Identity Politics and the Stoking of Generational Warfare

I have to confess I find stereotyping annoying, and in almost all cases, it’s a poor substitute for more careful analysis and characterization. Yet it is marvelously effective in politics, as Karl Rove proved. Stereotyping, which is often not all that different from bigotry, goes hand in hand with what Lambert calls “strategic hate management,” For instance: “People who get welfare and social services are leeches;” “If you lost your home, you were a deadbeat and deserved it;” Women who were raped don’t get pregnant so there’s no reason to let them have abortions.” Manipulating voters with hot-button issues has the convenient side effect of diverting their attention from how major corporate and other big monied interests extract cash and other prizes from the government.

I’m turning to the topic of identity politics now because I’m seeing a noticeable increase on multiple fronts. It looks as if election preparation is starting even earlier than usual. Perhaps three or four months back, I noticed a marked uptick in women-themed articles in the business and political pages, as in a much greater frequency of articles on topics like women as leaders and flattering profiles of prominent women (I found the rah rah about Janet Yellen being the first woman Fed chair to be particularly off-putting). It has a real non-organic feel, the same way the deadbeat borrower meme did when it emerged after the robosigining/chain of title scandal broke.

Even though stereotyping about women is a constant in the media, I’ve refrained from doing much more than occasionally grumble in Links and comments about it, since it reflects deep-seated cultural views and those change very slowly. And it does not have much bearing on the major topics of this blog.

By contrast, we’ve had a tremendous amount of economic mismanagement in this country, not only in the policies that gave us the global financial crisis, but the approach to the aftermath, which has pretty much been, “save the banks and the hell with everyone else.” Now it turned out that the asset-price-goosing measured that salvaged the big financial firms also did wonders for the moderately and super wealthy, so they have every reason to try to hang on to and extend the monetary and political advantages they’ve gained.

By contrast, working people have suffered greatly. Average real wages fell from 2010 to 2012, during a so-called recovery, and are 14% below their peak, achieved in 1972. But the real tragedy is in sustained un and underemployment. NC commentor Hugh calculates real “disemployment” as nearly 18%. The weak job market hitting all age groups, but it is a particularly hard blow to new and recent graduates, who invested in (often costly to them) educations to give them a leg up in the job market. Many have found it didn’t do much good.

A particularly potent political grouping would be for older people, particularly retirees, to team up with young people on economic issues. So it’s not surprising that some political mavens are trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. One of the strategies of the plutocrats comes from financier Jay Gould : “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half,” except this time, they aren’t even having to hire one half to turn it against the other.

Just as I’ve noticed an sharp uptick in women’s identity articles, I’ve also seen a ramping up of generational warfare and anti-baby-boomer messaging (I have as much antipathy towards broad comments about baby boomers as I do women). This phenomenon admittedly has deeper roots, since billionaire Pete Peterson has been campaigning against Social Security and Medicare since the mid 1980s, and presenting old people as something society can’t afford is part of his strategy. But he’s been joined by fresh troops, such as Fix the Debt and billionaire Stan Druckenmiller’s overt campaign to turn young people against older ones, The Can Kicks Back.

Yet how does indicting a large group of people who are extremely diverse in terms of income, occupation, religion, family status, and ethnicity make any sense? It’s tantamount to prosecuting everyone at JP Morgan for fraud and predatory practices, rather than Jamie Dimon and other responsible individuals.

I’ve run into some distressing examples of confirmation bias among people who are usually rigorous. For instance, one young colleague buys the generational warfare meme and argues that the current poor prospects for his cohort is the boomers’ fault because they supported Reagan, and Reagan was the architect of many of the policies that held down wages and used higher levels of consumer borrowing and asset bubbles to mask that capital was getting the lion’s share of the gains from productivity growth. But if you look at the results of the 1984 presidential election, you’ll see that support for Reagan didn’t vary much by age group, but it was lowest among 25 to 29 year olds and next lowest among 30 to 49 year olds. And voting for Reagan correlated vastly better with income. As for why Reagan did so well generally? To quote Clinton, it was the economy, stupid. Reagan got benefitted enormously from Volcker breaking inflation and then lowering interest rates, which led to a strong recovery from a steep, nasty recession. And Mondale was about as inspiring a candidate as Bob Dole.

Similarly, my young colleague blames suburbanization, and thus the US dependence on the car, on boomers. Yet American, unlike Europe, has had comparatively little in the way of dense cities; once the War of Independence was won and various Native American tribes were defeated, there was no safety reason to cluster housing tightly. In general, suburbanization is seen as taking off right after World War II, but it was well established even then.

One serious-sounding argument leveled against older people is that the young workers will be burdened by supporting an aged cohort that is large relative to their numbers. There’s a related variant of how older people are leaving younger people with a huge pile of debt to pay off.

Randy Wray debunked the first notion in a 2006 Levy Institute paper. The relevant sections:

The data are in: we are aging. Individually and collectively; nationally and globally. If you think that is a problem, consider the alternative. Aging results from the twin demographic forces of declining birth rates and rising longevity. The first is a welcome development that negated the dire “population bomb” predictions made by Club of Rome Malthusians three or four decades ago. Many developed nations are already worried about declining populations; even most emerging nations can look forward to stabilizing populations in the relatively near future. Obviously, lower fertility rates are desirable, and necessary, for achieving environmental sustainability. Rising longevity is desirable from the perspective of individuals, and also from society’s vantage point. The social investment in each human is huge, and longer average life spans help society to recoup its investment…

Of course, aging is considered a problem because of the burden placed on workers of supporting those aged who do not work. The most common measure of that burden is the aged-dependency ratio, which is formed by taking the number of those beyond normal working age—for example, aged 65 and above—relative to the number of normal working age—say, age 18 to 64. At best, this is a very rough measure of the burden put on workers. There are a large number of factors that affect the true, real burden. First, many people continue to work past age 65, both in formal labor markets and in informal (paid and unpaid) work. Women have traditionally provided much of the elder care, and as longevity rises, more and more women above age 65 continue to provide care for their aging relatives and others (again, in paid and unpaid work). By the same token, young people under age 18 work within and outside the home. Further, as we will see, it is important to note that even as the aged dependency ratio rises, the youth dependency ratio tends to fall. Thus, the total dependency burden on workers may not be rising, even if the share of elderly in the population is rising.

Additionally, the labor force participation rate and employment rate of people aged 18 to 64 can make a huge difference for the true burden on workers. A rising aged dependency ratio can be associated with a constant or falling burden on workers if the employment-population ratio is rising. The three most important factors that have led to changes of the employment rate across OECD nations in recent years have been the dramatic increase of female labor force participation rates in some western countries (the United States and Canada stand out), medium-term trends in unemployment rates (rising on trend in many European Union nations, falling on trend in the United States), and the trend to earlier age at retirement in many developed nations (although the United States has experienced rising labor force participation of elderly men—see below). These factors, in turn, depend on numerous variables including social norms, family structure, labor laws, economic necessity, and health. For example, falling fertility rates, as well as changing views of the role of women, have allowed higher female participation rates. Generous childcare systems in some nations permit even mothers with young children to work in formal labor markets. Laws protecting rights of persons with disabilities, as well as changing attitudes toward them, can increase participation rates of those formerly excluded. Improved health, perhaps due to better health care, can extend the working period for elderly persons, as well as for persons with chronic and formerly debilitating health problems. Especially in Europe, very early retirement ages have been encouraged through policy, in part as a reaction to high unemployment rates. In the future, this policy could be reversed, especially if employment rates of younger adults could be increased. Higher growth of aggregate demand—as in the United States during the Clinton years— can dramatically raise employment rates, sharing the burden of supporting the aged among a larger pool of workers. By contrast, sluggish economic performance, as in many Euro nations since monetary union, raises unemployment and lowers employment rates, increasing the burden on those with jobs—a problem that should be resolved, even if the Euro nations were not aging.

So the big takeaway from Wray’s discussion is that the supposed problem of an aging population is a non-problem if there are enough jobs. So rather than fighting over an artificially small economic pie, the result of the lack of political will to make a sustained commitment to job creation, young people and middle aged people should be creating more pressure to combat the political complacency about high unemployment.

And there’s been another odd meme about the job market: that young people aren’t getting jobs because older people are “hanging on” to them. Ahem, let me tell you, even among my relatively well-heeled ex-McKinsey confreres, many of the people who “retired” did so a lot earlier than they wanted to for a whole host of complicated reasons. It used to be that companies would prefer to push out more costly, older workers and replace them with new graduates.

That pattern has changed enough to impact overall employment figures. Trust me, this is not the result of a miraculous economy-wide improvement in negotiation and suck-up skills among middle aged workers. I’d hazard two things are conspiring together. One is that many of the remaining older workers aren’t at that high a pay premium relative to new hires. Two is that companies are less and less willing to pay for training. In IT, if you read sites like Slashdot, there’s been ongoing discussion of the lack of entry level jobs for at least a decade. Low level yeoman work, which was traditionally how people learned their profession, is also being sent more and more overseas by law firms. That sort of scut work was often the productive part of a new employee’s job while he was also learning his way around so he could do more useful things.

Short job tenures are also making companies less willing to invest in training. While the average across all US workers is around four and a half years, it’s lower among young workers. Tthe lower average job length among the young is at least in part due to job hopping. While that is narrowly rational (why shouldn’t you take a better job if one opens up? It’s not as if employers are loyal), employers will be even more leery of training workers if they think they’ll bolt at the first opportunity.

The “borrowing from the future” canard is dispatched with admirable vigor by Rumplestatskin of MacroBusiness:

“We are borrowing from the future” is a common phrase you might hear from economists musing about the state of the economy; about the behaviour of individuals, businesses and especially of government.

These statements arise in discussions about ageing, stimulus, social security, public investment, public debts, health, education and almost every other public policy topics in which economists self-declare some degree of expertise. To really drive home the entrenched nature of such thinking in economics, here’s Satyajit Das saying “Debt allows society to borrow from the future” and here’s something purporting to be an economics text saying the same thing.

Oh, and it’s a favourite line the double-speak repertoire of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.

All of this is truly odd. It’s nonsense really. Perhaps expected from politicians, but not from a profession that usually ‘looks through’ the veil of money to the utilisation of real resources in the economy.

The confusion rests on a conflation of money with resources; if money equals a claim on resources then borrowed money, or debts in general, therefore equates to resources borrowed from the future. Will Ricardian Equivalence never die?

All debts are transfers of purchasing power for current resources, despite new bank-issued debts not requiring current funding from a third party (as in the loanable funds model). In a direct credit transaction (peer to peer lending or credit channels including loanable funds) one party gives up their current purchasing power to another, with repayments and interest being a reversing of the transaction over time. No borrowing from the future there.

When new money is created through lending from the banking system, the same thing occurs, except that the society as a whole transfers resources to the entity spending the new money through inflation via their newly available purchasing power. This is usually known as by the concept of seniorage, though rarely is new lending discussed in these terms.

The whole point is that future resources don’t exist yet, so they can’t be consumed in the present! There is no transfer of resources – no hover boards are removed from the future and brought into the present via lending.

Which brings us back to often hotly debated idea of counter-cyclical fiscal policy, which is fundamentally used to increase demand for current production outputs, increase labour demand and employment and inflation, and invest in capital goods to be used in future period to produce those as yet uncertain future products.

Luckily there are some common sense economists out there. At least there was back in 1961 when Abba Lerner wrote this note about the impossibility of shifting burdens onto the future for society as a whole in response to a rather confusing article attempting to say the opposite in the American Economics Association’s most prestigious journal in 1960. Some of the ‘new generation’ are feeling the need to repeat this mantra in blog form.

If all of this isn’t enough, here’s the clincher – if today’s debt is borrowing from future generations, can’t we simply use tomorrow’s debt to borrow from later future generations indefinitely for the infinite future? Yes, yes we can.

Money and debt are mere tools of social goals. They are not the real resources of the economy but records of transaction and ownership claims. We can change the rules at any point to suit our social desires – debts can be forgiven, defaulted on, inflated away, or they can be used to justify war.

Yves here. Unfortunately, just as demonization of the poor hews to popular prejudice, so to does youth resenting the entrenched position of the old. After all. Greek mythology has Cronos castrating and deposing his father Uranus. Cronos was unsuccessful in trying to escape his destiny of being overthrown by his own children, led by his son Zeus. But the passing of the torch does not have to take such a contested form, particularly if we understand who our real enemies are.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. YankeeFrank

    The extent to which we as a nation fall into this type of ‘victims blaming each’ other mentality, is the extent to which we will continue to collapse. Its a real test of the character of the American people: are we more interested in hating each other than we are in creating a prosperous economy for all?

    1. anon y'mouse

      yes, i’d say yes we are.

      and i’d also say that those who cry “class warfare” every time the true culprits (the beneficiaries) of such things are pointed out, and then say “you can’t cheat an honest man, therefore the masses deserve this” are a part of it.

      it isn’t for hate that we need to determine who really is benefitting, but for the purposes of change.

  2. s spade

    The real enemies are corporate consolidation, monopoly, usury, rent seeking and predatory finance. I would explain this but you refuse to take my comments and I refuse to continue wasting my time with your blog.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      1. You were put in moderation because you were rude on a routine basis and had a consistent high invective/low content ratio.

      2. You left a fake e-mail address, which earns you additional troll points and made it impossible to tell you specifically what you’d done to get put in moderation.

      3. Unlike other people who’ve wound up in moderation (either by hitting a tripwire or for conduct) and were patient about needing to wait until we reviewed their comments, all you did was complain and accuse, as you continue to do now.

      4. Your comment above is an assisted suicide request, which I am implementing.

  3. charles 2

    “If all of this isn’t enough, here’s the clincher – if today’s debt is borrowing from future generations, can’t we simply use tomorrow’s debt to borrow from later future generations indefinitely for the infinite future? Yes, yes we can”

    If population decreases, no we cannot. If population rises or stay the same and natural resources are depleted or we must remedy past pollution, no we cannot either.

    1. from Mexico

      This comment is loaded with a number of assumptions customed tailored to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.

      To begin with, let’s begin with a basic logical premise:

      [T]he wealth and solvency of a nation depend on what its national economy produces. If borrowing and spending enhance production, as the Keynesian ideas held, then such borrowing and spending enhance solvency.

