THE WISDOM OF AGE

By now we are well aware of how much it sucks to be a young adult in 2012 America. Yeah, it sucks to be a lot of ages, but the older generations at least have a few consolation prizes – the tail end of pensions and health benefits from employers, and a high likelihood of getting something out of Social Security and Medicare – even if insufficient. There isn't much else to say about unemployed, college graduate twentysomethings working at Starbucks or living at home.

This editorial from a Harvard Business Review writer raises an excellent, albeit incomplete, point about people currently in the 25-40 range before coming to one of the least satisfying conclusions since my visit to the I-10 Massage Cabana next to the Stuckey's (Exit 297).

The rules keep changing while you are mid-way through the game. The bedrock principles of Boomers' financial plans were: (1) A good education will help you get a good job and (2) Putting money into a home is the best way to build the equity for long-term financial security. Both of these rules have failed Generation X.

This, I think, is an important point. When people in my age-peer group talk about our careers and financial status, one of the things that comes up most often is how Our Parents just do not seem to understand that things have changed. We have conversations with our older friends or relatives who say things like, "There's no health insurance? That can't be right. Let me see the forms next time you visit," or, "Why haven't you bought a house yet? Renting is just throwing money away." They mean no harm; if anything, they mean to help (through nagging). That does not make such advice any less frustrating or impractical. People who graduated from college in the 1960s have a hard time grasping the concept of graduating from college and not being able to find a job. You must not be looking hard enough!

Now the goalposts have moved, and the part of the older generation that does understand the new reality has done what it does best: vote Republican and blame us for being dumb enough to take their advice. Why did we sink so much money into houses we can't afford? Why did we borrow $150,000 to go to law school? This requires complete amnesia of everything that our society encouraged people to do for, oh, 75 years prior to 2008, but that's not a problem. They do amnesia well. The author also neglects the important third pillar of the Boomer Advice: stocks. Stocks! Stocks! Stocks! Mutual Funds and whatnot too. Ameritrade! 401(k)! Jackpot! Yeah, that one didn't work terribly well either. Turns out that we're not all sitting at home, retired at 40 and e-trading all day.

Maybe the real problem is that, having realized that the House-College-Career advice is no longer good, relevant, or useful, they find themselves lacking an alternative. The urge to lecture us remains, but they appear to be running out of plausible platitudes. For those who realize that it's in poor taste and logic to play the blame game, the most popular advice these days appears to be:

More than ever, X'ers are being challenged to invent their own path forward. As it has been before, that path will almost certainly be less guided by conventional rules and less dependent on traditional institutions, than by X'ers' own sense of self-reliance and quest for multiple options. I encourage X'ers to re-imagine the next 30-50 years of your life: most of you won't have the institutionally-funded retirement options that many Traditionalists have enjoyed or the housing-based nest egg that provides many Boomers with the flexibility to blend volunteer and paid work over the years ahead. But you have your own ingenuity and entrepreneurial skills with which to build a unique future…X'ers should avoid even trying to follow the Boomers' path and, instead, have confidence to bring your own pragmatic sensibility both to organizational leadership — and to the design of your own life plan.

This is almost indistinguishable from the advice we might give someone on their way to prison: Figure it out, and good luck. Mom and Dad had pensions and job security, we have our "own sense of self-reliance and quest for multiple options." Neat.

Be Sociable, Share!

66 Responses to “THE WISDOM OF AGE”

  1. Susie from Philly Says:

    My advice to my kids? Occupy! It's our only hope.

  2. Rick Says:

    Wow, it is as if this post was written specifically for me. I am 31. I bought a house at age 27 because I thought renting was just throwing money away. The house is now worth $80,000 less than what I paid for it.

    I borrowed $150,000 to attend a good, regional law school. After graduation I was one of the lucky ones. I had a job offer. $32k, 60 hour workweeks to keep up the billable hours, and no health benefits. I decided I was better off embracing the above-referenced entrepreneurial spirit and struck out on my own. I have yet to make $32k in a year. I have no expectation that I will ever afford to retire.

    Thankfully, my wife is a million times smarter than I am. She got an Associate's degree in nursing and saved the boatload of debt and has a better career.

  3. Cait Says:

    I got up unemployed-people-early this morning (8:00 am) to see a career counselor at my local community college. All he needed to know was that I wanted a degree for human resources, because he kept telling me to stop talking for a tedious 10 minutes while he filled out a form. The last 10 minutes I spent listening to him lecture me on the miracles of will power and a college degree while eyeing me with a "you damn kids think your life is so tough…" stare. He wasn't that old, but I never felt more awkward in a counselors office more than when he said "$10,000 is not a lot of money. I can spend that much in a month!". I'll let you guess his explanation for that.

