EASY AS PIE

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Posted on 3rd July 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Which generation is most screwed by our current economy? Not the Boomers. They continue to work because many have to. They didn’t save a dime for their retirement. They will get all of their promised entitlements – SS, Medicare, pensions. The millenials have massive student loan debt, few decent paying jobs, and they have to pay for the Boomers. Gen X should be really pissed. They’ve lost the most jobs and they are in their prime earning and spending years. The dynamic described below is not pretty. This materialistic consumer dependent economy needs younger people to spend and buy homes from older people. Without jobs, that ain’t going to happen. I’m sure the 800,000 of part time jobs added in June will surely turn the tide.

Since the recession, the youngest job-hunters are being beaten by the oldest. The number of jobs held by baby boomers rose by 9% from 2007 to 2013, a gain of 1.9 million jobs, while the millennial workforce only snagged 110,000 jobs, up 0.3%, according to new analysis by software firm CareerBuilder and labor market data and software firm Economic Modeling Specialists International. (Generation X jobs fared worse, dropping 2.6 million, or 1%.)

The high level of unemployment could leave a generation of disillusioned young voters — a sizable block. Only 25% of 18- to 29-year-olds will “definitely be voting” in the midterm elections in November, down from 34% five months ago, according to an April 2014 poll carried out by the Harvard University Institute of Politics. Some 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds say they approved of the performance of President Obama, a drop from 54% a year earlier. Millennials also make up a considerably powerful group. There are 89 million millennials compared with 49 million Generation Xers and 75 million baby boomers.

SOLVE FOR X, SOLVE FOR Y

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Posted on 5th February 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Guest Post by Stephanie Shepard

In the 1990′s Neil Howe and William Strauss wrote the best selling books on generational theory. They created a new historical theory and proved that history was not linear, as most would believe, but it was a cycle. An 80 year cycle, the average time of a human life span, of four different generations interacting with one another throughout history. Their expertise has been hailed as accurate and prophetic interactions of the generations.

I don’t agree with Howe that I am a Millennial. The defining characteristic seem very off to me, they always have. I am suppose to be civic minded and a team player. I have never identified with those groups. I was suppose to be a over protected child and given trophies for showing up. I never identified with those childhoods. I am suppose to be a digital native who has always the internet and instant connectivity. I remember a childhood of playing outside.

Through my own observations and nostalgia, I can attest there is another generational cusp. A big one. Generation X and Millennials are a bigger cusp than any of the generations. Estimated I would say by two decades. A solid generation right in the middle. Generation Xers are estimated between 1964-1982, and Millennials are estimated between 1982-2002. Of course there is back and forth bickering of these dates. It still doesn’t change my theory of a full generation in the middle, starting in the mid 1970s and ending in the mid 1990s.

Generation X and Millennial Cusp

In the 1970′s the first no fault divorce law was passed in California, it gave couples the right to divorce without explanation, and seemingly with little consequence. The social and economic structure went unharmed for a few years. The consequences bore out of the new mass divorce rates would take a decade to effectively observe.  Largely they were swept under the rug as just a sign of “troubled adolescence” of the teenage Gen Xers.

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“As my bones grew they did hurt,
They hurt really bad.
I tried hard to have a father,
But instead I had a dad.”
“I just want you to know that I.
Don’t hate you anymore.
There is nothing I could say,
That I haven’t thought before.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first rise of the teenage angst culture started in 1991 with the release of “Smells like Teen Spirit”. The early wave of Gen X were getting out on their own, to only realize there was nothing waiting for them. Much like their childhoods, their was no warm embrace in the real world. They were on their own to figure out and survival mode would be the generational characteristic that would forever stay. The Nomad Generation was fulfilling their roles in the generation scheme.

Following Nirvana’s long shot success, many other Seattle grunge bands began to emerge in mainstream music. A new genre was born out of childhoods of being in the shadows of their parents’ vanity. They grew up raising themselves, going home to empty houses, and watching wholesome value programming of the Brady Bunch. Never knowing a two parent household and homemaker mothers. The wave of the latchkey childhood had begun and would continue for decades.

When Neil Howe wrote about the Millennials there were a few characteristics that he did not anticipate lingering from the Gen X childhood. For over two decades birth control, abortion, and divorce would define a huge cusp generation. Many of the Millennial predictions have not come true because of not taking into account how culturally changing the effect have been. Gen X childhood alienation was not an abnormal trend. The same traits that stirred contempt in their generation carried over to the Millennials.

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Generation X and Millennials have an odd connection. The cusp I am referring to is one of a generation raising itself. While many of the Millennials had single moms or working moms, their entertainment was largely unguided. Millennials grew up with Generation X writing and producing the very same entertainment. The music, television programming, movies, video games, and cartoons were written and produce by older generation Xers. Older Millennials were the target audience in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  The cultural influence of entertainment during the time had a lasting impact.

The Alternation Rock and Rap during the 1990s, written by Xers, were the storytellers of the pain Millennials were facing while growing up. My parents are divorced. They got divorced in 1991, I was five years old. The first memories I have of my childhood were of my Dad working and never around. My mom stayed at home with me, while my brother went to school. When my Dad was home I heard screaming, intensified anger on both sides, and being woken in the middle of the night to my Mom packing bags. There was even one morning I woke up to the living room destroyed along with ranch dressing drying to the walls of the kitchen.

When it comes to divorce my family is saturated in it. My parents both grew up in divorced households. Both of my parents were raised by their mothers and had part time Dads. My grandparents were born on the Silent/Baby Boomer cusp, and they loved their divorce. Most of my grandparents were divorced multiple times. This cycle didn’t end  until they started to age. Now my parents get to suffer the burden of their final expenses. No houses to inherit or funds to pay for their debts. All the money was spent on divorces and child support payments.

The Divorce Burden

Prior to the popularity of divorce, couples remained together, and accumulated wealth over the course of their lifetimes. Many were quite successful in paying off their mortgages, building savings, aquiring health insurance, life insurance, and making plans for retirement. When divorce came into the picture, that structure was demolished. Nobody owned houses outright by the end of their career. Both parties were left poorer, single moms started applying in mass for welfare and fathers had to pay the expenses two separate households. Instead of building savings, a debt fueled lifestyle because the norm.

Now as many Boomers are at the age of retirement they have nothing. After multiple divorces and starting multiple families, they have no wealth security. They cannot collect pensions and benefits from their spouses, they cannot pay off their homes, and they are not able to pay off the debts they accumulated in their lifetimes.

This saddles the younger generations to pay for their parents and grandparents carefree attitude. A generation who never thought they would get old. Now as they age they have no plan B. Their children are not better off either. With no wealth accumulation, most of Generation X and Millennials have a student loan bubble and multiple credit card debits. I heavily doubt Generation X or Millennials will be lining up to pay for their parents retirements.

CULTURE OF IGNORANCE – PART ONE

116 comments

Posted on 27th October 2013 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”

- Thomas Edison

The kabuki theater that passes for governance in Washington D.C. reveals the profound level of ignorance shrouding this Empire of Debt in its prolonged death throes. Ignorance of facts; ignorance of math; ignorance of history; ignorance of reality; and ignorance of how ignorant we’ve become as a nation, have set us up for an epic fall. It’s almost as if we relish wallowing in our ignorance like a fat lazy sow in a mud hole. The lords of the manor are able to retain their power, control and huge ill-gotten riches because the government educated serfs are too ignorant to recognize the self-evident contradictions in the propaganda they are inundated with by state controlled media on a daily basis.