      –JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH, Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went

      In light of that premise, a statement like “If population decreases, no we cannot” makes little sense. Aggregate production depends not just on how many workers are working, but also on how much each worker produces. So charles 2’s claim ignores per worker productivity. For his claim to be true, then borrowing, spending and investing on those things which enhance on worker productivity would have to be removed from the realm of possibility. But these sorts of investments are very much within the realm of possiblity. So his claim is predicated upon an assumption that is a distorition, a half-truth.

      The same is true of charles 2’s other claim:

      If population rises or stay the same and natural resources are depleted or we must remedy past pollution, no we cannot either.

      But again this claim ignores any improvements in the efficiency of the use of natural resources that borrowing, spending, and investing might achieve.

      Malinvestment and the creation of ficticious capital are certainly possible, but they are not at all certainties.

      1. subgenius

        improvements in the efficiency of the use of natural resources

        …which leads directly to Jevons paradox…

        1. from Mexico

          Does it? Or is Jevons paradox just another assumption based on shoddy economic theorizing?

          Wikipedia defines Jevons paradox as follows:

          In economics, the Jevons paradox is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.[1] In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal use led to increased consumption of coal in a wide range of industries. He argued that, contrary to common intuition, technological improvements could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption.

          So Jevons takes one little snapshot from history and generalizes into a sweeping, universal and all-encompassing “law of economics” that holds for all time and all places.

          This sort of “logic” has come under fire from many directions. Here, for instance, is John Gray:

          History demonstrates a good deal of regularity in human behaviour. It shows enough variety to make the search for universal laws a vain enterprise. It is doubtful if the various forms of social studies contain a single law on a par with those of the physical sciences. Yet in recent times the ‘laws of economics’ have been invoked to support the idea that one sytle of behaviour…should be the model for economic life everywhere.

          –JOHN GRAY, Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern

          And here is Reinhold Niebuhr:

          Modern historical and social sciences have sought to gain firm ground under their feet by the strategy of interpreting the emergence of novelty in history as subject to descernible patterns, analagous to evolution in nature. There are undoubtedly patterns of historical development, but the analysis of such patterns is subject to hazardous attributions of particular events as causes of subsequent occurrences. These attributions are hazardous not only because of the complexity of the causal chain but because human agents are themselves causes within the causal nexus. The unpredictability of the action of a human agent’s action in a particular situation makes prediction of future events highly speculative, and our lack of knolwedge of the inner motives of the agents of past action renders even analyses of past events very uncertain. If we hazard guesses about the unconscious as well as the conscious motives and incentives of the human agents, we make our conclusions even more problematic…

          Refutation of such [claims] would have to offer indisputable proof that the prediction is false. The proof would have to depend upon exact analogies between past and future events. Such proof is impossible…

          It is difficult, if not impossible, to refute conclusively flagrant forms of ideology which operate in ordinary political polemics, it is even more difficult to come to terms with subtler ideologies which lie at the basis of the ehtos of a whole age or culture.

          –REINHOLD NIEBUHR, “The possibilities and limitations of knowing: Ideology and the scientific method”

        2. from Mexico

          Jeevon’s paradox reminds me of a rhyme I leaned as a child:

          The more you study the more you learn,
          The more you learn the more you forget,
          The more you forget the less you know,
          So why study?

    2. Jim Haygood

      ‘This is usually known as by the concept of seniorage.

      LO-frickin-L! Real economists speak of seigniorage, synonymous with ‘licensed counterfeiting’ and ‘theft by inflation.’

      Seniorage, presumably, is when creaky antipodean MMT poseurs (prolly with a few tins o’ piss under they belt, and the sun setting on their ratiocinative faculties) try to hoodwink credulous youth into believing that the fraudulent welfare state Ponzi scheme can roll on forever.

      NO it cannot, cobber.

      1. F. Beard

        The government-backed banks (and credit uinions) legally counterfeit every time they make a loan and they do so to drive people into debt.

        So who are you to complain if the government “counterfeits” to enable people to more easily payoff that debt? Is not turnabout fairplay?

    3. Moneta

      I agree but you still lose the argument because most people still believe there is no lack of resources.

      That’s why MMT will continue and resources will get depleted.

      I pray I am wrong.

  4. AbyNormal

    “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.
    (Monseigneur Bienvenu~Les Miserables_)”

  5. DakotabornKansan

    The Stoking of Generational Warfare

    “When you’re young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You’re your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too—leave them behind. You don’t yet know about the habit they have, of coming back. Time in dreams is frozen. You can never get away from where you’ve been.” – Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

    Now it is the young who are disposable in “long march of the Neoliberal Revolution.” Neoliberal capitalists – people who are too dead spiritually to exist at all – value young people only as commodities.

    “Once you label me you negate me.” – Søren Kierkegaard

    “Youth live in a commercially carpet-bombed and commodified environment that is unlike anything experienced by those of previous generations. Nothing has prepared this generation for the inhospitable and savage new world of commodification, privatization, joblessness, frustrated hopes and stillborn projects.” – Henry Giroux

    Democracy under siege:

    “How young people are represented betrays a great deal about what is increasingly new about the economic, social, cultural and political constitution of American society and its growing disinvestment in young people, the social state and democracy itself. The structures of neoliberal violence have put the vocabulary of democracy on life support…stripped…to the logic of a savage market…

    “Public problems collapse…Individual interests now trump any consideration of the good of society just as all problems are ultimately laid at the door of the solitary individual, whose fate is shaped by forces far beyond his or her capacity for personal responsibility. Under neoliberalism everyone has to negotiate their fate alone, bearing full responsibility for problems that are often not of their own doing. The implications politically, economically and socially for young people are disastrous and are contributing to the emergence of a generation of young people who will occupy a space of social abandonment and terminal exclusion. Job insecurity, debt servitude, poverty, incarceration and a growing network of real and symbolic violence have entrapped too many young people in a future that portends zero opportunities and zero hopes. This is a generation that has become the new register for disposability, redundancy, and new levels of surveillance and control.” – Henry Giroux, “The Violence of Organized Forgetting”

  6. taunger

    It’s particularly hard to avoid the generational warfare given the state oppression foisted on all. It’s even harder when you look at the damage wrought during the height of boomer power – Bush with his follies, especially the wars, and then Obama with the decision to effectively preemptively pardon the felons that destroyed the economy.

    Also, charles 2 is right – perhaps borrowing from the future is a poor turn of phrase – I’m sure accelerating unsustainable resource extraction will convey the same information more accurately and slip off the tongue much easier. Because borrowing does increase demand for current product outputs, product outputs which use finite resources.

    1. from Mexico

      taunger said:

      …perhaps borrowing from the future is a poor turn of phrase – I’m sure accelerating unsustainable resource extraction will convey the same information more accurately and slip off the tongue much easier. Because borrowing does increase demand for current product outputs, product outputs which use finite resources.

      Well again, a favorite reactionary talking point, which unfortunatley seems to have as big a left-wing constituency as a right-wing one, that defies logic and is demonstably untrue:

      A better path is deep conservation. A unit of fossil fuel energy saved and not burned is much better than one extracted, used up and emitted. Many more jobs can be created in saving a unit of carbon energy – through things like building LRTs, a high-speed, intercity train between Calgary and Edmonton, and retrofitting buildings and houses.

      1. Susan the other

        But deep conservation is going to require just as much borrowing and spending. Remember above: money is not a resource; it’s only money. Deep conservation is the best plan we’ve got.

      2. taunger

        look, if you always want to be right, you will always find people who are wrong. It’s not that hard. It’s more challenging and rewarding to find ways to help. So, my short hand, “accelerating unsustainable resource extraction” does not represent ALL economic activity, only the current economic paradigm.

        When media/academic/political etc. maintstream figures speak, unless it is prefaced with a nod to a truly sustainable economy based on mass transit, state intervention in dysfunctional markets (utilities, banking, health care), civil liberties, etc., then I assume that they are speaking about the current paradigm.

        “Borrowing from the future” is about continuing the current paradigm. It is an entirely sensible idea that is evil: we will use the resources necessary for future generations to avoid catastrophe now to increase our comfort.

        So yes, lets build light rail, high speed rail, an efficient/solar/wind energy sector, pay a living wage, etc. I’m well aware of its benefits. But lets also require “investment” rather than “borrowing.” There’s plenty of capital out there – let’s get it into sustainable uses.

        1. from Mexico

          The rub is this: the “blame resource depletion” scapegoat is trotted out just as often as the “blame old people” scapegoat. They both serve as great diversions from the true cause of our economic malaise: criminally incompetent economic management.

          But the “blame resource depletion” scapegoat has an added advantage: It makes it seem as if the current economic order is inevitable.

          The US reached peak oil production in 1970. The first president to “blame resource depletion” for the nation’s economic ills was Richard Nixon. It provided Nixon a scapegoat on which to blame stagflation, something which had been caused by the implementation of Nixon’s own lobotomized version of Keynesianism. As Galbraith explains:

          In the autumn of 1973 came the Yom Kippur war, the oil embargo and a very large increase in petroleum prices. These were widely blamed by the Administration economists, among others, for the inflation. Around three fourths of the price increases of 1973 occurred before the war and before the oil prices went up appreciably.


          Beginning in 1973, but with full effect in 1974, came the great petroleum price squeeze. In keeping with much else in this history this too was extensively misunderstood….

          Everywhere the higher oil price was considered highly inflationary; in the United States it served invaluably as an excuse for official inadequacy in the control of inflation. In fact, it was deflationary. Especially in the Arab countries but also in Iran and elsewhere, the revenues accruing from the higher prices were far greater than could immediately be spent for either consumers’ or investment goods. So they accumulated in unspent balances. Thus they represented a withdrawal from current purchasing power not different in immediate effect from that of levying a large sales tax on petroleum or its products.23 The effect, increasingly evident as 1974 passed, was the predictable effect of fiscal astringency. As demand faded, prices in competitive markets — those for food, commodities, services — began to weaken. Prices subject to corporate market power continued to rise. So did unemployment. The oil-producing countries had provided the industrial countries with a surrogate tax increase. Its effect, like any general fiscal or monetary action against inflation, was to increase unemployment well before acting to arrest inflation.

          Since Nixon inaugurated the “blame resourse depletion” scapegoat, it has been invoked ad infinitum. Here, for instance, is Robert Lenzner writing recently for Forbes:

          I was reminded by Kirk Spano, the founder of Bluemound Asset Management today that spiking oil prices in 1973, 1980, 1991, 2001 and 2007 contributed to a greater or lesser degree to the economic recessions of 1973-4, 1980-81, 1991-92, 2001-2003 and 2007-08….

          –ROBERT LENZNER, “The Recessions of 1973, 1980, 1991, 2001, 2008 Were Caused By High Oil Prices”

          Rick Santorum in The Atlantic, backed up with a paper published by economist James Hamilton, carries Lenzner’s argument to an even greater extreme:

          “We went into a recession in 2008. People forget why,” Rick Santorum told an audience recently. “They thought it was a housing bubble. The housing bubble was caused because of a dramatic spike in energy prices that caused the housing bubble to burst … People had to pay so much money to air condition and heat their homes or pay for gasoline that they couldn’t pay their mortgage.”


          In 2009, economist James Hamilton published a paper that retroactively forecast what an oil shock, like the one we experienced in 2007-08, would do to GDP. And guess what? His model accurately predicated much of the collapse in GDP that resulted from the Great Recession — as if there had been no housing bubble or financial crisis! The oil spike was that bad.

          –DEREK THOMPSON, “Rick Santorum Is Right: Gas Prices Caused the Great Recession”

          I generally mark up arguments like those of Santorum, Thompson, Hamilton and Lenzner under the heading of Peak Oil fundamentalism.

          So the bottom line of all these polemics is this: Blame our economic problems on old people. Blame them on resource depletion. But whatever you do, don’t blame them on the people in charge.

    2. Moneta

      For our economy to be sustainable and all-inclusive, we’ve got to move from funding of tangibles to funding of intangibles.

      However, in this environment of easy money, it seems that it all flows to tangibles… Give people money and all they do is buy houses, cars or talk about spending more on infra when we are not even sure that how we currently live makes any sense long term. It’s all based on looking in the rear view mirror.

      Maybe the last thing we need is more infra, maybe more cities like Detroit should be using easy money to bulldozer down a whack of infra! What we need right now is printing that forces the Western world into a massive energy preservation contest. Not further printing to keep on adding more infra to an unsustainable base.

      The problem is that all those working in the allocation of capital have been there for while. They are all stuck on one way of investing money. Most are ultra wealthy and don’t really need to change anything when they are a couple years away from retiring.

      I believe we need to print but I don’t think it will work wonders because I have no faith in the money allocators who are currently there to do the job.

      1. from Mexico

        Moneta says:

        I believe we need to print but I don’t think it will work wonders because I have no faith in the money allocators who are currently there to do the job.

        That, in a nutshell, sums up the problem: a decadent state lacking in legitimacy.

        As I was watching the PBS special on the Mexican American War I was thinking that 1846 Mexico is very much like 2013 USA. The defining word: decadent. The Mexican Revolution of 1810 had been undone by a Creole (a Mexican-born person óf pure white, Spanish heritage) counter revolution. The counter revolution tried to re-impose colonial rule, but with Creole as opposed to Spanish rulers of the colony. The Creole elite had almost no popular support.

        But to assume there is no solution to this problem is a self-fulling prophecy which consigns the vast majority of the populaton to a very bleak future.

        1. Moneta

          I believe we need to reform banking before anything else.

          IMO, nothing else will work until the banking industry is cleaned up.

            1. Carla

              I think we have to work on many fronts at once: banking reform, monetary reform, repealing corporate personhood and the false doctrine of money as speech, stopping the TPP and TAFTA, voting rights, campaign finance reform, raising the minimum wage, drastically reducing income inequality, and that’s only the beginning. It seems overwhelming but all these things are interrelated. Fortunately, we are the many. We are the 99%.

  7. jefemt

    To reinforce stereotypes, lest we forget the intergenerational welfare that has evolved with the Armed Services war machine. Talk about The Welfare State… Amerika is not exceptional in this, other than the SCALE and depth of ours….

  8. coop

    When I hear the phrase “borrowing from the future”, I don’t think of it in strictly economic or financial terms. But trust an economist to try and make a theory around it. I always try and think of a concrete example, so here goes. Pension plans… for example. When the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan started, there were 6 workers for every retiree. Now it’s about 3, and within 10 years, it will be 2 workers for every retiree. Can 2 workers support 1 retiree, especially when that retiree is probably making more in retirement than either of those 2 workers? Doubtful, yet those young teachers will put in the pension plan, not knowing whether the money will be there when they retire. So in a strict sense, nobody is “borrowing from the future”. I think what people are trying to say is that the boomer (and above) generations will use up all the assets, leaving little for the future (younger generations).
    I’m not saying this is intentional either, it’s just the way it has gone. People live longer, returns on assets are not like they were in the 1970s and 80s when a lot of these pension plans started.