  4. Leon Says:

    Find your own path and be an entrepreneur is stupid advice to the masses. Not everyone is cut out for it, and of those who are, most new start-ups don't turn into Apple. Hell, most don't turn a profit. And with no start-up cash, tight lenders, and no way to afford health insurance, the vast majority couldn't get started if they wanted to.

    Sure, it'll work for some. But the basic truth that you're way more likely to stay in the class you were born into remains. If you start out poor, it's gonna be nearly impossible to start your own business. If you come from money, well, take a chance, be a go-getter, and etcetera ad nauseum. "The world is your oyster, my son!"

    If just getting your first job is nearly impossible, how are people to start their own businesses? Especially starting off thousands in debt.

  5. Coises Says:

    Susie from Philly, I think you’re right. (Though for any given individual, the odds are probably better for finding an appropriate master and sucking up ’til your lips bleed, if you can stand that sort of thing.)

    Playing by the rules has always been at least somewhat a sucker’s game—the boomers certainly knew that, even if they don’t admit it now—but it seems to me things have become much more extreme. (The boomers had folks with a greater sense of honor to outwit. There is nobody with a lower sense of honor than the folks that are running things now.)

    Within another 10-20 years, either the .1% are going to have a hopelessly unbreakable choke-hold on everyone else, or it will have all blown up in their faces.

    Life will go on either way; but for most people, one way will suck a lot more. The ironic and pathetic thing is that the vast majority of the .1% will be fine either way… probably better off with somewhat fewer riches in a more equitable and stable society than in one where their preposterous wealth must be largely deployed in guarding them from the ever-growing armies of those who have nothing much left to lose.

  6. Kanamit Says:

    I remember one Tommy Friedman column where he made the idiotic argument you cited; he said that now, because of inexorable technological trends, the younger generations will have to "invent jobs" instead of finding them.

    I still don't know what that means. I doubt Tommy himself knows.

  7. Grumpygradstudent Says:

    David Brooks column from yesterday was basically saying the same thing. (He urges people to invent a new industry that has no competition because nobody else does it. Sure! I'll get right on that, Dave!)

  8. Ben Says:

    This is almost indistinguishable from the advice we might give someone on their way to prison:

    Kick someone's ass or become someone's bitch. Sounds about right.

    Completely off-topic, but if oral argument tomorrow on the Arizona immigration law is sufficiently insane, that might be it for me. I might become a gibbering idiot wandering the streets with a sign that says "Beware the Leopard". This shit is getting to be too damn crazy.

  9. Arslan Says:

    May I suggest a job in an industry that has no competition in the US? Communist revolutionary. Basically your job is to overthrow the government and then put the 1% and their media lackeys in front of firing squads. And no, they don't get blindfolds.

  10. buckyblue Says:

    Conversation last night with my wife: we need to decide which country we want to move to so that our kids have a chance of having a life. We seem to have a predilection for France, though Canada might do in a pinch, though I can't stand the cold winters. For whoever said that the next thirty years will tell the tale, I think it may be even shorter than that, maybe even this election. A republican Congress/Presidency/Scotus will create doom in this country. Unless the 40+ Democrats can hold cloture for four years, and I have no faith that they have the balls to do that.

  11. c u n d gulag Says:

    It sucks for everyone in every age group in this country.

    I'm 54, handicapped, and haven't been able to find a job in 2 years. Not even a b*llsh*t minimum wage one. My unemployment ran out 2 months ago.
    My only hope seems to be to get SSDI. I was turned down in September for being insufficiently disabled. I got a lawyer, but won't get a hearing until September, at the earliest. He wanted me to get additional X-rays of my ankle, hip, and back, to improve m chances. But I don't have health coverage, so we can't afford to do that.

    My beloved 86 year-old Father died last Friday
    And next month, his SS still comes to me and my Mom, be she loses hers. I guess the government figures the $250 death benefit covers the expenses for his death and burial. And, that with one less mouth to feed, we'll be living high on the hog on his monthly check, which wasn't much to begin with, since he was a machinist. When he worked, and I was a kid, we were lower middle-class.

    Now, my 80 year-old Mom and I, after paying for the funeral out of the LOC on the house, will have nothing but his SS to live on. And I don't know how we'll do that. Sure, we'll try to sell our small house, but the bank gets $50,000 for that LOC off the top, and with a down market, we won't get much IF we're able to sell it.

    This is no country for old men.
    Or old women.
    Or middle-aged men and women.
    Or, young men and women.

    This is a country for the rich, and ruled by the rich. And we are all well and truly f*cked, and no one gives a sh*t.