 

“Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession – their ignorance.” - Hendrik Willem van Loon

The levels of ignorance are multi-dimensional and diverse, crossing all educational, income, and professional ranks. The stench of ignorance has settled like Chinese toxic smog over our country, as various constituents have chosen comforting ignorance over disconcerting knowledge. The highly educated members, who constitute the ruling class in this country, purposefully ignore facts and truth because the retention and enhancement of their wealth and power are dependent upon them not understanding what they clearly have the knowledge to understand. The underclass wallow in their ignorance as their life choices, absence of concern for marriage or parenting, lack of interest in educating themselves, and hiding behind the cross of victimhood and blaming others for their own failings. Everyone is born ignorant and the path to awareness and knowledge is found in reading books. Rich and poor alike are free to read and educate themselves. The government, union teachers, and a village are not necessary to attain knowledge. It requires hard work and clinging to your willful ignorance to remain stupid.

The youth of the country consume themselves in techno-narcissistic triviality, barely looking up from their iGadgets long enough to make eye contact with other human beings. The toxic combination of government delivered public education, dumbed down socially engineered curriculum, taught by uninspired intellectually average union controlled teachers, to distracted, unmotivated, latchkey kids, has produced a generation of young people ignorant about history, basic mathematical concepts, and the ability or interest to read and write. They have been taught to feel rather than think critically. They have been programmed to believe rather than question and explore. Slogans and memes have replaced knowledge and understanding. They have been lured into inescapable student loan debt serfdom by the very same government that is handing them a $200 trillion entitlement bill and an economy built upon low paying service jobs that don’t require a college education, because the most highly educated members of society realized that outsourcing the higher paying production jobs to slave labor factories in Asia was great for the bottom line, their stock options and bonus pools.

Instead of being outraged and lashing out against this injustice, the medicated, daycare reared youth passively lose themselves in the inconsequentiality and shallowness of social media, reality TV, and the internet, while living in their parents’ basement. They have chosen the ignorance inflicted upon their brains by thousands of hours spent twittering, texting, facebooking, seeking out adorable cat videos on the internet, viewing racist rap singer imbeciles rent out sports stadiums to propose to vacuous big breasted sluts on reality cable TV shows, and sitting zombie-like for days with a controller in hand blowing up cities, killing whores, and murdering policemen using their new PS4 on their 65 inch HDTV, rather than gaining a true understanding of the world by reading Steinbeck, Huxley, and Orwell. Technology has reduced our ability to think and increased our ignorance.

“During my eighty-seven years, I have witnessed a whole succession of technological revolutions. But none of them has done away with the need for character in the individual or the ability to think.” - Bernard M. Baruch

The youth have one thing going for them. They are still young and can awaken from their self-imposed stupor of ignorance. There are over 80 million millenials between the ages of 8 and 30 years old who need to start questioning the paradigm they are inheriting and critically examining the mendacious actions of their elders. The future of the country is in their hands, so I hope they put down those iGadgets and open their eyes before it is too late. We need many more patriots like Edward Snowden and far fewer twerking sluts like Miley Cyrus if we are to overcome the smog of apathy and ignorance blanketing our once sentient nation.

The ignorance of youth can be chalked up to inexperience, lack of wisdom, and immaturity. There is no excuse for the epic level of ignorance displayed by older generations over the last thirty years. Boomers and Generation X have charted the course of this ship of state for decades. Ship of fools is a more fitting description, as they have stimulated the entitlement mentality that has overwhelmed the fiscal resources of the country. Our welfare/warfare empire, built upon a Himalayan mountain of debt, enabled by a central bank owned by Wall Street, and perpetuated by swarms of corrupt bought off spineless politicians, is the ultimate testament to the seemingly limitless level of ignorance engulfing our civilization. The entitlement mindset permeates our culture from the richest to the poorest. Mega-corporations use their undue influence (bribes disguised as campaign contributions) to elect pliable candidates to office, hire lobbyists to write the laws and tax regulations governing their industries, and collude with the bankers and other titans of industry to harvest maximum profits from the increasingly barren fields of a formerly thriving land of milk and honey. By unleashing a torrent of unbridled greed, ransacking the countryside, and burning down the villages, the ruling class has planted the seeds of their own destruction.

When the underclass observes Wall Street bankers committing the crime of the century with no consequences for their actions, they learn a lesson. When billionaire banker/politicians like Jon Corzine can steal $1.2 billion directly from the accounts of farmers and ranchers and continue to live a life of luxury in one of his six mansions, they get the message. Wall Street bankers are allowed to commit fraud, reaping profits of $25 billion, and when they are caught red handed pay a $5 billion fine while admitting no guilt. No connected bankers have gone to jail for crashing the worldwide financial system, but teenage marijuana dealers are incarcerated for ten years in our corporate prison system. The message has been received loud and clear by the unwashed masses. Committing fraud and gaming the system is OK. Only suckers play by the rules anymore. A culture of lawlessness, greed, fraud, deceit, swindles and scams was fashioned by those in power. Reckless disregard for honesty, truthfulness, fair dealing, and treating others as you would like to be treated, has permeated the beliefs and behavior of our society.

The ever increasing number of people in the SNAP program along with abuses committed by retailers and recipients, the skyrocketing number of people faking their way into the SSDI program, billions of taxpayer dollars lost to Medicare fraud, billions more lost paying out earned income tax credit refunds based on non-existent children, public schools falsifying test scores, students cheating on SAT tests, credit card fraud on a grand scale, failure to report income and falsifying tax returns, and a myriad of other dodges and scams are just a reflection of a moral and cultural collapse. The dog eat dog mentality glorified by the media, with such despicable men as Dimon, Greenspan, Corzine, Clinton, Trump, Rubin, Bernanke and Bloomberg honored as pillars of society, has displaced honesty, compassion, humanity, shared sacrifice, and caring about our descendants. Self-interest, self-indulgence, and a narcissistic focus on what is in it for me today has led to an implosion of trust and an attitude of “who cares” about our fellow man, morality, right or wrong, and the fate of future generations. We ignored the warnings of our last President who displayed courageousness and truthfulness when speaking to the American people.

“As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Me Generation has devolved into the Me Culture. While the masses have been mesmerized by their iGadgets, zombified by the boob tube, programmed to consume by the Madison Avenue propaganda machines, enslaved in chains of debt by the Wall Street plantation owners, and convinced by their fascist government keepers that phantom terrorists are hiding behind every bush, they surrendered their freedoms, liberties and sense of self-responsibility. There will always be evil men seeking to control and manipulate the ignorant and oblivious. A citizenry armed with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and moral integrity would not passively submit to the will of a corporate fascist oligarchy. Well educated, well informed citizens, capable of critical thinking are dangerous to rich men of evil intent. Obedient, universally ignorant, distracted, fearful, morally depraved slaves are what the owners of this country want. As the light of knowledge flickers and dies, we sink into the darkness of ignorance.

 

“No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.”Samuel Adams

Cult of Ignorance

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”Isaac Asimov

  

“While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.