    1. JCC

      It would be a much smaller “problem” if the Financial Industry was not skimming off 5% to 10% per year of the majority of the pension plans.

      ( )

      The fact that they have been desperately trying to do the same with S.S. isn’t helping matters one bit.

      The “generational warfare” meme is great propaganda towards ensuring that the fear of the younger generations will become reality. But Yves’ point remains… it is good (black) propaganda meant to keep the lower classes at each others’ throats and protect the throats of those doing the skimming. Ultimately it is policy and that can be changed… unless we prefer the status quo.

    2. Anarcissie

      The old are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they work, they are hanging on to a job a younger person ought to have. If they retire, they are a burden to those still working. And they’re too decrepit to send off to war.

    3. susan the other

      If people demanded that their pension plans invested in ultra low college loans; ultra low first-time mortgages, environmental startups, etc. it would stop this boomer bashing immediately. But, of course, the banks have insinuated themselves into the management of pension funds, sucking out all the profit. Which profit could go toward the next generation with the same return plus enormous societal returns.

  9. F. Beard

    There’s a related variant of how older people are leaving younger people with a huge pile of debt to pay off. Yves Smith

    Actually, it is the so-called private banks that DRIVE us into debt (or be left behind forever by those who do borrow) during booms and which require large government deficits during the inevitable busts to ameliorate them.

    So just when do Progressives ever plan to euthanize those ultimate rentiers, the government-backed banking cartel?

    But I suppose I’m asking a fish to realize it’s wet.

    1. from Mexico

      Exactly, F. Beard.

      I’ve always loved Steve Keen’s post “Let’s go ‘Back, to the Future!'”

      If you were told the fol­low­ing graph showed two indi­ca­tors of Australia’s eco­nomic health, and one of them had to be addressed urgently, which one would you expect politi­cians and econ­o­mists to try to bring under con­trol first?

      If you picked the blue line, you’ve obvi­ously not a politi­cian. The blue is the ratio of pri­vate debt to GDP in Aus­tralia; the red line is the ratio of gov­ern­ment debt to GDP (debt to the bank­ing sec­tor only; both series come from RBA table D02). The red line is the one that both sides of pol­i­tics in Can­berra are obsessed about; the blue one they both ignore. –

      See more at:

      And so it is too with our paid professional liars that inhabit Washington D.C.

      1. skippy

        Did someone say GDP???

        Mike Wright In this paper:

        Mark writes:

        “In national income and product accounts, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is widely recognized as the most common denominator of economic performance. However, because it measures final output only, GDP overemphasizes ***the role of consumer spending as a driver of economic growth rather than saving, business investment, and technological advances.***”

        How does saving drive growth, exactly?

        And what signals investors to invest, if not demand & expectations thereof, both of which are in the hands on consumers?

        And all technology does is provide new, novel products, and reduce the cost & time of production.

        You can make production as cheap as you want, but if no *consumers* demand your product, it won’t matter one bit.


        Skippy… time and space are starting to shimmer – like thermalheat on a flat desert… keep walking till the distance comes into foucus methinks… just don’t run out of water first.

    2. Banger

      The tragedy of “progressives” in the U.S. is that, in terms of coherent policies, there is no “there” there. The banking cartel serves no useful economic purpose as do many other industries if you are talking about “economics” as allocating resources for the benefit of most people. The American left has few coherent policies other than vague noises about justice and compassion–and thus is ignored in the world of power-politics.

      To give the most practical example–the left could have, if it had wanted to, pressured the Administration to go after the criminals responsible for the 2008 crisis but they didn’t because they considered supporting Obama to be more important than true reform of the political economy. They did not even request some kind of truth commission to at least expose the criminals who ruined many people’s lives and caused me, personally, considerable drop in what little wealth I had.

    3. skippy

      “So just when do Progressives ever plan to euthanize those ultimate rentiers, the government-backed banking cartel? – Beardo

      skip here… as soon as we can get the gargantuan corporations and multinationals brought to heal. You know after the neoliberals – neoconservitves et al let them off the leash.

      Skippy… that or we can just hand over the keys to the planet right now and get the party really cranking with gang rule DRO.

      1. F. Beard

        There is nothing inherently wrong with corporations but as top members of the so-called creditworthy they are able to loot the rest of us via the government-backed counterfeiting cartel, the banks.

        I’ve called for the equal distribution of the common stock of all large US corporations to every US citizen since they were probably built with the stolen purchasing power of the citizens anyway. Also a universal bailout similiar to Steve Keen’s “A modern debt jubilee.” Also land reform ala Leviticus 25. Also a BIG.

        1. skippy

          “There is nothing inherently wrong with corporations but as top members of the so-called creditworthy they are able to loot the rest of us via the government-backed counterfeiting cartel, the banks.” – beardo

          Skip here – proof please.

          “I’ve called for the equal distribution of the common stock of all large US corporations to every US citizen since they were probably built with the stolen purchasing power of the citizens anyway” – beardo

          skip here – common stock is next to worthless in rights or value (penny stock), also its the same gag that was used in equity offerings only re-branded. It does nothing to compensate the citizens or to curtail the offenses large cap corporations have engaged in.

          skippy… Um Leviticus 25 was written thousands of years ago and things have changed quite a bit, 7 billion people, climate change, energy and water issues. Have you seen Mr Khans work lately?

          1. skippy

            BTW – “The declaration consists of two parts that work in tandem: First, the sovereign declares that it shall, on some regular basis, collect taxes from its citizens. Second, it declares that the only thing it will accept as payment for taxes due, is the “money” the sovereign—and only the sovereign itself—shall issue. This money becomes the sovereign “fiat” currency: Citizens willingly accept it in exchange for real goods and services because they know:

            a) They are going to need some of this sovereign currency to pay their taxes with, and

            b) They know they will be able to use the sovereign currency to purchase goods and services from other citizens for exactly the same reason.

            The central question that arises from this tandem relationship is: if the government of the United States, for example, issues the fiat U.S. Dollars (prints them, or keystrokes them onto an electronic ledger), how do the citizens get hold of the Dollars so they have them to pay their taxes with? The answer is both obvious and startling: The sovereign government has to spend the Dollars after it issues them. And what does it spend the Dollars on? It buys things from the citizens—goods and services which the citizens willingly provide in exchange for the Dollars because they need the Dollars to pay their taxes with.

            In a fiat money system, then, sovereign spending happens before taxes are paid! It is literally, by logic, not possible for it to happen the other way around. Furthermore, the fiat Dollars the sovereign spends are not Dollars it has collected in taxes, but rather Dollars it has issued specifically for the purpose of its spending. Finally, and most important: taxes are collected not to provide the sovereign with Dollars to spend, but rather to ensure the citizens will continue to need the fiat Dollars and, therefore, continue to be willing to sell their goods and services in exchange for them. ”


            Skippy… In bold – “Finally, and most important: taxes are collected not to provide the sovereign with Dollars to spend, but rather to ensure the citizens will continue to need the fiat Dollars and, therefore, continue to be willing to sell their goods and services in exchange for them.” – So are you proposing to compete with sovereingn dollars via coporate printing?

            1. F. Beard

              So are you proposing to compete with sovereingn dollars skippy

              ONLY wrt to private debts. And only after a universal bailout of the population and other reforms. Inexpensive fiat is the ONLY ethical means for the payment of government debts. Private money MUST only be useable for private debts.

              But it’s obvious to me now that NOTHING I propose will ever be acceptable to you. No problem. In warfare, stubborn positions are often bypassed. Consider yourself so bypassed. I’ve got better things to do.

              1. skippy

                After all these years Beardo and you still don’t get it.

                You still retain a high level of Austrian neoclassical theological theory in your world view, regardless of the increasing contrary evidence. Your competing money plan (cough wages transormend to equity offer) is straight out of the Austrian play book, they gone completely mad WRT Somalia as a text book case to evidence their theory’s wanderlust.

                Then there is the smell of DRO theory in light of all your comments ie gang rule.

                “Rothbard was (sadly) a fascist” – WOW – so the only quibble is that he did not conform to some biblical interpretations, yet was a dyed in the wool front man for aristocracy. Hence if he not supported commodity money and deflation he would have been a swell guy?

                “But it’s obvious to me now that NOTHING I propose will ever be acceptable to you. No problem. In warfare, stubborn positions are often bypassed. Consider yourself so bypassed. I’ve got better things to do.” – berado

                skippy… and there we go… the austrian neoclassical brush off… if I can’t make you think like me… I’ll block you… I watch it everyday Berado… on other econ sites.

                1. F. Beard

                  My “quibble” with Rothbard was he was a HYPOCRITE! One cannot be a libertarian and then say that government should give special priviledges to someone’s favorite shiny metal!

                  As for you, you say just regulate the banks. How does one regulate theft? Are you so morally dense that you fail to realize that the ability to return stolen purchasing power plus interest to the original thieves does not in any way, shape or form make one so-called credit worthy? Well? Are you? You do realize that it was once considered imprudent to lend to blacks? Goggle redlining.

                  And are you so stupid to fail to realize that universal restitution including the equal redistribution of the common stock of all large corporations would make those corporations accountable to the entire population?

                  Moreover, you are often nearly unintelligible. It is not worth it to me to try and decyper your apparent gibberish since you contibute little anyway.

                  However, as pitiful as you are, God can work wonders with the lowest quality material. I was once worse than you are.

                  But while the Lord can deal with you, I can’t or at least won’t.

                  So: Bye, bye!

                  1. skippy

                    Bingo Libertarian… an ideology absolutely without any validity, which is fabricated completely by the totality of thought – alone – one that’s roots are firmly entrenched in personal might makes right aka the free market gang rule posse.

                    “return stolen purchasing power” – Beard

                    skip here – it’s free floating fiat chartal money created by sovereign law, hence there is no store of value or stolen purchasing power, it is a unit of accountancy to facilitate exchange.

                    Laura Elizabeth Teller //Chartalism begins when the State designates the objective standard which shall correspond to the money-of-account. Representative Money begins when money is no longer composed of its objective standard. Fiat money only appears when the State goes a step further and abandons the objective standard.//

                    ~John Maynard Keynes.
                    A Treatise on Money

                    Ergo the state proceeds the market by lawful sovereignty and has dominion over it, in accordance with the social license its citizens afforded it.

                    Furthermore see: “Historical evidence supports the view that the orthodox narrative of money’s relation to barter is plainly incorrect. In his magnum opus, Debt: the First 5000 Years, David Graeber asserts plainly that “our standard account of monetary history is precisely backwards.” Amidst a thorough survey of historical and anthropological evidence, he claims that money first appeared in the form of credit (“virtual money”), with coins appearing only much later, and with barter relegated to a ‘special circumstances’ status. He explicitly states that “we did not begin with barter”, and explains that barter has instead been used when currency was unavailable or among strangers in primitive cultures (usually when unacquainted tribes interacted) (40-1). Wray paints a similar picture, summarily concluding that “there is no evidence that markets operated on the basis of barter (except in extraordinary circumstances such as prisoner-of-war camps)” (Understanding Modern Money, 40). The idea that pre-monetary economies were based on barter is a myth.” – Mike Wright @

                    I strongly oppose your suggestions on the nature and reality of human history and the damage Libertarianism has wrought on this world.

                    Skippy… Gawd equals –

                    So don’t project that mental position at me or the rest of the world mate, its your personal gig, keep it that way.

  10. diptherio

    The dependency ratio generally seems to be discussed without consideration of increasing labor productivity. I believe labor productivity has increased about 5 fold since WWII, so if the dependency ration used to be 5:1 and now it’s 1:1, that shouldn’t be any problem at all.

    The real question is this: Is there enough stuff being produced now to provide for everyone alive today and will we be producing enough stuff in 20 years to provide for everyone alive then? If the answer is ‘no’ then we need to do something about it (i.e. redistribute resources, reduce consumption, improve efficiency, invest in productive capacity, etc.) but the problem is definitely not the lack of financial resources, either now or in the future.

    We’re not “stealing from the future” by funding Social Security and Medicare…but we are screwing over future generations by not working to create an environmentally-sustainable way of life right now.

    I’m not worried about my grandchildren someday asking me where all the money went; I’m worried about them asking me where all the water went…where all the trees went…what happened to all the fish…

    1. F. Beard

      Great point about the increase of productivity reducing the needed worker to dependent ratio! And, btw, if common stock were widely used as private money then those gains from productivity would AUTOMATICALLY be shared by many, instead of a few.

      Yes, the real problem is the lost generation(s?) our unjust money system is creating. I’d hate to be responsible for that! And no, make-work is NOT the solution. Justice is and always has been the solution. People can and will find useful (at least to them, by definition) work to do if they have sufficient resources such as land and income, both of which the banking cartel has stolen from them.

      1. skippy

        The OTC market dwarfs the banking sector by orders of magnitude. That and capital flows are massively being captured by the utility sector, its quite dominate.

        skippy… banks snicker – regulation can fix that no problema – the opaque stuff is a completely different problem imo.

        1. skippy

          BTW It is troubling when people conflate corrupt government with corrupt corporations taking away their voting rights and infesting every nook and cranny, of said government, over decades, in a coordinated effort. It seems some utilized the “market methodology” in – buying into – a belief too. No need to do due diligence either, impulse buy.

          skippy.. are you a Corpratist Rothbardian?

          1. F. Beard

            Rothbard was (sadly) a fascist in that he supported a gold-backed dollar. He also was a big fan of deflation and never, to my knowledge, ever advocated restitution for the victims of the banks, almost the entire population. That’s what comes from heeding Mises more than Moses.

            As for OTC, let gamblers play, I say, but NOT with government insured deposits. Most of the population would choose to be in a risk-free government-provided fiat storage and transaction service that made no loans and paid no interest were it available (as it should be as a normal duty of a monetary sovereign) and if government deposit were, as it should be, abolished.

              1. skippy

                Corporations in their present state are little more than aristocracy transformed (see TTP and political leverage), which is what the mises mob are really on about.