    The America I grew up in started to die under Nixon.
    Reagan helped to accelerate that death with his "Reagan De-evolution."
    "Papa Doc" Bush put a few more nails in the coffin.
    And Clinton, his triangulating self, was not much help for the lower-to-lower-middle-class.
    "Baby Doc" Bush helped bury the coffin, and pissed and sh*t on the grave.
    Obama's trying, but he made the mistake of hiring Clinton's economic bobo's, and the Congress was not willing to help anyone but Wall Street greed-heads.

  12. Dennis Says:

    c u n d,

    Seriously, what good does it do you to repeatedly post your anger over your situation on so many liberal websites and then shake your fist at the unfairness of it all? How does that help you?

    Or rather, what are you hoping to attain?

  13. Strangepork Says:

    Maybe a little empathy, you twat.

  14. Dennis Says:

    Wow, it is as if this post was written specifically for me. I am 31. I bought a house at age 27 because I thought renting was just throwing money away. The house is now worth $80,000 less than what I paid for it. …..
    –Rick

    No one told you to buy a house at 27 years old with $150,000 in student loan debt, and if they did and you listened to them, why are you blaming them and not yourself? No, renting in 2008 was universally held to be "throwing money away". At 27 years of age and a law degree under your belt, surely you knew how to read the fine print on the mortgage that the house could decline in value. Did you not read the loan statements?

    C'mon, who's really at fault here?

    And for God's sake, you're only 31 now. With a wife with a steady income. Why so glum about retirement now, like you've already given up? You guys can't possibly be enjoying talking like this.

  15. Dennis Says:

    Maybe a little empathy, you twat.

    He's gotten a lot of empathy, Strange. Many times at many sites. I'm asking him what that's gotten him, and why he is seeking more of it.

    You and I are both empathetic, so what of it, for his sake? If I say 'c u n d, sorry, I know you blame me for voting Republican, but even so, please know that you're in my thoughts and prayers', will that do him any more good that you saying it and agreeing with him that Republicans put him in the situation he's in?

  16. c u n d gulag Says:

    Dennis,
    I'm trying to inform people.
    And venting.
    I'm not asking for cash, now am I?
    I'm sorry that's not ok with you.
    I didn't know I needed your approval on what I should and shouldn't post.

    My family and I always assumed that if one person in a marriage passes away, that the other continued to collect the SS from the other.
    That's NOT the case, and I feel that people who may not be aware of that should know.

    And what is G&T, or any other terrific Liberal website, but a place to inform and to vent – and maybe have a few laughs along the way?

    This website, among many other Liberal ones, is angry at the situation that young people face.
    And that people of all ages face in this country.

    And finally, I'd tell you what to do with yourself, but it's anatomically impossible.
    Bye.

  17. caroljane Says:

    Buckeyblue, we don't have cold winters in Canada anymore, at least not in southern Ontario. Nice short-term advantage of global warming.

  18. Arslan Says:

    "you're in my thoughts and prayers" Oh yeah that's real fucking helpful.

  19. Xynzee Says:

    Because Dennis, but for the Grace of God go you. You're but one throw of the die from calamity. You just don't realise it. All it takes is for an uninsured motorist to slam into you. For your insurance agent to have been charging you for a certain level of coverage, but only giving you the minimum protection whilst skimming the rest.
    So perhaps you shouldn't have been driving that day, or walking along that street. Perhaps you should have done your research on your insurance agents, or been less trusting of your employer and double checked what was covered. Who ya gunna sue when a 14yo high on something is joy riding in a stolen car?
    What you gunna do when you lose your insurance coverage, because well as you're no longer able to work, you're given the sack?
    Guess it was all your fault that you chose to work for such cold and cavalier employer. Yup you made some awesome choices.

    So are you naturally this much of a douche or do you practice?

    @bucky: unfortunately Rove has been allowed into Canada, and he and his Harpy Govt are now going to work up there. And it looks like the same thing is starting to take off here in The Land of the Long Weekend.

    @CU: sorry about your loss.

  20. Major Kong Says:

    C'mon Dennis. Cut the guy some slack.

    Every financial adviser from the beginning of recorded history right up to 2008 was yelling "Buy a house! Renting is for suckers!".

    And NOW you want to sit there smugly and say "You sucker! Why did you buy a house? You fucked up – you trusted us!"

    Sure, I'm still living in the condo I bought for $89k back in 1994, but that's not because I'm some financial genius. I was just too lazy to move out of my starter home.

  21. John Says:

    Every time I see my father, he asks me why I'm still renting and haven't bought a house. I try each time to explain to him the extremely simple concept that I live my life by: Knowing that our job market is the way it is, where there is always someone just a bit more desperate than you are, I could lose my job at any time. And so I live my life, day to day, as if I might very well lose my job tomorrow. As such, simple logic dictates that being fucked for three months' rent (two months' notice plus one penalty) is infinitely preferable to being fucked for a $90K+ mortgage.

