you can throw at them.

    1. scott

      Good points, but when in history has the finance/rentier class ever voluntarily gave up control of the political system and their methods of wealth extraction? Outside of maybe Iceland, never.

      1. Jim Shannon

        @ scott Ecactly right!
        And that is why we need to TAX them all out of existence! Change the TAX Code and change the future! Governments sanctioning the greed of the ultra high net worth individuals has always been the cause of all corruption and all wars.
        TAXING all Net Worth over $10,000,000 at 100% will end the corruption caused by the UBER RICH and GREEDY – and yet WE THE PEOPLE refuse to elect a government that represents the interests of the 99%!
        “Momma always says.. stupid is as stupid does”. Forrest Gump

        1. Joe Steel

          That takes us back to the propaganda issue. As long as the aristocracy controls it, we never will have the political power to make them pay their fair share.

      2. Jim Haygood

        ‘A small group of audacious, visionary, committed, radical conservatives set in motion a plan in 1971 to undo the New Deal and cut social safety nets back.’

        Actually, Nixon’s severing of the dollar’s link to gold in August 1970 was a far mightier blow against not only the New Deal, but social stability in general.

        ‘Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. While the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some.’ — Maynard Keynes

        The wealthy have made their peace with the fiat-currency asset inflation administered by the Federal Reserve. Only those who HAVE assets can participate in the game. The more assets you have, the bigger you win.

        However one may feel about conservative ideologues, they are nothing but fleas on the back of the Federal Reserve elephant. DUH — it’s a bank cartel!

        1. j gibbs

          Very true. Fiat money removes any limit on creation of bank money. The Fed enables reckless lending by first tier banks and only those having collateral get to borrow. When the borrowing creates bubbles and threatens bank solvency, the Fed saves the banks (and the bankers) at the expense of actual savers whose interest return is reduced to zero. Meanwhile, the banks earn interest on reserves and withdraw credit from the real economy to punish workers with unemployment. This is called responsible monetary policy.

          1. LifelongLib

            That’s only true if governments concede their power of fiat money creation to banks. Fiat money spent directly by governments to benefit the poor/working/middle classes would help the real economy, which is often strangled by lack of money in the hands of people who want to spend (i.e. lack of demand).

          2. F. Beard

            The ONLY ethical money form for government debts is inexpensive fiat.

            The problem is government-backing for the banks such as a central bank to create and lend them new fiat and also that fiat is de facto legal tender for private debts too.

    2. Jim Shannon

      The solution is obvious! Unfortunately the 99% to are too brainwashed to even consider the possibilities. The UBER RICH are clearly running the show for themselves. A fact of observed reality and something the 99% refuse to correct!

  3. Fair Economist

    “Blame the Boomers” is one example of a clever system to transfer blame away from those truly responsible. Those responsible set up a market system that forces one group to exploit another. The best example of this is Walmart. They use their monopoly power not to set high prices, but to force low prices from their suppliers. The suppliers in turn squeeze their employees – and they have to, or they go out of business. The net effect is a transfer from workers to the Walmart family, same as if Walmart were using their monopoly power for high prices, but Walmart gets to say “hey, it’s market forces driving wages down. We’re just trying to help those poor people buy things they need.”

    The Boomers typically get blamed for taking a surplus from Social Security and for getting the benefits from soaring housing prices. The Social Security claim is simply false – the generations that got a surplus from Social Security were the Lost and the Greatest and they’re pretty much dead.

    Boomers did get a big boost from housing prices, (well, the top 60% or so who actually own did) but the boom in housing prices was driven by enormous multi-generational marketing campaigns by builders, lenders, and automakers to push suburban development and ever-rising house prices to force people to participate. Individual Boomers had to participate or they got left out and broke (thanks to stagnating wages). As a group theoretically they could have participated in collective action to stop it but normal people just don’t think about that kind of thing. It would have been labelled “Socialism” and reviled endlessly if it had been tried, anyway.

  4. from Mexico

    Posts like this are important because they give people an alternate narravtive. Instead of “blame the old people (boomers)” or “blame the young people,” we instead have an alternate narrative: blame “the wealthy across all age groups.” The failure to provide an alternative narrative is one of the fatal errors which the prosecution in the Trayvon Martin case committed, deliberately and maliciously in my opinion.

  5. David Lentini

    I agree that the “Boomers as enablers” argument is a bit too simplistic, but I still think that they, or rather the ethos that is ascribed to their generation, have had much to do with the gutting of the resistance to the return of Gilded Age greed. The Viet Nam war and Cold War antics of McCarthyism and government spying did much to destroy the trust among the college-educated Boomers in the late ’60s. Also, as Michael Moore pointed out in Capitalism: A Love Story, many college-educated Boomers forgot their blue-collar roots and the struggles of their unionized parents to give them the middle-class life they grew up with. And the counter-culture “do you own thing” attitudes that took over in the late ’60s, and swept up quickly by Madison Avenue, did much to pave the way for Milton Friedman’s Libertarianism.

    Add in the bungled response to the oil crisis, the sense that the promises of endless economic progress had ended, and the realization that race issues were not fixed by civil rights legislation, and by the mid-’70s the nation is in a very sour mood. Starting in the late ’70s and early ’80s, both left and right start to converge on the ideal of personal freedom from different directions. The right, really the rich, wants to make the most of their wealth by limiting government intervention and taxation. The non-rich culturally conservative right is placated by the attacks on the counter-culture, the linking of governmental programs and the New Deal with liberal support for the counter-culture and civil rights, and the promise that they too can get rich if they would just stop carrying the “weal and lazy”.

    The left wants to limit government limits on life choices, which ultimately means also that the left has to abandon the idea of resistance to getting wealthy. As I recall, by the early ’80s my college peers were much more open to the idea of “getting rich by doing good”, rather than being suspicious of wealth. The personal computer boom of the ’80s instilled the Californian idea of a utopia in which the socially liberal could get rich without guilt. But that had to mean that the left, or rather the college-educated left who controlled the Democrats, had to abandon the idea of protecting their blue-collar parents and siblings. And the booming stock market was the perfect way to pass-off that guilt.

    Of course these attitudes transcended the Boomers. As many social historians have noted, the excesses of the ’60s and ’70s can be traced to the ’50s and even the ’40s. But what the Greatest Generation did in private their children brought out in public.

    1. from Mexico

      David Lentini said:

      “…many college-educated Boomers forgot their blue-collar roots and the struggles of their unionized parents to give them the middle-class life they grew up with.”

      Yep. Entirely too many Boomers I know believe they made the transition from the working class to the middle class all by themselves, without the helping hand of a social structure and a lot of good people who provided them with the opportunities along the way which they seized upon.

      One thing I’ve learned living in Mexico is that without opportunity, there is nothing. It doesn’t make any difference how good you are.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        You must be referring only to Boomer men. Women were relegated to being teachers, nurses, secretaries, and retail store clerks prior to the women’s lib movement. I can’t think of anyone in my peer group who does not recognize that the male bastions would not have let women in, regardless of their demonstrable achievements, in the absence of of anti-discrimination laws and media/academic institution scrutiny of hiring ratios. I recall James Wolfensohn, the head of investment banking at Salomon and later head of the World bank, telling me in what he thought was genuinely helpful career advice in 1980, that I’d be better served by marrying an investment banker at Salomon rather than trying to be one.

        1. from Mexico

          Yes, more specifically I was referring to several men in my immediate family. Those are the anecdoctal examples I was speaking of.

          I have a nephew who was born into the middle class, because it was his parents, my sister and brother-in-law, who made the transition from the working class to the middle class. Nevertheless, my nephew was quite adept at chest beating, believing it was he and he alone who did it all. He was quite the devotee of Ayn Rand, but also claimed to be a good Christian. This is a commonality he shared with Paul Ryan. How one can reconcile those two fundamentally opposed philosophies is beyond me.

          I’m not sure if there is any difference in the way men and women view these things, but it seems to be quite human to mark up to skill that which is more realistically attributable to societal opportunity and luck.

          1. LifelongLib

            In part that’s because the lucky seldom meet the unlucky. The top NFL player know how hard he worked to get where he is and he thinks that’s all there was to it. He never meets the equally talented, hard-working kid who blew out his knee in a high school game.

            1. PopeRatzo

              The difference is that the equally-talented kid who blew out his knee in high school didn’t help the NFL player get where he’s at.

              My peers who grew up in blue collar, union families and transitioned to white collar and professional jobs too often don’t acknowledge the institutions that directly helped him.

              I come from a union family. If my dad and granddad hadn’t had good union jobs with benefits, I never would have grown up in a nice house with a mom at home and gotten a chance to go to college and grad school and academia (all without incurring a mountain of debt). My peers ask me why I’m so pro-organized labor and don’t seem to understand my answer. It’s a serious deficiency of social memory.

              1. Alexa

                That may be true.

                But in the short couple of years that I’ve blogged, I’ve been amazed at how many “progressives” have thrown their union brothers and sisters under the bus.

                The general “lack of solidarity” with unionists [in some, certainly not all, quarters of the progressive blogosphere] is startling and very discouraging.

                Per Reuters:

                Union membership falls to lowest percentage in 76 years


                Of course, one of the primary reasons for the decline of unions, is that the union “bosses” have pretty much sold out the rank and file–for a seven-figure salary, and a seat at the table with the “rich and powerful.”

                These organizations are mostly an appendage of the Democratic Party, as far as I can see.

                If I were still active in a public employee union, I’d vote to dissolve it, and reorganize it under an entirely new structure–minus ALL the present top union officials!

                I remain in solidarity with those few unions, like the Roofers Union, which stood up to the Administration and national union bosses and called for a repeal/reform of the ACA.

                See below:



          2. Alexa

            Please, the “conflation” that you describe is not common to ALL Christians, but descriptive of some, if not most, “conservative” Christians.

            There is (or can be) a difference.


        2. MichaelW

          Yves. I am a male boomer and I love 99.9% of what you do, I can’t imagine that you would lower yourself so low as to be an investment banker. However when you fall into the ‘divide and conquer’ social trap I feel like I must rescue you – as I would woman, man or dog. Male workers demand and get far less personal consideration than do women. Men can be treated savagely and its “man up!”, “suck it up!” – women not so much. Women have in my lifetime (I’m 65) had a much easier route to obtaining “human rights” and respect in the workforce than men. Accusing you of acting or being “like a woman” has no pejorative connotation because thankfully you are one! For men being called “like a woman” means you are a sissy, soft, or irrational because you are being a humanitarian or expecting to be treated like a human being. I am sure that the man who told you ” that you’d be better served by marrying an investment banker at Salomon rather than trying to be one.” was not your average middle class Joe and it wasn’t so much typical sexist talk as it was divinely chosen member of the 10% talk. I’ll bet that his 10%er wife would have said much the same thing. It was socio-economic not sexist talk. In my experience guys who are workers have no problem with skilled women, or men, who can cover the ground they stand on. You are not and could not be sloughed off as a “loose cannon” (not to say the 10%ers wouldn’t try)- you are more like a very dangerous 250mm howitzer with armour piercing shells. The only difficulty I have ever experienced with women in traditionally male jobs is sex attraction which diverts effort away from doing the job. Normally but not always this can be handled easily, but it could also be considered a non essential disturbance and distraction. Any male who didn’t hire or work with you because you are a women lost out big time. Please do not conflate male 10%er attitudes with all males. The male 10%er wants to dominate and extract and doesn’t want his victims to be socially able to fight back or call him out for brutality. Please don’t stop, you are a light at the end of a very dark tunnel and an inspiration for all people not just women!!! Any man, or woman for that matter, that underestimates you will likely pay a very high price for her/his stupidity. You have inspired, intellectually supported and armed many individuals struggling against the oppression of the 10%ers. Any man who brings up the “you’re a woman” routine is either a loser or an oppressor or both. Pleas do not stop!!