                “As for OTC, let gamblers play,” – beardo

                Skip here… OK you have a wee problem with banks but, none with a market that dwarfs it and is directly responsible for the GFC. Same for the capital flows now being sequestered in the Utility sector which IMO is hugely vested in the OTC market. Curious~

                skippy… the rest of it just devolves into tautology.

      2. Sammy Maudlin (f/k/a Kevin Scott)

        “People can and will find useful (at least to them, by definition) work to do if they have sufficient resources such as land and income, both of which the banking cartel has stolen from them.” – F. Beard

        Yep. As an adjunct to our discussion over at New Economic Perspectives regarding the senselessness of sacrificing full employment today to “fix” social security’s future, it’s the same obtuse and false rhetoric to promote the idea that the younger generation must “pay” for the older generation’s care in their golden years.

        The big switcheroo that has occurred (as is pointed out by Yves, diptherio and others) is that MONEY is now viewed as a RESOURCE. It is not. People and land are resources, not money.

        Young people are PAID money to support boomers in their old age so that they may exchange money for other goods and resources they need to support themselves and their dependents. Unless China begins providing low-cost elder care through Wal Mart, lack of financial resources in this country will not be the issue when it comes to providing care for the boomer generation.

        The idea that we need to sacrifice full employment now and cut back Social Security to “save” future generations is not logical or correct. Doing so will only insure 1) that old people will not receive the care they need; and 2) people who are willing to work (and start businesses) to support those old people in exchange for money will not have the opportunity to do so; and 3) people will surely starve now, as opposed to possibly starving in the future.

        What’s the passage about not borrowing tomorrow’s trouble today Mr. Beard?

        1. F. Beard

          “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 (New American Standard Bible)

          Also, it occurs to me that worry degrades our obedience to this:

          Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24 (New American Standard Bible)

    2. from Mexico

      diptherio says:

      …we are screwing over future generations by not working to create an environmentally-sustainable way of life right now.


      There seems to have emerged a cult of mandatory self-flagellation and asceticism whose corrugated-iron construction holds that any move toward a more environmentally-sustainable way of life = diminished human flourishing and quality of life.

      My own obervations here in Mexico that as Mexico quickly changed from a more traditional society to a consumer-oriented one that consumer goods are kind of like cocaine, in that people get addicted very willingly and very rapidly to them. But I’m not convinced that cocaine, or consumer goods, addiction leads to more human flourishing or a better quality of life.

      One of the famous Mexican writers, I belive it was Carlos Monsavais, wrote a great deal about this. Mexicans seldom stop to think what they are sacrificing, he noted, in trading their traditional culture — rich in ritual and connectivity with family and friends — for a culture which only values slave wage labor and material things.

      1. anon y'mouse

        this, along with the suburban fiasco.

        which is not so much a fiasco in the sense that “suburbs are boring, where the boring white middle class live” but really because they are a use of a space that was not planned with long-range functionality in mind.

        being that they took farmland from nearby major cities, which used to supply those cities with food. thus driving farmland farther away and necessitating longer-range transport of food.

        being that they were usually not formed around a productive use of their own (or these functions eventually fell by the wayside as the suburb became mostly about homes and box retailing): a functioning business or types of businesses that had some geographic advantage to being placed there plus provided much local employment.

        being that there is such a lack of local employment in such places, necessitating long commutes.

        being that most necessities of life have to be trucked in from far away all of the time, otherwise the suburb could not function as a living space.

        being that historical, geographical, cultural and even political reasons angled us towards car culture and not efficient mass transit.

        suburbs aren’t bad because they’re ‘ugly’ or boring regular people live there. they’re bad because they consume a lot of resources and only usually provide living space.

        I won’t get into the psychological aspect of having to get in a car and drive everywhere to accomplish any kind of errand. that might actually be amended in a suburb, with the addition of totally separate bike/walking paths. as it is now, with most people driving behemoths and the roads resembling freeways once you leave the actual housing-division, you’re taking your life into your hands and in many places they haven’t bothered to install sidewalks (why bother? just a cost that no one will use, right?).

        we’ve got a lot of work to do to turn these places into effective, efficient living spaces. installing their own localized power generation (if possible) is just the start.

        1. diptherio

          Everything has a silver-lining (well, maybe not everything)…one possible advantage of the suburbs is the existence of yards. We might envision turning what is now just grass into gardens, tended by cooperatives of locals, taking advantage of their proximity to dense urban areas to market their produce. Or, if not selling to the city, at least providing enough for local consumption.

          In my town we’ve got a group that coordinates volunteers to help residents convert all or part of their yard to garden plots, and to help tend them throughout the year. If suburbanites “got off the grass,” the suburbs might be an asset rather than a resource drain.

          1. anon y'mouse

            yes, I would say that too dip (heh).

            but I’ve met too many people who lived in developments, that told me tales of woe about what they could and could not do with their property, that would effectively prevent this.

            many people who live in these have said that they can’t even put so much as a clothes drying line in their back yard. the plantings in the front yard have to be spaced in a certain way, with a path done in a certain way and with plantings approved by the community (in other words, they will tear out your flowers if they are the wrong kind of color). remember that article that was posted up the other day about the garden that someone had removed? these people can’t even get a garden started.

            we won’t even get into the municipalities that want to outright outlaw rainwater gathering, claiming that rain that falls onto your property is not “yours” and that you don’t have any right to gather it, because of some concern about the sewage system not being up to capacity without it all going down some stormdrain somewhere (this might be true, but then that implies that the sewage system was overdesigned in the first place, no?).

            I think the suburbs CAN be an ok place, after quite a bit of retrofit and as long as they are not too far out from a functioning city. after that, they’d better have something else going for them than being a bedroom community in which you just might be able to plant Miracle Grow tomatoes if you beg your housing association in the right way.

        2. Moneta

          I am amazed at the number of people who park in their garage, drive to work where they also park in a garage. Then they take the elevator and sit in front of a computer all day. At the end of the day, they are stuck in traffic and then go to the gym and run on a treadmill to get some exercise.

          And even more amazing is that most of them probably don’t even realize how odd this way of life is.

  11. ep3

    another great post Yves. I like taking the content on the ground and looking at the bigger picture.

    I would like to state my frustration and blame on the baby boomers. I blame them for giving up the fight. They had the world ready to give them everything they wanted. In the 1960s, they were changing the world for the better. Then, in the 1970s, they gave up. They got middle class jobs. They started families. And their focus changed from changing the world to taking their of their own little kingdoms. Yet gov’ts kept giving them everything; pensions, full health care. So yes, boomers are at fault. They let the system trick them into giving up the fight to change the world. And the system knows this. The boomers have the numbers to change things. But they got lazy.
    Even on the job training. And I want to take a side step to discuss that. As you say it used to be if you wanted to be an electrician, you got a job as an apprentice and worked & learned the trade hands on. But today, you goto school and get in debt. Then upon graduation, you compete with other graduates (as well as recently unemployed folks who have been working in the field) for jobs. If your parents have the connections, they can get you a job working for a large company. Large companies are the only jobs that will pay close to a living wage, as well as other key benefits. So you have now competed against older persons who were fighting for a job just to feed their kids. And now you have to gain that experience component. But as you say Yves, employers don’t want you to gain that experience component because they know you will jump ship. So the new graduate is disqualified because he lacks experience. I see a lot of jobs in the Lansing area for what I call industrial-tech jobs. I am talking things like electrical wire fixers, phone line guys, etc. They require extensive education and experience. They refuse to hire all the thousands of unemployed in the area because of the expense of training (I would say that’s not the reason). Yet the attitude of people in the community is that it’s not the responsibility of the employer to train a person for a job (even tho that was how it had been done). And employers want to hire over-qualified employees and then under-pay them for their skill set.

    1. sleepy

      “I would like to state my frustration and blame on the baby boomers. I blame them for giving up the fight. They had the world ready to give them everything they wanted.”

      I think you overly romanticize that period. I don’t know anyone who was around back then, myself included, who had any objective inkling at all that the world was ready to give us everything we wanted.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Agreed. The economy totally sucked from 1972 to 1983, was better but hardy great 1984 to 1987, was OK in 1988 and 1989, and was in a bad recession in 1990 to 1991. So the early part of all or our working lives was seeing a generally sucky economy or a good economy with fresh memories of a sucky economy.

        So tell me how we had expectations that everything was gonna be a bed of roses? That’s the experience of the younger cohort, which grew up in a generally good economy (1992-2006, with a mild recession in the dot bomb era). Oh, and we also had not so nice college dorms. The college amenities have gotten to be really plus in the last 20 yeeas.

        Frankly, this reads like projection. Older people grew up with bad recessions happening pretty often, and were surprised in our later working careers to see less of that, while young people grew up with much more prosperity and an illusion of stability and came to expect that.

    2. Lambert Strether

      Here, let me translate it. “I would like to state my frustration and blame on the baby boomers Millenials. I blame them for giving up the fight. With Occupy they had the world ready to give them everything they wanted.”

      * * *

      No point addressing the rest of your comment; subtituting new parameters into your claims shows the vacuity of generational analysis — along with its perniciousness.

  12. Banger

    My first impression on reading this is that Yves, yet again, made a splendid presentation and debunked with grace and accuracy the generational conflict meme.

    But my focus is on why do these memes work? Fudamentally, the best way to counter the populist left is to divide the population–it always works. It worked during the actual Populist movement of another era, it worked after the Civil Rights and anti-War movements. But the fact is these deep divisions are deeply embedded in our culture. We, as a country, lack coherence. We disagree about very fundamental values and while we can have some agreement on some things we do not seem to be working in the direction of what many of the founders, particularly Jefferson hope for, i.e., a general spread of education and the ability to reason based on established facts. This project of education has, in my view, largely failed. Most people lack the fundamental skills needed for citizenship as envisioned at the start of the U.S. Thus mythology, prejudice, hatred, irrational fears is easily manipulated by oligarchs and those that know how to game the system and bamboozle the public.

    I’m only saying this because I think that the left should re-tool itself as a movement to unite the populace under the banner of, at least, reason and hopefully compassion (which I believe is reason-based). I say this as someone who also knows the limitation of what we call reason since I believe, like many of the ancients, that Theology (the spiritual world) is the queen of the sciences–but I’m willing to make “mere” philosophy as regent for now.

    1. from Mexico

      Banger says:

      But the fact is these deep divisions are deeply embedded in our culture. We, as a country, lack coherence. We disagree about very fundamental values and while we can have some agreement on some things we do not seem to be working in the direction of what many of the founders, particularly Jefferson hope for, i.e., a general spread of education and the ability to reason based on established facts. This project of education has, in my view, largely failed. Most people lack the fundamental skills needed for citizenship as envisioned at the start of the U.S.

      Has Jeffersson’s Enlightenment Utopia failed to materialize because of our culture, or because of Jefferson’s misreading of man as a rational creature?

      As David Little explains in “Religion and Civil Virtue in America”:

      In much of what he wrote, Jefferson inclined to reduce all that seemed to him important in religion to a basic set of moral and social duties, intuited directly by an inborn “moral sense.”


      He tried to demonstrate that once the common moral denominator of all religions had been isolated it is then possible to detach and dispense with the respective “dogmas” of the different traditions…. Since dogmas, rather than basic moral outlook, divide and alientate religions from one another, hostility can be overcome only by distilling away the “inferior” portions and finding common agreement around the moral heart of religious belief.


      Accordingly, Jefferson found it natural to conclude that his “self-evident,” nonmethaphysical God, manifested in the “pure and simple unity of the Creator of the universe,” would similarly manifest himself to Jerfferson’s compatriots.

      –DAVID LITTLE, “Religion and Civil Virtue in America”

      Jefferson’s philosophy is quintessentially Cartesian. As Michael Allen Gillespie notes in The Theological Origins of Modernity:

      Descartes…was convinced that anyone who is freed from the prejudices of the world and uses his good sense will arrive at exactly the same conclusions he did.

      Thus, as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. explains:

      Human ignorance and unjust institutions remained the only obstacles to a more perfect world. If proper education of individuals and proper reform of institutions did their job, such obstacles would be removed.

      Einstein disagreed:

      According to this conception, the sole function of education was to open the way to thinking and knowing, and the school, as the outstanding organ for the people’s education, must serve that end exclusively….

      It is true that convictions can best be supported with experience and clear thinking. On this point one must agree unreservedly with the extreme rationalist. The weak point of his conception is, however, this, that those convictions which are necessary and determinant for our conduct and judgments cannot be found solely along this scientific way….

      One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is, and yet not be able to deduct from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations…. Here we face, therefore, the limits of the purely rational conception of our existence.

      –ALBERT EINSTEIN, “Out of My Later Years”

    2. Lambert Strether

      One reason these memes work is that they are crafted and propagated by experts who are paid a lot of money for their work.

      Another reason they work is that, quite evidently, it is easier to hate than to think.

  13. JCC

    “Then, in the 1970s, they gave up.”

    They didn’t give up, they were beaten. Just as the OWS crowd was beaten.

    I was a freshman student at Boston U. in 71/72 looking out my dorm window at a fairly large and very peaceful campus protest of the Viet Nam War. My “Holy Shit!” moment came when I saw about 20 ambulances suddenly pull up near the center of the protest, and, 10 minutes later, about 30 Boston Police Squad Cars pulled up with two or three cops jumping out of the cars and proceeding to “go to work”.

    The ambulances all pulled out, full, within about 20 minutes and the street was empty. This was happening at campuses across the country, I’m sure.

    In the background during those years we were barraged by “Okie From Muskogee” etc and lots of editorials on television and in newspapers about “irresponsible, pot-smoking hippies that never worked for a living while sucking up their parents’ cash partying, getting drunk and dropping acid… and “playing” at politics. In other words, propaganda.

    Where was the majority of this new generation during OWS? Not sitting home playing computer games, smoking a little pot, having a beer, going to work and raising families, while making fun of the drum-beating (propaganda) hippies on Wall St.?

    Today’s Policies and Status Quo and Propaganda, just like the late 60’s and early 70’s, is very very powerful. When pointing fingers at earlier generations, be sure to look in the mirror first and remember the old adage, “people that live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

    1. AbyNormal

      yep, ep3 walked right into it…maybe its the ‘bigger picture’ screen with higher resolution syndrome.

      here’s an even wider picture: a group of women wailing around a pile of clothes…a journalist covering ‘spring uprisings’ asked an interpreter “whats going on…what are these women screaming?” the interpreter replied…’they are crying over the pile of clothes worn by their dead children that fought a battle they refused to see in its early stages…when they were young and the propaganda could have been seen for what it was and demolished.’