    Every time I explain it, it just never sinks in. He never understands, never gets how easy a decision it is for me to NOT sign myself into servitude.

    I don't have the heart to tell him that the entire reason I am this way is that I remember quite well what happened when HE lost HIS job and got fucked for a $90K+ mortgage. Namely bankruptcy and foreclosure.

    As I said in another post some time ago here on G&T: The driving force behind my life decisions is looking at my father and saying "I'm not going to let that happen to me."

  22. Dick Nixon Says:

    OK–I'm a boomer. It ain't a bed of roses here either.

    My house was supposed to be the cornerstone of my retirement plan..it's worth 2/3 of what it was five years ago. Oh, yeah, I sent the kids to school on equity.

    My employer just "restructured" our pension plan. Contributions are up and payouts are down.

    My 401 K has recovered from the downturn…but I have lost 5 years of projected gains. No retiring on that.

    Work quotas are way up, and 60 hour weeks are the norm. I thank God I am in reasonable health, but one late-middle -age slip on the health chart and I am toast, with no resonable chance of reemployment.

    But life goes on. For my children, buying a house now is a good investment, with rates at near zero, and a long-term market that will rise. Community colleges are an affordable start to a degree and perhaps long term empoyment. I mortgaged my future for the kids and they are now professionals. Maybe they'll take me in when I am too old to work.

    Is this the new boomer retirement plan?

  23. Major Kong Says:

    The problem I always saw with the whole "house as investment" concept was this:

    Sure, my house is now supposedly worth $xxx. But it's really just money on paper. I have to live SOMEWHERE.

    If I sell my house for $xxx I have to go buy another house, that presumably has also appreciated at the same time mine has.

    Unless you're moving from an overpriced housing market (the coasts) to a lower priced market like the South or Midwest I just don't see it working.

  24. Misterben Says:

    Just taking a second here to jump on the "Dennis is a twat" bandwagon…

    Dennis, you're a twat.

  25. doug Says:

    "People who graduated from college in the 1960s have a hard time grasping the concept of graduating from college and not being able to find a job. You must not be looking hard enough!"

    By saying 'People', I guess you are implying 'all people'. Complete BS.

  26. Dennis Says:

    Every financial adviser from the beginning of recorded history right up to 2008 was yelling "Buy a house! Renting is for suckers!".

    And NOW you want to sit there smugly and say "You sucker! Why did you buy a house? You fucked up

  27. sluggo Says:

    By happenstance I was born on the single day in the 1960's that makes me neither a boomer or gen xer. So I understand both cases.

    Anyway, just saw the breakdown of what my insurance will cost next year, and between my contribution and my employer's contribution, the monthly sum is greater than my monthly mortgage payment. We are a nation of idiots.

  28. Dennis Says:

    Every financial adviser from the beginning of recorded history right up to 2008 was yelling "Buy a house! Renting is for suckers!".

    And NOW you want to sit there smugly and say "You sucker! Why did you buy a house? You fucked up.– MK

    Didn't say either one of those things, Major. Just asking him as a lawyer why now, fours years down the road, he's blaming people who gave him advice that either had no skin in his game or were obviously trying to sell him something.

    Here's a clue for you….financial advisors want to sell you something. So do mortgage lenders. So do banks. So do politicians, on both sides of the aisle, so do banks.

    Rick is 31 years old and talkiing like his life is over, a guy with a law degree and a wife with a nice job. And he's blaming someone else for his problems. I'm a twat for telling him to grow up, and you guys are his buds for telling him that's he right to blame other people for his problems, his problems that really aren't as bad as a lot of other folks have right now.

    Makes no sense, Major Kong. None.

  29. Dick Nixon Says:

    @Major Kong

    "house as an investment"

    1) Tax break over the life of the loan, every year regular as clockwork

    2) Asset to borrow against if necessary(education etc.)

    3) forced savings account in real property for those of us with little discipline

    4) trade down at retirement, reduce or eliminate house payment

    They key is buying in a downturn, selling in an upturn. My house has appreciated over the last 20 years, and I'm waiting for the next minor upturn to cash in, buy a lower value house with no mortgage. Hey the house has performed three of four functions so far–maybe I can get one more out of it.

  30. deep Says:

    @doug it's all anecdotal, it's not like Ed is citing statistics here. I have to agree with him though: anecdotally, nearly every person 50+ who I've spoken too in recent months has told me the same garbage. Easy for them to say since they bought their house in 1980 for $70k when their job paid them 70k a year. Houses in that same neighborhood now go for 750k or more and wow, big surprise, I only earn 70k a year!!

    Also, Dennis, you're a twat.

  31. deep Says:

    spoken to*

  32. Major Kong Says:

    I don't see where he was blaming anybody.