        3. MichaelW

          January 8, 2014 – Yves. I am a male boomer and I love 99.9% of what you do, I can’t imagine that you would lower yourself so low as to be an investment banker. However when you fall into the ‘divide and conquer’ social trap I feel like I must rescue you – as I would woman, man or dog. Male workers demand and get far less personal consideration than do women. Men can be treated savagely and its “man up!”, “suck it up!” – women not so much. Women have in my lifetime (I’m 65) had a much easier route to obtaining “human rights” and respect in the workforce than men. Accusing you of acting or being “like a woman” has no pejorative connotation because thankfully you are one! For men being called “like a woman” means you are a sissy, soft, or irrational because you are being a humanitarian or expecting to be treated like a human being. I am sure that the man who told you ” that you’d be better served by marrying an investment banker at Salomon rather than trying to be one.” was not your average middle class Joe and it wasn’t so much typical sexist talk as it was divinely chosen member of the 10% talk. I’ll bet that his 10%er wife would have said much the same thing. It was socio-economic not sexist talk. In my experience guys who are workers have no problem with skilled women, or men, who can cover the ground they stand on. You are not and could not be sloughed off as a “loose cannon” (not to say the 10%ers wouldn’t try)- you are more like a very dangerous 250mm howitzer with armour piercing shells. The only difficulty I have ever experienced with women in traditionally male jobs is sex attraction which diverts effort away from doing the job. Normally but not always this can be handled easily, but it could also be considered a non essential disturbance and distraction. Any male who didn’t hire or work with you because you are a women lost out big time. Please do not conflate male 10%er attitudes with all males. The male 10%er wants to dominate and extract and doesn’t want his victims to be socially able to fight back or call him out for brutality. Please don’t stop, you are a light at the end of a very dark tunnel and an inspiration for all people not just women!!! Any man, or woman for that matter, that underestimates you will likely pay a very high price for her/his stupidity. You have inspired, intellectually supported and armed many individuals struggling against the oppression of the 10%ers. Any man who brings up the “you’re a woman” routine is either a loser or an oppressor or both. Pleas do not stop!!

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            I don’t know what industry you worked in, but your picture is really, really off base.

            1. Even with all of the pressure to hire and promote women, they find it hard to get in the door and are held to much higher standards than men.

            2. Men don’t get preyed on sexually. Every woman on Wall Street I know has stories, including yours truly.

            My case contributed in a major way to my leaving Goldman (I don’t care to rehash details) but it was far from the worst. After I left, one of the very few women VPs in M&A had all the men get together, unbeknownst to her, to create a pool as to who would succeed in sleeping with her. One guy on a deal got her drunk enough that she relented. He then told everyone about their encounter in gory detail. She quit not long after that.

            I’ve also been hit on by clients, fortunately never the senior execs.

            3. Women are always attacked first politically because they are seen as the beta. Men have few compunctions about trying to steal their clients, for instance. Clients will also not hesitate to take their frustration with the vendor out on a junior woman, often by focusing on her: “Gee, aren’t you wearing a pretty dress” or worse. I once had a senior client guy carry on that I must be sleeping with someone who worked for him (he named the guy in front of everyone, and the really funny bit was he was a closeted gay man). Fortunately, the guy was known as a crude jerk who liked to rattle people’s cages, but he’d never haze a man that way.

            4. Women are held to much higher performance standards. The same sample of writing, when attributed to a female name, is rated worse than when attributed to a male author. Women in the sciences have to publish on average 2.5x as many peer reviewed papers as men to get tenure.

            5. Women are paid less than men for the same work. Professions less well paid (secretaries, nurses, cash register clerks, retail store employees) have predominantly women. The feminization of a line of work is generally a sign of its falling in status/money terms (secretaries used to be men because, no joke, operating the early typewriters was seen as daunting).

            Men being told to suck it up and being told to be men is trivial compared to what women face.

    2. from Mexico

      David Lentini said:

      “Add in the bungled response to the oil crisis, the sense that the promises of endless economic progress had ended…”.

      I’m not sure I agree with that.

      If one reads John Kenneth Galbraith’s Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went, for instance, he charges that the “oil crisis” served as a convenient scapegoat upon which the economic maliaise caused by the dereliction of our economic overlords was blamed.

      And both writers from the left (Marshall Auerback, for instance, writing in “Renegade Economics: The Bretton Woods II Fiction”) and the right (Andrew J. Bacevich, for instance, in The Limites of Power) argue that the response to the “oil crisis” was to militarize our energy policy and let the good times of the carbon revolution roll. This militarization process began with what is known as the “Carter Doctrine,” ( ). Carter would hand this ball off to Reagan, who would run it across the goal line. We are now paying the price for this failed strategy.

      1. David Lentini

        Hi, Mexico!

        I’m not sure how far apart I am from your points. I was referring to the public mood, which I remember quite well, more than trying to make an analytical argument about the deeper political and economic games. As I see it, your points sit quite well with mine.

        1. from Mexico

          With all the debate over the privitization of the energy industry here in Mexico, there has been a great deal of discussion of what U.S. energy policy amounts to these days.

          From a Mexican lefty point of view, this is what it looks like:

          1) The U.S. suffered disastrous military defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan, demonstrating the unworkability of the Carter Doctrine and the militarization of U.S. energy policy.

          2) This required a retooling of U.S. energy policy.

          3) The retooled U.S. energy policy looks like this:

          a) Seizing and controlling the vast non-conventional energy resources of Canada and Mexico. The privitization of the Mexican energy industry is regarded by leftists in Mexico to be part and parcel of this neo-imperial process. According to the EIA, Canada and Mexico rank right up there with the U.S. when it comes to both shale oil and shale gas potential ( ) . In addition, Mexico has its deep-water Gulf of Mexico resources, and Canada has its oil sands in Alberta.

          b) Continued and better technological development which will allow the non-conventional energy resources to be extracted more efficiently and economically.

          c) Denial of the externalized costs (such as environmental) that the unbridled development of non-conventional oil and gas energy resources will undoubtedly entail if the transnational capitalist class gets its way.

    3. DWeightman

      This is brilliant. (Naomi Klein’s book on The Shock Doctrine, anyone?)

      For God’s sake, Yves, keep it up.

    4. diptherio

      The “doing well by doing good” thing has always rubbed me the wrong way. If “doing well” means making a salary that is in the top two quintiles (i.e. at least a little above average), then it’s obvious that not everyone can do this. And if doing good interferes with doing well, we can be sure which will come first. And if “doing good” means reducing personal consumption (not buying that boat, or that summer home, or trying to reuse old stuff rather than buying new), then you can forget about it. What’s the point of doing well if you’re not going to enjoy it, right?

      The whole sentiment reeks of a misguided value system that can only prove to be destructive in the long-run. I don’t blame Boomers for this, however. Milton Friedman was born in 1912 and Hayek in 1899. Everything the Boomers get blamed for can be traced much farther back in history. It seems rather unhistorical to hold a generation responsible for long-term social and intellectual trends that happened to come to a head during their lifetime. The Boomers just bought what the ‘Nobel’ prize-winning economist was selling them, but they sure weren’t the only ones.

      1. PopeRatzo

        What’s the point of doing well if you’re not going to enjoy it, right?

        There’s your demonstration of the value in having moral values.

        I think we’re seeing a not-so-subtle message going out to the elite: here’s your last chance to start doing right, because the next stop is your head in a basket. There are a few getting the message, I think.

        Over the holiday season, I met two members of the economic elite who both expressed some nervous joking about “guillotines”. One is a money manager who has the Chicago-school economics education and grew up on Chicago’s South Side. He’s a serious guy and there was no twinkle in his eye when he made the joke.

        It’s good that there are some starting to get worried.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          The stopping of the Syrian invasion and the behavior of Teabaggers especially the Newt* recruits demonstrated that the stomach for the elite pillaging isn’t there anymore, and if there is a Lehman style event, I don’t know if there is a workable majority.

          The MIC Giveaway was done more or less in secret. Obama isn’t holding any victory speeches on news show. No one wants to acknowledge raising defense spending, and they did it during the holidays and during the midst of the ACA website debacle. Next year, when people begin to realize its not a website problem, Congress is really going to receive criticism. The scary Teabagger protests at town halls and Occupy (not to link the two groups, but they do represent anger at the system and the elite) are going to seem like the good ‘ole days.

          Even Michael Moore is criticising ACA, and he is the biggest Obot apologist out there who pretends to not be one.

    5. davidgmills

      Well, let me make a counter argument. I began my legal career in 1977, and it seems like in every year since I began my career, more and more laws and judicial decisions favored corporations and the wealthy, and fewer and fewer laws and judicial decisions favored the middle class and the poor. These laws and decisions subtly rippled through society and their cumulative weight took a huge toll over time.

      Since 1981, I represented individuals against corporations and insurance companies and banks, and every year it got harder and harder to win for my clients, and harder and harder on me financially as well, which in turn made it harder for me to represent my clients. It has only gotten worse now that the cost of a legal education is so high; young lawyers simply can’t begin to find a way financially to represent the public. If the average person can not win in court, how in the hell is he supposed to win on the street?

  6. bob goodwin

    The reason young people are a target rich environment for activists on both sides is because the language is changing fast. Boomers saw a generation gap with their parents. Today those entering the workforce say “what are you talking about?” The English language probably changed faster during the Normal conquest. The reason it is changing is information. 20th century language was based on concise transmission of growing knowledge, but limited means of broadcast.

    Assumptions boomers use in simple conversations are alien to millennial’s. We may think that they have short attention spans or have low loyalties, or what ever we say about them. But they are smarter and better informed than we were at the same age, and frankly they don’t care what we think of them. I am not saying disrespect in the sense of the 60s-70s disrespect, I am saying lack of a common language.

    Boomers like to talk in Paragraphs. Millenials have paragraphs too, but they are not used the same way, unless they are talking to us. So of course there will be changing ideological allegiances.