      (paraphrased from a pow-wow i viewed on cnn one late late night)

    2. astrid

      “Where was the majority of this new generation during OWS? Not sitting home playing computer games, smoking a little pot, having a beer, going to work and raising families, while making fun of the drum-beating (propaganda) hippies on Wall St.?”

      And where were the vast vast majority of Boomers during OWS? Doing all of the above and bitching about alleged millenial immaturity, while sitting in their monstrous SUVs in their hour plus commute between their corporate jobs and their exurban McMansion (this is also a stereotype, but I’ve met many more Boomers fitting this description than I have met reallife Boomer hating post-1968s). And BTW, I know some younger people who were sympathetic to OWS, but were afraid to attend because of police brutality and the total surveillance state (in a world where any sort of deviance can get your resume tossed in the trash immediately), both of which metastasized on Boomers’ watch.

      And then Boomers wonder why the kids don’t trust or like them. Every talk about responsibility and culpability always comes down to the “what were you doing in 1968” or the “1980 job market was rough too” lines of argument. How about acknowledging the suffering of a different generation due to failures on your watch? Rather than expecting Millenials to come to your rescue on SS and medicare, how about first doing something about the state of the horrible entry level job market and the non-dischargeable student loans? How about doing something positive for somebody else now, rather than sitting on your circa 1968 laurels?

      I would be more sympathetic to Boomers if they didn’t spend so much time blaming their victims or making excuses for themselves.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Wow, this comment is all prejudice, no facts.

        “Boomers” is a really bogus construct. Are boomers a party? An interest group? And if you bother looking at the photos or attending actual OWS groups, they have plenty of older people in them. Occupy the SEC has significant representation of middle aged as (gasp) even some people older than that (yes there are people around older than the post WWII cohort). The Alt Banking groups (there are two) have more people in their 40s and middle aged than young ones. The only people I’ve met from Occupy Homes groups are middle aged.

        And there are photos of some older people being beaten at OWS protests. I recall one of a woman who was at least 50, maybe 60, being punched out.

      2. JCC

        “And BTW, I know some younger people who were sympathetic to OWS, but were afraid to attend because of police brutality and the total surveillance state (in a world where any sort of deviance can get your resume tossed in the trash immediately), both of which metastasized on Boomers’ watch.”

        This “it’s the boomers and and their damn S.U.V.’s fault” meme is getting very old very quickly.

        As I said, people in glass houses…

        The fact is we went through the exact same thing, you may want to read my comment again. The 20 or so ambulances pulled up first at least 10 minutes before the Boston Cops showed up with their truncheons and tear gas, knowing full well they would all leave with a full load. I was an 18 year-old kid, a feisty B.U. Poly/Sci major and fresh from “the sticks”, and this for me was an Ah Ha Moment… a “so this is how it works” moment.

        Do you honestly think that any of those students were allowed to finish the semester at B.U.? Does police brutality exist today only and only against OWS? Do the words “Kent State” ring a bell? Ever hear of the SDS or Abbie Hoffman or the Chicago Seven, or possible M. L. King?

        Or, dare I say it, Yves Smith? :)

        Do you think that people like J. Edgar Hoover were just sitting around twiddling their thumbs and playing dress-up in front of their bedroom mirrors instead of running surveillance on anyone who popped their head out too high? Phones did exist way back then, and the F.B.I. bugged them all.

        Every time I hear anyone my age (and some do), or younger, bitch and whine about “boomers” all I can think is that they are angry that we, as a generation, didn’t complete the work necessary to make their childrens’ lives more perfect while they both worked full-time at paying the mortgage, paying ever-rising taxes that they had no control over (just like today), keeping food on the table, and buying the new tech toys that “metastisized under the boomers’ watch” that their kids were begging them for on a daily basis, etc. (not to mention the fact that the whiners are watching way too much T.V. for their own mental well-being, particularly FOX).

        The bottom line is that this new “it’s the boomers’ fault” meme is just another propaganda ploy, yet one more avenue, to keep the 99% as split as possible, just as it’s the immigrants’ fault, the poors’ fault, the blacks’ fault, and on and on, forever and ever. Amen.

        Many in our age group fought the same battles then that need fighting today and many of all age groups are still doing their best to keep up the Good Fight, and many will continue to do so in both the near and probably far future, just as those who fought these same battles against King George and the Hudson Bay Company in the mid 18th Century, not to mention many other similar battles. The more things change the more they remain the same.

        Thank goodness for boomers like Daniel Ellsberg and millenials like Edward Snowden, and others who were, and are, not afraid of getting their resumes “tossed in the trash immediately” while the rest of us muddle on as best we can… some of us even worried about getting our resumes tossed in the trash, and worse.

        Please, Astrid and others, don’t fall for the B.S. about the generation born after WWII through the mid-60’s. Stop listening to the propaganda, read up on the real history and poly sci of the day and make up your own minds. A lot of the boomer generation did, technically, and by your apparent standards, sell out, and a lot of those in your generation will do the exact same thing.

        As my father often told me, “It ain’t easy and it ain’t fair. Never was, never will be. Just do the best you can, fight the Good Fight and don’t forget… illegitimi non carborundum.”

  14. JTFaraday

    I don’t think people should talk about social security in generational terms at all. People should talk about it as a public policy, in which people secure benefits for engaging in certain kinds of activity.

    In that light, social security didn’t necessarily serve the babyboom generation any better than it will serve subsequent generations.

    It doesn’t help that the social security benefits one derives from engaging in these certain kinds of activity are inadequate to anyone’s actual economic needs in retirement.

    This need to generate additional retirement income has certainly lead to popular participation in, and ideological support of, all kinds of neoliberal money making schemes in recent decades in certain strata of the population.

    To date, most of the participants in those activities happen to have been mostly babyboomers and Gen-X types, but I’m sure they won’t be alone for long.

  15. Edward Lowe

    Yves, your lament understates the emergent class positions of younger and older (retired) people. Class positions that are certainly reinforced, if not produced, but government welfare policies. To wit: FEDUS has enacted policies since the great depression that asks younger adults (i.e., those under 65) to (1) pay for the social security of the elderly (2) pay for the, increasingly lavish in terms of prescription toxin benefits, medicare of the elderly and (3) NOW pay for the health care costs of older but not yet uninsured americans and those with preexisting conditions. This in the face of younger workers finding their entry into the workforce increasingly delayed (leading to exploding school loans as they try and find some kind of training that would make them employable).

    You suggest there is common cause between older and younger Americans. This is true in some democratic sense … but only if you ignore how the political economy creates the division of labor and the class-based politics that obtain therein. Too bad most Americans still don’t read Marx … you are going nowhere with this liberal economic theory claptrap.

    In other words, while the propaganda is obnoxious, its appeal to younger Americans is not merely a product of their being too stupid to see reality through the fog of bullshit. There are real material interests at stake here.

    1. susan the other

      There’s no question about this one. We should have single payer. But instead special interests have pushed Obamacare on 40 million+ Americans. We should have had single payer 50 years ago. And now our lack of prudent dedication to social equity is tearing us apart. And jerks like Pete Peterson are distracting us all.

  16. tew

    Re: “Stereotyping, which is often not all that different from bigotry…”

    Everyone uses stereotypes all the time. There was an archaic view that associated stereotyping with bigotry, but our understanding advanced beyond that decades ago.

    See for example

    But what was hilarious was that you followed up with a volly of characterize directed at a certain unnamed “other” with the worst of motivations.

  17. Eureka Springs

    I think the elders in any period, any society, should spend a fair amount of time discussing their mistakes. Boomers, for example, made many. They seem to be repeating themselves defensively rather than trying to learn from/inform others about those mistakes. Hell, the low low numbers of boomers actually voting third fourth fifth party says so much! After all we are one nation, under neoliberalism thanks be to our elders. Which is precisely the kind of model which values elderly workers the least. And the so-called left fell hook line and sinker for Obama minority brand identity politics, most certainly will again for Hillary. Two obvious disastrous neoliberal identity brands as bad or worse than Reagan and Thatcher. If for no other reason than they should know better.

    Seems to me all borrowing is from the future unless it cannot be repaid or is actually investing in the future.

    Of course generational warfare, identity politics are nothing but two cards in the class warfare deck – blame game of thrones without a chance to improve. Anti up with somebody else’s money! Or leverage counterfeit your way with better derivatives. Our models/code promise it. Champions of identity politics are the only people eligible to make it to the top. Hazers in chief.

    Change your identity, they’ll be calling you a traitor or terrorist. But change we must.

    1. susan the other

      Wray was good on the fallacy of borrowing from the future. Money is not a resource and future resources don’t exist in the present – they have to be developed. One of our biggest hang ups is this dreadful misunderstanding of money. Like it’s something valuable in itself and so sacred that only the banksters or the bond vigilantes can properly handle its use. What a crock.

      1. craazyboy

        Sure you can – but then you need Darth Vader and Jabba The Hut Boomers vs Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Yoda Boomers.

        Then you need to point out to the Gen X,Y and Z kiddies that this schism can happen to their respective generations too – given time.

        But I don’t know if we will ever reach this level of sophistication in public discourse.

  18. TarheelDem

    In the US, identity politics is a stand-in for class as identity often points to discrimination as castes. For African-Americans for most of US history this is obvious. Not so obvious is the democratic stereotyping that is used by the divine right school of management to identify the castes that should not participate in employment or in equal pay.

    For some time, those folks over 50 have been among the first to become unemployed during a recession and the ones who remain unemployable.

    For some time, young adults who have never had a job before or are just out of schooling have been the last to be hired.

    Those caste rules of thumb are a much class relations as the divine right of management to set wages and salaries.

    A half century ago generational conflict was dampened through a tacit agreement. Older people supported subsidizing educational opportunities to create a more productive and better paid work force. Younger people gladly paid for elders’ Social Security and Medicare in expectation that the next generation would do the same for them.

    Where that has failed is in the link between education and productivity on the one side and better pay on the other.

    The 1% built that. It is not identity. It is class. But US political rhetoric is scared of talking about class relationships. So politics becomes all about identity and identity interests. Or industries and industry interests.

    There is nothing that could put young people to work faster than the proposal to expand Social Security payments to stimulate consumer demand. A 20% increase makes a lot of fiscal sense.

    1. Lambert Strether

      “identity politics is a stand-in for class as identity often points to discrimination as castes.” Ding ding ding!

      Can you elaborate on “caste”? I think castes as in India, but surely that is not correct.

      1. TarheelDem

        The treatment of blacks, Hispanic-Americans, and indigenous peoples in the US is not much different from the parallel treatment of the traditional castes in modern India. It is not as clearcut as it used to be, but there is still the expectation that Hispanics will be agricultural workers and landscapers, blacks will be dishwashers and sanitation workers, and poor white men will do day construction labor and a lot of the communities of America. And women will be teachers and nurses. There is still the discrimination against historically black and historically Native American college and universities. And the closed society of the country club caste of businessmen in every community. Identity is channeled into certain categories of occupations. And those occupations are structured as classes. Not as simple and limited to five categories as in traditional India, but a lot of the social dynamics of segregation and discrimination are similar.

    2. anon y'mouse

      “A half century ago generational conflict was dampened through a tacit agreement. Older people supported subsidizing educational opportunities to create a more productive and better paid work force. Younger people gladly paid for elders’ Social Security and Medicare in expectation that the next generation would do the same for them.”

      the whole purpose of society is so that, working together, we can support those who can’t support themselves. in the past (and today, for those who come from more traditional societies) it was understood without speaking that the older people had helped raise you, thus you were their built-in retirement policy.

      there isn’t any other reason to keep society going, unless all you want is more-better-fancier stuff. this is the WHOLE point of why we even engage in communities, or try to keep them going.

      if grandma hadn’t had your parent, and hadn’t raised them right you wouldn’t be here. simple as that. if you resent being here, and resent having to support grandma, then do everyone a favor and END YOURSELF.

      if it ever comes to self survival>grandma survival, you might as well say that society is on one of those South Pole exhibition death marches where one guy breaks his ankle and says “proceed without me, guys! i’ll just slow you down.”

      what would the point of living in a society arranged to foster that kind of mentality be? sounds like Logan’s Run/Soylent Green.

      not to mention, the wisdom of the elders is always useful. not because every elder is wise (heck, not every person is wise) but because they’ve seen things develop over time, and remember what was and how it’s different than what is.

      someone above or below here on this page posted about all of the past developments we’re all living with and ON today: infrastructure, scientific and technological developments. this is all the gift of the past to us today. all we have to do is keep it rolling along smoothly, and improve upon it if possible. and that is what civilization asks of us. that, and that we be civilized and share these benefits of the civilization among us who also behave civilized.

      you want to start eating the elders, then perhaps we should stop bothering to have the children as well. we’re admitting that there is no future, just a death march where we can’t afford to take care of each other in the supposed ‘richest country on earth’. civilization is a done deal, then. toast.

  19. Paul Tioxon

    Stealing from the future can only happen in the counter factual world of symbols for wealth becoming the actual objects of wealth. That money is an instrument, a tool, a cultural artifact that enables and facilitates the actual production of wealth, seems a well worn truth since William Jennings Bryan’s Cross of Gold Speech: ……..

    ……… “They say that we are opposing national bank currency; it is true. If you will read what Thomas Benton said, you will find he said that, in searching history, he could find but one parallel to Andrew Jackson; that was Cicero, who destroyed the conspiracy of Cataline and saved Rome. Benton said that Cicero only did for Rome what Jackson did for us when he destroyed the bank conspiracy and saved America. We say in our platform we believe that the right to coin and issue money is a function of government. We believe it. We believe that it is a part of sovereignty, and can no more with safety be delegated to private individuals than we could afford to delegate to private individuals the power to make penal statutes or levy taxes. Mr. Jefferson, who was once regarded as good Democratic authority, seems to have differed in opinion from the gentleman who has addressed us on the part of the minority. Those who are opposed to this proposition tell us that the issue of paper money is a function of the bank, and that the government ought to go out of the banking business. I stand with Jefferson rather than with them, and tell them, as he did, that the issue of money is a function of government, and that the banks ought to go out of the governing business.”

