Has there ever been a more selfish generation?
It’s a good question to ask on the day after Christmas, when we have all used our credit cards to buy gifts for others. In spite of this seasonal gift buying, I think there has never been a more selfish generation. (Regular readers of this blog are excepted because you wouldn’t be reading this contrarian blog if you were content with what I am about to describe … as others seem to be. So, I am preaching to the choir but can only hope this strengthens the choir’s resolve to stand against corruption and greed.)
What is so selfish about this generation?
What other generation has been so amenable toward letting future generations pay for their lavish lifestyles? Many live in MacMansions purchased with thirty-year loans they won’t live to repay. With minds at peace, they leave those mortgages to their children and grandchildren. Even those in the US who do not live in veneered mansions enjoy a lifestyle made possible only by compounding the greatest mountains of rotting, stinking national debt mankind has ever heaped. This rubbish is their gift to posterity as, again, they have no thought whatsoever of attempting to pay off this debt.
It is not just politicians who are responsible for creating this debt. The average citizen slavishly votes for either Democrats or Republicans, knowing full well both parties have done their share to pile up debt. They either vote for the party that makes them feel generous to the poor or the party that makes them feel strong in defending our country; but the fact is they are not putting their own financial strength into either of those noble goals.
Our generation has decided the next generation can pay the bill for all of our generosity. We create welfare programs that we finance far into the future. We do this so that we can feel like we take care of our poor, but we hand the actual burden of paying for our largess off to our children and grandchildren! We would never undertake these programs if we had to pay for them fully as we go. We also let the next generation pay for our security. We are not bravely defending ourselves by our own strength. We are sapping the strength of our grandchildren to defend ourselves now.
We are generous with other people’s money — people who are not even alive today and who have no say in these decisions that they shall pay for. The majority remain committed to government that finances its love and war far into the future with piles of debt that no one can repay.
Not a dime’s worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats
The US Congress has stated over and over that it is just kicking the can further down the road, but that has never stopped them from doing it, no matter which parity is in charge! (Look at the latest Republican budget!) Both parties complain about kicking our national-debt problem further down the road, but they do it anyway. Democrats and Republicans are equally addicted to debt. US citizens who call themselves by either party monicker are part of a generation that wants to party but doesn’t want to pay for the punch. We are a nation drunk on debt.
If you think the economy is in better hands with one party than the other, you are simply addicted to party ideology. Until you give up on the notion that either party attends to anything other than its own self-interest, this nation will never find a truly creative answer.
Both parties are guardians of the status quo and defenders of the wealthy; and neither party has a genuinely creative idea in its collective head. The only difference between Democrats and Republicans economically is what things motivate them to spend other people’s money.
The Welfare party, known as the the Democratic Party, enables its millions of members to feel generous by ordering their grandchildren to pay for the meals given today to hungry families. None of their generosity is paid for by present taxes. Lord knows how those grandchildren will afford to be charitable to the needs of their own generation when they are still footing the bill for the needs of our generation!
We don’t care, of course. If we actually cared, we’d stop kicking the can down the road; but then we’d have to sell the MacMansion to fund our charity, and we are certainly not that charitable … to pay for welfare with our own mansions! Let the children pay! The next generation will just have to suck it up when the bill comes due. That is what our actions say, even though people may wince or even get angry at hearing it. (Anger is denial’s usual defense.)
Republicans, on the other hand, like to pretend they are fiscally conservative; but they have always proposed budget deficits, too, and have repeatedly shown themselves willing to play brinksmanship games with the national credit rating. At one point (August 2011), they triggered what may have become the worst stock-market crash in US history because of their brinksmanship when they arrogantly failed to realize that credit-rating agencies might blink before the Democrats did. If you don’t think it could have been the worst stock-market crash in history, have you considered the fact that it took the world’s largest and most rapidly launched campaign of quantitative easing to spin the market back around?
While Republicans claim they are against big government, they are really only against big-government regulations on businesses. They were more than willing to create an entire new department of government (Homeland Security) as their answer to intelligence agencies that weren’t communicating with each other prior to 9/11. They were more than willing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to create a massive computer spying network to record every phone call and email in the nation. They have been more than willing to legislate against the constitutional requirements for search warrants. So, they have in every meaningful way expanded government’s intrusion into your daily life. They just don’t want to create more regulatory and welfare departments, but they are more than willing to expand the size of our military, which is entirely government.
Republicans have created deficits to fund all of that government expansion. Why didn’t they create deficits to stimulate the economy with new jobs by building roads and improving dilapidated sewer systems, improving the efficiency of highways, upgrading infrastructure. At least, those kinds of projects would have given the next generation something for their money. Why? Because that kind of government spending actually does stimulate the economy by creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, and Obama might get the credit. It also is work that needs to be done and that is ordinarily the province of government, so it is work Republicans would normally be supportive of, but not if it’s going to make a Democrat president look good.