    "I bought a house that's now worth $80,000 less than I paid for it" sounds to me like a simple statement of fact and a cautionary tale for others.

    You seem to be rather spring-loaded to the "Quit complaining!" position.

  33. Mo Says:

    "But you have your own ingenuity and entrepreneurial skills with which to build a unique future"

    This nearly made me bite a chunk out of my desk. Fuck entrepreneurs. Fuck Scott Adams. Fuck the whole businessmen-are-gods mythology. Ooo! ARRGHHH! [has conniption and falls off chair while dog goes to find tennis ball to stuff in gnashing teeth]

  34. Major Kong Says:

    As I understand it, startup businesses have something like a 50 percent failure rate.

    So I'm going to take my life savings and put it into a small business where I have even odds of losing everything?

    If I said I was taking my life savings to Vegas and putting it all down on "Red" at the roulette table people would call me insane.

  35. Jacquie Says:

    Don't forget that old chesnut, "Why haven't you gotten married yet?" Studies Show that married people live in a magical Shangri-La where there are no money concerns, and also a pony. Therefore we should all go an extra $30K into debt to spring for shrimp cocktail for 200 long-lost great aunts and uncles.

  36. c u n d gulag Says:

    I'm not sure whether or not Dennis is a Professional Asshole.

    But if he's not, he's a very highly ranked amateur.

  37. chautauqua Says:

    Well, it's sure the hell not the Age of Wisdom, is it.

  38. Mike R Says:

    My grandfather once told me that entrepreneur was French for thief.

  39. ShortWoman Says:

    Maybe it's because I grew up in apartments, but I never understood the "throwing money away on rent" argument.

    Did you or did you not get a roof over your head for your rent money? You did? Then you didn't throw anything away. This is like arguing that you're throwing money away on groceries instead of running a farm.

    And I say this as a Realtor.

  40. deep Says:

    Very true ShortWoman. Especially in my area (Boston Metro area) where I can rent a "Luxury" apartment for half as much as it would cost me to buy a crappy house in the ghetto. 'Course it helps that Massachusetts allows taxpayers to deduct rent.

  41. Xecky Gilchrist Says:

    Whatever misfortune befalls those younger than Boomers, the Boomers know we deserve it because our music sucks.

  42. Jimcat Says:

    @Arslan, many posts up:

    "Revolutionary" may indeed prove to be a successful niche, but leave "Communist" out of it. This is 2012 America calling you, because you seem to have missed the message from 1991 Russia. Communism is dead and buried, whether Marx's version or Stalin's. Even the Chinese are communist in name only.

    If we're going to have a new American revolution, it's got to be for things that Americans want. Abolition of private property will never be one of them. Nor will control of production by the state, except in the highly unlikely case of another WWII-level conflict.

    We don't need to do away with big business. Big business served us just fine back in the 50's and 60's. And there's the key – business needs to serve the people, not vice versa. We're not even against some level of economic inequality. Every American wants to be able to rise to the top… and for that, we need a top to which we can aspire.

    Even the European social democracies that are the darlings of the American left have large corporations, and rich and poor people. We can have a good country with those – I'm not too young to remember when we did. What we need now are corporations that aren't allowed a stranglehold on the government, the environment, and the employees, and an economic environment that, while it may have some inequality, at least allows people the hope of moving upward.

  43. Major Kong Says:

    @Jimcat

    I'm all for good old-fashioned regulated capitalism like we had in the 1950s and 1960s. What I don't like is this return to late 19th Century oligarchy.

    They seemingly want to replace the system that beat Communism with the one that spawned it.

  44. Ellie Says:

    "Every financial adviser from the beginning of recorded history right up to 2008 was yelling "Buy a house! Renting is for suckers!"

    Put that way, it sounds a lot milder than what it was actually like.

    My husband and I spent several years – YEARS – telling people "We think this housing market is unsustainable, and will crash", and saying things like "No, we DON'T think it's a good idea to buy now, the market is artificially inflated."

    People treated us like virtual mental patients for holding that view. The vast majority would look at us with something akin to pity… What crazy notions had gotten into us? How had we become so uninformed? When had we dropped down the rabbit hole of paranoid nutbags who read obscure bunkum on the internet and believed it? The housing market could never go DOWN (housing go down – hahahaha!). Where had we heard such nonsense?! Some people actually literally laughed at us for thinking we were in a housing bubble. (Before gently trying to explain to us how wrong we were, and how they, with such and such practical experience / practical degree, knew much better than us, with our pathetic little out-of-touch liberal-arts addled brains.)

    Everyone – EVERYONE – knew that housing was the best investment that you could make! Everyone who paid any attention at all knew that "the rules had changed", and that housing (and stocks!) could only ever go up and up and up, from now on, forever and ever! Just ask the experts – ANY expert, they all say the same thing! Read the papers, watch the television, listen to the financial advisors, and jump in NOW, before prices get even higher! Housing bubble – ha ha ha, you need to stop reading consipiracy theories!

