Esquire Magazine Knows Its Target Demographic

Stephen Marche, “The War Against Youth,” Esquire. H/T LSFFP

Marche lays into the privileges Boomers have received over the years.

I try not to indulge in intergenerational warfare, but if I do, I try to be honest about the score. Marche overreaches in points like this.

“Only 58 percent of Boomers have more than $25,000 put aside for retirement, so the rest will either starve or the government will have to pay for them.”

There are three things to say about Boomers.

(1)  They lost all their equity in the housing bubble. They meant to Ponzi their land off to young people–which is a problem in itself–but that won’t happen because young people have no money and little desire to buy underwater houses in a short-sale.

(2)  The Boomers paid for their Social Security. It came out of their paychecks. They deserve it back. For example, when Marche writes:

“The biggest boondoggle of all is Social Security. The management of entitlement programs, already weighted heavily in favor of the older population, has a very specific terminal point that coincides neatly with the Boomers’ deaths. The 2011 report by the Social Security trustees estimates that, under its current administration, the fund will run out in 2036, so there’s just enough to get the oldest Boomers to age ninety.”

We should call bullshit. (a) Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system. (b) The trust fund was set up to ensure that there was enough money in it for Boomers to retire on; it was never meant to last forever and most of the scheduled benefits will continue to be delivered after 2036 because there will still be younger workers paying into the system. (c) We can increase the payroll tax brackets (or add new top ones for the super earners) to recover the shortfall. So no, Social Security isn’t a boondoggle.

 (3)  If the median Boomer has little in assets (slightly greater than $25,000), then the above graph is misleading. Marche concurs in part:

“This is no conspiracy; no nefarious backroom deal by political and corporate overlords. The impasse of the moment is, tragically, the result of the best aspects of the Boomers’ spirit. The native optimism that emerged out of the explosively creative postwar world led them to believe that growth would go on forever; that peace and prosperity were the natural state of things.”

The reality of the situation isn’t that the Boomers were overoptimistic, nor are we doomed to decline. This situation occurred because a minority of Boomers are parasites and did cut backroom deals with political and corporate overlords. They hosed other Boomers during the Dot-com and housing bubbles, and now they’re feasting on the young. This is the ideology of America: Make money without having to build anything that people need.

Here are six ways to get back on track for everyone:

(1)  Close the trade deficit, even if that means adopting bold ideas such as Keynes’ recommendation of an international currency like the “Bancor.”

(2)  Adopt a universal healthcare system like every other civilized country, i.e. one that doesn’t pay for every single frivolous medical test and procedure but doesn’t tell poor people to shut up and die.

(3)  Tax rents, not wages and interest. Shift taxes onto land values as Henry George argued. Force landowners to build on their property. Reurbanize America. Rent out the EM spectrum, geosynchronous orbits, and taxi medallions. Tax pollution and congestion. Enact severance taxes on those who harvest our natural resources. Return our shared property in the form of a citizen’s dividend like the commie-run Alaska Permanent Fund. Stop extending copyrights because Disney Corp. can’t come up with anything better than Mickey Mouse. In fact, recognize that we no longer live in the Holy Roman Empire. Copyright is obsolete. Embrace the future with new ways of supporting the arts and the public domain. Publicly fund drug research instead of giving away patent monopolies, and let depressed people smoke pot instead of paying out the nose for SSRIs. Use Linux instead of Windows or Snow Leopard.

(4)  Reduce people’s housing and student debt burdens.

(5)  Decisively confront global warming.

(6) Stop building aircraft carriers to fight the Soviet menace. Bring the troops home.

See? Society saved. 下課.

On a slightly brighter note, here’s Japanese mega-group L’Arc~En~Ciel at Madison Square last Sunday. No, they didn’t play for a week straight to sold-out crowds like Yes did in 1978, but they sure were glammed out. My seats were in the third tier (there’s that phrase again…) perpendicular to the stage so I got to watch an audience watch a show. Truly an alienating experience.


  1. “…an international currency like the ‘Bancor.'”

    …isn’t that just gold? Sure, it’s overpriced, but that doesn’t mean it won’t slow down, either. Sovereign debt (i.e. t-bills, government issued bonds.

    There’s definitely an income shift away from young people, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that people are literally just living longer.

    The world bank chief some months ago declared that we were in danger of “losing a generation” to unemployment and other economic loss. This is destabilizing for everyone, not just those unemployed.

    1. The modern version of the bancor is to use a limited number of IMF special drawing rights as a supra-national currency. The point is to prevent the Triffin dilemma by forcing other countries to use something other than the U.S. dollar as their reserve currency so we don’t keep running current account deficits to satisfy their dollar demands. If I recall the Chinese proposal still ended up sneaking in a strong dollar backing, but the IMF has its own proposals.

      Yeah, people do live longer, and I sometimes think medical science is more interested in giving people an extra decade in their 80s rather than in their 30s. Still, if people are healthier longer, they should work longer, and given the lump of labor fallacy, their work will add to our output and our ability to care for the elderly. I think income is shifting from young people because we keep subsidizing unproductive economic behaviors Boomers participate in (like land ownership) while punishing productive ones, e.g. levying sales taxes.

      Otherwise, you’re right about losing a generation, and in that sense the Esquire article’s tone was right on.

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