    1. mikkel

      “Assumptions boomers use in simple conversations are alien to millennials.”

      This is the root of most generational antagonism I know of. Almost everyone in my cohort (older millennial technical professional) understands that the game doesn’t make sense and that the rich [well more specifically, the rentier class] are the problem. We know that the world is reaching its limits, even if there is disagreement about what to do about it. And most of all, we know that jobs and careers are completely absurd and arbitrary, while not addressing any core problem. Yet this knowledge is worthless because most of us feel powerless. We have debt serfdom to work off thanks to our parents insisting that we go to college without truly conveying what that meant, only to watch them blame us for not succeeding or being impatient once we graduated.

      There is no point in blaming the rentier class when what they are doing is simply their nature, just as there is no use in a wildebeest blaming a crocodile. Yet we feel that the boomers insisted we come down to drink at the river infested with crocodiles instead of trying to find a new one that isn’t. The fortunate ones (like myself) that don’t get caught ask the boomers why they didn’t warn or help us and they answer that they had to go through it when they were young and besides, they had to save themselves. To them, this is entirely the truth, yet they never admit that there are 1000x more crocodiles now than when they were our age. My grandmother, who grew up during the Depression, insists that things are worse now than back then. Not because there is as much physical poverty, mind you, but because the older generations are not working with the younger ones to make do with what we have.

      Yves’ conclusion is entirely right, but the intent is completely wrong. We don’t have much interest in reforming how things are done, our interest is in revolutionizing it from the ground up based on the rise of computers and the degradation of the environment. Yet the boomers (as a generation) focus on who to blame, not how to reimagine. As Planck said, “Science progresses one funeral at a time.” Paradigm shifts don’t happen because internal politics are sorted out, but because a new way of doing things is more beneficial in some way. As far as I’m concerned, the typical upper 20-30% of baby boomers are the ones that are standing in the way of reform the most, because they are the ones that could provide the support for the alternative systems if they wanted to and they are the ones that chide us day in and day out for not thinking like they do.

      The few baby boomers that I know who are genuinely working towards these new paradigms almost wholeheartedly agree with this view. My business partner says that he doesn’t trust anyone over 35, including himself.

      If it’s any consolation, the older millennials are very close to having enough resources/influence that it’ll be on us if we don’t opt out. In five years or so, we will completely own the predicament and it’ll be up to us to help the younger millennials navigate the world; if we fail there won’t be anyone else to blame. Thus, I agree completely with the thrust of Yves’ post, because it is critical that millennials retain their understanding instead of becoming techno-yuppies, which is already starting to happen at an alarming rate.

      1. davidgmills

        Let me speak from a boomer perspective. The heyday of the American worker was over just when most boomers began their employment and for most of the boomers, the careers they had chosen turned out to be nothing like they hoped. Most of our parents had very good jobs up to retirement age and made their most money in the few years before retirement. That has not been true for boomers many of whom have really struggled after 45 or 50 years of age.

        So it is hard for boomers to figure out what a new paradigm would be to support. I am probably in the 20-30% of the boomers who could do something to help if I had the slightest idea what to do. Frankly all I could figure out to do was to retire a couple years early so somebody else could take my place in the workforce.

        1. mikkel

          Well I say good on you for retiring, hopefully it is going well and you’ll be in perfect health until Medicare kicks in.

          The people I’m most annoyed by are those that grew up in counter culture/limits to growth, etc and then made a Faustian bargain to be like their parents, only to find that their careers were pointless. Then they were on track to secure their up middle class retirement lifestyle by saving ~$1 million, only to watch it plummet with the dot com crash, stagnating wages, and so on.

          Now instead of accepting that things have changed and viewing retirement as an opportunity to live differently (like they wanted to in their youth) they cling to fantasies and bubblenomics.

          My parents are an egregious example, as they were once the type to be arrested at nuclear protests and now complain constantly about how the rich and powerful are screwing the environment; except they envy the retired 50 year old at their tennis club because he got rich off pay day loans, and their neighbor who bought a boat from his fracking “investment” [ponzi scheme]. This envy causes them to intrinsically support the status quo whether they realize it or not.

          So in my book, anyone who has accepted that their plan didn’t work out is respectable even if they do nothing else.

          As for what you can do, that obviously varies enormously based on circumstance, but there is one thing that I think is often overlooked: most professional millennials were taught to be socially smart and crafty, but almost nothing about the practical world. I’ve surveyed all my friends and we’ve found that the majority of our professional parents actually had blue collar entry jobs growing up (or at least they were taught practical things by their parents) and yet they forgot to teach us how to change oil, do basic plumbing or build anything. Our entry level jobs have been internships or service work, where it is all about being a cog in the neoliberal machine and nothing else.

          So, if you know any physical trade of any sort — not even a master at it — then being a mentor may be a way to offer support. Recently I have started learning some physical trades and all my friends have been fascinated by the experience, with several of them starting to pick it up as well. The irony is that all my mentors fret that their art will die because they cannot find apprentices; this is because they expect young people to want to do it as a profession, not as a hobby or random necessity.

          Practical, detailed knowledge about the world combined with the vast, systemic world view of a millennial can lead to results very quickly. My girlfriend didn’t even know how fruit came to be (despite having a masters in biology!) a couple of years ago, yet now we are well on our way to producing the majority of our fruit/veggie needs from our 1/4 acre plot without using any fertilizers or pesticides.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          Yes, I think the experience of our parents (most of whom were able to retire with dignity, something relatively few of us outside the top 10% expect to see) and the top wealthy(the ones shown in movies and touted in the media) are projected onto this age group as a whole. Really wrongheaded.

          1. mikkel

            Yves, the point isn’t whether your generation will have dignity in retirement or not; my peers expect you to all keep getting swindled.

            The point is “your” idea of what is just and fair would still lead to environmental collapse and maintains transaction dominated interaction.

            You rightly state many things that are wrong with how society is operating, but I’ve talked with many many peers and almost all of us question the existence of 80%+ of society in the first place. Our focus is on what, not how and that holds pretty consistently across ideologies.

            So my point is simply that our assumptions — either utopian or dystopian — about the next few decades are so different from the boomers that we can’t see why you waste time worrying about reforming it instead of doing something new. And we have a grudge about *that* moreso than projections of your material success.

            1. davidgmills

              Because we tried “new” many times, and the fight just got harder every time. We are worn out. You can only push the rock up the hill for so long.

              I have 8 millenials in my family, including nephews and one husband of one of my daughters. Almost all of them can not do basic household things. Can’t fix cars, fix anything in a house, take care of a yard, can’t cook, can’t clean, can’t garden. I really don’t get it and neither do their parents. Two are mentally ill (one is my daughter).

              I try to mentor because I can fix a lot of stuff, but I don’t get much response.

              And I know lots of their friends. Most of their friends seem to be the same way. But yet, I really don’t blame them either for a lot of this, because there are no jobs. It sucks to have such a shitty outlook. I really feel sorry for your generation.

              1. Moneta

                Not to mention that a lot of things can’t be fixed anymore, they are made to go straight to the dump.

              2. JTFaraday

                “I really don’t get it and neither do their parents.”

                This seems entirely disingenuous to me. I am surrounded by white collar babyboom and GenX/Y men, especially men, who know how to do and do actually do all kinds of things that are significantly more sophisticated then any of the things you mention.

                And they learned how to do much of it, and more importantly got the idea that they should do it, from their parents.

                I do see this likely petering out in the up and coming generation, in one family in particular, and the reason is that their parents have no time to teach them much of anything.

                When I “babysit” these kids in the morning– they’re too old to be anybody’s baby, but young enough to benefit from some supervision– and I have to get them out to school, as I semi-regularly do, I have to practically drag them through every little motion or nothing would happen.

                I get the same cluelessness about these kids from their parents that you’re professing here. Nevertheless, either they didn’t have the time to do it or they just didn’t do it, but on some level they know.

                “But yet, I really don’t blame them either for a lot of this, because there are no jobs.”

                Yeah, no. The problem is “the jobs” take them out of the house.

            2. March 46, early 'Boomer'?

              ‘Boomer’, ‘Millenial, ‘Your generation’, ‘we’??? I think the brush is getting a little broad.

    2. phil m

      ” smarter and better informed than we were at the same age”. I just don’t see that. Yes, they have what seems to be an innate ability do work with electronic gadgetry but I find the 20-35 years olds in my business circle to be tremendously ill-informed when it comes to current events, civics, literature, economic issues, history, world events. It’s a wasteland out there.

  7. j gibbs

    Excellent points, but don’t you agree that the turning point for the middle class was the middle Sixties? You had the trumped Viet Nam escalation, the Fed induced stock market reversal clobbering mutual fund investors, the Nixon plan to end the war which hoodwinked the voters, all paving the way for the bank orchestrated escalation of the oil price, an inflation spike, Fed collaboration in Nixon’s reelection, another stock market debacle. By 1976 the middle class was worn out, worn down, gasless and desperate for fuel. It voted in Carter and was rewarded by pious lectures, crony criminality, incompetence at the Fed, runaway inflation and governmental paralysis. It fell hook, line and sinker for Reagan’s cartoon toughness and public relations man bunk. From then on prosperity was the exclusive province of stock and real estate gamblers. Wages have been stagnating since 1980, and the phony prosperity of the Nineties and early Oughts depended upon borrowing and speculative gains. Taxes on the corporations and high income individuals have been effectively repealed, so of course the government is broke, but only when it comes paying for human needs as opposed to fancy weapons and wars. They no longer even have an identifiable enemy, but so what? Since nobody knows who the enemy is, it is justifiable to spy on everyone all the time. You point all this out to anybody and are accused of being a Communist or an envious sorehead. I have pretty much thrown up my hands and settled down to trying to find survival angles. In a country so dedicated to perpetuating ignorance and stupidity what real choice does anyone have?

    1. Pokey

      I understand the observation by David Harvey about concern over the lack of capital accumulation in the 70’s and how that contributed to neglect of the middle class and the fertilization of wealth, but I’ve not found a satisfactory explanation for the problem. The title of a piece of crap by Tyler Cowen promised to shed light on the subject, but only a few pages revealed the argument fatuous. If Harvey is right, and he makes a lot of sense, we need a better understanding of the impetus for the shift favoring capital.

      In the meantime, it is important to remember, as is implicit in the text and comments here that the issue is one of CLASS and focus on making that understanding more general. Who can forget a scumbag on TV railing against poor people acting logically by borrowing more than they could afford to repay and portraying those people as the cause of the disaster his Wall Street cronies inflicted on the country in general and housing in particular.

      Kochs, their minions, and others intellectually aligned like Peterson and Druckemiller have worked tirelessly to turn poor people against other poor people with great success. They have been enabled by a puppet president and sock puppet legislators. At some point, unless there is a more general prosperity, it will dawn on the masses that they have been cheated and betrayed. This could be expedited if we had a few Huey Long type populists.