So, you see, the only difference between the two parties fiscally is the things that make them willing to pile up mountains of debt. Republicans are the War Party, always ready and willing, since the days of Ronald Reagan, to pile up debt to finance a strong military. The size of their proposed debts are never any smaller than are those proposed by Democrats; the only difference is what they want to spend the money on. (See “Deficits, Debts and Democrats vs Republicans”.)
Reagan White House budget director gives wide-ranging indictment of how free markets and democracy have been under long-term attack, refuting widely held myths about the Reagan years and supply-side economics.
How pathetic and weak is it to defend your country with your children’s livelihood? If you’re going to do any of these Republican or Democrat programs, fine; but shoulder the full expense yourself! Work longer hours just so you can demand your government charge you more in taxes in order to fund the welfare or military that you believe are essential.
If you’re a Republican, demand that your government tax you for every cent or that it reduce the military. If you’re a Democrat, demand that your government tax you for every cent or that it reduce its help to the handicapped and toward single mothers and toward aiding the drug-addicted and that it stop creating school programs for the underprivileged. Demand it!
Just stop pretending that you are generous and thoughtful toward the poor or strong and wise in defending your country … if you are going to shove the cost of your largess or strength off to your grandchildren. Own your generosity. Pay for your strength.
Democrats and Republicans, the BFF’s of banksters
Both Democrats and Republicans leaped to the call to bail out bloated bankers when they got a bad case of the Wall Street Willies. Both created the lie that their bankster friends were “too big to fail,” even as they idly watched the banks made bigger by order of the Federal Reserve. The over-Fed solution to bankruptcy was repeatedly for one bank to consume another. Neither party has pressed hard to send busted bankers and broken brokers to jail, yet some have plenty of time on their hands to press on with lengthy campaigns to send the other party’s politicians to jail. They have time to jockey for political power but no time to make sure potbellied bankers go to debtors prison.
If “too big to fail” was not a lie, why would both parties sit back all these years and allow the Fed to make those tipsy, top-heavy banks even bigger while it seemed to surreptitiously let a few banks fail? One has to wonder what secret vendettas were involved in letting Washing Mutual burn up and then selling its ashes, owned under receivership by the FDIC, to JP Morgan Chase while it chose to merge JP with Bear Sterns, rather than letting Bear Sterns burn up, too.
What clandestine planning was involved in merging Bank of America with Merrill Lynch and Countrywide, creating a vastly bigger monstrosity? Why press Wells Fargo to acquire Wachovia when that match made in hell turned Wells Fargo into the largest bank in the nation? These are not the kinds of solutions put forward by people who genuinely believe institutions are already too big to fail. Wasn’t that just an excuse to get taxpayers to underwrite the full risk of those solutions?
Your members of congress sat idly by as the largest mergers in the history of the world were encouraged and even force-fed by the Federal Reserve as the “necessary” solution to saving the little people from being bonked by banks. At the end of this program, the largest and most powerful banks in the Federal Reserve system are vastly larger.
Democrats and Republicans equally participated in taking the status quo and amping it up on steroids. They have turned every major bank into a colossus. They took a national debt the size of Texas and turned it into a national debt the size of a continent. It seems the only solution to anything our greedy leaders understand is that bigger is better, even when they claim bigness is the problem.
The Great Recession proved to be, as so often is the case (under the crony politics of both parties), a convenient opportunity for the fat-and-wealthy to become more rotund at fire-sale prices. While the largest banks on earth gobbled each other up in a government-encouraged feeding frenzy, the risks of such carnivorous ventures were underwritten by taxpayers.
If we are not greedy and addicted to size as a generation, why did we willingly acquiesce to a size-matters solution? It is simply how we think. That’s why. Bigger is better in our collective mind, so the answer seems to make sense to the majority. Size is proof of success, and we want the successful people running things. We could have let large banks fail, and then we could have taken all that money that has been created out of thin air anyway and given it to small banks to create accounts for those who were FDIC insured; but putting all the new money into smaller banks didn’t fit our way of seeing success.
“Oh, that would create terrible inflation!” you might say. Really? If the big banks were allowed to collapse, their money would simply disintegrate into the thin air from which it was originally created as the banks went up in smoke. In creating new fiat money, you are only making that lost, old fiat money back up. You are not expanding the total money supply; you are just relocating it … like double-entry bookkeeping.
We created trillions in new money anyway through zero-interest expansion of our money supply and quantitive wheezing. That didn’t create any of the customary inflation we were concerned about because it all went to banks to invest in stocks and bonds and barely entered regular circulation. As a result, it inflated the stock and bond markets to the point of approaching collapse, which we will pay for dearly in the form of economic disruption.
What is the inflationary difference between creating vast amounts of money in the reserve accounts of major banks as the Fed did via QE and creating that same amount of money, instead, in numerous smaller and healthier banks in the names of the people and institutions whose deposits would have been flushed away by the failure of colossal institutions? The difference is that the money would immediately flow into Main Street’s economy, instead of Wall Street, which might have actually created a little of the inflation the Fed has said it wants.