    The ahistorical mindset of too many Americans gives rise to the ideology of a future more real than the present we live in and all that preceded it in the past. There is always a ticking time bomb in the future ready to go off unless we act now to do some very important act of policy implementation when it comes to the economy. The fact that we who are alive today live off of the past accumulation of wealth, not only of what nature has buried in the ground and grew out of forests and stream, but what hard laboring men and women have constructed with back breaking, life shortening efforts. You have to live in an older city, one that is measured in centuries to even get a glimpse of what I mean. And America, with its Westward rolling frontier did not supply the legacy of wealth but only the promise of opportunity, the future, progress. At the point in time where we are now, incredible assets that are now approaching a century in age, such as the great hydro electric dams, Social Security, do not have to be invented for the first time, but secured through repair and maintenance.

    Older cities in the East have structures built so well, that not only are they reused, re-adapted for purposes other than their original use, but desirable due to the rock solid strength of their foundations and walls. One example in Philadelphia, is the former US Navy Yard on the Delaware River. For 195 years since the birth of the US Navy, the yard stood for industrial as well as military might. Steel fabrication and propulsion engineering were carried out by a highly skilled and educated workforce. Until it was decommissioned, like the mothball fleet of ships that sit rusting in their berths around the former naval facility.

    But one asset, built for the ages, the concrete dry docks, were so valuable on a global basis, that they have been revived for commercial ship building and currently employ over 1000 union workers. Double walled oil tankers and container cargo ships are being built there with contracts until the end of the decade. The immense investment in resources and labor, in the lives lost to build and maintain this global asset did not go to waste. Future generations also will not have to risk life and limb to use this ship building site. The first generations that came and built the fantastic infrastructure that we who alive right now benefit from, built them so we would not have to build them over and over again with every new generation. The accumulation of capital wealth has intellectually been financialized so when we see a rotting old city like Detroit, we no longer see the wealth, but the decay. When we look at the stock market indexes, we see wealth instead of mere symbols, that can be cut in value by half in an 8 hour session. Unlike the dry docks of Philadelphia, built one time, lasting in value for centuries from now, when ships will still be built there.

    It is that accumulation from the past that allows the current younger generation to be free from that toil, the built environment of roads, and airports, and fiber optic lines, all in place that allows them to build their lives. And when it comes to health care, it is the past accumulation of medical knowledge, of university medical schools, of hospitals and clinics, already built and functioning and there for them when eventually they grow old, or get sick or get hit by a bus or a bullet. All of that needs to be maintained with a contribution from the young and the healthy as well, so it will be there when they need it. Everything does not operate like a vending machine with just your choice when you so desire with just in time inventory control.

    These institutions don’t operate like new enterprises or banks and shouldn’t be evaluated on the same basis. And the young won’t be fooled into thinking that their lives are diminished because they now have to take up the burden of operating the economy and maintaining the social order through their efforts. Not when they can be shown how their lives were liberated from so much drudgery by the people who went before them. Like the war to end all wars, our parents didn’t fight so their sons would have to do it all over again. And they didn’t work and sacrifice so we could relive their mistakes or their misery. So much of the work they got done, will not have to be done over and over again each generation, but smaller efforts and shorter amounts of time will be needed to maintain and sustain into the future the fruits of their labor.



    ..”We say to you that you have made the definition of a business man too limited in its application. The man who is employed for wages is as much a business man as his employer; the attorney in a country town is as much a business man as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis; the merchant at the cross-roads store is as much a business man as the merchant of New York; the farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day, who begins in the spring and toils all summer, and who by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of the country creates wealth, is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain; the miners who go down a thousand feet into the earth, or climb two thousand feet upon the cliffs, and bring forth from their hiding places the precious metals to be poured into the channels of trade are as much business men as the few financial magnates who, in a back room, corner the money of the world. We come to speak of this broader class of business men.”

  20. Adam S.

    Yves, I agree with your analysis. Yet, as a young person it’s hard to see how the generational warfare meme doesn’t at least have a sliver of truth to it.

    Your point on the voting demographics on Reagan is well taken, but I would ask about why is he lionized by older voters when it is consistently shown that a large number problems that society is dealing with (wages, social security, debt) originated from memes hatched during his presidency?

    And, why is it that older voters seem to cling to the Republican party like its some sort of field team if they were, as you point out, disinclined to vote for conservative policies in their youth?

    As has been pointed out several times on this blog, (and by Henry Giroux – who I only recently discovered thanks to this blog and Bill Moyers), the destructive meme that has taken hold of society that I alluded to earlier is the one that disregards the public sphere, that commoditizes and trivializes youth, glorifies ‘survival of the fittest’, and places profit above all other considerations.

    If the generational frame doesn’t fit as you suggest, then why does it seem like the narrative from these memes are much more effective persuading those that are in the boomer cohort than those that are younger (not to say that some younger people don’t buy into it)?

    I guess that’s all to say that I’m confused.

    1. Lambert Strether

      All older voters did not lionize Reagan, and some younger voters still do. From an exchange at my own blog:

      You write:

      As for Reagan, I remember very few of his actual speeches. Maybe none. What I mostly remember as a kid in the midwest was that things were really horrible – just felt terrible in the gut – in the late 70s and very early 80s and then sort of just felt better (of course, we moved to a much more economically stable city in that time, so that’s probably part of the improvement around me personally). But as a kid, I credited him a lot for the “it’s not crappy anymore” feeling because he was who I associated with the “feel better” part. In retrospect, of course, it wasn’t really “better” in any solid or meaningful way and he greatly accelerated all the pain that was to come. But when it comes to Reagan, I always have to make my head trump my heart to see him and his policies clearly.* And, of course, in a lot of ways, I’d take him over our last two presidents, who were both to the right of him.

      I overheard a conversation between some students at the university union last year; they were lamenting the current administration (and they weren’t ideologically driven at all). “I wish we had Reagan” back. Brrr!!!!

      NOTE * As I keep saying, Noooners was very, very good.

      1. Adam S.

        As someone who listened to Sean Hannity religiously in the early ’00s and now reflects that I was taken in by my parent’s influence, I have to wonder how much of that are college kids regurgitating what they’ve been fed at home.

        And before the argument comes back that “they are college students and should be able to make up their own mind” – I’d argue that the nature of parenting since the 90s, especially in overprotective conservative households (and even more so in wealthy households) are the cause of outsize influence of parents views on their children’s political outlook even into student’s college years.

        I’d be interested in asking those students about their political worldview a few years after graduating.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I was embarrassed to have Reagan as president, although Carter was no prize and Mondale was pathetic. I voted third party candidates.

        Your “everyone loved Reagan” trope is just not true. This is after the fact PR.

    2. bob goodwin

      I too voted 3rd party and not for Reagan, though I was already becoming conservative in the early 80s. Reagan was the kind of politician my Dad liked, and his was the Generation that ruined America with their big wars and military industrial complex, and left us in that awful mess of the 1970s. Never trust the older generation.

      Reagan grew on people mostly because the economy got a lot better. Reagan was also the first president to deflate the hegemony of passivism in liberal thought, I remember a talk I went to at Berkeley by a guy who I think ran Time magazine, and he was positively hyperventilating about the strategic defense initiative. Yet, soon our cold war nemesis was in sharp decline, after my Dad’s generation had us growing up fearing nuclear annihilation. So there was a level of excitement that the economy was turning, dead wood was clearing from atrophied ideas, peace was upon us, and laws were moving through congress again. I didn’t vote for him again in 1984, but that is a little what it felt like at the time.

      What we felt at the moment may not have been truth, but history doesn’t get it all right either.

  21. Huckleberry

    Question: Is it or is it not true that the Baby Boomers are the first generation in the history of the Republic to be leaving it – by almost any metric – in worse shape than they found it?

    1. susan the other

      It is true. I can say it because I’m a boomer and I was disappointed in our lack of political effectiveness. But to be fair, the problems we reacted to were so enormous they were like forces of nature. Turning around centuries of aggressive capitalism that had gained so much momentum was impossible for one generation. And the seeds of our politics did sprout and grow beyond us. That is part of the reason why we are all making comments today. We weren’t total failures.

      1. Huckleberry

        Of course many fought the Good Fight. But I don’t suppose that there was ever more than a handful from that age cohort which would have thought in those terms after 1972 or before 2007.

        That said, for me the tell is how defensive Boomers get when criticized in generational terms.

        The reponse is usually to claim credit for something (like the modern Civil Rights movement) of which they played little or no part, or else claim that “We” are somehow “all in this together,” or deny the validity of the concept of “generations” altogehter.

        This last is particularly staggering, when you consider that the Baby Boomers have been mythologizng themselves for about half a century.

        1. Lambert Strether

          The last sentence is a “staggering” example of petitio elenchi — a textbook case. A remarkably sloppy and dishonest comment from beginning to end, although not untypical of this discourse.

          1) “ever more than a handful” — evidence, please, along with some sort of baseline for “many”.

          2) “defensive” — Cute. To disagree with the commenter’s points is to accept them!

          3) “usually” — “or else claim” — petitio elenchi

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          That’s because generational terms is a complete crock as a construct. Generations are not dynasties. There are no lobbying groups organized along generational lines. I’ve done tons of consumer marketing studies, and they aren’t targeted for marketing (there is age based marketing, but it’s the current say 30 to 39 year olds, etc). There are no boomer identity groups.

          It does not map onto any of the channels of marketing or influence I can think of.

          1. Lambert Strether

            “No lobbying groups” with the exception of Peterson’s Astroturf “Kick the Can” crowd, whose faux nature rather proves your point. No doubt many of these bright young people will be moving on to more lucrative positions in the political class quite shortly.

      1. diptherio

        Good on ya’, Lambert. It’s so hard to remember that our intellectual categorizations exist only inside our own heads…it’s great that you consistently point out this common confusion.

        Has anybody ever met “the Boomer generation”? I haven’t. I’ve only met individual people who are classified as Boomers based on their age, but they all seem pretty different from one another.

        And when, exactly, are people of a particular age cohort given full responsibility for the society which all people share and create? When the median individual turns 40? 50?

        And what if you were born in 1944? Are you less responsible for the current state of affairs than someone born in 1950? Do you get to take credit for the accomplishments of the preceding “greatest” generation?

        When you scratch the surface a little, the absurdity of placing agency in an abstract concept such as “a generation” becomes obvious. Only actually existing people do things…if we must blame, let us blame individuals, rather than indict everyone who happens to be approximately the same age as the offending people.

        1. anon y'mouse

          I have long wondered what the actual utility of the Strauss-Howe-ification analysis of everything actually is.

          perhaps it serves to obscure the effects of class.

          1. Lambert Strether

            I believe that classes, in the usual sense, do at least the possibility of agency (depending on the actual class in context). For example, the ruling class. As Arther Silber says, “It’s called the ruling class because it rules.” It’s perfectly OK to hold the ruling class responsible for their rule; they play their role consciously.

            So, no, not Strauss. (I don’t know Howe, which sounds like it ought to be a joke, but isn’t.)

              1. Lambert Strether

                All in the first paragraph: “Their consultancy, LifeCourse Associates, has expanded on the concept in a variety of publications since then.” As I said, strategic hate management is one of those “good jobs at good wages” gigs.

            1. Roland

              I don’t like what the Strauss/Howe franchise became, but their book “13th Gen” was quite good. I remember that when I read it back in the early ’90’s it actually helped me make some sense of what was going on with my own generation.

              Their prediction that X’ers would be perpetually underqualified and perpetually chasing more credentials was accurate.

              Their prediction that X’ers would become a generation of people who help ind practical fixes for a broken society, unfortunately, has proven to be way off. I don’t think any generation has drunk more of the neoliberal Kool-Ade than us Gen X’ers.

        2. Lambert Strether

          I think that groups have agency for which they can be held responsible, and the members held responsible for their actions as members of those groups, when the individuals exercise agency by joining the group. I (unlike Maggie Thatcher) believe that society exists. But that’s not the case with the concept “Boomers.” You might as well blame all unusually tall people. (And since height has been increasing throughout the last century, you could probably put together some sort of spurious correllation.)

          Adding… I think I’ve got the argument kinda right, but cateogories are hard, so critique welcome.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      The Civil War did massive damage and the South was infested by Northern predators who created nearly three generation of debt slaves known as sharecroppers. In the post Civll War period, the railroads had an even greater hold on government than the banks do now. The 1870s to the 1890s were the Long Depression, with deflation that hit farmers really hard (hence William Jennings Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech) AND very frequent bank crises.

      And what about 1929 through 1945? That was a hellish time, even if Roosevelt in the end made a lot of lemonade from lemons.

      Plus how is this the “boomers” doing? The ruling elites were not boomers. They’ve been cross generational. Pau Vokcker, who was the architect of the “use recessions to crush labor and view rising wages with skepticism” point of view at the Fed, is not a boomer. Neither are Lewis Powell (of the Powell memo), Alan Greenspan or Bob Rubin, far and away the most powerful architects of the neoliberal order, nor Pete Peterson, out to promote budgetary orthodoxy as a rationale for gutting Social Security.

  22. Dan Kervick

    I do think the young have a legitimate beef against the older generations. But the beef is being exploited to try to lead them into taking exactly the opposite direction to where they should be going.

    Neoliberal economics didn’t just come out of nowhere; nor was it forced on the country by a tiny and powerful cabal. The older generations voted for it. The older generations voted for politicians who were committed to placing more of the burden of education on individual families and on the young. The older generations enthusiastically embraced the economy of bubblicious financial hustling and rent-seeking. The older generations voted for politicians who dismantled the old social contract, and then let the predators out of their cages. The older generations voted for politicians who were enamored by market fundamentalism and radical individualism, and who heart our brave new anti-social world of narcissistic consumerism, radical individualism and endless philistine commercial crap. The older generations voted for people who spent years neglecting public investment in the future, and who seem to be utterly blind to what is required to maintain the foundations of a viable society.

    Since the beginning of the recession, the economic condition and prospects of the young in the developed world have plummeted. And how have the politically dominant generations responded? With urgent calls for a jobs program? With an urgent demand for programs of national investment to build a brighter future for the young? No. Boomers have mostly continued to cling to the individualistic, anti-social, free market principles – and continue to seek ways of reflating the same old bubble of crap.

    If I were young, I might conclude that the older generations just don’t like young people very much, have little sense of moral commitment to them, and have thrown them to the wolves while they focus on more self-interested concerns.

    Unfortunately, this justified resentment is being used to encourage the young to divide society further, and make it even more ruthless and individualistic, rather than to re-socialize it and build more powerful intergenerational commitments.

    1. Lambert Strether

      The statement that “the older generations voted for it” is false.

      As soon as you replace it with a true statement — “some of the older generation voted for it and some did not” — the vacuity of using generational analysis anything other than a weak tool becomes apparent.