In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of man to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.”Henry Hazlitt

America’s cult of ignorance, combined with the selfish interests of various constituencies, the character weakness of the people elected to office, a lack of understanding or interest in basic mathematical concepts, and inability to comprehend the long term and unintended consequences of every piece of legislation, have brought the country to the brink of fiscal disaster. But still, the vast majority of Americans, including the supposed intellectuals and economic “experts”, are basking in their ignorance, as the stock market reaches a new high, the local GM dealer just gave them a 7 year $40,000 auto loan at 0% on that brand new Cadillac Escalade, Bank of America still hasn’t foreclosed on their McMansion two years after making their last mortgage payment, and they just received three pre-approved credit card notices from Capital One, American Express and Citicorp. As long as Bennie has our back printing $1 trillion new greenbacks per year, nothing can possibly go wrong. Our best and brightest economic minds are always right:

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” – Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

“Many of the new financial products that have been created, with financial derivatives being the most notable, contribute economic value by unbundling risks and shifting them in a highly calibrated manner. Although these instruments cannot reduce the risk inherent in real assets, they can redistribute it in a way that induces more investment in real assets and, hence, engenders higher productivity and standards of living.” – Alan Greenspan – March 6, 2000

“We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.” Ben Bernanke – July 2005

The profound level of ignorance displayed by economists, politicians, business leaders, media personalities, and the average American, regarding the mathematically unsustainable path of our fiscal ship is perplexing to me on so many levels. If the Federal government was a family, the budget ceiling debate would be put into the following terms. Our household earns $28,000 per year, but we spend $38,000 per year and add $10,000 to our credit card balance, which stands at the limit of $170,000. In addition, we owe our neighbors $2 million we don’t have because we promised to pay if they voted for us as Treasurer of our homeowners association. We celebrate our good fortune of getting approved for another credit card with a $30,000 limit by increasing our spending to $39,000 per year. Intellectuals scorn such simplistic analogies by glibly pointing out that the family has a crazy uncle with a printing press in the basement and can pay-off the debt with his freshly printed dollars. And this is where the deliberate and calculated ignorance by the highly educated Ivy Leaguers regarding long term and unintended consequences is revealed. They ignore, manipulate, cover-up and obscure the facts because their wealth, power and influence depend upon them doing so. But ignorance doesn’t change the facts.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

Nothing exposes the ignorance of various factions within our society better than a debate about budgets, spending, and unfunded liabilities. This is where every party, group, special interest, and voting bloc ignore any and all facts that are contrary to their selfish interest. They only see what they want to see. The fallacies, errors, omissions and mistruths of their positions are inconsequential to people who only care about their short-term self-seeking interests. When I question the out of control spending on entitlements and our impossible to honor level of unfunded liabilities, those of a liberal persuasion lash out with accusations of hating the poor, starving children and throwing granny under the bus. Anyone suggesting we should slow our spending is branded a terrorist by the overwhelmingly liberal legacy media.

When I accuse Wall Street bankers of criminal fraud and ongoing manipulation of the financial markets, the CNBC loving apologists for these felons bellow about the market always being right. When I rail about the military industrial complex and our un-Constitutional invasions of other countries, the neo-cons come out in force blathering about the war on terror and imminent threats. When I point out the horrific results of our government run educational system and how mediocre union teachers are bankrupting our states and municipalities with their gold plated health and pension plans, I’m met with howls of outrage about the poor children. The common thread is that facts are ignored because each of their agendas requires ignorance on the part of their team’s fans.

The following chart of truth portrays an unsustainable path. Ignoring the facts will not change them. This isn’t a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. It’s an American problem.

 

“There are men regarded today as brilliant economists, who deprecate saving and recommend squandering on a national scale as the way of economic salvation; and when anyone points to what the consequences of these policies will be in the long run, they reply flippantly, as might the prodigal son of a warning father: “In the long run we are all dead.” And such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.” Henry Hazlitt

Henry Hazlitt may have written these words six decades ago, but they aptly describe Paul Krugman and the legions of Keynesian apostles whose bastardized interpretation of Keynes’ theory has led us to this fiscal cliff. How anyone can truly believe that borrowing to consume foreign produced goods versus saving and making job creating capital investments is a rational and sustainable economic policy is the height of ignorance. One look at this chart exposes the political party system as a sham. When it comes to the fiscal train wreck, set in motion thirty years ago, the ignorant media pundits peddle a narrative about politicians failing to compromise as the culprit in this derailment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compromise is what has gotten us to this point. The Republicans compromised and allowed the Democrats to create a welfare state. The Democrats compromised and allowed the Republicans to create a warfare state. The Federal Reserve compromised their mandate of stable prices and preventing financial calamities by inflating away 95% of the dollar’s purchasing power in 100 years, while creating bubbles every five or so years, like clockwork. There are a myriad of facts related to the chart above that cannot be ignored:

  • It took 192 years for the country to accumulate $1 trillion in debt. It has taken us 30 years to accumulate the next $16 trillion of debt. We now add $1 trillion of debt per year.
  • If the Federal government was required to use GAAP accounting, the annual deficit would amount to $6.7 trillion per year.
  • The fiscal gap of unfunded future liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and government pensions is $200 trillion.
  • Using realistic growth assumptions adds another $6 trillion of state and local government unfunded pension benefits to the equation.
  • The Federal government has increased their annual spending from $1.8 trillion during Bill Clinton’s last year in office to $3.8 trillion today, a 110% increase. The population has increased by 12% over that same time frame, and real GDP has advanced by 25% since 2000.
  • Defense spending has increased from $358 billion in 2000 to $831 billion today, despite the fact that no country on earth can challenge us militarily.
  • The average Baby Boomer will receive $300,000 more than they contributed to Social Security and Medicare over their lifetime. Over 10,000 Boomers per day will turn 65 for the next 17 years.
  • The Social Security lockbox is filled with IOUs. The funds collected from paychecks over the last 80 years were spent by Congress on wars of choice, bridges to nowhere, and thousands of other vote buying ventures.
  • A normalization of interest rates to long-term averages would double or triple the interest on the national debt and increase our annual deficits by at least 30%.
  • Obamacare and the unintended consequences of Obamacare will add tens of trillions to our national debt. The initial budget projections for Medicare and Medicaid showed only a modest financial impact on the financial situation of the country. How did that work out?
  • Entitlement spending in 2003 was $1.3 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2008 was $1.7 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2013 was $2.2 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2018 will be $2.8 trillion, as these programs are on automatic pilot.

When you consider the facts in a rational manner, without vitriolic denials, bitter accusations, acrimonious blame, and rejection of the entire premise, you come to the conclusion that we’ve passed the point of no return. Decades of bad choices, bad leadership, bad men in important positions, bad education, bad governance, and bad citizenship have led to bad times. But very few people, across all socio-economic classes, have any interest in understanding the facts or making the tough choices required to save future generations from a life of squalor. We willfully choose to ignore the facts.

“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” Aldous Huxley

Our degraded and ignorant society is incapable of comprehending their dire circumstances or acting for the common good of the country. We are a nation on the take. Greed really is good. Everyone needs to play the game. From the top floor corporate CEO suite to the decaying urban wastelands, we have chosen comforting ignorance to uncomfortable knowledge. Our warped form of democracy enriches the few at the top, while dispensing enough subsistence payments to the lower classes to keep them from revolting, while enslaving the middle class in debt and convincing them it’s really wealth. Mencken understood the pathetic impulses of the American populace decades before we reached our point of no return.

“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” – H.L. Mencken

The only way a democracy can survive is if the population is knowledgeable, vigilant, skeptical, educated, individually responsible, self-reliant, moral, capable of critical thinking and willing to accept the consequences of their actions. A nation of takers, fakers and blamers will not last long. We’ve degenerated into a nation of knowledge hating book burners. Our culture of ignorance will lead to the destruction of our culture and the ignorant masses will wonder what happened.

 

“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.”Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451

In Part Two of this examination about our culture of ignorance I’ll explore the roles of technology, family breakdown, government, and propaganda in creating the ignorance that is consuming our system like a mutant parasite. If you are seeking a happy ending, I suggest looking elsewhere.

GENERATIONAL INEQUALITY

20 comments

Posted on 12th June 2012 by Administrator in Economy

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I’m working on an article about the Federal Reserve survey put out yesterday, but Neil Howe beat me to the punch. Excellent analysis of how the financial crisis has affected each generation. No wonder us GenXers are so irritable. My article will be slightly more nasty as I will focus on the culprits.