      It is ironic that the remnants of the depression reforms the radical rightwingers are trying to destroy have been the glue keeping their tidy little worlds together. Should they finally succeed, it will be time to eat the (super) rich.

  8. JM Hatch

    Meet Terry Rupe …

    “I don’t have any use for the federal government,” Rupe said, even though his household’s $13,000 yearly income comes exclusively from Washington. “It’s a bunch of liars, crooks, and thieves, and they’ve never done anything for me. I’m not ungrateful, but I don’t have much faith in this health care law. Do I think it’s going to work? No. Do I think it’s going to bankrupt the country? Yes.”

    Rupe sounds like he could be standing on a soapbox at a tea-party rally, but he happens to be sitting in a back room at the Family Health Centers’ largest clinic in Louisville—signing up for Medicaid. Rupe, who is white, insists that illegal immigrants from Mexico and Africa get more government assistance than he does. (Illegal immigrants do not, in fact, qualify for Medicaid or coverage under the Affordable Care Act.)

    1. from Mexico

      The “blame the Boomers” and “blame the immigrants” mantras share something in common, and that is that there’s a lot of scapegoating going on.

      1. from Mexico

        Blame the Boomers. Blame the immigrants. Blame the oil crisis. Blame the janitor. But whatever you do, don’t blame the guys in charge.

    2. diptherio

      Ah yes, but you can hear the exact same line of nonsense from executives at defense contractors whose entire multi-million dollar salaries are dependent on the government.

      And the man is quite right about Washington. If it wasn’t full of liars, crooks and thieves, he could be getting a lot more than 13K/year from the Feds (See BIG and ELR). And he only believes that Medicare is going to bankrupt the government because a bunch or much wealthier people at every single mainstream news outlet keep repeating the lie that bankrupting the government is even possible. This man hardly has a monopoly on misunderstanding macroeconomics.

      But of course, it’s always more fun to laugh at poor people. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, don’t it?

    3. JTFaraday

      Arguably, Koko the monkey is a lot smarter then most of us. When she repeats “Koko wants chocolate,” she knows what she’s talking about.

  9. R Foreman

    It’s too bad property owners will suffer under a deflationary collapse (a single tear rolls off my cheek), but rolling waves of bankruptcy creates jobs too. They say the fall from the 800th floor is a little rougher than the fall from floor 1, and you know my heart goes out to people losing half of their 50 homes and 80 cars.

  10. from Mexico

    Yves Smith said:

    “But we have a second factor at work, which is incipient collapse dynamics. For instance, various efforts to relocalize are typical of complex societies that are breaking down. The driver is the strain on planetary resources, driven by population increases compounded by rising living standards (leading to higher levels of resource consumption) in so-called developing economies.”

    And this causes a left vs. left schism, and not a right vs. left schism as one might believe. This is infinitely more apparent in “emerging” economies where the enclosure process is not yet complete than in “developed” economies, such as Great Britain, where enclosure was complete hundreds of years ago. In the case of “emerging” economies, progressive developmentalists square off against environmentalists, who typically ally themsleves with defenders of peoples still living traditional, tribal, and non-capitalist (non-market) existences. It pits the metaphysical materialism of instrumental rationalism against the ethos of sacredness which is so highly cherished by those with a different ontology.

    The right, on the other hand, deals with problems of environmental degradation and resource depletion the same way the “cavalry generals of 1914 dealt with the machine gun — by ignoring it.” (Geoerge Orwell, “England Your England”)

    1. Cal


      Around here one sees noble efforts to build local economies, employ locals, patronize local farmers and keep money circulating in the local economy while keeping it out of the hands of corporations and Wall Street.

      At the same time, (some) alleged progressives demand more rights for illegals, amnesty and more yet more immigration which goes counter to all of the above efforts. Hundreds of billions per year are sent out of local economies and back to Latin America and the Caribbean by immigrants. How does that help the local economy? How can workers demand fair wages when there is an endless stream of illegals and recently amnestied “immigrants” willing to work for next to nothing? How can local family farmers compete at least on price with mega farms employing cadres of illegals?

  11. PaulArt

    Some good points in this article but also a general washing of the hands a la Pilate as regards Dems and Boomers. What about the Democrat ‘leaders’ in Congress starting in the 1970s? Guys like Tony Coelho, Al From, Tom Daschle and that entire batch of worthies in the DLC? Should we overlook them coz they are just a few short years from being labeled boomers? As much as I love NC I am yet to see an article which details the failings of the boomer generation but more than once I have gotten a whiff of this ‘whocouldanode’ apologia for the boomer class. By the way, that short tangent into women being pressured to have children – have no clue where that relates to this piece.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please reread the post. I clearly mentioned that the driver of the resource crisis is population growth. Advanced economies ex the US have women having babies at less than replacement rates. The US had reproduction at over replacement rates in the 1990s, stunning demographers in the 2000 Census, who had projected a decline, in keeping with other advanced economies. We are finally seeing US births at less than the replacement rate, but that’s attributed to the crappy economy.

      Children in advanced economies, particularly in an energy hog like the US, have a much bigger environmental impact than those in developing economies. Hence societal attitudes and pressures matter. And the point more generally is even those women in the 1970s who bought the Club of Rome thesis and questioned whether they should have kids (and I know two who did) were given hell by their families.

      Social values are extremely inertial and play in a big way into this equation. The religious and social imperatives to have kids are strong. Women are made to feel they are reneging on their life’s purpose if they don’t have children. But we need to have way fewer people if humans are to have any hope of getting through the mess of the next few hundred years with something resembling civilization left. It would be better if population decline happened by design rather than as the result of catastrophe.

      1. vlade

        Indeed. The human problem always was that our ability to change the environment (technology) vastly outpaces our ability to change ourselves (psychologically and societally). Am afraid that unless someone comes with a reasonable interstellar travel reasonably soon (within next 100 years or so), we’ll be just another species to show up, dominate for a while (way way less than dinosaurs – and who knows, there might have been intelligent reptiles whose civilization disappeared since, it’s estimated that give it a 100k-1m years, geological blink of an eye, and there would be no sign of our civilization left on the planet..) and then die out.

      2. Cal

        Adding to my comment above, the U.S. has reached population stabilization were it not for Latin American immigration.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No, I did a study for a client in 2002 or so and the demographic issue was germane, so I looked at it in detail. Immigration contributed to the 1990s surprise but reproduction was also higher than replacement rates.

    2. different clue

      The people you name are from the UPPer class-aligned semi-boomer minority, not the MIDDle or LOWer class semi-boomer majority. Are you confusing yuppies with boomers? I know the MSM worked very hard to foster that confusion.

  12. Ferrous Male

    Just an anecdote… Two years ago, I took a course in tax policy in a PP school. For fun, the professor had us go through the NYT budget puzzle. I was genuinely surprised that the overwhelming majority of students in the class favored cutting social security benefits, including raising the retirement age to 70. Even more striking, was the fact that graduate students (those I’d presume to be most likely to shape future policy) were even more supportive of this policy than the undergrads. I wonder to what extent this opinion was due to the neoliberal approach to PP, how much was due to class, and how much resulted from generational warfare related sentiment. In a different course, we were asked for our opinions of the Boomers and GenX. More than half of the class expressed sentiments that the 35+ crowd had failed them and had failed the U.S.

    If I had to guess, I’d say that anti-Boomer propaganda will get some traction, thanks in part to the rising cost of higher ed, and (maybe) in part to the mechanics of Obamacare.

    1. davidgmills

      That’s disturbing but not surprising given the propaganda machine.
      It would seem like the young, given so few job opportunities would want the old to retire. I retired early just to give someone else a chance in the workforce.

  13. Ep3

    Real quick yves. As u r getting into the 80s & 90s corporate raiders, don’t forget how companies took on these supposeded japanese platitudes of “becoming leaner & more efficient”, “continuous improvement”. These concepts were based on the idea that American companies could not compete unless they were constantly cutting everything. Working in the 90s from the groundfloor of this, I saw at the beginning yes, it was all about cutting waste. But as the gains from cutting began shrinking, cuts appeared elsewhere. At first, there is tons of obvious fat that is easy to see and easy to cut. But think of the human body. You can only cut so much fat until you get to muscle. It’s easy to drop the first 50 pounds. But after that, it becomes harder to cut the remaining 10 pounds. And so we employees noticed no more Xmas parties. No more Xmas lunches.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      True, but this was a distortion of how the Japanese operate (and remember I’ve worked for a Japanese company). The Japanese regard the purpose of business as creating employment, not profit. They seem companies as organic, as families. Firing people is like exiling a relative in an ancient society (remember, the reason Socrates committed suicide was that he was exiled, which was tantamount to a death sentence).

      The Japanese constantly looked for ways to make their operations more efficient. But the idea was to achieve faster throughput and higher quality, not even remotely to reduce headcount. The only place that was a priority, ironically, was at Sumitomo Bank, and that’s because banks regarded themselves at a cost on industry (bad) and so were particularly driven to be efficient in labor terms. But Sumitomo absolutely never fired people to cut costs. They lowered headcount very gradually through attrition (hiring fewer people than those retiring).

  14. bayoustjohndavid

    Shouldn’t somebody filial responsibility laws somewhere in this discussion? Generational warfare is obviously being pushed to promote “entitlement reform,” but how many of us will first learn about filial responsibility laws after medicare is slashed?

    1. Auntienene

      This is why I call generational warfare a “war on families.” Just who is going to take on supporting grandparents, parents, disabled siblings? I can’t imagine most of us haven’t thought of this. The ones who support this war on families are the ones who don’t have to worry about it. It’s just more class warfare from a different angle.

      1. Moneta

        Here in Canada, the Harper government is looking to focus on income splitting during his next campaign.

        His goal is to have someone stay home and take care of those in need. Of course this will lead to all kinds of discrimination.

        But the voters will LOVE the tax cuts!

        1. Auntienene

          Income splitting sounds like the the caretaker will be paid from the cared-for’s benefits. Is that what it means?

          1. Moneta

            No. The spouse with the higher income can transfer his/her income to the spouse with the lower income to reduce the total amount of taxes paid.

            This benefits the top 10%, the retirees and would promote women staying at home to care for children… and other dependents because if total tax revenue is down, we could expect more gutting of the social net.

          2. Moneta

            I’m quite cynical. I would not be surprised if this was their strategy to cope with the creeping costs of health care.

            Instead of working on the systems, have the women (there will be men but let’s face it, most nursing still falls on the women’s shoulders) stay home and care for everyone and give them a 5-10K tax break to do all the work.

            That’s another reason why I am negative on real estate over the mid to long term. I think the number of people under one roof is going to grow over the next 2 decades by necessity and central planning.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              It would be better. And the only reason that we don’t that was a campaign by the automobile industry which wanted to shut down group homes because people could walk or live closer to trolley/metro like public transit.