    It wasn't as mild as "financial advisors screaming." It was more like mass psychosis.

  45. deep Says:

    Very good point Jimcat. It is often worth noting that neither communism nor capitalism are bad systems, it just they both have a tendency to fail when the governments that support them become corrupt.

  46. Major Kong Says:

    Back in 2006-2007 a lot of my friends were talking about jumping into real estate.

    I recall thinking "By the time people like you and me get in there the big boys have already gone in and made all the money there is to be made".

    I forget who said this, but it went something like "When I start getting stock tips from cabdrivers it's time to sell short".

  47. oiojes Says:

    First, if there ever was a boomer philosophy it was get mine. All of that is mine. All that over there is mine. And fuck everybody else.

    And I'm a boomer. Every time I look at the world my generation has created I feel like apologizing to my son.

    Tea party people seem to idolize the very ideas that my generation embraced so heartily: get mine and fuck everybody else.

    Okay. Given that everything my generation (from acid to acid reflux) is crap, what do you folks that have to pick up the pieces we left behind going to do?

    One thing my generation came up with is physical objects (cars, house, lawn) implies financial stability. Since we screwed the pooch on that one it's worth examining the opposing view.

    For example, maybe houses are for… living in. Money is for… saving. Debt is for… not having. Investment (as opposed to debt) is for… investing.

    And vote my generation (and all those fucks who seem to think like we were supposed to, i.e., tea partiers) out.

    My generation and the ilk that idolizes them got lost in symbols. Houses are symbols of wealth. Pretty trophy wives are symbols of happiness. Republicans are symbols of fiscal responsibility and self reliance. Democrats are symbols of progressivism.

    Look how that turned out.

    So, my advice to you younger folks is fuck symbolism– look at what people do and not what they say. Look where the money is coming from and not where they say it is. Make the place you live your home.

    And pretty much fuck anybody from my generation that's in power.

  48. PWL Says:

    Well, dude, there's one thing about the buying houses thing I will say:

    I've seen way too many people who wanted, and bought, a McMansion, or some other house that they simply couldn't afford on the salary they had, but they weren't about to let facts or logic get in the way of what they wanted.

    It's a trend I've seen a lot of (maybe because I live in California): people with unrealistic expectations, who think they're entitled to have whatever the hell they want, and don't even seem to consider whether or not they can actually afford it. I mean, what am I to make of the people I see who otherwise are of modest circumstances, but who not only have the big house, but the Really Big Gas-Guzzler Pickup and/or Expensive Imported Car, the motor home AND the Jet-skis, AND the Harley, etc, etc?

    I don't know whether the "have it all" mentality is uniquely American, or is simply the result of sixty–odd years of advertising pounding home the message that You Are What You buy.

    As a Boomer, it seems to me that while our parents were generally happy to have a house, a car, and clothes, for many of us it got to be that we would have nothing less than a McMansion, a Mercedes-Benz, and an account at Nordstrom's….

  49. Anonymouse Says:

    @PWL and many others: when I went to buy a house in 1999, I got no end of sneering that I picked a small, starter house in a reasonably quiet, stable neighborhood when "houses can only go up in value; buy a big house as an investment." Instead I bought a house that I felt I could afford and be happy enough in. Sure, it doesn't have eleventy-six bedrooms and a nine-car garage (it has no garage, as a matter of fact) and the counters in the tiny kitchen are not imported, extra-fancy unicorn horn but formica, but I've been able to make the payments even through some tough financial times. As someone said upstream: "You gotta live somewhere."

  50. doug Says:

    Deep, thank you for the thoughtful reply. Good luck. I know how hard it is for many people of many ages. I think 'getting by' be will harder for most groups in the future(1% excepted). It will be less hard if groups cooperate, rather than play blame game.

    I totally agree with you on Dennis…

  51. deep Says:

    @doug Oh, um… thanks! I'm so used to trolling around, I'm not used to people calling my comments "thoughtful". Heh.

  52. PWL Says:

    Well, same here Anonymouse. I didn't buy a McMansion–I simply wanted a house to live in–not as an ATM machine or status symbol ( though my mom did give that "a house is an investment" stuff–boy was she wrong–thank God I'm not underwater on it). So I'm not living in anything fancy.

    But then there's my neighbor who's renting across the street–running a scrap metal business out of his garage. Got a big silver Inifiniti w/ big chrome "W"s on the wheels parked out front. Heard him talking the other day how he used to have a "6-bedroom, 4-bathroom house." He's got a wife and two kids only. So it's easy to see what happened….

