David Brooks—The Big Disconnect in America

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There are structural problems in the economy as growth slows and middle-class incomes stagnate. There are structural problems in the welfare state as baby boomers spend lavishly on themselves and impose horrendous costs on future generations. There are structural problems in energy markets as the rise of China and chronic instability in the Middle East leads to volatile gas prices. There are structural problems with immigration policy and tax policy and on and on.

As these problems have gone unaddressed, Americans have lost faith in the credibility of their political system, which is the one resource the entire regime is predicated upon. This loss of faith has contributed to a complex but dark national mood. The country is anxious, pessimistic, ashamed, helpless and defensive.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitEnergy, Natural ResourcesForeign RelationsPolitics in General

Posted April 27, 2011 at 5:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Dan Crawford wrote:

On what planet does Mr. Brooks live? The baby boomers I know are working two jobs of if they are retired, trying to find part-time work to support a household that includes grown children who if they have college degrees aren’t finding the pot of gold at the end of the student loan rainbow. Perhaps the baby boomers Brooks and his millionaire friends are “spending lavishly” - his problem is that he should move out from the rarified air of Boston-Washington axis and discover what baby boomers who have worked hard all their adult lives are contending with. Then again, maybe he ought to venture from the comfortable office and hit the slums of New York, Boston and Washington.

April 27, 8:44 am | [comment link]
2. Clueless wrote:

The “spending lavishly” refers to social security and medicare.  Boomers (and their predecessors) paid in far less than they are about to take out (assuming that Social Security and Medicare benefits are not slashed (at least for those above poverty level). 
The ponzi scheme that has taken from later generations (including the Boomers) to pay for earlier generations (such as the WWII and Korean crowd) is about to blow up.

Are Boomers supporting their grown children?  Considering that divorce and child abandonment took off with the Boom that is a good thing, however I am sure that many of the Boomers are indeed doing so.  However the reason the Boomer’s grown children need to live with their parents is because companies having to pay taxes to support SSI/Medicare, and government induced inflation from money printing to support SSI/Medicare means that there are no jobs for those Boomer children.

Prior to SS/Medicare transfer payments from young to old, older generations (such as the Boomers are now) lived with their CHILDREN, not the other way round if they were less than wealthy.

Of COURSE it is nice to live in your own home and be your own boss.  Failing that it is preferable to live in “assisted living” and be your own boss.  However the current elderly are “their own boss” because they have managed to enslave the labor of future generations.

In that sense, insofar as they are independent lives by having castrated and enslaved the young (whom they have burdened with college debts, national debts and high inflation) in order to pay for those “independent lives” the Boomers are indeed “living lavishly” at the expense of future generations.

All ponzi schemes fail.  The only question is how many futures will be destroyed before this one fails also.

April 27, 10:29 am | [comment link]
3. IchabodKunkleberry wrote:

  An even bigger ponzi scheme is being foisted on the taxpayers
in individual states where legislatures underfunded the pension systems
for public service employees. Where I live (Illinois), the underfunding
runs into the tens of billions of dollars. These defined-benefit plans
are legally binding on the states so that retired public servants (hah !)
can have an oh-so-cushy retirement while the rest of us working stiffs
will be required to fund the stealth extravagance of our public officials.

  We have already seen the opening skirmishes of this funding war
in Wisconsin. It is vitally important that the electorate stare down
the unions and eject from office any officials - mostly Democrats -
who are shills for the unions. If this is not done, our public finances
will be run by the public-sector unions, which are not
elected by the voters.

April 27, 11:15 am | [comment link]
4. The Anti-Gnostic wrote:

“There is a negativity bias in the country, especially among political independents and people earning between $30,000 and $75,000 (who have become extremely gloomy). It is hard to rally majorities behind immigration, energy or tax reform. “

Yes, it’s those darned proles and their NEGATIVITY bias!  They just can’t get behind all those great REFORMS me andy my friends have thought up for them:  immigration designed to demographically displace them, energy designed to hook them up to solar and windmills that couldn’t power the HVAC on Wall Street for a single day, and tax policy so we can raise enough to pay interest on the national debt for, say, a month or two.