              One thing that might make sense is a membership cafeteria. It wouldn’t be fancy, but it might operate five nights a week and would provide meals to the neighborhood especially in urban areas in renewal, replacing the women who cooked the meals at the old boarding houses. The microwaved food crowd would eat there. How many young adults have kitchens and then just eat cereal out of a Frisbee plate anyway?

            2. Alexa

              You sound informed–not cynical, IMO.

              Similar ideas have been percolating in US think tanks for decades. I posted a bit on this topic, about a year ago. The bookmarks are on my older laptop, but it is not difficult to conduct a search and come up with some of the proposals.

              In the US, this would partly be done by enacting revisions to the Social Security Act which would allow “stay-at-home Moms” and other caregivers to deduct years of “work credit,” even though they are not in the workforce.

              Just “Duck, Duck, Go’ed”–here’s a reference to this at the AARP website, of all places. It’s not the reference that I had in mind, but at least it demonstrates what I’m referring to.


              It is also the reason that lawmakers have passed laws regarding “community living” for the elderly (that’s not the exact term, but it refers to “allowing” the elderly to remain at home–actually forcing them to, in some instances, by changing the laws that apply to SNF under Medicaid.) The state of Tennessee comes to mind.

              At first blush, “community living” may sound great.

              And no doubt, for a very, even relatively, healthy senior or elderly person, it might work out quite well. Especially for those with adequate, to very nice and comfortable housing.

              But for very ill seniors of modest means, who cannot afford co-pays for the home health worker’s visits, etc., or who live in substandard housing, this program could quickly become a nightmare. Especially for those who have no loved ones, or any network of support, to rely on.

              I wrote a diary on this topic about 1-1/2 years ago.

              Some states have all but decimated the “skilled nursing facility” part of their State Medicaid programs.

              Between this, and the fact that Medicare is in the process of being “transformed into” ACO’s and/or MCO’s (Test Pilots programs started January 1, 2014 in the state of Viriginia) I have a sinking feeling that “this place” (the US) may one day be unrecognizable.


  15. taunger

    As a check on reality, you make great points, Yves. But as one on the upper cusp of the Millenial generation, I think the generational warfare cuts both ways. Certainly the 1% are doing their best to use the resentment to their own ends; on the other hand, the fact is that the movement conservatives were extremely effective, and as an organizing principle it will be much easier to organize young people that aren’t as taken by the neoliberal myth. How to create a message here can be sloppy, and sometimes ineffective. But as an organizer with many affluent “liberals” surrounding me, its incredible the number that support SS cuts or executive murder, and won’t discuss the issue deeply enough to examine the contradicting principles they claim. These failures are an effective means of creating solidarity amongst younger folks; I seem to remember another generation doing something similar before …
    Basically, we fought a war against the Germans, but we were more than happy to have their rocket scientists’ help. Whatever us youngsters may say about Boomers, don’t think we don’t appreciate your help.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’ve said previously but I should have repeated here that the elderly, Boomers, and the young have lots of common ground on debt restructuring (student debt), preserving Social Security and Medicare as viable programs for the young as well as the aging, and reducing our military expenditures. We now have Obamacare making it even harder to come up with good solutions to overpriced, underperforming medical care as a wrench in the equation, but these groups also should agree on the need for single payer or bridge solutions (government funded catastrophic care, which would serve to help pressure drug companies and break the power of the hospital oligopolies) and government support for routine care for lower and lower-middle income people.

      1. taunger

        And I should have made more clear, that I understand that every generation has much to gain from public policy that is actually designed to help the majority of U.S. population, whether old, young, white, black, hispanic, citizen or temporary worker. You name a few of the big policy issues.

        But my point is that for a generation that sees major crisis (can’t let a good crisis go to waste), as an organizing strategy there are certain advantages to generational conflict. Specifically: 1) Neoliberal doctrine has much wider acceptance amongst older populations. Gaining support for policies that don’t have a place in neoliberal narrative within older populations may be more difficult; its easier to build strength by meeting people where they are, and; 2) a good messaging campaign could build solidarity amongst younger activists, hopefully recognizing that older generations are not the problem in the Peterson narrative way, but in an entirely different way altogether.

        I mean, you cite to the Reagan election as evidence that it was not generational and that is fine. Obama’s election (ugh, especially the second time) is certainly a counterpoint to my ambition of generational solidarity on these issues. But the point is the narrative, as the centerpiece of politics as the possible. Which is more likely, takes less resources, provides better results: a working/not-working class movement across generations, or a generational movement across socioeconomic lines? I could certainly be convinced that your strategy is correct, but that has nothing to do with the facts of who is to blame for the current situation and who is to benefit from the needed reforms. It has everything to do with who has the power to effect the needed reforms, and who will take the beating that will inevitably land on some who don’t deserve it.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t see what basis you have for your assertion that “neoliberal doctrine has much greater acceptance among amongst older populations.” People my age and older grew up with a strong middle class and social safety nets and many I’d hazard most, don’t like what has happened to the social contract. Progressive positions (preserving Social Security and Medicare, taxing the rich more, ending our wars and cutting military spending) get majority votes or at least pluralities across all age cohorts You are confusing members of the elite (and the spokescritters who appear on TV) with the population as a whole.

          Honestly, among the people I encounter, those younger than me (in their 40s or younger) are MUCH more deeply indoctrinated. They grew up in the Reagan or Clinton era and have no idea things could be any different and work better than the system they know.

  16. The Dork of Cork

    strain on planetary resources caused by overpopulation and wealth ……Yves
    I would challenge that contention somewhat.

    While a important factor,the primary reason for a rise in primary input costs is global trade as it is structured today.
    My beer example is a good one I should think.
    This guy from Louisiana sums up the problems of the Irish & indeed European economy without even realizing it.

    The last stout factory in Cork , Murphys (The Beamish factory closed at the start of the bust where brewing was centralized in the Murphys factory )

    1. Owned by Heineken. (profits are centralized in Amsterdam or wherever and we must therefore waste energy exporting to the areas of money and therefore goods demand )
    2. The stout he is drinking is brewed in Edinburgh and not Cork
    3 In the past stout (unlike whiskey) was never exported in volume over large distances for obvious weight and quality control reasons.
    4. He lacks basic cultural knowledge and therefore pours the stout incorrectly subtracting from its potential quality.

    Local Murphys demand peaked in 2000 !!!
    It was the euro dummies.
    The euro (beginning in the 1970s) is at the heart of European deflation which exports inflation elsewhere on the planet.(we in Ireland first got caught the cores inflation in the 1970s)
    In the former area of local production such as Cork city all new consumption is directed towards extreme value added and non local products destroying the central business district of the city.

    We can see this on a national scale in the liquid fuel Irish energy balance.

    Total transport and industry oil consumption outside of fuel oil (power stations) was less then 2,000 Ktoe in the early 1970s !! (it still remains 6,0000Ktoe in 2012 despite a epic drop of 1 third since 2007)

    This was when we had shit roads.
    Basic (oil hungry) domestic industry much of it servicing local demand.
    The most efficient cars were CVs and Minis but most were shit Ford Anglias

    This is a monetary / criminal crisis of epic scale and consequence.

  17. Moneta

    Over the last 40 years, the economy and entitlements have been growing around a surging worker per retiree ratio which peaked a few years ago at 5/1. This ratio will be dropping to 2.5/1 over the next couple of decades and our economic structure have not been built around this fact. Everything is still based on 5/1 and growth.

    The fact that the 35-50 group will stay flat while the number of dependents is growing is not in our models. Private industry models rarely factor in demographics, they typically use excel spreadsheets in which past data is pushed into the future. And if the future is not bright enough, the data is massaged until management agrees with the numbers. As for government models… they are increasingly based on profit center mantra doomed to failure.

    The fact that most can’t wrap their heads around a drop in the participation rate is, for me, proof that we are still functioning on the 5/1 ratio and/or the status quo. And as long as we plan according to this ratio, we are promoting malinvestment, and per se, cheating the young.

    This means the young will be transferring a significant percentage of the fruits of their labor to the older generation so the latter can keep on spending according to the materialistic model which has failed us. Refusing to adjust also means that a large percentage of boomers will never retire.

    So IMO, the boomers might interpret the youth’s reaction as blaming the boomers but this characterization is superficial. The boomers have been hoodwinked and the economy, the way it is currently structured, can not support the promises that have been made to them without exploiting the young. Therefore, it is only natural for the young to protect their interests. If the boomers want the young on their side, they will have to become better role models.

    As a Gen-X, I am caught right in the middle and get annoyed when the boomers complain about the young blaming them. I am not blaming the boomers for what has happened because they are simply a product of their time but I am blaming the boomers for wanting to keep the status quo and wanting me to pay for what has been promised while most of the wealth is in the 55+ 1%ers hands… or in the dump thanks to planned obsolescence.

    The boomers should be uniting and attacking the 1%. They are the adults in charge, yet all they are doing is focusing on the status quo. If they want the young to support them, they will have to show some spine and be less egotistical. Most of those boomers who have clout are focusing on the value of their portfolios, money printing and paper shuffling instead of going out there and fixing the system. The pain should be split between all generations but that is not what is transpiring.

      1. Moneta

        SS is only one piece of the puzzle. The same crunch is happening in Canada, yet health care is universal, CPP is still OK and real estate is up in the stratosphere.

        The pension system is under attack in all developed countries so it’s bigger than SS.

        1. Moneta

          For example, here in Canada CPP (our SS) is hybrid, partly funded, partly pay-as-you-go. We know a crunch is coming because provinces are pushing to increase contributions rates some more.

          When boomers started working the contribution rates were 4%. Now they are around 10%. The pretext for increasing the contributions some more is to help fund the younger generation’s pensions because they don’t want the same thing to happen to the young as what is happening to the boomers. Interestingly, it’s the boomers pushing for this while the young are refusing the increases. LOL!

          The CPP is still quite underfunded so what is transpiring is that the young’s contributions will only go to fund the boomers’ future benefits which are puny to start off with… it is pretty clear to me that increased contributions will give our leaders the opportunity to increase benefits because they are too low to fund proper retirements in the first place.

          I don’t mind paying for the elderly, just don’t lie to me and tell me my contributions are going to fund my retirement.

          Too many lies…

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t know what boomers you are talking about. Of the four Occupy Wall Street groups I attended, three had an average age of over 40, meaning substantial boomer and even elderly participation.

      1. Moneta

        I’m not sure OWS is a reflection of the general population. During the student strike in Quebec, boomers defending students existed but were in the minority.

        The comments I heard the most was how it was disrupting traffic and how the young were spoiled brats.

        1. Auntienene

          I assume you have some boomers in your family, either parents or grandparents, unless you are an orphan. I’d be interested in what their attitudes are and whether they are exceptions to the monolith of boomers you seem to see.