That would still serve the interest of our wealthy patricians, as all money bubbles up. You cannot buy pajamas on Main Street at Christmas with the money in your newly recreated bank account without that money transferring to Macy’s or Walmart and eventually to bank accounts of their stockholders. So, the money always trickles up, but the Federal Reserve is owned by big banks, and they greedily wanted the money directly. Thus, the new money all bypassed Main St. and went straight to Wall St. where the wealthy bid up stock, which benefited only themselves.
If “too big to fail” was a problem, why don’t we solve it now … before the next collapse?
Why don’t we break apart big banks now, while they are healthy and can be divided into healthy segments? If they were too big to fail so that George Bush had a legitimate cause to put tax payers at risk in massive bailouts (perpetuated by Barrack Obama), then why has neither party lifted a finger to break them up as “Ma Bell” was broken up? Once they started to fail, they were apparently the greatest financial danger known to mankind because George Bush said he had to give up his capitalist principles in order to save capitalists from their own greed. So, why aren’t we solving the problem, instead of waiting for it to happen again?
Apparently the Republicans and Democrats who stepped on to that program only like capitalism so long as it is creating wealth; they don’t like its “self-regulating” mechanisms for correcting greed when we fail to regulate people away from greedy actions in the first place. At that point, suddenly all the capitalists became collectivists and socialized the cost of their financial experiments. If you want a true Commie plot, there’s one: socialize the cost of bank failures!
There is nothing to stop the government from breaking up big banks into healthy, smaller institutions now that we have “recovered.” The Federal Reserve says we have recovered, so why are we not taking the next step of making sure there is nothing hanging over our heads that is “too big to fail?” If these oligarchs are so big that they threaten the civilian populace by their morbid obesity, then they can be broken up by the government on the same basis that Ma Bell was broken up. Is the government leaving room to use the “too big to fail” excuse all over again?
Perhaps more importantly, where is the outrage that this never happened? Is it possible that US society doesn’t want to express outage because we are not brave enough or self-sacrificing enough to endure the pain of economic reform from the problems we created?
The fact is, we’ve done NOTHING to rectify those dangers. We’ve had seven years and have done nothing at all! Republicans and Democrats alike twiddle their thumbs and pretend they do not see that the banks that were too big to fail are now twice as large as they were back then. One has to conclude they were lying when they told us these institutions were too big to fail because they have presided over a process that guaranteed those institutions would become much bigger.
As the government grows into an increasingly authoritarian and centralized federal Leviathan, many parents continue to tolerate, if not enthusiastically champion, grievous public policies that threaten their children and successive generations with a grim future.
Because we squandered our opportunity to correct our own problems, our problems shall be our legacy
When recovery efforts began after the crashes of the Great Recession, I said we were just pushing the snow straight ahead. Snowplows are built to push the snow off to the side when they are set right. If you set the blade to push the snow straight ahead, you cannot move forward for long because you will build up such a mountain of snow in front of the plow that the plow loses traction and can no longer push the load forward.
I’m afraid we are at that point. Congress, unwilling and unable to make brave decisions, was too willing to believe the Fed could engineer recovery on its own. Congress abdicated its authority and responsibility. The Fed sometimes warned congress it could not solve the problem on its own and that fiscal policy must be put in place to create a more sound economy, but those warnings were faint … I suspect because the Fed’s head was inflated by the idea that people thought the Federal Reserve could save the world. The Federal Reserve, in its pride, came to believe that itself.
What the Fed gave us was anesthesia. Had we diligently used the past seven years we had under anesthesia to restructure our economy away from debt, it could have saved us a painful transition. Instead, we let the anesthesia numb us to the mending that needed to be done and then left the injuries untreated.
Now the anesthesia has run out, but we still have all the corrections to make. Because we have piled up mountains of debt, we have no reserve strength left. We have squandered our opportunity for change in order to maintain the status quo by financing everything with even more debt so that we’d never have to feel the pain of correction.
We continued with adjustable-rate mortgage traps. We continued our sloppy terms of credit. We continued to allow deregulated banks to speculate in the stock market. We don’t allow people with 401k’s to operate outside of the services of fund managers by letting them buy and hold actual bonds under tax advantages of a 401k plan. We instituted interest rates that discourage savings as if they were the plague. We tried to re-inflate the housing market with those same zero interest base rates, instead of letting housing prices deflate back to a level where people can afford a home without ridiculous terms of credit. We repeated the sloppiness of auto financing that extends years beyond the collateral value of the automobile with no downpayment required.
It’s wretched how dumb we are in our greed to have everything right now in the cheapest way possible and how willing we are to force the debts of that consumption upon our grandchildren and to pretend that won’t hurt them. We live in economic denial. However, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re a different kind of person because you’re willing to hear and think about such things and probably agree that this is no way to run a society. No way to build an economy for future strength. No way to treat those who must follow in our footsteps.
In which case, I hope you’ll share this article with others before it is too late for our society to repent, to pay for its own profligacy and to choose a stronger and more noble path.
[After writing this article, I came across this review of a movie, The Big Short, which explores this theme of American greed, which broke America and broke the world.]
I have added a companion article to clarify who is NOT at fault for America’s national debt.