  53. HoosierPoli Says:

    Buying a house might not be an "investment", but I've always figured you're better off paying your own mortgage than someone else's.

    Capital is still the name of the game, if you can get some you can make more.

  54. Arslan Says:

    "Revolutionary" may indeed prove to be a successful niche, but leave "Communist" out of it. This is 2012 America calling you, because you seem to have missed the message from 1991 Russia. Communism is dead and buried, whether Marx's version or Stalin's. Even the Chinese are communist in name only."

    Yeah, the European monarchies and feudal nobility said the same thing about liberalism around 1815. Look how that worked out.

    "If we're going to have a new American revolution, it's got to be for things that Americans want. Abolition of private property will never be one of them. Nor will control of production by the state, except in the highly unlikely case of another WWII-level conflict."

    Interesting, I didn't know you could predict what Americans want so readily.

    "We don't need to do away with big business. Big business served us just fine back in the 50's and 60's. And there's the key – business needs to serve the people, not vice versa."

    Pure stupidity and nostalgia for a wonderful golden era that either didn't exist, or in this case, was due to very specific conditions of that era. Big business does not need to "serve the people", nor will it. It's job is to secure profits for its investors- period. Anything else is fantasy.

    " We're not even against some level of economic inequality. Every American wants to be able to rise to the top… and for that, we need a top to which we can aspire."

    Aspire to while you're living in the gutter, sure.

    "Even the European social democracies that are the darlings of the American left have large corporations, and rich and poor people. We can have a good country with those – I'm not too young to remember when we did. What we need now are corporations that aren't allowed a stranglehold on the government, the environment, and the employees, and an economic environment that, while it may have some inequality, at least allows people the hope of moving upward."

    Basically you're advocating going back to a time period you don't understand, and doing the same thing that big business managed to overthrow EASILY in the last 30 years. You slap some more regulations on them, and 10, 20 years down the road, they've managed to convince a majority of Americans that they're being "strangled" by regulations and they'd all be millionaires if they were "freed" from "big government."

    See the beauty of Marx is that we've got an infinite timeline and history will absolve us. Can't get over certain parts of the theory? No problem. Take a little more ass raping from capitalism. We'll be right here when you've had enough.

  55. Arslan Says:

    The shorter version:

    Claim Communism is dead and buried; tell us about how the American system in the 50's and 60's is the answer. (Because those days were such a picnic, as long as you were white and male)

    Fucking brilliant.

  56. PWL Says:

    Whatevah, Wednesday Political Sausage/Crasstalk. It's always fun to bitch about how everything bad is the prior generation's fault. Whining's always a lot of fun.

    My generation did it to our parents. Just hope you remember it when the generation after you starts shitting all over you about How Everything Bad Is All Your fault….as they will…..

  57. Jimcat Says:

    "See the beauty of Marx is that we've got an infinite timeline and history will absolve us."

    You may be right. I'll check back in infinity years to see.

  58. fuzzbuzz215 Says:

    We beggars cannot be choosers :-(

  59. Arslan Says:

    Well Jimcat, that's less than the time it would take for the 50's and 60's to reappear. Actually when I say that placing regulations on corporations like in earlier decades would fail as those corporations could remove them several decades down the road, I am being quite generous. The Democrats are so far to the right, and the lobbying industry is so powerful, that in the foreseeable future is highly unlikely that something like a new Glass-Steagall act could even be discussed in congress.

  60. flamesuited Says:

    man,

    there's clearly a lot of things to be bleak about right now, however so much of this comment thread is intra-commenter sniping and complaints. but of course, that's what i read this blog for ;)

  61. Anonymouse Says:

    @PWL: "Just hope you remember it when the generation after you starts shitting all over you about How Everything Bad Is All Your fault….as they will….."

    For GenX, that never quit. We went to school after St. Ronnie declared ketchup a vegetable and cut Pell grants for college. We managed to graduate in a recession and those of us lucky enough to land jobs had to listen to the Boomers whine simultaneously that they were the generation of peace-dope-skip-a-rope but that WE were slackers and knowing we could never move up the career ladder because of the huge blob in front of us. We were followed by the precious, precious snowflakes raised to think they all deserved trophies for simply existing who whine at us for having the bad manners to exist and therefore block their way into the corner office at age 22.

    We grew up hearing from those who benefited from the Sputnik-era good schooling and cheap college and booming economy that we were fools for not buying McMansions with the salaries we weren't getting because there was no hope of promotion.

  62. Elle Says:

    Dennis exemplifies the world view of those who look retrospectively at a life of good fortune and recast it as the product of wisdom and insight. I have no problem with the self-satisfied, except as dinner companions, save for when they use their accumulator-of-life winnings to beat other people over the head.