          1. Moneta

            I am surrounded by boomers. I have to admit that they are all in the top 30-40% and the less financially endowed might be more enlightened… Here in Canada, real estate prices are still high so this group has not been impacted like Americans yet, so the delusions of grandeur are still rampant.

            They mostly believe that the young have no work ethic and are spoiled. They believe they worked hard to get where they are and they deserve their pensions.

            They mostly believe they paid enough taxes and should not have to pay taxes in retirement.

            They mostly believe that too many youth are taking useless degrees and should go to trade schools. They think tuition fees are too low and compare them to those in US.

            They believe that if the kids work hard and stay positive, everything will fall into place. They believe that the kids want everything today and just have to be patient because things will work out fine for the industrious.

            It seems to be the 75+ who are the most enlightened. Over the last couple of years, I’ve notice a few business people of good reputation coming out of retirement to work on special committees looking for solutions to the looming pension crisis.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              I think Aristotle noted that members of his generation, the one that lost Athenian sovereignty, were the shrillest when it came to complaining about the youth compared to his elders.

              Complaints about the youth are deflections from one’s own failures or not admitting complicity. The Boomers as a group reliably voted in the GOP for decades, and of course, the Democratic boomers have led a rightward shift in the Democratic Party starting in the post-Watergate era.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                Why do you make shit up?
                Look at every Presidential election result. In 1996, all age cohorts gave a majority to Clinton. The Republican skew is income based, not age based. I keep saying that income is a much better explanation than age of what is going on, and you folks keep reverting to this utterly bogus generational meme, which is flat out propagnda. Birth date cohorts are much too large to have anything in the way of common political interests.


                And your claim is TOTAL BULLSHIT as far as the 2000 election is concerned. The group that preferred Bush to Gore, age-wise, was the age cohort that picked up the youngest Boomers but was mainly people born later (the then 30 to 49 year old group that grew up in the Reagan era). Older groups favored Gore over Bush, and the older, the greater the skew for Gore. And again, income is a better predictor of propensity to vote Republican:


  18. JCC

    Generational Warfare is already here.

    I listened to a workplace pundit in his early 40’s at work just yesterday telling me (early 60’s) that all 20 and 30 year olds are lazy and would rather sit at home on their X-Boxes and collect Unemployment Insurance. When I mentioned that all the 20 and 30 year old people that I knew were a pretty hard working bunch he told me that I just didn’t understand what was happening in the world.

    I definitely don’t understand what is happening in his world.

    1. diptherio

      Currently there are three job seekers for every job opening. Many of the jobs that are available offer wages/hours that are insufficient to live on. For the two-thirds of people who want to work but will not make the cut/win the lottery for employment, staying at home and playing Xbox is about as good an option as any, and quite a few of the “lucky” third will still have plenty of time to kill. Society certainly isn’t giving them anything better to do with it.

      For a lot of us un/under-employed folks, we’ve got more time on our hands than we know what to do with (at least if we don’t have kids). Complaining that people for whom society apparently has no place have found relatively enjoyable ways to pass their time is not only mean, it’s also kinda weird. I don’t know what world your co-worker is living in either, but it sure doesn’t sound like one I’d like to visit…

  19. TarheelDem

    In my experience, the people who were most enthused by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s were young folks born between 1956 and 1970. That age group, by the way includes President Obama and a lot of his aides. And the zeitgeist beginning in 1978 or so was informed by Michael Korda’s Power and Success and Robert Ringer’s Winning Through Intimidation, Looking Out for Number One, and Restoring the American Dream. Those books and John Molloy’s Dress for Success captured people who had seen their parents, siblings, or themselve struggle to find good jobs after college and were determined not to be unemployed and to be upwardly mobile. After all the stereotype of Young Upwardly-mobile Professionals (Yuppies) recognized in the middle of the 1980s what they had become. As did, for many of them, double-income no kids (DINKs).

    Boomers were a market, a St. Exupery snake-swallowing-an-elephant size market that made TV, Davy Crockett, rock and roll, and marketized revolution. And who fizzled out as a market in the 1970s. It was the Yuppies, the religious right, and the still Silent Generation that made the Reagan years and started us down the path to today’s crises. As important as Lewis Powell’s memo is (he is the architect of the destruction of what Chris Hedges calls the “liberal class”), also important are the coup in the Southern Baptist Church that effectively ex-communicated Jimmy Carter and the alliance between the Southern Baptist Convention, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell (a Southern Baptist preacher), W. A. Criswell (pastor First Baptist Church, Dallas, and an architect of the 1978 coup), Roman Catholic anti-abortion forces, and segregationist Christians like Bob Jones University and the network of segregated Christian academies that it supported. A lot of these religious movements were cross-generational. And they pretty well shut down the liberal religious class even in mainline denominations–through peer influence and church politics within the UMC, UCC, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches at the grassroots. To compare, Sue Myrick and George W. Buch were both UMC laity prominent in their downtown churches, where the banker and business executives have power over the bishop’s appointment of preachers.

    At best the generation argument is a half-truth. And it refers to a segment of an age group that crossed the transition between what most marketers consider distinct generations.

    IMO the transition line between boomers and the following generation is May 1970. After Kent State, kids were sent to college with distinct warnings that they were being sent to advance their job prospects and that they were not to engage in protests that could get them killed. A lot of boomer kids had the expectation that completing college in itself would get them a good job with job satisfaction and that they could get educated and participate in the critical social movements of the 1960s. And they all hit the job market at the same time.

    1. Moneta

      I have always used the education system to split Gen-X from the Boomers, in Quebec anyway.

      Boomers got the Cours Classique and Gen-X got CEGEPs. Boomers got split up by sex and Gen-X girls and boys got the same opportunities.

      My first encounter with discrimination was in the workforce. My Gen-X male peers were shocked but did not say or do anything because it gave them some advantage.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I never got that memo. But the campuses themselves went about admitting more studious kids after 1971 as part of an effort to tamp down the demonstrations.

      I was serious about getting a job because I didn’t want to get married and have kids and so I needed to be able to support myself. And back then women had to be better educated than men to get a decent job. My peers (late 1970s grads) weren’t careerists (with the exception of the poor pre-meds who studied all the time). Having done campus recruiting in the early 1980s, the shift from the late 1970s in terms of more conservatism (women abandoning sweatshirt and jeans and dressing like good young Junior League wanna-bes; more career focus) was marked.

    3. Pokey

      Don’t forget that by 1970 one entering college had no realistic threat from the draft and service in SE Asia. War united the generation of the 60’s as nothing has since. It was safe to rotate toward self promotion. We boomers can and should be faulted for not realizing that the ever increasing prosperity surrounding us was a phenomenon resulting from the destruction of the industry of the rest of the world. We were blessed with college tuition that seems free compared with kids today, and there were reasonably good jobs for every graduate. Had we been more aware we might have ameliorated the crises leading to recession or at least not have suffered from it as much.

      I agree that it is the slightly younger cohort that seems determined to close the door to opportunity to the millennials. The explanation that people are imprinted at a certain age is as good as any. These Randian pricks were imprinted by Reagan, and worse, by the myth of Reagan. The shortsightedness is astounding. There will be no decent future for the great majority of Americans if we cannot overwhelm these people.

      1. TarheelDem

        We boomers can and should be faulted for not realizing that the ever increasing prosperity surrounding us was a phenomenon resulting from the destruction of the industry of the rest of the world

        How would that consciousness come about in the triumphalist post-war mood in which contrary notions were still in the early 1960s being branded as un-American?

        We would out of the generosity of our hearts (and not competition with the Soviet Union) rebuild Japan and a free and united Europe (because a divided Europe leads to war). At least in the Southern parts of the US that is what we understood. The era could not comprehend the notion of overproduction nor could it comprehend the idea of the potential oversupply of college-educated labor.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Why do you say “we boomers”?

        Seriously. This is a label created by marketers that then got picked up by political strategists (but the ones who are any good target infinitely more narrowly). And having worked with marketers, most of the stuff they do is garbage to extract fees from clients.

        I don’t identify with this weird grouping and I don’t see why you encourage it. You are just doing the propagandists’ work for them for free.

  20. Joe Steel

    Stock speculator Jay Gould remarked, “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” That, sports fans, is the real foundation of the generational warfare propaganda effort.

    So when does the aristocracy move beyond propaganda? Does their antipathy toward Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, TANF, SNAP and all the other benefit programs mean they’re halfway contemplating something more than budget control? Is it an insidious move toward reducing the dependent population?

  21. id est

    This initiative started to bear fruit quickly; 1976 was the year when you see wages starting to stagnate as corporations stopped sharing the benefits of productivity gains with workers.

    A bit of nitpicking here, but technically this is a correlation, not causation. National-level wage stagnation was actually the culmination of local wage stagnations that had begun at state and local economic levels in some cases as early as the 1920s, if not earlier; the phenomenon was already remarked upon in 1968. It was indeed a lucky coincidence for the modern conservative movement, but that’s all it was–coincidence.

    Unfortunately, while there are several versions that try to account for this long-term trend, most of them are hopelessly biased in one way or another; of the ones I know, the best accounting comes from a source that is decidedly fringe in the field of economics, despite her contributions elsewhere.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, I disagree vehemently. Go read Peter Temin on the Treaty of Detroit. Kennedy had insisted that major corporations share the benefits of productivity gains equally with workers, and was prepared to get this codified as a matter of law if they didn’t come to heel. Labor agreements at major companies set the template for wages and benefits in smaller companies and for white collar workers.

      The union-breaking efforts started in the 1970s (for instance, at Bircher Coors, the brewery) and became official US policy when Reagan broke the air traffic controllers union, PATCO.

      1. id est

        Then I refer you back to Cities and the Wealth of Nations, Ch.1, particularly its discussion of Philips curves.

        Let us be clear here. Despite many many attempts to make it so, economics and policy are not one and the same thing. Temin’s work focuses on policy, not economics. Regardless of its merit, Detroit as an urban economy was already in decline in the era of the Treaty…the ultimate causor being, interestingly enough, the automotive industry’s total economic capture of the city and a broad swath of supply regions, much as the garment industry did in Manchester a century before.

        You are putting yourself in the impossible position of attempting to explain a broader macro inflection in a complex adaptive system purely by the actions of a handful of men. Volcker et al. were merely lucky; while implementation of the Detroit Treaty would have made things better for most of us, the root causes of the 1970s inflection (aka stagflation) were far, far deeper than what a simple resetting of labor policy could ever account for (cf. ibid.).

        Correlation does not imply causation.

  22. Roquentin

    While I agree that generational warfare is a red herring, a way to shift the blame onto the people receiving Social Security in the hopes that it too can be dismantled, I think you are giving the Boomers way too much of a pass for their role in creating the mess we’re in now. I’m right on the edge of the Millenial/Gen X line and started working only a couple years before 2008. When that’s the economic disaster you walk into, never had any say in, didn’t have any active role in creating, it certainly makes a deceptive argument like that easy to buy.