Once Again, Economy Hammers Gen-Xers and Favors the Silent

Every three years (or so), the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances releases a report on “Changes in U.S. Family Finances.”  It’s a goldmine of information on how families are doing financially—specifically, how their assets and liabilities and net worths are changing by various demographic categories.

Yesterday, the Fed released a new report for 2010, its first since 2007.

I anticipated that the news was unlikely to be good, given the carnage done to family financial assets and home prices during the recent Great Recession.  I suspected net worth would be down overall, and down the steepest for younger families.  I had already seen preliminary Fed estimates of 2009 data.  And I had already ruminated over the depressing Census 2010 report on income and poverty.

But I have to admit, I wasn’t prepared for results as bad as these.  Here’s the bottom line:

Net worth basically means the total assets–real and financial, including home–minus the total liabilities of every U.S. “family.”  (Though the Fed uses the word “family,” it really means households; a “family” can consist of only one person.)  In 2007, the median for all families was $126,000; in 2010, it was $77,300.  That’s a fall of 39 percent.

What happened?  The value of homes and financial assets (often in 401(k) retirement plans) crashed—and though the Dow has partially recovered, the prices of homes haven’t.  The middle 60 percent of the income distribution was hit hardest, percentagewise, for just this reason: Most of the lowest 20 percent don’t own homes, and for most of the highest 20 percent homes constitute a smaller share of their net worth.  The hardest hit region was the West (median net worth down 55 percent) mostly, again, for the same reason—homes.

Another interesting angle: The share of families with credit card debt is down, while the share with college debt is up.  For the first time ever, education loans make up a larger share of a family’s average debt than car loans—which is suggestive of where Millennials and their families are, and are not, making their investments.

But what I want to draw real attention to is the differing trends by age.  Gen-Xers and late-wave Boomers between the ages of 35 and 54 (down by 54 and 40 percent) have been hit by far the hardest.  They bought late into the real-estate market, they borrowed most against the value of their homes, and they tended to buy in the newer, faster-growing,  and exurban regions where home prices crashed the most steeply after 2006.  They also (I suspect) tended to invest their assets aggressively, as most investment managers say young adults should.  Early-wave Boomers age 55-64 (down by 33 percent) have fared a bit better.  As for Millennials and late-wave Xers under age 35, their trend (down by 25 percent) doesn’t mean much since their net worth is still so small.

But now let’s look at families age 65 and over, a group dominated by the Silent Generation.  They have done much better (down by only 18 and 3 percent).  Most of the Silent traded down from their primary residence at or near the top of the housing boom.  Most sold or annuitized their financial assets at a much better moment in the history of the Dow.  Even if they didn’t, they are more likely than Boomers or Xers to be getting retirement checks from DB (defined-benefit) corporate or government plans that are unaffected by the market.  And even if they couldn’t or wouldn’t retire, they have been less likely to lose their jobs: 65+ Americans are the only age bracket whose employment-to-population ratio has risen continuously through the recent recession.

The new Fed study looks at income as well as net worth.  Its verdict is the same as that of the annual Census reports (cited earlier): The age 65-74 and 75+ age brackets are the only ones to experience rising real median incomes between 2007 and 2010.  Families in every younger age bracket experienced substantial declines.

OK, you might say: We’re only talking about the last three years.  Things go up and down.  Maybe this is just Brownian motion.

No, it’s not.  It’s all part of a much longer trend.  Let me now show the results going all the way back to the earliest Fed reports—that is, going back to 1983, and updating everything into inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars.

As you can see, the real median net worth of every age bracket under age 55 was better off back in the early Reagan years than it is today.  (Remarkably, the situation for age brackets under age 45 never improved much after 1983.)  Over age 65, things are much better today than at any time before 2004.  And in 2010, for the first time ever, the age 75+ bracket is actually the best off of any adult age bracket.  Back in the early 1960s, by most accounts, it was the worst off.

Now let me restate these results in a fashion that makes the generational point a bit clearer.  In the following table, I express the median net worth of each bracket as a percent of the median net worth of 35-to-44 year-olds in that year.  Take a look:

Here’s the take-away.  Back in the early 1980s, when the 35-to-55 age brackets were dominated by the Silent Generation, people that age were roughly on par with the household net worth of the elderly.  Interestingly, a 50-year-old family was 39 percent wealthier than a 75+ family.  The Silent, in short, were doing pretty well—as they continued to do relative to other generations as they grew older.  Today, a 50-year-old family is 54 percent poorer than a 75+ family.

Today’s headlines on the Fed report say the median net worth of all families has fallen to 1992 values.  Which is true, averaged across all families.  But it is also true that today’s young families are doing much worse than like-aged families in 1992—and that today’s senior families are doing much better.

All of this, by the way, was long-ago predicted.  Back in 1987, the eminent demographer Richard Easterlin wrote Birth and Fortune, a book in which he tried to explain why Americans born from the late-1920s to the early 1940s (the Silent Generation) had always done so well in the economy relative to the generations that came before and after them.  Easterlin noted that one of the most remarkable features of the 1950s and early 1960s was how the typical young man at 30 could earn more than the average wage for all working men—and could certainly live better than most “retired” elders of that era.  He also noted that since the late 1970s, the economic conditions facing young late-wave Boomers had become much tougher.  Easterlin called the Silent the “Fortunate” or “Lucky” Generation, and attributed their high incomes to their relatively small numbers—pointing out that they were the product of the “birth dearth” of the Great Depression.

Bill Strauss and I always thought that the explanation lay somewhat deeper than just demography and was connected to their location in history and their archetype.  The Silent were socialized early in life to get ahead by following the rules in a fresh-built system that actually rewarded rule-followers.  This they did, and it worked.  A good Silent joke (popularized by Woody Allen) is that 80 percent of life is just showing up.  I know very few Gen-Xers who think this is true—or even funny.

In case you’re interested, here’s what Bill and I wrote about the economic future of the Silent back in our first book, Generations, published in 1991:

No American generation has ever entered old age better equipped than the Silent.  Today’s sixtyish men and women stand at the wealthier edge of America’s wealthiest-ever generation, poised to take full advantage of the generous G.I.-built old-age entitlement programs.  Armies of merchandisers and seniors-only condo salesmen will pounce on these new young-oldsters as they complete a stunning two-generation rags-to-riches transformation of American elderhood.  Where the 1950s-era elder Lost watched their offspring whiz past them in economic life, the 1990s-era elder Silent will tower over the living standards of their children.  In 1960, 35-year-olds typically lived in bigger houses and drove better cars than their 65-year-old parents.  In the year 2000, the opposite will be the case.

Now let me contrast this to what we predicted back then about the future of Gen-Xers:

Sometime around the year 2010, Xers will hit a hangover mood like that of the Lost in the early 1930s and the Liberty in the late 1760s: a feeling of personal exhaustion mixed with a new public seriousness.  The members of this forty- and fiftyish generation will fan out across an unusually wide distribution of personal outcomes, reminiscent of a night at the bingo table.  A few will be wildly successful, others totally ruined, and the largest number will have lost a little ground since the days of Boomer midlife.