      I mean, there’s a reason Pete Peterson would like people to use it, no?

      1. astrid

        But they do suck. Whether they deserve further punishment is another matter, but their actions lead to a worse world and for that, they absolutely suck.

        1. susan the other

          But consider the world without the boomers. What would have happened? It would have spun out like a roman candle. It had no honorable direction. We boomers were the first generation who stood up and yelled, “No.” That was important regardless of the fact that we then tried to work within the system, and failed.

          1. Dan Kervick

            They stood up and said “no” to being drafted. But as soon as they won that battle they moved right on into becoming happy capitalists.

            1. anon y'mouse

              has not this type of facile analysis also been perpetrated on the OWS movement?

              I’ve seen it myself.

              “they just need to get jobs. then they’ll go away. they’re crying because they were locked out of the feast.”

              “they’re just bored, spoiled hippy-slacker types, who will go away as soon as the weather turns, or the going gets rough.”

              whose purpose does this casting of the situation, then as now, serve?

          2. Lambert Strether

            Well, the obvious rejoinder is that with no Booomers, there would be no Gen X, no Gen Y, and no Millenials.

            But that would be true only if you believed generations f*ck, which clearly nobody is stupid enough to do.

            Oh, wait….

      2. Dan Kervick

        Neoliberalism was a general societal trend. It pervaded the culture of the 80’s and 90’s. It wasn’t something that Pete Peterson et al shoved down people’s throats. There was resistance to market fundamentalism in some parts of the left, but on the whole society bought into the exciting new world of financialization, deregulation and go-go capitalism. Both major parties favored these policies. They reflected a clear majority consensus.

        Look at Europe. Millions and millions of young people unemployed. Is there a discernible political mobilization by older Europeans to do something dramatic to take care of the younger generation? No. Nor is there such a mobilization here in the US. What are young people to conclude from all this? If I were 25, I would feel like an abandoned bastard.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          This remark is absolute and complete bullshit:

          There was resistance to market fundamentalism in some parts of the left, but on the whole society bought into the exciting new world of financialization, deregulation and go-go capitalism.

          I personally have tons of peers in finance (as in they had gotten into finance before it was predatory, in the early 1980s) who didn’t, as well as clients. They looked at deregulation and the dot com bubble with a detached sense of skepticism and didn’t lever up and join the party. These are ex McKinsey people and MBAs and lawyers. I can name twenty from my not all that large pre-NC social circle without thinking hard, and could probably double that if I racked my brain. One example I’ve mentioned on the blog is Amar Bhide, ex McKinsey, former propietary trader (in the 1980s), who sees himself as a Hayekian and yet is firmly pro bank regulation.

          This is prejudice masquerading as analysis.

          1. Dan Kervick

            Yves, these are just personal anecdotes masquerading as a refutation.

            Neoliberalism wasn’t dropped out of the skies on top of us. Lots of people voted for Reagan; they voted for Thatcher; they voted for Clinton.

            I’ve lived through decades where gambling moved from being a disreputable Sin City vice, or something run by the mob, to an accepted form of entertainment and standard way of raising revenue. The corruption of mores in that areas maps onto a similar valorization of the gambling industry known as the financial sector, and of the “art of the deal” or “the shark tank”. Capitalist entrepreneurs and billionaires became worshiped figures throughout the culture. A whole new culture of online trading and investment has grown up where people eager to make money magically from other money hustle after their piece of the bloodsuckers’ flow of dollars.

            Cameron? Elected!! Merkel? Multiple times elected!!!

            The economics profession is still 90% dominated by people committed to the same neoliberal framework.

            We fucked up. Our whole generation fucked up and we’ve left the young with the stinking ruins.

            When I call in one of pieces for a growth in the role of the state, and a massive re-commitment to public investment in the future, most people look at me like I have two heads. Or else they are convinced that every challenge can be met with one or another form of short-term bullshit monetary fix.

            Everywhere I look it’s either neoliberals or right libertarians or left libertarians, whining about their own aggrieved sense of personal freedom and entitlement. They are all part of the same problem!!!

            For a generation of people who stopped believing that other people were more important than themselves; that they were all on the same team; that they had a sacred obligation to their country and its future, and above all to our precious children and the next generation; who are devoted to the idea that they are a sovereign entity unto themselves and that every aspect of life should be voluntary; and who convinced themselves that life was primarily about looking out for number one and achieving one or another forms of personal achievement and liberation – well they have no cause for complaint if the neglected rising generation decides that they would now like to liberate themselves from commitments to the older generation.

            I would like them not to make that choice, and to retain a sense of intergenerational commitment. But what do they get in return. Can we older people point to the great wave of public investment and future-oriented reform that is being carried out?

            And don’t try to tell me that the 99% or whatever would do the right stuff if only it weren’t for Jamie Dimon and the Kochs. The great narcissistic selfishness is everywhere. Austerity continues to have broad public support. The policy of asset value reflation and public sector skinflinting continues to have broad support. You know what the response of The Lamest Generation was to the most important economic challenge to their country’s future? “Wahhhh!!! Make my home value appraisal go up again!!! Make my portfolio value go up again!!! And stop giving all my money to the nigg***!!!”

            We suck. Our generation sucks.

            1. Dan Kervick

              Sorry to lose my temper but I am incredibly frustrated by the vast plain of nothingness that is American politics in 2013. It’s all-pervasive, and not just coming down from a couple of big bad guys.

            2. from Mexico

              @ Dan Kervick

              No honest critic of the lower orders of society ever accused them of being overly nimble-witted. But on the other hand, they don’t accuse them of being evil either.

              Let’s take George Orwell, for instance. He accuses the workers of being “ignorant,” but he never accuses them of being fascists. And that’s all neoliberalism is — warmed over fascism, state capitalism:

              In the long run — it is important to remember only in the long run — the working class remains the most reliable enemy of fascism, simply because the working class stands to gain most by a decent reconstruction of society….

              Too ignorant to see through the trick that is being played on them, they easily swallow the promises of fascism, yet sooner or later they always take up the struggle again. They must do so, because in their own bodies they always discover that the promises of fascism cannot be fulfilled…. The struggle of the working class is like the growth of a plant. The plant is blind and stupid, but it knows enough to keep pushing upwards towards the light, and will do this in the face of endless discouragements.

              –GEORGE ORWELL, “Looking Back on the Spanish War”

              Likewise, Reinhold Niebuhr in his essay “The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness” speaks of how foolish the children of light are. But he never conflates the children of light with the children of darkness:

              Our democratic civilization has been built, not by children of darkness but by foolish children of light. It has been under attack by the children of darkness, by the moral cynics… It has come close to complete disaster under this attack, not because it accepted the same creed as the cynics; but because it underestimated the power of self-interest, both individual and collective, in modern society. The children of light have not been as wise as the children of darkness.

              The children of darkness are evil because they know no law beyond the self. They are wise, though evil, because they understand the power of self-interest. The children of light are virtuous because they have some conception of a higher law than their own will. They are usually foolish because they do not know the power of self-will. They underestimate the peril of anarchy in both the national and the international community. Modern democratic civilization is, in short, sentimental rather than cynical. It has an easy solution for the problem of anarchy and chaos on both the national and international level of community, because of its fatuous and superficial view of man.

            3. JCC

              “Wahhhh!!! Make my home value appraisal go up again!!! Make my portfolio value go up again!!! And stop giving all my money to the nigg***!!!”

              The funny thing is I’ve heard a boatload of people in the generation above me say the exact same sorts of things, as well as many in the two to three generations after mine, and even a lot of the 25 year-old kids that I work with daily.

              It’s not the “generation”, it’s the water.

              1. anon y'mouse

                not me. not when homes cost you 5-7 times annual salary. not when, after mortgage is paid off, you could’ve possibly retired twice.

                this insane cost of rotting wood and PVC siding always rising has to end.

            4. Yves Smith Post author

              You seriously need to read Tom Ferguson’s Golden Rule. American politics is NOT DRIVEN BY VOTING. It is driven by money blocks and has been back to at least the Great Depression.

              You are using the wrong frame for viewing this situation.

              And did you not read the damned post? 1. 24-49 year olds voted for Reagan LESS than other age groups and preference for Reagan skewed severely with income. So why are you insisting on viewing this issue though an age frame rather than a class/income frame?

              1. Dan Kervick

                All I know is that it is every generation’s obligation to improve the world for the next generation. We clearly failed to do that.

                If we failed because of our voting patterns we deserve blame for the voting patterns. If we failed because we lost a class war, then we deserve blame for losing. If we failed because we never even fought a class war, then we deserve blame for not fighting. If we failed because we are dumb, easily distracted hedonists, then we deserve blame for being dumb, easily distracted hedonists. If we failed because we are knowledge class snobs who look down on working people, the uncultured and the wretched, then we deserve blame for that.

                But one way or another we failed – and the important thing is we are still failing. There is NO significant and politically viable movement for transformative social progress, not here and not in Europe. Both parties in the US still suck; and the two parties combined still command majority political support in this country – even enthusiastic support.

                Reagan was just one guy in a vast neoliberal wave. It doesn’t matter if boomers voted against Reagan if they were opting for neoliberal policies anyway through their own party via Clinton, Tsongas, Bayh etc. Plus a lot of anti-Reagan liberals were just opposed to the conservative social agenda and ascendancy of the Moral Majority and the like, but were happy with the anti-labor and pro-capitalism drift. Back in those days it was extremely common to hear people labeling themselves “socially liberal but economically conservative” as a badge of honor.

                1. Lambert Strether

                  If that’s all you know it’s not enough. Generations don’t have obligations. That’s like saying “Tall people have obligations” or “[insert demographic characteristic here] have obligations.” It’s just a humongous category error — harmless, if only it didn’t have horrific and immoral policy consequences if the Peterson cabal, which deploys it, gets its way.

            5. Yves Smith Post author

              No, my little cohort is NOT mere anecdote because it is a group you would expect to be the keenest adopters of neoliberal bullshit since they would be in the best position to exploit and benefit from it: MBAs, people already in finance, attorneys, well-placed businesspeople.

              Now many eventually fell into line because they had to, much as shorts will throw in the towel in bubble. That does not mean they agree, that means the cost of being wrong in the short term is too high.

    1. Lambert Strether

      You don’t find me aaying “Millenials elected Obama, they suck” any more than you find me saying “Boomers elected Reagan,” they suck. Either one: Not an ideology I buy into. Pete Peterson and his ilk do, of course… No doubt for entirely good reasons!

      1. diptherio

        The mis-leading cries of “generational warfare” diverting attention from the reality of class warfare. Blame the retired for demanding too much and the young for being lazy. It’s all of a piece.

        1. scraping_by

          Well, it would be generational warfare if the rich young were fighting the rich old.

          Since they haven’t reached that final victory that allows the elites to war on each other (which an elite always does, in time) it means we out here are still the enemy. The eventual winners of that conflict are getting ready for it right now, while their clueless clubbers are busy sowing discord among the majority.

          Our existence is the reason for their class solidarity. And their efforts are the reason for out generational conflict.

  23. Propertius

    Stereotyping, which is often not all that different from bigotry, goes hand in hand with what Lambert calls “strategic hate management,” For instance: “People who get welfare and social services are leeches;” “If you lost your home, you were a deadbeat and deserved it;” Women who were raped don’t get pregnant so there’s no reason to let them have abortions.”

    And, from the other side, let’s not forget “the land of the low-sloping foreheads”, “racist teabaggers”, “flyover country”, and the ever popular “gun nuts”.

    Wedge issues and stereotypes are the favorite weapons of our Lords and Masters – and they deploy them to excellent effect on all of us.

  24. anon y'mouse

    ok, crazy person ranting on the internet time. let’s see if I can mold this into anything relevant here that isn’t point-blank obvious.

    caveat: I was raised in an environment which has made me tend to favor seeing the world through a certain lens, which may or may not fit. this is true of all of us, but because my mental wiring was thus formed, i’m probably very guilty of dragging this kind of pattern onto more things I see going on than they actually deserve.

    here goes: our society is an abusive family, writ large.

    until you actually see what goes on within one on a daily basis, it’s very hard to communicate the patterns in a way that are understandable. so, i’ll say this: abused individuals tend to stay for two reasons. one, is that they are worried that this really is all that there is, that leaving would produce even worse effects, the devil you know is possibly better than the unknown devil, and sometimes literally TINA due to financial or other reasons.

    the second is a form of internalized Stockholm Syndrome. abusers (and bullies) tend to action that consists of regular, psychological warfare on the abused such that B.F. Skinner would be proud to claim his own. they find some flaw (and we all have them) and harp on that, and blame the abused person(s) for “bringing it on themselves”. along the lines of “if you were not so stupid/lazy/defective, I wouldn’t be bashing your head in right now.”

    this is consistently done, on a day by day and sometimes minute by minute basis. if the abused person doesn’t recognize this (say that the issue does not develop into full-scale headbashing yet, but remains in the argument or discussion phase) and walk right away, to some degree they will internalize this kind of thing. thus, nearly every form of abused person has a kind of Stockholm Syndrome going on, to the point where total outsiders can (somewhat rationally) claim “they continue to put up with that sh!t when they very well leave (unspoken conclusion: thus they deserve what they get)”.

    this is our economic and political situation writ large. the abuser is not constantly cruel. there is a whipsaw effect where the abuser feeds their ego and keeps the abused in line by occasionally giving them out-of-the-blue rewards, which seem even more beneficent because there was no reason and the person “did not deserve” them. I had a boss that would be screaming at an employee in front of an entire shop-full of customers one day, and buying them a giftcard to the local spa the next. this is how it’s done. it’s not constant headbashing all of the time, but it is constant psyche-bashing.

    it can (I’ve seen it firsthand) get to the point where the abused person is actually abusing others on the main abusers behalf. to the point where they are slapping the kids around because they see themselves as taking the defensive maneuver that will prevent greater abuse down the road: “why did you have to be so stupid as to do something that would anger {abuser}? i’m going to have to beat you now, because if I don’t do it, {the abuser} will and it will be MUCH worse. best you learn this lesson from me!”

    at any rate, sometimes the family dynamic is such that all parties are committing blame and abuse upon each other for bringing the wrath of the Mighty Abuser down on their heads, and because they’re usually scrambling for protection while trying to obtain enough of what they need to keep surviving, both physically and psychologically. thus you’ll see the children who psychologically take on the perspective of the abuser towards the abused: “gee, they’re so stupid and they can’t do anything right. that’s why {the abuser} despises them so much (unspoken: and so do I)”

    we’ve become a society that resembles a dysfunctional family, where people argue about who took the milk out of the fridge because they aren’t receiving enough of what they psychologically need to keep going. so, you get the pattern (please forgive the typical gender layout, but it is what I’ve seen in the past. i’m not implying that males are always abusers and females the abused. I’ve met people who grew up in families that were the reverse) where abused mom is kept so busy pacifying abused father that the children are neglected. then the children are also abused, and internalize that their flaws have resulted in parental abuse on one side and neglect on the other. they use these flaws to try to deny each other the breathing space all need. it’s like those pictures of baby birds, where one is trying to hog all of the regurgitated worms while the runt goes underfed. imagine that all the children are runts in this situation, because there really isn’t enough -psyche food- to go around, so they keep pushing each other out of the way and claiming that they are justified that they deserve it more than the other party. you can literally end up in a household that behaves with less civility than a den of wolves.

    this doesn’t always happen. sometimes the abused members band together and commiserate. but if a wedge can be driven between them, such that they are -divided and conquered-, the Mighty Abuser can reign in relative peace.