    I’ve argued for a long time that the hippie kids were the Reagan adults. They got old, got sober, found Jesus, and traded in peace and love for conspicuous consumption and tract homes in the suburbs. 30 straight years of hardcore neoliberal ideology and a “fuck ’em if they can’t help themselves” attitude and the Boomers are surprised when the finger they were pointing at everyone else finally gets turned on them? What the hell did you expect? Did you think teaching your kids those values wouldn’t backfire? I guess there’s always this through that accompanies that kind of thinking that goes something like “it’ll never be me.”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Wow, do you see how fallacious your position is? What power do ordinary people have over the economic system? Power resides in companies (the large ones set the standards) and politics. I can tell you in corporations if you tried doing things differently (like being more ethical) you just got marginalized and eventually forced out. And “hardcore neoliberal ideology” didn’t become established until the later 1990s. For instance, believe it or not, there were multiple time Reagan and his Treasury secretary Nicholas Brady (out of Wall Street, I might add) got proposals from the banks that they not only nixed but thought were really cheeky. You’d NEVER see that now. And the Treasury proposed increasing taxes on highly leveraged transactions because they could see the takeover boom was getting out of hand. Unfortunately, that was one of the two triggers of the 1987 crash.

      You are basically projecting your experience backwards on a period when it wasn’t applicable and the pieces were being set in place. Kids my age didn’t want to or expect to get rich, for the most part, they wanted to do something interesting and have a respectable middle class income.

      As for politics, go read Tom Ferguson’s Golden Rule. He demonstrates that going back to the 1930s, American politics is driven by industry voting blocks, as interest groups buying influence and not ordinary voters.

      As for the rise in housing prices, go read Elizabeth Warren’s Two Income Trap. Your assumptions there are uninformed too.

      As I indicated, the propensity to vote for Reagan was income-drive. It also didn’t help that Mondale ran a piss-poor campaign.

      The old farts I know on Wall Street (all the people I know older than me, I’m too young to have been a 1960s hippie) to a person are appalled by what happened to the industry. So I don’t know who these “hippies who decided to get rich” are.

      1. LifelongLib

        “Kids my age didn’t want to or expect to get rich, for the most part, they wanted to do something interesting and have a respectable middle class income.”

        Yes, that’s my memory of the time too (born 1956). And I only knew one family in my neighborhood who were what you would call conspicuous consumers (pool, yacht, new car every year). Most drove cars that were several years old (often only one per family) and fixed the TV until it couldn’t be fixed anymore — yes, TV repairman was an occupation in those days…

      2. davidgmills

        I am one of those hippies (started college in 68) and most people my age, with few exceptions, never went to school to get rich, or sought jobs to get rich. In fact, my recollection is that degrees like business and economics were mostly frowned upon. That did change a few years later.

      3. Natas

        “…they wanted to do something interesting and have a respectable middle class income.” Yea, that’s what just about everybody wants, even today. Are we supposed to believe that everybody in the 1960’s and 1970’s was just a big sweetie who wanted to do the right thing and was just a passenger is every regard? How can we completely refuse to hold the people in charge of our culture during that time responsible for the political and economic effects they left behind? Sure, ordinary Americans weren’t the one pushing all the buttons, but is ignorance an excuse now? Anybody who voted for Reagan, whatever the reason, is culpable for the results of his presidency. It seems very strange to me to pretend like their votes meant nothing, as though they were too dumb or naive to grasp was they were doing.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You expect people to take this seriously?

          Go look at voting results, which I also provided in this thread. I’ve said this repeatedly but you apparently are too attached to your own biases:

          1. Votes for Reagan were along income lines, not age lines. You are barking up the wrong tree in blaming any age cohort

          2. All voting age groups went for Reagan in 1984. That means not just the post-WWII cohort, but the oft-praised “Greatest Generation,” those older that that, as well as the members of the “Baby Bust” cohort who were voting for the first time.

          3. I never voted for Reagan and I have plenty of company who take offense at you trying to blame him on them by targeting a particular age group

          1. Roquentin

            I can see I struck a nerve with that comment, which tends to make me think I’m right. The lady doth protest too much and all that…

            I don’t think my opinion is fallacious at all. You just stated above that everyone went for Reagan in ’84, Boomers and all. Not only that, were Boomers any better about generational warfare back then. Who was the group who went around saying “Don’t trust anyone over 30” when they were in college? I don’t think anyone should have to live out old age in desperate poverty and I don’t have enough malice in me to wish it on anyone. Still, it’s hard not to see this a case of reaping what you sew.

            I’m sure you probably do hate hearing my opinion. How many people born after 1980 do you interact with on a daily basis? More than that, how often do you take anyone in that age range seriously? I bet it’s not very often….

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              No, I have no tolerance for sloppy generealizations and I take pleasure in arguing with people who reason poorly to see how far they’ll take it. And all you’ve done is engage in broken record, a form of invalid argumentation. And even more amusing, you’ve somehow convinced yourself you scored a point!

              By your logic, the Germans who took considerable personal risk to harbor Jews are guilty of genocide because they were Germans too. After all, Germany was a democracy, right? And they were in Germany, so therefore guilty of supporting the death camps. And no women can run faster than men because men generally run faster than women. It’s the same type of reasoning.

              These age groupings are arbitrary and the people in them don’t act in a unified manner, much the less as an interest group, but you’ll be a sucker and let the 1% manipulate you rather than see who really was driving the train.

              You’re a newbie here, and you’d be better served reading another blog. You don’t seem to be interested in critical thinking, which is what we are about.

            2. Charles LeSeau

              Do be careful of the “I struck a nerve” bit meaning anything. It’s a modern argumentative fallacy. Having people argue sharply with you doesn’t mean you’ve been proven right or even made some great point. Likely, it just means you’ve annoyed them or exasperated them. I’ve always disliked this line, and suggest you drop it from your argumentative repertoire.

              As for the conversation, I’ve long held suspicions about the boomers too (I’m an Xer), but always stuffed them because it’s kind of useless, like pointing out that males rather than females have been starting most of the wars in history, committing the acts of terrorism and genocide and the bulk of the swindlery and slavery, etc – so let’s gang up on men! Personally, I think people can be manipulated almost totally by the mass culture, and that explains a lot about not only the 1980s but the 1960s.

              …And the 1980s were stuffed bottom to top with propaganda in the mass culture, sometimes in very subtle ways. David Serota wrote a book called Back to our Future that details a lot of it. For instance, the show ‘Family Ties’ was an almost exact reversal of ‘All in the Family’ (Archie Bunker). Rather than smart hippy kids conversationally ripping their reactionary bigot parent to shreds, it’s now a sharp conservative kid getting the better of his hippy parents. There’s tons of stuff like this, and government-as-enemy messages everywhere, from ET to Ghostbusters.

  23. Winston Smith

    In case anyone wants to see the fruits of (and/or a part of) this generational warfare propaganda effort in the wild, here is a recent reddit thread entitled “ELI5: [Explain Like I’m 5] Why are some people so eager for the Baby Boomer generation to die off?”.

      1. John

        Yes it was. They are young and don’t know what’s is store for them.
        Many of us have been fighting our whole lives for a just system and really have nothing.
        But they hate us all like we are the ones who screwed them.

  24. F. Beard

    If Jay Gould could hire 1/2 the workers to kill the other half then it was unethical money/credit creation that allowed him to do so.

  25. JEHR

    I was born in the generation before the boomers (and gave birth to a late boomer). My recollection is that society seemed to be preparing for the large influx of new children (and later adults) that were born after the war: new schools, new universities, new houses, etc., all in preparation for the very large cohort of the boomers. We benefited from this preparation for the boomers by having access to better schools and by having the pick of any employment that catered to that group, especially in education and health services, which happen to be the jobs recommended for women. In my high school graduating class of about 150 students, the majority became teachers or principals.

  26. Christopher D. Rogers

    Generational warfare in the UK, as advanced by our “compassionate Conservative Party” headed by the elite fools of Cameron and Osborne is the opposite to that occurring in the USA, here we have our own government turning its guns on the youth of today; namely, anyone under 25 years of age – obviously, we have the other wedge issues such as immigration, social welfare scroungers, gay rights and feminism to contend with, never mind the issue of the UK’s relationship with Europe.

    So, it would seem the US elite and its neoliberal economic cheerleaders are intent on destroying any gains US elders have made in the post 1950’s world and to blame all economic ills on these elders who allegedly enjoy numerous advantages denied anyone born after 1970.

    All bullshite, but still many believe it to be the truth. Here’s the issue though, in the UK, the largest voting block is actually those over 50 and OAP’s themselves – pick on this contingency at your peril. Something our Tory Party knows too well as it dismantles nearly all social welfare provisions for those not luckily enough to be retired or approaching retirement age. Obviously, something has to give, hence its assault on youth, the unemployed, sick, mentally ill and anyone else it can get away with seeming tough on.

    However, at least in those working class institutions I frequent here in Wales, our elders are a little more savvy and class conscious than peers in the USA – basically, they can see these assaults on the welfare state and our youth in their true colours; namely, its class warfare, with the reality being that its both the working class and lower middle class who are now in the crosshairs of our ruling elite and their neoliberal cheerleaders in the media, academia and large business concerns.

    I digress though, for essentially we have classic examples of single wedge issues mean’t to break the cohesiveness of a once unified left. Its divide and conquer techniques and ones that are clearly working in much of the UK – not all though!!!!

    Given these facts, and the difference in approach by the US right and UK right, it seems like suicide from my vantage point to pick on the contingency that by its very nature is more inclined to vote than its younger peer groups. Or, is everyone not a member of the ruling elite (0.3%) an enemy of the neoliberal state, and as such, should be liquidated, which essentially brings us to Auschwitz or Solent Green territory – who will wipe their arses though once this is achieved God only knows?

  27. LillithMc

    Last year when President Obama was ready to bomb Syria, the people found their voice and said no. This week the first shipload of chemical weapons left Syria. When most people in the US were fed up with segregation in the south, change began to happen. That is what it takes. The old collapsing system still works for the global 1% while they use the US for their perks and power. Empty holiday malls were a message back to them. One can buy an article at Sears on credit, but the payment is due in short order. They know credit interest is more risky every day. Extraction and rents are the profit factor. How far can people be pushed? We have a lost generation that should be a concern even for those who profit off abuse of people.

  28. susan the other

    That was the best synopsis, no extra BS, I have read. Just the facts, mam. Interestingly, the decisions of the global capitalists to control the masses came at the same moment in time when they realized that they couldn’t win a war against an indigenous, guerilla society. Which scared them shitless, and so they turned on their own “indigenous” people to secure their base. I really do not think they are secure at all. They will only achieve security when they join the human race.

  29. Jim Haygood

    ‘1976 was the year when you see wages starting to stagnate as corporations stopped sharing the benefits of productivity gains with workers.’