Going back to these 21-year-old passages is so much fun!  Let’s not stop here.  Consider the following remarks, especially what we predicted back then about the intense protectiveness of Gen-X parents.  (Anyone catch the “Are You Mom Enough?Time Magazine cover last week—pitched to a whole generation of attachment parents?)  Here they are:

Gen-Xers will make near-perfect fifty-year-olds.  On the one hand, they will be nobody’s fools.  If you really need something done, and you don’t especially mind how it’s done, these will be the guys to hire.  On the other hand, they will be nice to be around.  More experienced than their elders in the stark reality of pleasure and pain, Xers will have that Twainlike twinkle in the eye, that Trumanesque capacity to distinguish between mistakes that matter and those that don’t.  In business, they will excel at cunning, flexibility, and deft timing–a far cry from the ponderous, principles-first Boomer style.  In sports, the combination of Xer coaches and Millennial players may well produce a new golden era of teamwork and civic adulation.  In the military, Xers will blossom into the kind of generals young Millennial soldiers would follow off a cliff.  Their leading politicians may strike old Boomers as affable, sensible, quick on their feet–and more inclined to make deals than to argue about abstractions.

In the early 21st century, Gen-Xers will make their most enduring mark on the national culture.  Their now-mature keenness of observation and their capacity to step outside themselves will kick off exciting innovations in literature and filmmaking.  They may become the best on-screen generation since the Lost.  As parents of growing children, they will by now be too affectionate, too physical–too eager to prevent teenagers from suffering the same overdose of reality they will recall from their own youth.  In so doing, Xers will tip the scales toward overprotection of children–much as the Liberty did in the 1780s, the Gilded in the 1860s and the Lost in the 1930s.  Midlife parents (mothers especially) may hear themselves criticized by Millennials for “momming” a pliant new generation of Adaptives.

Enough wild digression.  Let’s get back to the main point of this posting.  Just-released Fed data confirms what we have always known about likely economic trajectory of today’s generations: Through the Third Turning and into the initial stages of the Fourth, the Silent will prosper, Boomers will cope with declining expectations, and Gen-Xers will get hammered.

Thoughout history, we have argued, inequality both by class and by age reaches its apogee entering the Crisis era.  Indeed, part of the historical purpose of the Crisis is tear down dysfunctional institutions, vacate positions of entitlement and privilege, rectify the inequality, and create a tabula rasa on which the rising generation can build something new.

THE GATHERING STORM

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Posted on 13th March 2011 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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“Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.” – Winston Churchill The Second World War

A butterfly flapped its wings in Tunisia creating a hurricane that is swirling across the globe, wreaking havoc with the existing social order and sweeping away old crumbling institutions and dictatorships. The linear thinking politicians, pundits and thought leaders have been knocked for a loop. They didn’t see it coming and they don’t know where it’s leading. An examination and understanding of history would have revealed that we have been here before. We were here in 1773. We were here in 1860. We were here in 1929. We are here again. The Fourth Turning has returned in its predictable cycle, just as Winter always follows Fall.   

 

Winston Churchill wrote the definitive history of World War II in 1948. His six volume history detailed the years from the end of World War I through the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers in 1945. Volume I in the series was The Gathering Storm. It covered the second half of the Unraveling and the first ten years of the last Fourth Turning Crisis period. The title fits perfectly with the mood and inevitability of what was destined to occur. All Fourth Turnings resemble Winter, with bitter cold options, biting winds of change, dark days, and destructive storms. The seasons cannot be averted. The Seasons of a year are predictable, as are the seasons of a human life. We’ve entered the Crisis (Winter) season of the latest Saeculum that began in 1946 and will climax sometime around 2025.

“Reflect on what happens when a terrible winter blizzard strikes. You hear the weather warning but probably fail to act on it. The sky darkens. Then the storm hits with full fury, and the air is a howling whiteness. One by one, your links to the machine age break down. Electricity flickers out, cutting off the TV. Batteries fade, cutting off the radio. Phones go dead. Roads become impossible, and cars get stuck. Food supplies dwindle. Day to day vestiges of modern civilization – bank machines, mutual funds, mass retailers, computers, satellites, airplanes, governments – all recede into irrelevance. Picture yourself and your loved ones in the midst of a howling blizzard that lasts several years. Think about what you would need, who could help you, and why your fate might matter to anybody other than yourself. That is how to plan for a saecular winter. Don’t think you can escape the Fourth Turning. History warns that a Crisis will reshape the basic social and economic environment that you now take for granted.” – Strauss & Howe - The Fourth Turning

The generations are aligned in such a way that an event, incident, or individual action that may have been disregarded or ignored ten years ago will now trigger a worldwide conflagration. The Boston Massacre occurred in1770 during Revolutionary Saeculum. Five colonists were slaughtered by British troops. The mood of the generations was not ready for a Crisis. It wasn’t until three years later that the Boston Tea Party ignited a spark that started a revolution. John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859 was intended to start a revolution. The populace was not ready. One year later, the election of Abraham Lincoln lit the fuse on the most horrific war in modern history. America experienced a sharp depression in 1920-1921. The country did not spiral into a decade long downturn, culminating in a World War that killed 65 million people. The generational dynamic was not aligned in a way that would lead to that outcome. Instead, the roaring twenties commenced. On December 17, 2010 a man committed a seemingly inconsequential act that has ignited a worldwide firestorm. 

 

The spark that has enflamed the planet was struck by a 26-year-old Tunisian with a computer science degree named Mohamed Bouazizi, who unable to feed his family, was not allowed by his government to even get a permit to sell vegetables. Bouazizi publicly doused himself with gasoline, lit a match, and burnt not only his own body, but enflamed the consciousness of a world, and its inhabitants, being obliterated by the corrupt wealthy elites who rule the planet. In less than a month the brush fire started by this 26-year-old Tunisian had incinerated the despotic government of his country and forced its “president-for-life”, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to flee the country. The people’s coup in Tunisia, called the Jasmine Revolution, has sent shockwaves across the globe, spreading wildfires of freedom throughout the Arab world.  The firestorm started by Bouazizi has brought down Mubarak in Egypt and is lapping at the heals of Gaddafi in Libya. Tyrants throughout the world are quivering with fear. The mood of the people across the globe has turned dark and angry. The political class and media are persistently surprised by the reaction of citizens to events during the Fourth Turning.

Historians William Strauss and Neil Howe documented their generational theory in the 1997 book The Fourth Turning. People who prefer blind ideology and believe human existence is a straight line of progress scorn their work as fantasy and pure prophecy. So called progressives misrepresent the theory as predicting the future because they refuse to accept the fact that large groups of human beings of a similar age and having common experiences react in similar predictable ways. It irritates those with an unwavering belief in human individuality. They prefer to ignore the numerous example of mass hysteria throughout history. In just the last 10 years we have experienced an internet boom and a housing boom that convinced millions of Americans to act  simultaneously in a foolish manner . The theory is so logical and measurable that even the most vacuous blond bubble head on Fox News should understand it.

Strauss & Howe have been able to break Anglo-American history into 80 to 100 year (a long human life) Saeculums going back to 1435. Each Saeculum has four generations at different stages of their lives.  A turning is an era with a characteristic social mood, a new twist on how people feel about themselves and their nation.  It results from the aging of the generational constellation.  A society enters a turning once every twenty years or so, when all living generations begin to enter their next phases of life.  Like archetypes and constellations, turnings come four to a saeculum, and always in the same order. In 1997, Strauss & Howe knew when the next Fourth Turning would begin:

The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation and empire. The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.”Strauss & Howe The Fourth Turning

They did not predict events that would ignite the next Fourth Turning. It was how the generations reacted to the events that mattered. The generational constellation is now in the once every 80 year alignment that will lead to chaos, violent change, the sweeping away of the existing social order, and likely war. Strauss & Howe answered why this would happen fourteen years ago: 

“What will propel these events? As the saeculum turns, each of today’s generations will enter a new phase of life, producing a Crisis constellation of Boomer elders, midlife 13ers, young adult Millennials, and children from the new Silent Generation. As each archetype asserts its new social role, American society will reach its peak of potency. The natural order givers will be elder Prophets, the natural order takers young Heroes. The no-nonsense bosses will be midlife Nomads, the sensitive souls the child Artists. No archetypal constellation can match the gravitational power of this one – nor its power to congeal the natural dynamic of human history into new civic purposes. And none can match its potential power to condense countless arguments, anxieties, cynicisms, and pessimisms into one apocalyptic storm.” – Strauss & Howe The Fourth Turning

I believe my generation is about to experience a rendezvous with destiny. Each generation’s life experiences have prepared them for this hour and the trials that await them. The mood of the country has shifted darkly into a crisis mode. The mainstream media pundits and progressive politicians try to put a positive spin on today’s events, when anyone with the ability to think can see that things will get severely worse in the next ten years. Trust in our institutions, politicians, corporate leaders, media and social order is disintegrating.   