    1. anon y'mouse

      addendum: not because I want to point anyone over the head with this, but because I see a clear parallel with our media dominated, propaganda spewing environment.

      the abuser will make sure that their version of the reality comes to be the only one. they will systematically undermine friendships, pick fights with family members and drive them away, and make the abuse-victims so ashamed and so aware of how abnormal they are, and how unusual the family environment is, that the victims will ‘man the barricade’ themselves and not even invite friends over.

      if you ever meet a kid who doesn’t want their little friends to come over and play, but is happy to be at your house, you’d better guess what’s going on there (but be careful, as it may not always be true–could be that the environment is just not conducive space- or amenity-wise to having friends over).

      gradually, there isn’t anyone who comes into the space that can dis-confirm the negative views of the abuser about the abused, nor point out that “hey, this isn’t how people act here.” it will get the point that the abuse-victim’s entire family sees them as I pointed out the rational conclusion above “if they’re still there, even though we offered them a way out, it’s because they want to be.”

      that might be true only in the most twisted sense of ‘wanting’ to be. I would rather peg this as a hybrid of being driven insane (gaslighting can play a heavy part here) and having an addiction. living in an environment like that can make you so primed for needing positive interaction, that when it does happen it’s like all you have to do is press the Ego button softly a few times, and the victim is really like putty. so someone conditioned to these kinds of experiences is very malleable when it comes to anything that can be construed as positive.

      and, that article that has been making the rounds about “why poor people make bad choices” is exactly the way that ‘satisfaction’ button gets pushed. you take your small bits of happiness where you can find them, usually on the sly and constantly reminded by the internalized abuser that you don’t deserve them.

      this is one of the reasons that I personally worry about propaganda so much. not because I’ve studied and am immune to it, but because I am a person that is much more manipulatable psychologically than others, and it’s difficult enough to have a reality-based view of the self by growing up in such an environment without people catering to the self-indulgent side on one angle of the PR spectrum while catering to the self-flagellation side on the other leg.

      hopefully this has all cohered in some way that is of use to someone.

      1. cnchal

        You have perfectly described a relationship where the head of a household is an extreme narcissist. They do not care whether they get their emotional charge through fear or love, just that they get some, constantly.
        Once one realizes that the persons in their lives are no more important than an inanimate object, like a chair to be moved around, it is not possible to remain friends.
        What do my comments have to do with the topic of this post? Nothing really, it’s just that I recognize what you have gone through, and may still be going through. Take care.

        1. anon y'mouse

          yes, everyone should take care. individually, within our circle but also on a society-wide basis as well.

          I believe this analysis fits our political system, now “brought you to by” corporato-fascists, and maintained by propaganda-press in a way that should not be ignored.

          those who come on here and make comments EVERY DAY about how we ‘deserve our fate’ because we’ve brought it on ourselves by “buying into bread and circuses” are doing the Devil’s work for them. it’s the psychological hold that needs to be broken before people can step away or overthrow the dictator, in their personal or political life.

          as soon as you break out of this “you deserved it” crap, and all of the other lies that they spew, not only do you feel better but you can get on with doing something productive. our whole population needs to make this break.

          so, sorry to make this conversation too personal for comfort (for those who have been discomfited). it isn’t wasn’t to claim any ‘wounded warrior’ status on my part, but trying to make the experience beneficial in some way. it’s not enough to gain insight if you don’t use it to try to benefit the world in some way.

          keep each other safe out there.

  25. jackreacher

    “All debts are transfers of purchasing power for current resources, despite new bank-issued debts not requiring current funding from a third party (as in the loanable funds model). In a direct credit transaction (peer to peer lending or credit channels including loanable funds) one party gives up their current purchasing power to another, with repayments and interest being a reversing of the transaction over time. No borrowing from the future there.”

    I think what’s meant by “boorowing from the future” here is that borrowers will enjoy the purchasing power while mostly future generations will have to pay the debt off without benefiting from the transaction in any way.

  26. rps

    The baby boomers didn’t elect Reagan. The baby boom years were 1946 – 1964. In 1979, baby boomers were between the age of 16 to 34yrs for Reagan’s first election. The WWII Me Generation elected Reagan. That is to say, the parents of the baby boomers elected Ronnie Raygun. I will never forget my baby boomer sister arguing with my pro-Reagan mother who once was an ardent democrat. She said you are voting against your best interests. He will impoverish your future. Long story short, she was 100% correct along with the addendum of impoverishing the majority of baby boomers by lowering wages, destroying unions, longer work hours, destroying social services, etc…Election exit poll on 11/09/1979 – Reagan’s largest percentage of the voting population (Wikipedia):
    84% Republican
    71% Conservative
    55% White
    54% Male
    62% Protestant
    65% family income over $50,000
    66% Occupation -Agriculture
    55% Some college
    55% no member of household in Union
    55% 45-59 yrs. old
    60% Southern Whites
    54% of voters from Rural/towns
    1984 Roper Election exit polls show the largest group of Reagan voters were 50-64yrs at 61%,65 yrs & older at 64%. Incomes: $35,000-50,000 at 68%; >$50,000 at 69%. 93% Republican, 64% Independent. Again, the baby boomer’s Me Generation parents overwhelmingly voted in Reagan. Unfortunately this time around, Republican baby boomers rode the wave along with their parents since it was a landslide across all age groups of the white populace -86%. Mondale’s largest percentage of voters were $12,500< incomes, 91% African American, 66% Hispanic and 74% of the democrat party vote

    1. rps

      Important note, the Me Generation demograhics (b. prior to WWII) firmly believed in their civic responsibilities and duty to Vote. Nowadays,voting feels like a lose-lose situation for the 99%

    2. savedbyirony

      Thanks for this info and observation, rps. I agree with what you are saying here. What was really scary and tragic for our country during those years was how many young people(teens and twenty year olds)then subcribed to R. R.’s magic of the markets preachings, it became virtually all they knew. And during the 80’s we experienced such a media consolidation and early attacks on public school funding, as well as changes in campaign funding. Those 8 years caused a significant shift in the publics abilities to inform itself well on political and economic issues; shifts and degradations that have only grown worse.

  27. nothing but the truth

    “yes we can”

    where did we here this before?

    the author is promising a perpetual free lunch – this is the device used by economists to further their own careers.

    since debt is the other side of assets, by pushing debts onto the future generations, the older generations have cornered the assets.

    this, in a nutshell, tells you why the youth are screwed.

    distribution of assets is a fundamental part of the social structure. it matters.

  28. vegas mike

    I think most young people think of generational warfare as a kind of a family drama. I’M 67 and I think our generation was much more angry with their parents than the kids of today. Pete Peterson and his ilk want youth to embrace a kind an extreme libertarian ideology. Most people just aren’t that ideological and their views of the older generation will correspond most closely with their feelings about their immediate family. Of course, there are some youth, mostly well-off white males, who will be sympathetic to Pete Peterson’s ideology. Most kids won’t abstract grandma and ma from their world view.

  29. Jerome Armstrong

    “(I found the rah rah about Janet Yellen being the first woman Fed chair to be particularly off-putting). It has a real non-organic feel”

    That kicked in when Paul said he’d hold up her selection. It was viewed as a convenient two-fer by D=tribalists/identity-mongers.

  30. savedbyirony

    From my personal experience with working with young adults i think they are far more class conscious and angry with the economic elite than they are with older generations of Americans. That TPTB and their media are trying to both convince people that there is generational warfare and create it is true and makes sense for their purposes, but i doubt it exists as a seething social force right now. What i also think is going on is yet another layer of cover to explain away our terribly corrupt/rigged elections. I recommend folks read the Harper’s article “How to Rig an Election” if they have not already. (This from last year, and new initiatives for voter supression, ect. are on the increase.)The media coverage and promoting of identity politics is not only going to be used to split folks apart, but also explain after the fact highly suspect voting results.

  31. Thorstein

    There is one front on which I see a form of “generational warfare”: when I was a child, at the local level I voted a score of times: my parents voted in my interest, both sets of my grandparents voted in my interest, and dozens of aunts and uncles voted in my interest.

    We are a more mobile society now. Extended families do not vote as significant blocs locally, which to my mind accounts for the selfishness of so many state and local governments in the U.S.

    Not exactly “generational warfare”, I guess, but it’s one respect in which I think the old have deserted the young.

  32. Fiver

    Well, even if I agree with several of the opinions expressed in the piece, my perspective as a Boomer on the Boomer generation is quite different.

    I see Boomers as the first Generation raised by a society-wide corporate media complex that planted in the bulk of them the desire for open-ended hyper-consumption of whatever one might “dream” of owning/using/living. Our Corporate Companion has been with us Boomers all our lives. It tells us what to buy, when, how, where, why and mostly, often. When Companion said “put it on the card” we did. Kids too.

    They did this knowing their entire lives there was a great, big void between rich and poor, that the Government had stalled completely as a catalyst for positive change except via the horrendously expensive method of developing new technologies for military use, then civilian applications (or as with our corporate/State Internet a marriage of the two). They knew because they were told hundreds, thousands, who knows how many times in how many ways this system was not only rigged for the very well off, but that it was a war-based system, an Oil-based system, a corruption-based system, a mutant consumption/toxic nightmare system – the Boomers, Us, We, “They” – the whole lot in the developed world but especially so in the US/Canada – the Boomers have refused to engage. No generation ever so powerful and it refused to take on any of the big ones. It still refuses, even now, when it is most needed to throw their full weight into what amounts to the fight for the planet.

    I believe, and rather strongly, that ours is the generation that so badly failed humanity, and we will be scorned by our grandkids as outrageously greedy and as submersed in extreme denial.

    1. skippy

      Fiver… regardless of what people_think_about freewill and could have – should have – known – reductionist logic – ideology has always been a top down affair.

      Just in the last hundred we have switched from esoteric thoughts to industrialized Ed Bernays full immersion cradle to grave behavioral modification.

      Skippy… the rats in the maze did not construct it, so…

      1. Fiver

        Disagree re “always top down” (Christ, Marx, Einstein, Martin Luther King et al) but even if I accepted that notion, Boomers are just completing the longest reign at centre stage of any single generation in history, having been co-eval with the age of television, computers, then the Internet and finally this uber-elite “knowledge” economy all of which allowed the strongest players in a host of activities to leverage their “talent” (or power, or malice) like none had been able even to dream of prior. “We” are still in control of most of the globe’s wealth, we have been “The Top” for all of this century and most of the last decade of the last, and have run from every important challenge as if reducing our standard of living by so much as 1 cent was the Devil’s work. Raise taxes? What?? Spittui.. Ping! Close that door behind ya, mister.

        The very concept of “democracy” has always rested on a willingness of individuals to engage on behalf of all of us. Boomers produced neither an exceptional individual nor an idea of stature in that regard, even with the resources of the world at their disposal.

        Yves’ arguments are fine when discussing the average man or woman and their concerns now heading into retirement with inadequate savings. But she ignores completely the record of educated, well-paid Boomers post-Vietnam War – a sad, sad record indeed, and one which I must insist will determine History’s judgment of us. We’ll scream bloody murder over some absurdly minute “safety” issue, yet cannot be bothered to do anything to save our enfeebled selves 20 years hence, let alone our own kids and their kids’ futures. Good f-ing luck with the planet itself – the first generation to fail entirely in terms of achieving any real, human “progress” in the last 100 years minimum, and one that could well cost us all everything.

        The rats have brains. They can see a way out. They know what the thing in the white lab coat is up to. They know it’s a risk, they know there’s little time left. Will none of them chance it? Not even for the whole world? What kind of ending is that?

        1. skippy

          @Fiver… humans are indocranated from birth, the vast majority never qestion the inprinting, their to bussy with the supplied tasks, which then, necessitiates some form of entertainment oblivion.

          A little taste see:

          CP: In The Huffington Post article you write that the Bible “actually contains lies” as opposed to using the “antiseptic term” pseudepigrapha. Why is it important to you to use “lies” as opposed to the term we most commonly hear in critical discussions, that is “pseudepigrapha?” What’s your point in drawing a distinction between the two terms?

          Ehrman: The thing is, pseudepigrapha is not a common term. Probably in the grocery line you don’t hear the word pseudepigrapha, so in fact it’s not a word we ever use. I don’t prefer the word “lies.” What I prefer is the word “forgeries.” A forgery is when somebody writes a book claiming to be somebody else. I’ve written two books about this. What I write in my books is that that’s exactly what happens with some of the books of the New Testament. Some of the letters of Paul, for example, are written by somebody who was claiming to be Paul, even though he wasn’t Paul. In the ancient world they would have called that a forgery. Actually, in the ancient world they would have called it a lie. The ancient Greek word they used for that is “pseudēs,” which means a lie. The other Greek word they use for it actually is the word “nothos,” which means bastard. So ancient people talking about that phenomenon that we call forgery, called them lies and bastards. So I just think it’s truer to the ancient sources to call them what they are. If we want to use the word “pseudepigrapha,” which is okay with me, then we should tell people what it means, which is that it means a writing that is inscribed with a lie.

          skippy… what would people – think – if the cannons were bound by money and not divnity, that poloticians were payed to make it happen… does that echo…

            1. skippy

              Quad screen with 5+ rolling real time conversations and data retrieval… is hard yacka, yet, better than handing it all over to synthetic postulation.

Comments are closed.