    Most sources cite 1973 as the transition year. Average real earnings peaked in 1972 — two years after Nixon severed the dollar’s gold link, and one year before the first oil shock (not unrelated events). And they never recovered:

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m focusing specifically on when productivity gains started diverging from wage growth. There was a monster recession in 1973, so that muddies the picture (as in you’d expect wages to stall in a downturn).

  30. bob


    What used to be considered the budget and what is now called the budget are two different things. Under GWB, and before, the ‘budget’ was discretionary spending only. Now, the ‘budget’ includes Social Security, a program that funds itself.

    Not only does this skew any comparisons with the past, it slights SS by claiming that SS is “optional”. You’re already in an uphill battle.

    I got into an argument with a local writer for the paper, she claimed that military spending is “only 20% of the budget”. The only way that is even remotely true is if SS is considered part of the “budget”. That SS was considered to be part of the budget wasn’t even up for debate. It is, according to her, and many of her colleagues.

    Also, the real crime with respect to SS is how the upper echelons get away with not paying into it. Once you think enough of yourself, and you are wealthy enough to afford good IRS attorneys, you claim that you don’t work for wages. No FICA tax required.

    This is AFTER they also get the benefit of not paying SS on any earnings over about 100k.

    What does a person who makes 90k a year and a person who makes 90 million(the old fashioned way) pay into SS? The exact same dollar amount.

    I would support any effort to drop all FICA taxes on anyone under 100k a year and to balance the books via expropriation of any and all US assets held in Cayman Island accounts. We still have a navy, right?

  31. whatever

    Well, the real take home question to your piece is will the oldsters knock off their rabid defense of rich people and tendency to blame young people for having trouble finding jobs if young people show sympathy for them.

    Well, see, we have had a little experiment to see if oldsters are capable of that. It’s the last thirty years. The answer is no.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      What are you talking about? Please provide some support for your claim. I don’t know of “oldsters” who make “rabid” or much the less ANY defense of rich people, save the rich people themselves and their various courtiers and service providers in the top 10%. And I similarly don’t know of anyone who blames young people for not being able to find jobs. Anyone with an operating brain cell knows the job market sucks and young people are having a rough time.

      You seem to be confusing “Fox News viewers” with “oldsters”.

      1. Paul P

        People defending the rich and blaming the jobless.

        In my experience, people do defend the rich and blame the jobless.

        One person I struck up a conversation with in a Greenwich Village coffee shop believed unemployed people could get jobs because there was a two week wait to get a roofer somewhere in Ohio where she lived. This was after the crash and when unemployment was the highest.
        Another person responded to the idea of single payer health insurance with a dismissive “we wouldn’t be able to afford it.” This person had no health insurance and no job.
        At work, over lunch, I suggested that we should have limits on personal wealth. “How much of limit?,” I was asked. “Five million dollars,” I replied. “That’s too little”–from a person with little wealth. I pose a lot of questions, in a lot of places and get a variety of answers. Many, like those above, leave me scratching my head. But, I also get some good thoughtful answers. My experience is anecdotal, of course. And, Noam Chomsky is always pointing out how polls show the public to be generous and liberal. But, the degree of ignorance and depoliticalization is so great that humane values may not translate to good politics. My sister, who expressed dismay at the existence of homelessness, voted for Reagan and supported him as he cut HUD funding (the details of which she had no knowledge). And, this summer in Bryant Park, I passed a college age man reading a book by Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter? Secular stagnation is upon us. The left see growth as the answer. CO2 concentrations are at 400 ppm and this guy is reading …OMG …Ann Coulter.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          In Greenwich Village, the bohemians have largely been displaced by people in or dependent on the financial services industry. Are you sure she really lived in Ohio? People there, except the really well off and disconnected, have much more direct contact with how bad the economy is than professionals in the Boston-Washington corridor.

  32. whatever

    Oldster doing his “thing”:

    In my experience, the people who were most enthused by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s were young folks born between 1956 and 1970.

    It’s interesting that you imagine 10 year olds were “enthused” by Reagan. Or are you referring to that born in 1970s fourteen year old who voted for Reagan in 1984?

    Yeah, oldsters just lie and lie and lie.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Wow, is this the best you can do?

      If you think kids don’t have political views, often strongly held, you were either out to lunch as a child or forgot your childhood. I have friends whose kids are that age now and they talk politics, often quite perceptively. As a 10 year old in the 1960s, I was enthusiastic about the civil rights movement. I even argued with my grandmother when she’d make bigoted remarks about blacks in front of my younger brothers. I was against the Vietnam war as of the age of 11 (1968) and could give a good critique.

      You also forget that the legacy of Reagan endured. For instance, Obama regards him as one of his major role models. And he happens to have been born in that date range, 1962.

      And you distort the point by focusing on the youngest end of the date range.

  33. Susan Pizzo

    Who voted for Reagan was not defined by an age cohort but by Nixon’s Southern Strategy (a cultural appeal to a certain voter demographic – to put it politely). The Boomers I grew up with were/are influenced by growing up in the Kennedy era, marked by political assassinations, enlightened by feminist, civil rights, and anti-war struggles. We organically learned about non-violent resistance and community activism. We entered a job market upended by capital flight, foreign direct investment, and a fraying social contract. We responded to Occupy like old warhorses – fired up and raring to go. Like the Club of Rome, we were perhaps a little before our time. But the fight is the same. We’re still carrying the torch. Ready to finish what we started. If you want to know another reason Boomers are so demonized, it would be this revolutionary spirit. Which btw seems to be shared by a number of Millennials. Hmmm…

    1. Paul P

      Nixon’s Southern Strategy.

      All these sophisticated observations by NC politicos are important factors. But, in addition, if you look at Reagan’s campaign propaganda, you find a lot of it was jobs and for getting the economy going. This is what a lot of people absorbed from the headlines, the TV ads, and newspapers. This gibberish gets accepted and provides legitimacy both candidates–and ‘our elections,’ when it is, in fact, really their elections.

  34. GRP

    1970s, after the US oil production peaked, was when it became clear to those paying attention that peak global propserity was not far into future. When we enter the age where no more growth in prosperity is possible, it becomes a zero sum game. A system where everyone wins is no longer possible. The New Deal, sharing the prosperity with everyone, was not sustainable indefinitely. All the steps taken since were for those in control to preserve what they believed was important to preserve when the limits to prosperity hit.

    People of the nations which voted back to power the likes of George W Bush and Tony Blair after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 in a naked attempt to murder and plunder others to maintain their own prosperity are the last ones anyone else will take seriously when they complain about the actions of the “rentier class” in their own countries.

    Yes, there is no honour among thieves. May as well get used to it. Sure they can bring about a revolution. But the new elite will be exactly like the current, for they are as much a reflection of the society and its preferences as the current one, which is to do whatever they can get away with, including murdering and plundering others, as long as it preserves their wealth and power.

  35. Fiver

    As a Boomer I have to respectfully submit that all educated Boomers knew how relatively wealthy and powerful we were compared to any other generation of human beings, and did so from maybe age 16 to present. As noted by Yves in referencing the Club of Rome (1961), we were all told, loudly and repeatedly across all media, and in all our schools, the facts concerning the size of the US vs the global economy, the enormity of our wildly inefficient energy use, our stupendous toxic loads of this, that, and the other by their thousands, the global population nightmare, all of the wars, the repeated abject failures politically, mountains of evidence of certain calamity, the utter stupidity of a business like Monsanto’s, truly a life-long list stupidity and evil….and what exactly did we Boomers do about it?

    We’re the ones that let it out of the bag. We’re the ones who hand-in-gloved with the very evolution of a blow-off top economy devoted to manic production to serve hyper-consumerism – recognized it – but kept on voting for the guy who promised we could just keep on doing it . Who but the educated Boomers had the income to plow that much of the planet under? Who, but exactly the ones who had been told most often, in fact for all their lives, that if we keep this shit up we’re done?

    It is not OK from a total-impact perspective for very well-off (80th percentile up) Boomers (or their elders) to keep consuming with religion year over year as per most of the years of their lives at the same time the senior fools in charge have already laid the global board out in a manner that makes clear their answer to the dynamics of systems collapse is total control of the world’s resources and critical systems, obviously implying the power of future dispensation of life or death on a global scale – do we, or do we not intend that people everywhere have a decent share? If not now, when do we say “That’s enough cake, thank you.”?

    Educated Boomers have been in power positions across all elites for 20 years, and still dominate in many areas. I would imagine the same holds true for wealth. Will the 81st to 99th percentile of Boomers who constitute the rest of the elite now step up and face down their insane bosses? Will they shout “yes” to serious tax increases on themselves in recognition that one of us scarfs down a hundred times the resources of billions?

    You bet there are shits making shitty observations of a Boomer-as-consumer argument in order to enrich themselves because it has a sort of “conservation/green” tone, but all you have to do is look at the proposed solution in order to see they are indeed shits. So I have no problem whatever saying Boomers have, as a “generation” or more like an “experiment”, been a total failure thus far, at great, great expense to the world, and unless roused by an interest in their own (let alone their children’s) future, they’d better make their move now.

    I would love to die a proud Boomer. What are my odds?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Um, you’ve got your dates wrong. Limits to Growth, the Club of Rome about environmental risks, was published in 1972. That happens to be just as the conservative think tanks were gearing up. This was early target practice for them.

      1. Fiver


        Limits of Growth 1972. Club of Rome 1968. Treaty of Rome 1957. Fall of New Rome TBD, but soon. Cause of Fall – Exceeded Limits of Biosphere to re-generate itself circa 1980.

        Typical Boomer comment from the “Problem, what problem?” crowd cutting right across the left/right spectrum to any argument for limiting growth was, and remarkably, in most quarters still is to point at Malthus or Erlich or a couple others, trumpeting “See? See how wrong they were? The fools forgot how powerful our technology is. Of COURSE we can handle all those people. Of COURSE we can all live in style. In fact, we will accommodate 9 billion of us by mid-century and 14 billion another half-cent down the road. Are we not the most clever of all?”

        Too clever by half, I fear. Unfortunately, Boomers likely to live another 20 years will not be lucky enough to miss how this shakes out, something I once thought I’d be spared.

  36. Huckleberry

    That GreedHeads – and even some Baby Boomers – are using generational conflict to further their own ends is unsuprising. That the Boomers should make such inviting targets might – just might – have something to do with the way many have conducted themselves throughout lives: lives characterized not by any of the old virtues but my narcissism.

    Whether you want to pretend there is Baby Boomer generation or not, or want to pretend you are a part of said generation or not, one thing, to me, seems clear: we are thankfully not in imminent danger from any coffee table volume entitled The Second Greatest Generation.

  37. Otter

    The most popular way to sabotage efforts to solve problems is to start a fruitless argument about who is to blame.

    It is also an excellent way to repell natural allies.

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