April 27, 1:15 pm | [comment link]
5. robroy wrote:

Ichabod, actually this is not true:

An even bigger ponzi scheme is being foisted on the taxpayers in individual states where legislatures underfunded the pension systems for public service employees.

While the states collectively face billions in shortfalls, the federal government has $170 trillion in obligations, I believe - orders of magnitude larger.

April 27, 1:34 pm | [comment link]
6. robroy wrote:

David Brooks writes, “Public opinion is not behaving the way it did after other recent recessions.” Check out the graph midway down in this newsletter.
The recovery is not like any other. Obama and Bush tried to minimize the down turn. What they did was to minimize the recovery. Corporations that should have emerged leaner and meaner, come out with the same baggage.

April 27, 1:44 pm | [comment link]
7. Teatime2 wrote:

The Baby Boomers traded in their hippy vans, beads, and communal “values” for Lexuses, huge homes, and bling, which they re-financed to the hilt so they could spend more. The generation before them didn’t do that—THEY did, and they succeeded in raising the cost of living and material expectations of the generations after them.

TRY buying a reasonably sized newish home. It’s dang difficult. When I went house-hunting in my new city, the small homes available were all more than 55 years old and needed a lot of work. I bought a reasonably new manufacted home on its own land, instead. I had great difficulty selling my first home—I had kept it up beautifully and it was in a great neighborhood but it was about 1,500 sq. ft. Two- and three-person families who were too old to add any more kids were saying it was “too small” for them.  Really?!

The Great Generation built what they needed for their families and could afford. And they saw their houses as HOMES for their families, not as ATMs or possessions they could flip for a profit.

My father, God rest his soul, used to shake his head and comment about how the Boomers really increased the expectations and cost-of-living for my generation and beyond. They did. And it’s time to start over and become reasonable again. I’m happy to hear my son speaking about keeping life simple and not weighing himself down with materialism. I hope Gen. Y and beyond are watching and learning.

April 27, 3:04 pm | [comment link]
8. IchabodKunkleberry wrote:

#5 (robroy),

    Thanks for the corrective info. Even so, the Wall Street Journal
pointed out that two-thirds of the Illinois’ recent income tax
increase will go to servicing the state pension funds. BTW, here’s
a link from the “Pew Center for the States”, which contains a list
of the individual states (clickable selection) and how they’re performing
with respect to their funding of pension funds and retiree health
benefit plans.


It is time for the electorate of each state to ask their state
officials the hard questions regarding such underfunded liabilities.

  It is also time to pull the rug from under AFSCME (American
Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees), which
is a very heavy contributor Democratic Party causes, and a
negligible contributor (in comparison) to any other party. Because
they throw so much funding to one party, members of the
Democratic Party have become mere shills and stooges
in thrall to AFSCME. The full Wikipedia article can be seen here ...


Or the pertinent part of the article is below (unedited) ...

“According to the Center for Responsive Politics, AFSCME is the United States’ largest single contributor to political campaigns, having donated more than US$38 million since 1990.[12] The organization contributes almost exclusively to Democratic Party campaigns; since 1990 the ratio of Democratic to Republican contributions by the AFSCME has exceeded 98:1. In addition to combating the privatization mentioned above, key political objectives for the group include raising the minimum wage and opposing the substitution of vacation time for overtime pay due workers.[12] In June 2008, AFSCME, along with MoveOn.org, spent over US$500,000 on a television advertisement critical of the presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain.[13]

In 2010, AFSCME donated $87.5 million to the off-year election campaigns.[14]”

April 27, 7:13 pm | [comment link]
9. BlueOntario wrote:

Reading this thread, one would be led to believe that AFSCME and the other public employee (and also the non-public, trade) unions would be smarter by supporting candidates from the party currently trying to bust their contracts.

Anyway, the real money comes from gambling concerns. All politics is local, y’know?

April 27, 11:43 pm | [comment link]
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