    Arslan, you are right on the money. As you will be aware, even in the socialist paradise (ha!) of Europe, the vogue for deregulation is not much abated. The idea that America could somehow bring its corporate citizens to heel, and start exerting pressure to close the chasm between the pay of average workers' and the largesse showered on the executive suite, seems like a pipe dream. If maintaining flows of capital to small and medium enterprises/R+D isn't even an economic priority, it's impossible to see mitigating corporate pollution or regulating supply chains to stop wholesale exploitation being high up the national to do list.

  63. Orpho Says:

    We can blame the Boomers (and I do, particularly all of them that didn't vote, or didn't _think_ and decided they lived in magical pony candyland where they didn't need no gov'mint to help them get their subsidized college education from their subsidized home loans for homes on public streets where they went to decent public schools bought with their parents' taxes, until they retire to receive Medicare and gov'mint-enforced retirement savings -not- lost in a puff of smoke in a stock market, and to chase kids off their lawn).

    I would also, however, blame the "corporations are people" ideology and the twisted humans who support it. The pathologies of corporations acting as (psychopathic) people have been well documented, but I think Wendell Berry has a reasonable twist on it in his Jefferson lecture (http://www.neh.gov/about/awards/jefferson-lecture/wendell-e-berry-lecture):

    "Though the corporations, by law, are counted as persons, they do not have personal minds, if they can be said to have minds. It is a great oddity that a corporation, which properly speaking has no self, is by definition selfish, responsible only to itself. This is an impersonal, abstract selfishness, limitlessly acquisitive, but unable to look so far ahead as to preserve its own sources and supplies."

    He's going on about how these limitless acquisitive psychopath "people" have wrecked the land, but they're also responsible for the utter lack of human-centered policy when it comes to jobs, financial derivatives, and countless others.

  64. Jadzia@Toddlerisms Says:

    Buckyblue: DO IT. We emigrated to France last summer and it is the best thing we possibly could have done for our children. Primarily because here, they will have access to higher education without starting out in life attached to a non-dischargeable five or six figure student loan debt. It is tough here for foreigners, that is true. But I saw this move as a sacrifice for us so that our children could have a better life. And so far that is really working out. Feel free to email me (address is on my Web page) if you want more information about this option.

  65. JP Says:

    Late to the party here, but like Ellie, I saw this coming from way back. Those prescient enough (Tanta from Calculated Risk was one, as was Dean Baker for another) saw this coming years before the collapse of 2007-8. All you needed was just one ratio & piece of info: the debt to income ratio for the 'average household' was at or above 100-120% and rising fast. That's the 'red zone' for Depression, along with the Gini index of inequality worse than 1929+. But the debt overhang alone was enough to do it. And ladies & gents, that line was basically being crossed in 2004, and more than a few thought the collapse would be in the middle of Bush's term. But they managed to jigger the scales to almost make it out the door unscathed. Practically for me that meant everything folks are doing now, but reducing debt before the disaster hit, and getting out of a moribund business as employees and getting into an allied field as investors/owners. Lots of yes very real sacrifice & risks later, and we have been hiring folks throughout the crisis.

    Sadly, as I've related here before, that's more difficult than it seems from the outside. We have very strict job requirements: you need to be able to speak, read & write english in complete comprehensible sentences & paragraphs as a bare requirement for entry as a college grad. Sadly fewer than 10% of those who apply make it though the first cut. Those that do and are hired can find a relatively comfy job where you yes, are required to sometimes work 55-60hrs a week, but this is seemingly impossible to manage to get anyone to do on a sustainable basis. So we have to content ourselves with the sub-obtimal solution of hiring 'part timers', (people who truly work far less than 40hrs/week), and paying them full time. And oh, they still whine loudly at the indignity of this affront! We also supply generous benes too. And for all these offenses we regularly get yelled at by our staff for 'shorting' them when we try to manage to be fair to everyone or dare demand that jobs be finished before they take vacation time with little or no prior announcement.

    So yes, there's really work to be had & done out there. There's just fewer & fewer folks who really 'know how' to 'work well' or 'diligently & consistently', or are willing & able to give up their 'lifestyles' to be able to pursue same. I'm not totally sure I blame them, it's a cushy gig no matter what they do and we're grateful for the few who actually do a decent job. The rest are just 'middling' of various orders of disgruntlement in what to us obviously is the best job any one of them will likely ever have. (I should add most of the office are Millennials & 'youngsters' under the age of 35 say). In 20 years or so they might look back in wonder and recognize this. By then we'll be long gone, worn to the bone trying to pick up the pieces for their poor work habits & products. Or we'll be shuttered due to the internal inconsistencies of paying too lavishly for mediocre work that needs constant correction & micro levels of supervision. Not likely sustainable for the long haul as a model of efficiency.

    That's the other side of the ledger here. From a life long Dem too.