It’s a Matter of Trust

“An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction.” - Strauss & Howe - The Fourth Turning

 

The initial spark that ignited this Fourth Turning was the collapse of the housing market, which began in 2005 and continues today. Home prices collapsed, the fraudulent mortgage loans blew up in the faces of the Wall Street banks that birthed them, and millions of delusional Americans lost their houses in foreclosure. The cascading impact of this implosion brought the American empire of debt to its knees. On September 18, 2008 the U.S. financial system came within hours of complete collapse, as described by Congressman Paul Kanjorski on CPAN:

“On Thursday (Sept 18), at 11am the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous draw-down of money market accounts in the U.S., to the tune of $550 billion was being drawn out in the matter of an hour or two. The Treasury opened up its window to help and pumped a $105 billion in the system and quickly realized that they could not stem the tide. We were having an electronic run on the banks. They decided to close the operation, close down the money accounts and announce a guarantee of $250,000 per account so there wouldn’t be further panic out there.

If they had not done that, their estimation is that by 2pm that afternoon, $5.5 trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the U.S., would have collapsed the entire economy of the U.S., and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed. It would have been the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it.”

The implosion of the financial system was created by the actions of the Wall Street financers that have been looting the country for decades. They created mortgage products (no doc, liar loans, Alt-A, negative amortization) designed to encourage people to commit fraud. They purposely promoted this massive fraud because they had perfected the art of derivatives. The issuers of these fraudulent mortgages bore none of the risk from their guaranteed default. They packaged them into MBOs and MBSs, bought AAA ratings from Moodys, and shilled them to pension managers, insurance companies, municipalities, states, and little old ladies. Then they bet against their own products with credit default swaps. Their greed and avarice was so extreme, they leveraged their own balance sheets 40 to 1 and then bought their own toxic waste. When their MBA created models proved to be defective, the entire house of cards collapsed. Strauss and Howe anticipated a financial catalyst related to immense levels of debt would trigger the next Fourth Turning:

It is unlikely that the catalyst will worsen into a full-fledged catastrophe, since the nation will probably find a way to avert the initial danger and stabilize the situation for a while.

After the near collapse of the financial system in September 2008, the authorities took unprecedented actions to avert a Second Great Depression. Henry Paulson, the Goldman Sachs U.S. Treasury Secretary, who had warned his own staff that a Wall Street derivative disaster would happen, immediately reacted like a former Wall Street CEO. He convinced his Harvard MBA boss, George W. Bush, that the only way to save the country was to fork over $700 billion to the Wall Street banks that created the manmade disaster. When Congress initially voted down this banker bribe, Wall Street showed who was boss by crashing the market by 777 points in one day. The bought off politicians in Washington DC then towed the line and passed TARP.

The two and one half years since September 2008 have set the stage for a far worse catastrophe. The Obama administration jammed an $800 billion pork filled stimulus bill down the throats of America, along with home buyer tax credits, loan modification programs, and a healthcare plan that will crush small businesses. The politicians, government bureaucrats, and mainstream media corporate mouthpieces proclaim that their wise and prompt actions averted a Second Great Depression. The government solutions used to “stabilize” the situation have wrought unintended consequences and planted the seeds of further pain and suffering to come. A summary of what has happened in the last few years is in order:

  • On September 18, 2008 the National Debt stood at $9.66 trillion. Today it stands at $14.16 trillion, a 47% increase in 2 1/2 years.
  • The country is running $1.5 trillion annual deficits and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
  • The States are running cumulative budget deficits of $130 billion in FY11 and expect deficits of $112 billion in FY12. This is leading to conflicts with unions, higher taxes and mass layoffs of government workers. 
  • The working age population has risen by 5 million, while the number of employed Americans has declined by 6.5 million. The true unemployment rate http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts has risen from 12% to 22%. 
  • In September 2008 there were 30.8 million Americans on food stamps. Today there are 44 million Americans on food stamps (14% of the U.S. population), a 43% increase in 2 1/2 years. The annual cost has risen by $37 billion, a 100% increase in 2 1/2 years.  
  • Real inflation  http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/inflation-charts bottomed at 5% in early 2009, but has accelerated to 9% today, with further increases baked in the cake.
  • Gasoline prices bottomed out at $1.61 per gallon in January 2009 and have risen to $3.54 per gallon today, a 120% increase in just over two years.
  • Households have lost $6.3 trillion of real estate related wealth since the peak of the housing market. Home prices have fallen for six straight months.
  • Almost 3 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since 2007.
  • There are 11.1 million households, or 23.1% of all mortgaged homes, underwater on their mortgages today, with rates above 50% in Nevada, Arizona, California, and Michigan.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over by the US government and have lost $170 billion of taxpayer funds so far. Losses are expected to reach $400 billion. Along with the FHA, they continue to prop up a dead housing market with more bad loans.
  • The Federal Reserve balance sheet in September 2008 consisted of $895 billion of US Treasury bonds. Today it totals $2.55 trillion of toxic mortgages bought from Wall Street banks and Treasury bonds being bought under QE2.
  • The Federal Reserve and the Treasury Dept. intimidated the FASB into allowing Wall Street banks to account for worthless mortgage and real estate loans as fully collectible. Magically, insolvent banks became solvent – on paper.
  • The Dow Jones was 11,700 in late August 2008 and today stands at 12,000. The Dow has risen 84% from its March 2009 low. The top 1% wealthiest Americans own 40% of all the stocks in America, so they are feeling much better.
  • In late 2007, a risk averse senior citizen could get a 5% return on a 6 month CD. Today, after two years of no increases in their Social Security payments, a senior citizen can “earn” .38% on a 6 month CD.
  • The Federal Reserve lowered interest rates to 0% in order to allow the Wall Street banks to borrow for free and earn billions without risk.
  • Over 300 smaller banks have been closed by the FDIC, with losses exceeding $50 billion. There are another 900 banks on the verge of insolvency, with estimated future losses of $100 billion.
  • The Federal Reserve initiated QE2 in November 2010, purchasing $70 billion per month of  Treasury bonds and attempting to create a stock market rally. They have succeeded in creating a tsunami of energy, food, and commodity price inflation across the globe, sparking revolutions among the desperately poor in the Middle East. 
  • Wall Street banks “earned” record profits of $19 billion in 2010 after nearly destroying the worldwide financial system in 2008 and raping the American taxpayer in 2009.
  • No Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for the fraudulent actions committed by their banks.
  • Wall Street banks handed out $43.3 billion in bonuses in 2009/2010 for a job well done. The average Wall Street employee received a $128,000 bonus in 2010. In 2008, the year they crashed the financial system, they still doled out $17.6 billion in bonuses.
  • The median household income in 2007 was $52,163. Today the median household income is $46,326, an 11% decline in three years. Real average weekly earnings are lower today than they were in 1971.   

It is clear from the list above that the oligarchic players that wield the power in this country have chosen to prop up their tottering structure of debt-created-wealth on the backs of the working middle class. The people who have been screwed and continue to be screwed are growing angry and distrustful, as anticipated by Strauss & Howe:

“But as the Crisis mood congeals, people will come to the jarring realization that they have grown helplessly dependent on a teetering edifice of anonymous transactions and paper guarantees. Many Americans won’t know where their savings are, who their employer is, what their pension is, or how their government works. The era will have left the financial world arbitraged and tentacled: Debtors won’t know who holds their notes, homeowners who owns their mortgages, and shareholders who runs their equities – and vice versa.”

The continuing foreclosure crisis has proven that the financial industry’s sole purpose in creating subprime loans, liar loans, Alt-A loans and packaging them into tranches with fake AAA ratings  to be sold off to whatever sucker they could find was to enrich themselves with no care about the future consequences. The owners of the debt can’t prove they own the debt. Lawsuits clog up the court system. Deadbeats occupy houses for longer than two years without making a mortgage payment. Wall Street has created so many complex confusing financial products in their greedy thirst for fees that Harvard MBAs can’t even figure out the mess they have created. The $1.4 quadrillion of outstanding derivatives is truly a weapon of mass worldwide destruction waiting to be triggered. The fraudulent actions of Wall Street, the lies told to the American people by government bureaucrats about the solutions needed, the overstep and obfuscation committed by Ben Bernanke, and the propaganda fed to the masses by the corporate mainstream have destroyed the remaining trust in our institutions. Distrust grows by the day, as Strauss and Howe foresaw in 1997:

“As the Crisis catalyzes, these fears will rush to the surface, jagged and exposed. Distrustful of some things, individuals will feel that their survival requires them to distrust more things. This behavior could cascade into a sudden downward spiral, an implosion of societal trust.”

The growing distrust of financial and governmental institutions was reflected in the angry and sometimes violent town hall meetings with Congressmen during the healthcare debate. An angry on-air rant by financial reporter Rick Santelli ignited the Tea Party movement that eventually swept dozens of candidates into office in a Republican landslide in the 2010 mid-term elections. Societal trust in promises made by politicians is ripping apart. The entitlement benefit promises can’t be kept. Senior citizen and government union beneficiaries are angry. Younger generations don’t want to be left with debt so older generations can have comfortable 25 year retirements. Taxpayers don’t want to pay higher taxes to support gold plated healthcare and pension plans for government union workers. The decades of compromise, denial, apathy and lethargy are over. The mood of the country has changed dramatically. Survival of the country is at stake.  

Volcanic Eruption

“America’s short-term Crisis psychology will catch up to the long-term post-Unraveling fundamentals. This might result in a Great Devaluation, a severe drop in the market price of most financial and real assets. This devaluation could be a short but horrific panic, a free-falling price in a market with no buyers. Or it could be a series of downward ratchets linked to political events that sequentially knock the supports out from under the residual popular trust in the system. As assets devalue, trust will further disintegrate, which will cause assets to devalue further, and so on. Every slide in asset prices, employment, and production will give every generation cause to grow more alarmed. With savings worth less, the new elders will become more dependent on government, just as government becomes less able to pay benefits to them.” - Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

The country has withstood the initial onslaught of this latest Fourth Turning. The Great Devaluation resulted in a 50% stock market crash and a 30% decline in home values. Rather than allowing home values to fall to their fair value, the government used tax credits and loan modification programs to prop up home prices. Rather than liquidating insolvent Wall Street banks in an orderly bankruptcy, the government and Federal Reserve chose to use accounting gimmicks and borrowed taxpayer funds to save those who had taken excessive risks and reaped hundreds of billions in profits. The government has systematically “adjusted” every economic statistic in order to paint the most optimistic view possible. Unemployment, inflation, government debt, and GDP are all manipulated in the most positive light.

Many people understand that you cannot solve a debt problem by issuing more debt. They understand that politicians have overpromised Social Security and Medicare benefits to the tune of $100 trillion. They understand that if you cover 30 million more people in your healthcare system, it will cost hundreds of billions more. They understand that mega-corporations have shipped their manufacturing jobs overseas, and they aren’t coming back. They understand spending $800 billion per year, policing the world, fighting two wars of choice, with hundreds of military bases across the globe is unsustainable. They understand that running $1.5 trillion deficits will eventually result in a collapse of the U.S. dollar. They understand that an individual or a country cannot borrow their way to prosperity. The U.S. government is essentially bankrupt and dependent upon Ben Bernanke’s printing press to keep up the appearance of solvency.

Fingers of tension and instability run through every aspect of American society. Pressure is building beneath the surface. The last year and a half have proven to be a liquidity driven lull. The appearance of stability does not mean our situation has stabilized. The actions of those in power have created a vastly more dangerous scenario for the next decade. The volcano is erupting and the lava is flowing along the channels of distress, as described by Strauss & Howe:

Imagine some national (and probably global) volcanic eruption, initially flowing along channels of distress that were created during the Unraveling era and further widened by the catalyst. Trying to foresee where the eruption will go once it bursts free of the channels is like trying to predict the exact fault line of an earthquake. All you know in advance is something about the molten ingredients of the climax, which could include the following:

  • Economic distress, with public debt in default, entitlement trust funds in bankruptcy, mounting poverty and unemployment, trade wars, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation (or deflation)
  • Social distress, with violence fueled by class, race, nativism, or religion and abetted by armed gangs, underground militias, and mercenaries hired by walled communities
  • Political distress, with institutional collapse, open tax revolts, one-party hegemony, major constitutional change, secessionism, authoritarianism, and altered national borders
  • Military distress, with war against terrorists or foreign regimes equipped with weapons of mass destruction 

Strauss & Howe did not predict specific events that would occur during the next Fourth Turning. As trained historians and economists, they simply analyzed the environment created by our leaders over the last few decades. If the thought leaders in the country had not been blinded by their ideological biases, they would have seen that the next Fourth Turning Crisis would be channeled by un-payable debt obligations, reckless financial schemes, religious ideology, political corruption, class warfare, foreign conflicts, and terrorism. The molten ingredients are travelling along the channels outlined above. What happens next is anybody’s guess. 

The economic distress worsens for the average American every day. The recovery propaganda circulated by the power elite through the mass media is a fraud. Only those with wealth and power have recovered. The middle class sinks further into poverty and despair. Unemployment remains at Depression levels and the entire economic faux recovery rests with Ben Bernanke’s printing press. The only question that remains is whether the United States experiences a deflationary collapse or a hyper-inflationary collapse. The country is currently experiencing stagflation as the things we need (energy, food, clothing) inflate, while wages stagnate and our home values deflate. Bernanke and his minions at the Federal Reserve will choose inflation as their poison because it will allow their banker masters to pilage the remaining wealth of the middle class before the final collapse of the U.S. dollar.

Social distress has manifested itself over the last year in Arizona as the illegal immigration issue has turned violent, with State government and Federal government in conflict. The social welfare net is being strained through the payment of billions in unemployment compensation, food stamps, and other welfare programs. When this net breaks, all hell will break loose in the decaying urban Mecca’s. Political distress is at historic levels as the Tea Party battles liberals and its own neo-con Republican establishment. States are refusing to implement the Federally mandated Obamacare. Governors are battling teacher’s unions, firemen unions, and police unions in an effort to regain control of their out of control budgets. The 2012 elections could prove to be a tipping point for the country.

Military distress is already extreme, even before a major conflict is thrust upon the country. The two wars of choice in the Middle East have drained trillions from the treasury of a declining empire. The all volunteer military has been stretched to the breaking point. The multi-billion dollar high tech weaponry has proven useless against “terrorists” who fade into mountains until they can strike again. As revolution erupts across the Middle East, the U.S. is helpless and has no credibility, as they have propped up the thugs and dictators who are slaughtering their people. The daily  intensification of volcanic eruptions across the globe is clearly evident to all but the most linear thinkers. We’ve entered the Fourth Turning and there is no turning back.     

Prophecy or Destiny

“Soon after the catalyst, a national election will produce a sweeping political realignment, as one faction or coalition capitalizes on a new public demand for decisive action. Republicans, Democrats, or perhaps a new party will decisively win the long partisan tug of war. This new regime will enthrone itself for the duration of the Crisis. Regardless of its ideology, that new leadership will assert public authority and demand private sacrifice.  Eventually, all of America’s lesser problems will combine into one giant problem. The very survival of the society will feel at stake, as leaders lead and people follow. The emergent society may be something better, a nation that sustains its Framers’ visions with a robust new pride. Or it may be something unspeakably worse. The Fourth Turning will be a time of glory or ruin.” - Strauss & Howe - The Fourth Turning

The election of Barack Obama in 2008 did not usher in a sweeping political realignment of the country. The actions he has taken in the last two years have maintained the status quo. The financial industry complex, military industrial complex, and big pharma complex are stronger and more powerful today than they were in 2008. The 2010 midterm elections were a decisive rejection of Obama’s policies. Those who think he will be re-elected in 2012 are not seeing the big picture. Previous Fourth Turnings have ushered in strong dominating Prophet (Boomer) leaders who used any means necessary to bring the country through the Crisis. Wishy washy politically calculating compromiser leaders do not cut it during a time of intense Crisis. The number of vulnerable Democratic Senators up for re-election in 2012 virtually insures that Republicans will control both houses of Congress in 2012. A legitimate 3rd Party candidate does not appear to be on the horizon. The onset of phase two of the economic meltdown will determine the next President of the United States.

Before the 2012 elections, I expect a violent downturn in our economic fortunes spurred by a continued fall in real estate values, generating more debt losses for the financial industry, and a loss of confidence in the U.S. fiat currency, as our foreign creditors balk at lending more money to an already insolvent empire that is incapable of taking corrective budgetary actions. The resulting economic turmoil, crashing stock market, rising interest rates, and massive unemployment will lead the nation to seek a strong, decisive, authoritative leader who will boldly lead the country through the remainder of the Crisis. Will it be Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, or a Lincoln like figure who hasn’t even entered the national stage yet? This question is unanswerable today. But, the country will turn to someone with answers. Strauss and Howe clearly state how important the next 10 to 15 years will be:  

“Decisive events will occur – events so vast, powerful, and unique that they lie beyond today’s wildest hypotheses. These events will inspire great documents and speeches, visions of a new political order being framed. People will discover a hitherto unimagined capacity to fight and die, and to let their children fight and die, for a communal cause. The Spirit of America will return, because there will be no other choice. Thus will Americans reenact the great ancient myth of the ekpyrosis. Thus will we achieve our next rendezvous with destiny.”

I’m convinced that decisive events will transpire over the next decade that will push our country to the brink. The country is on an unsustainable path and we will either crash and burn or take the actions needed to avert catastrophe. Vast powerful events on an incomprehensible scale await. Events as farfetched as a Weimar like hyperinflationary economic collapse, the detonation of a nuclear bomb in a major American city, the secession of one or more States from the Union, the collapse of our oil based economy due to peak oil and/or revolution and turmoil in the Middle East, or a worldwide pandemic, will become not only realistic, but probable. Are these events any more improbable than a 9.0 earthquake, leading to a 33 foot high tsunami wave, which triggers nuclear meltdowns at two separate nuclear power plants? If you had outlined that scenario a week ago, you would have been classified as a crazy prophet of doom.   

At this point in time, it doesn’t seem possible that a communal cause could rejuvenate the Spirit of America in a manner that would lead me to be willing to fight and die or send my three sons to fight and die. An imminent threat, such as the Axis Powers during World War II, the North and South seeing each other as a threat during the Civil War, or the threat from a foreign empire during the American Revolution, does not appear evident today. The war on terror is a concept, rather than a real war. The absence of a known foreign adversary makes me think that the conflict could center on our own soil between Americans. Strauss and Howe point out that history does not offer much hope in avoiding armed conflict during this Fourth Turning:  

“History offers even more sobering warnings: Armed confrontation usually occurs around the climax of Crisis. If there is confrontation, it is likely to lead to war. This could be any kind of war – class war, sectional war, war against global anarchists or terrorists, or superpower war. If there is war, it is likely to culminate in total war, fought until the losing side has been rendered nil – its will broken, territory taken, and leaders captured.”

When it comes to what kind of armed confrontation, how about all of the above? The wealth distribution of the country is more heavily skewed to the “Haves” versus the “Have Nots” than any time in history. The austerity measures that are being proposed on the backs of the middle class and senior citizens, while ultra-rich bankers have been bailed out and allowed to continue pillaging the countryside, will surely lead to class conflict. Generational warfare between the Boomers who want what they are “owed” and younger generations stuck with the bill will flare up in the coming years. The country has become so ideological that it can be easily split into Red States and Blue States. Could this ideological divide result in the country splitting into two or three independent countries? Would the Federal government use the armed forces to maintain one country? It happened before.

The war on terror concept has been in place for the last ten years and has resulted in draining the Treasury of trillions, exhausting our limited volunteer forces, and creating more terrorists than existed on September 10, 2001. The revolutions sweeping across Northern Africa and the Middle East are not cause for celebration in Washington DC. American foreign policy has centered on supporting thugs, despots, and dictators across this region with financial aid and weapons. The aid was absconded and sent to bank vaults in Switzerland. The weapons are being used to kill the poor revolutionaries across the region. Two American backed dictators have been deposed thus far, with Yemen likely to follow. Our allies in the region are falling with lightening speed. The loss of Saudi Arabia would portend dire consequences for the U.S. If the Middle East oil spigot is turned off, the American way of life will wither and die. 

The myth of American Exceptionalism will not protect the country from the revolutionary tsunami that is sweeping the globe. America was not chosen by God as the country that would lead the world for eternity. The hubris and overreach of the American empire has bankrupted the nation. Greed, corruption and arrogance are not limited to North African dictatorships. Crony capitalism supporting a vast military empire, financed by a banker controlled Federal Reserve has failed. Its failure will become clear as the Fourth Turning intensifies and sweeps away the old order. Who or what replaces the old order is unknown. Much will depend on the generations and their response to the Crisis.   

Bad Moon Rising

Robert Strauss and Neil Howe had no interest in trying to predict the future. As historians, they wanted to understand how the past could give clues to what would happen in the future. They discovered a pattern of behavior by generational archetypes across centuries of Anglo-American history. They identified the issues that would drive the next Fourth Turning. They predicted the timing. The accuracy of their prophecy thus far, has been uncanny. The rhythms of history continue. The outcome of this Crisis is unknowable, but there is most certainly a bad moon rising. 

Thus might the next Fourth Turning end in apocalypse – or glory. The nation could be ruined, its democracy destroyed, and millions of people scattered or killed. Or America could enter a new golden age, triumphantly applying shared values to improve the human condition. The rhythms of history do not reveal the outcome of the coming Crisis; all they suggest is the timing and dimension. – Strauss & Howe - The Fourth Turning

I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightning.
I see bad times today.

Don’t go around tonight,
Well, it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a bad moon on the rise.

I hear hurricanes ablowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers over flowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.

Hope you got your things together.
Hope you are quite prepared to die.
Looks like we’re in for nasty weather.
One eye is taken for an eye.

Credence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising