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Mish at Global Economic Analysis wrote recently of a tidal shift in economic outlook underpinning the recent shift into a deflationary cycle. In many ways, I wonder if boomers pulling a 180 on spending habits aren’t the decisive shift here.

Gen. X’ers were raised, after all, with boomers collectively (if not individually; the aggregate is not predictive or descriptive of individuals within that aggregate) telling us that we as a generation would never have the same standard of living or the same opportunities as they did. Whether it was consequence-free sex drugs and rock and roll, or steady paying jobs, or free public educations, or affordable houses with predictable asset inflation allowing a comfortable retirement, it was made clear to us at an early age that whatever deal was made with the boomers long ago, we were not to be cut in on it. And often it was suggested that it was somehow our fault for it, because we were spoiled or lazy or fatalistic or something.

What they did not collectively expect while saying this, however, is that they too would not necessarily enjoy those things in perpetuity, that they too could have all of this taken away in a flash. Increasingly, the past 30 years are looking more and more like one colossal bubble, backed by ever-increasing amounts of debt to mask the inconvenient fact that most non-plutocrats’ incomes did not rise much relative to inflation, even as productivity and assets like houses and the cost of living did. Prop 13 was a way for that generation and those older to lock in their assets while starving the rest of society, a Faustian bargain to preserve those interests. As it turned out, it did not work; you cannot sell out a large part of your society indefinitely without crashing the whole edifice, and thus the foundation of one’s own prosperity as well. We are all, ultimately, in this together, and the conservative Republican promise to the have-somes and the have-a-littles that you could successfully defend what’s yours by screwing the have-nots has now been revealed to be a cruel lie. In reality, we rise and fall as one people, and beggaring your neighbor eventually lowers your own property values and 401K, and results in bankrupt governments unable to fill potholes or provide the basic services that one relies upon.

Psychologically, then, X’ers who have had this all drilled into our heads, are rather better prepared for what comes next. To many, the depression that everyone else is suddenly waking up to, where nothing can be taken for granted, where debt is more likely than assets, where the system seems stacked against you, where the middle class dream of a stable job, an affordable education, and home ownership seems a cruel trick, was already a reality. To be fair, it was often more perceived than evident, or rather many of us never trusted the supposed good times that we were cut out of, but in the end what’s going down now strikes many of us as “well, it was only a matter of time.”

But to those boomers (and Americans generally) who thought they would make it through these hard times unscathed, the coming depression is going to be quite a shock. And I suspect that the sudden crash in consumption that has been the symptom of the deflationary cycle that we’re heading into will turn out to be, in the final analysis, heavily generationally inflected. When those who thought they would have enough realized that they might not, they pulled those edges in and fast.

What this means for generational conflicts over resources and policy in the coming Thermidorean Reaction is as of yet unclear,; they may well tear the Democratic party apart, or they may bring generations formerly at odds into a solidarity of shared misery. What happens next, in many ways, may end up deciding the political trajectory of the next several decades, in Yolo County, California and the nation.

originally at surf putah

Originally posted to wu ming on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 05:52 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  solidarity jar (19+ / 0-)

    because we are ultimately in this together. and while there may well be generational conflicts in our past, and perhaps unavoidable ones in our future as well, refusing to find common ground will assuredly be the end of us, and one of our party's greatest vulnerabilities in the decade to come.

    if people could refrain from a generational pissing war in the comments, that'd be nice too.

    surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

    by wu ming on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 05:54:24 AM PST

    •  The sense of entitlement of American (8+ / 0-)

      Exceptionalism was false from its inception. America's former sense of community was smashed by the "exceptional" crew of rich, powerful Americans who found various ways to separate and segregate us. Faith was used, race was used, economic status has been used, sexual orientation has been used, all are wedge issues that have been cleverly inserted into our society to maintain the reign of the rich over us. The technique has been to simply divide us to conquer our sensibilities so we could be ruled by fear of some "other" having more rights, entitlements, or opportunity than "us".

      The wise among us understand that Americans are no more exceptional than any other people. The only basis for our exceptionalism is that anyone willing to work and obey our laws can most likely become an American. Most Americans, except for Native Americans who were already here, became "Americans" that way.

      Creating a false generational divide is another wedge we don't need. Fostering a sense of community, which our present increasing economic adversity is helping to create, will heal many of our social ills.

      What this world needs is a new kind of army, the army of the kind - Cleveland Amory

      by 4Freedom on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 06:06:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "A solidarity of shared misery" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bink, wu ming, Land of Enchantment

      I see strong tendencies in the Obama Administration to be content with precisely that.

      And unfortunately that makes him and us ripe for a Republican to return to power in 2012 by promising a return to better days - "you can have individual prosperity, not community service to ease your poverty" - by some horrific set of regressive actions.

      I think the generational pissing wars are going to be with us for some time, since some in the older generations are either not going to willingly grasp the new conditions, or will blame suffering on those who suffer. Some of these will be people with media reach.

      If we want to work across the divides there has to be some common recognition of fundamentally changed circumstances. I don't know if that is possible. But then I've become quite a skeptic more generally of the possibilities for positive change, at least in the next four years.

      I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day
      Neither is California High Speed Rail

      by eugene on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:55:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "generational pissing war" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Land of Enchantment, marykk

      This is an interesting concept. I admit the formulation does not spring naturally to my mind, but I keep hearing/reading about it, mostly put forward by younger people (I'm one of the dread Boomers), so I guess I should treat it as having a degree of reality.

      If I understand correctly, the idea is that my generation wasted resources, squandered opportunities, and generally messed everything up for those coming up after us. Well, I can't say it's not true. But I do feel like there is a certain futility in ascribing too much agency to the particular individuals, or even to a generational aggregation of those individuals, merely for being the link just ahead of you in the chain.

      I'll propose an analogy: What is happening is like a long wave that has been traveling for hundreds of years and thousands of miles through an ocean of culture and history, and now appears to be about to crash into the jagged cliffs. The water molecules that will actually crash into the rocks could blame the molecules just to their offshore side for transmitting that wave to them, but as one of those just-offshore molecules, I can tell you that the wave was transmitted to us as well, and we had no more ability to resist it than you do.

      Cute, huh? Turns out, my generation is completely blameless! Now I feel better.

      OK, now for something that "my generation" (actually, all previous generations) did to help you younger folks out, beyond just giving birth to you and raising you up to the point that you're at now. We created the tools (language, science, the intertubes) to understand what is happening, and maybe to do something about it. I suggest you use those tools, and I hope you do better work than we did. Any help I can provide, I'm more than willing.

      •  Also a boomer here (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DBunn, marykk

        Big progress on various prejudices that we can take some credit for, in how we in the aggregate raised up the next generation.  At least that's something...

        "The river always wins" - Mark Twain

        by Land of Enchantment on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 10:20:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  by generational pissing war (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DBunn

        i meant a protracted thread of "it's your fault/no, it's your fault" arguments, instead of an examination of the points in the actual diary, which were more intended to be about the  way that people have been conditioned as generational cohorts to respond to an era of stagnant wages and competition for the scraps. in particular, i assumed that the big shift in consumer behavior recently was boomers suddenly recognizing that they were not going to come out of this unscathed, that it could take those things that had protected them in the past - their property value, their job, their 401K or pension; my assumption about x'ers is that we've assumed this was going to happen so long, and were cut out of a lot of things anyways, and never really had that illusion of being protected from the vicissitudes of the economy, so that this is not unexpected/less of a shock.

        i could be full of shit, but would rather have my argument taken apart than watch the predictable generational flamewars, is all.

        agreed that the cause of this is far bigger than any one generation. political movements are always alliances between parts of generations,, even if narratives are often generationally-inflected. for example:

        liberal boomers would say "it's so bad that you won't have the same standard of living as we did," while conservative ones would say "it's your fault that you're not doing well, you're lazy"

        liberal x'ers would say the system screws them because of income stagnation, corporate bastards, defunding of public services (esp. higher ed), while conservative ones would say it's all the fault of boomers sucking at the entitlement teat.

        politically, you have alignments for a liberal or conservative policy agenda, but in terms of how people see the world, there are generationally-specific aspects to it that transcend the liberal-conservative divide.

        that's how i see it, anyways.

        surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

        by wu ming on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 05:51:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  To be clear (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          denise b

          You were explicit in your diary that you do not find inter-generational finger-pointing to be a useful or productive activity :) My comment was meant as further musing on the same theme, not as a rebuttal to something you said.

          So, are shocked boomers, suddenly cutting back on consumption, a leading cause of this deflationary cycle? It's not an unreasonable hypothesis. I think everybody is shocked, everybody is cutting back, either out of necessity (no money) or fear. If the boomers have (or had) the most money and were doing most of the spending, then they are probably cutting back more as well.

          Are the boomers less prepared for this shock, intellectually and emotionally, than subsequent generations? Probably. People tend to form their basic worldviews and settle on a set of assumptions in their younger years; later generations have gone through this phase with more up-to-date information; over the last 30 years it has become increasingly evident that the golden age of the mid-20th century in America is over; ergo, it stands to reason that younger generations hold less optimistic expectations for their own futures than those that came of age in the 60s and 70s.

          It has not come to a shock to me personally, but I'm just one of those contrariwise individuals that you mention in your second paragraph. I have long understood that the well-being of the population as an aggregate, including that of retiring boomers, has nothing to do with accumulated amounts of paper (or digital) money, and everything to do with the on-going vigor, equitability, and sustainability of the economy as a whole. That's why I laugh in a sort of bitter bemusement at the hysterical dithering over whether Social Security might be bankrupt in 40 years or whatever. Don't worry about that, people. Just focus on making sure we have a viable civilization at that point. If we do, then we can certainly support our elders if we so choose, and the best way to ensure a principled moral choice at that time is lock in the moral principle at this time. If we don't, the retirement security of people now in their 20s will be the least of our problems.

  •  Here's a little something you may not know (6+ / 0-)

    Boomers are the children of Depression era parents. Many of them have it grafted into their DNA and never thought they would

    make it through these hard times unscathed

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 05:56:27 AM PST

    •  now we all get to be depression-era parents (12+ / 0-)

      hopefully we'll collectively recall some of that generation's wisdom quick enough to blunt the shock of the transition.

      surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

      by wu ming on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 06:12:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Unfortunately, The Greatest Generation... (5+ / 0-)

      ...seemed to become the Greediest Generation in widowhood.  The scope of entitlements which are unencumbered by means tests is excessive, and they've long expected it all while living comfortable lives behind the white picket fence.

      The generation which followed seems worse in its sense of expectation (not only did they spend everything, they also expect to inherit everything).  They weren't burdened by the educational or self-insured medical expenses of the Jones tail or GenXers, their presence on company rosters and in government and judicial hierarchies guaranteed that they choked off advancement opportunities for those 10-15 younger (as far as the career pipeline was concerned).  They clung to their positions like ticks, and now that their retirements are wiped out, they'll cling longer, screwing us yet again at the end of our careers.

      I have a tendency to spit on the legacy of the boomers, particularly those who came to age in the late 60s.

      •  "They clung to their positions like ticks?" (7+ / 0-)

        You mean "they continued to work during their working lives?" Excuse me, but as a still working boomer, after 40 years in the workforce with a very modest savings and kids yet to educate, my continued employment serves society as a whole just fine, even though you may take it as a personal affront.  And, btw, every cent of my college education was paid for out of my own pocket, working nights, weekends and summers.  And I went to grad school at night while working full time, so please, don't talk to me in that tone.

        If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

        by marykk on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 06:57:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank You, Marykk! (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cotterperson, JanL, marykk, whoknu

          My favorite line - -

          if people could refrain from a generational pissing war in the comments, that'd be nice too.

          Yeah, right.
          After a generational hit-job diary.
          The diarist's sense of victimhood is off the charts.
          Not to mention all the CO2 that Boomers produce.
          If they would just stop breathing everything would be fine.

          •  To Boomers - a section from Gregory Corso's Bomb: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            marykk, In her own Voice

            BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM
            BOOM ye skies and BOOM ye suns
            BOOM BOOM ye moons ye stars BOOM
            nights ye BOOM ye days ye BOOM
            BOOM BOOM ye winds ye clouds ye rains
            go BANG ye lakes ye oceans BING
            Barracuda BOOM and cougar BOOM
            Ubangi BOOM orangutang
            BING BANG BONG BOOM bee bear baboon
            ye BANG ye BONG ye BING...

            What this world needs is a new kind of army, the army of the kind - Cleveland Amory

            by 4Freedom on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:15:10 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Like the Governor of Colorado once suggested (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            johnnygunn

            we probably just have a duty to die.

            If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

            by marykk on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:03:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Nah. Just please step aside, finally. (0+ / 0-)

            Trying to grow professionally in the black shadow of the boom for my entire working life has been painful.  Spending the last 16 years watching the executive branch alternate between "The Late 60s Party Hound and Casual Demonstration Go-er" and the willful ignorance of his successor ("The Okie from Muskogee") has been even worse.

            Hell, your stupid music even crowded out my generation.  How many artists missed out on play just so that stations could keep playing stupid Beatles albums for your generation's benefit?

        •  Reality check. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          eugene, 4Freedom

          You could afford your college expenses by working nights, weekends and summers.

          The current group of students can't.

          And as to the "ticks" thing - I've noticed that people who came to positions in revamped or new agencies in the government in their mid to late 20s aren't cycling through - thereby stagnating the careers of the Jonesers or GenXers that are laboring under them.  This also has tended to fossilize operational methods, so none of these are running as efficiently or cost effectively as they should be.

          •  I am well aware (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bronte17, JanL, 4Freedom, Mad Kossack

            that college is more expensive now, and I have three kids in line to start in the next five years, thank you.  And I will work as long as it takes to help them get through.  In government if possible, where my operational methods have been called many things, but never, ever "fossilized."

            So learn some manners, kiddo.

            If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

            by marykk on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:12:39 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Excuse me, but I have one in and two on the way. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              eugene

              And I'm not blessed to have a boomer management position in a company or government agency with nice health care benefits, pension rights or 401K matches.  Those were simply unavailable to my age cohort, which was pretty well locked out to all but a few at the start of my working career.

              In my state right now, base tuition at a state school is over 10K, books another 300 to 500.  Add the fees and that gets hefty, even if the kid can commute.  And that promises to go up.  My oldest is remarking on how many of her friends are starting to drift back into parents homes, unable to afford school away, and only the community college kids are able to work and pay as they go - god help them once they're in need of moving on in order to finish.

              I could go on and on about the joy of subsidizing non-means tested retirements while competing against the low, low rates set by guys in one sector of my business who are judicial retirees a mere 10-15 years older than me (but subsidized by 6 figure annual retirement packages).  I could go on about competing in another sector of my buisness against guys who are a little older than that and are collecting government subsidies in the form of SS packages or getting their no-longer penalized disbursements from their IRAs.

              I could, but that might not be mannerly.

              •  Well my retirement package (0+ / 0-)

                at present works out to an underwhelming $1700 a month plus social security, so pardon me for not feeling guilty - or subsidized. And my 401k match is $25 a month.  

                If my retirement were to be "means tested" I suspect my pension would have to go up.

                If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

                by marykk on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:59:13 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yay - you get a retirement package. (0+ / 0-)

                  I'd be overjoyed to know something like that would be coming.  And don't knock your match - I don't get one of those, either.

                  I did get a notice a few years ago that I'll get to wait longer to get my social security.  I'll probably get to drop dead at work, and my family will still get to send in a portion of my earnings from my last days of work so it can wind up in the grasping claws of some still-living boomer women, many of whom will no doubt survive the men of their generation.

                  Bottom line - if I don't save it, I don't get it, like most of my cohort.

                  •  The solution here is (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    wu ming, high bitrate

                    To find a way to boost Social Security to serve as the carrot to get those boomers to step aside.

                    It is true that many boomers block the advancement of younger generations through a tenacious clinging to their position. I've seen it myself in many different fields. But now there is a logic to it, and it makes perfect sense for them to grip those positions ever more tightly out of concern that there's nothing else to give them ANY security in old age.

                    Social Security itself was created during the Depression for similar reasons. It ought to be augmented now. But the price must be some sort of broad retirement. Raising the retirement age is precisely the wrong move, for example.

                    I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day
                    Neither is California High Speed Rail

                    by eugene on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:16:58 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  That's one way to look at it (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      bink, Land of Enchantment

                      although there's lots to indicate that people can - and should- work longer.  When social security was first passed, life expectancy was a whole lot lower.

                      The other problem is the disappearance of fixed benefit plans in favor of 401ks etc where the employer is really contributing a whole lot less and everyone is "on their own" in terms of navigating the market etc. (and the last year has shown what a great strategery that was)- and much of that sea-change happened in conjunction with the attacks on unions which began as soon as Reagan took office.  

                      Blaming older workers is a very misguided approach.  The better solution would be to work for a stronger social security system for everyone.

                      As far as HB's issues about his career path, I can't help him with that.  

                      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

                      by marykk on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:23:56 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

          •  College costs have risen dramatically just in the (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            marykk

            past administration... the 8 long years of bush.

            Furthermore, what precisely do you THINK happens when you open up the world economy to 3 BILLION people? As happened when China opened up and Russia and the Eastern Block satellite nations came on board.

            WTF to blame this on baby-boomers.

            Of course, the rightwing nutters have spent decades blaming the boomers. You've learned well at their feet.

            <div style="color: #a00000;"> Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshal

            by bronte17 on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 09:26:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, and about this (0+ / 0-)

        The scope of entitlements which are unencumbered by means tests is excessive, and they've long expected it all while living comfortable lives behind the white picket fence.

        I'd like you to meet my mother.  But you can't, she's in a nursing home.  Although she began working in 1942, and continued through '51, then returned to the workforce in '65 and continued until about 1980 or so, her monthly social security benefit, after medicare is taken out, is a whopping $176.  Which pays for about 15 hours - that's right, less than 2/3 of a day, for her nursing home care.  With her pension as my father's widow, we come up with about four months worth of her expenses every year.  The rest is funded by burning through the house and what's left of the savings - and they were careful, faithful, savers.  

        The Greediest generation?  Please.

        If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

        by marykk on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:10:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  and we are supposed to move (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marykk

        out of your way how?  Should we get out of your way now so that you can pay for our care for the next 30 years or should we continue to work and support ourselves.  How have we choked off advancement opportunities?  I see people of all ages in all different levels of employment. Some older than me are below my level in salary and some younger than me who are higher than me in salary.  How have we not been burdened by educational and medical expenses?  I paid for my own education and I contribute a pretty hefty share of my personal and tax dollars to medical care.
        Tell me how I have fucked up your life?
        Your rant lacks background.

        I am an optimist, I am positive we will screw it up

        by whoknu on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:34:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  A little generational pissing contest here? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marykk

        There's a lot of people dumped out of work in their 50s that no one will hire, too.  Your description strikes me as incomplete, not based on a full assessment of reality.  And a bit mean-spirited, too.

        "The river always wins" - Mark Twain

        by Land of Enchantment on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 10:26:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I would be one of those boomers (7+ / 0-)

      and I am one of the first tier (born 30 Dec '45) -- so bridging the gap between being a war baby and a boomer.

      I've seen this coming throughout the times of affluence--but maybe that's b/c I had grandparents who provided me with real-time evidence and cautionary advice about how things don't last and you can't count on anyone in authority to lead/save you or any foundational structure to support you.  You're on your own kid, was the message I got--so you better prepare yourself well.

      Find your own voice--the personal is political.

      by In her own Voice on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 06:56:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  that's interesting (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        eugene

        given that the new deal was a huge effort predicated on the idea that you're not on your own, that people need to hang together, and that the government had a role in helping with that.

        you're on your own strikes me as more in line with what reagan preached.

        surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

        by wu ming on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:12:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Reagan was a reflection of those (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wu ming, marykk

          values, or was it misgivings, that came from my grandparents (and you've got to figure in that they were from Texas--so that makes them part of the "g-d independent" crowd to begin with).

          My grandfather (step) was a scrapper born in 1916 married to my grandmother born in 1901--she came of age in the 20's. She sawn a lot in her lifetime growing in the southern Irish saw-mill poverty crowd to a time of middle-class stability  which was crashed by the depression.  Then there were the war years where there was no stability and the restoration following was into the wanna-be neuvo-riche oil boom crowd.  The oil boom and its takeover of the Houston economy carried them. through til their deaths.

          They were a big part of my family's financial stability when I was growing up in a family of five.  Without them I would've had much difficulty getting to college and having a "safe" start in life.

          Find your own voice--the personal is political.

          by In her own Voice on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:30:53 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  What's interesting (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wu ming, marykk, kafkananda

          And what I recall from reading Studs Terkel's Hard Times, is that even though the New Deal was exactly as you described, many Americans willfully read it quite differently. There was a sense of "work hard and be happy with what you can get" - many Americans may not have seen the scale of the New Deal, or how it made honest work possible in the 1930s.

          A not insignificant number of Americans convinced themselves they survived the Depression through common sense and personal sacrifice, not through collective action centered on government.

          That got reinforced by the postwar rhetoric of American prosperity, in which the fundamental and massive role of government in providing and securing that prosperity was persistently masked.

          So when the whole edifice got into trouble in the 1970s, that interpretation of America - that we survived the Depression on our own and we don't need big government to help us through stagflation - was mobilized to attack the underpinnings of prosperity by attacking government's role in it.

          Ultimately I doubt whether the lessons of the New Deal and the Depression were truly ever learned by America.

          I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day
          Neither is California High Speed Rail

          by eugene on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:01:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Funny you should mention that. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wu ming, marykk

            I've started work on a series of diaries about the nuts and bolts of the New Deal.  Mostly through picture research.  (My comment, below, shows one of the serendipitous pix that turned up along the way.)  The first one's in the can, about a Treasury Department program that put murals in 1400 post offices around the country.  But I'm holding it for posting on Monday.  I think that timing will be better.

            Turns out Lewis Hine was on the federal payroll for awhile, documenting CCC camps.  He's more famous for exposing child labor conditions, the construction of the Empire State Building, and those wonderful portraits of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island.  Those CCC pix will make a good diary, too.

            "The river always wins" - Mark Twain

            by Land of Enchantment on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 10:44:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  A New Deal Lesson - (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wu ming, marykk, kafkananda

          For people who had an income that wasn't threatened during the 1930s (and it wasn't many) the Great Depression was truly great.  Prices were rock-bottom and the help was cheap and uncomplaining.

          You should look at some of the small town newspaper columns and letters of the 1930s - especially towns  with WPA projects.  Sadly, those who still had something believed their good fortune was due to their hard work and moral superiority.  And they often viewed those who were destitute as morally lacking.

          The "Hang Together" myth is one of the most persistent from the New Deal Era.  Remember, that even though Roosevelt won in a landslide in 1936, Landon still got 36% of the vote.  And not all of those who voted for FDR shared his New Deal philosophy - Dixiecrats in particular.

          And even among those who supported FDR's New Deal, their zeal diminished after a few years.  Look at all of the young people helped by the CCC, NYA, GI Bill, and FHA loans who, once out in the suburbs, began voting for Republicans.  Nope, the "Hang Together" concept had only limited appeal.  It certainly wasn't the dominant view in the 1930s.

          "Vacationers at Miami Beach - Late 1930s"

          Cushman Collection, Indiana University
          http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/...

  •  Sadly, this great diary won't make the rec list. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, 4Freedom

    You didn't scribble a self-laudatory campaign bit, create a whimperingly maudlin encounter group about your own terribly fragile emotional state relating to your sexuality, or recount for the umpteenth time that you were a player in a middle tier news story....

  •  I think of it like this: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wu ming, 4Freedom

    We're all passengers on a pland, this guy is our pilot,
     title=
    and he's just bailed out.

    CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. A. Bierce

    by irate on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:00:17 AM PST

  •  Imagine what those born in 2009 will think (6+ / 0-)

    When they reach adulthood in 2029 and realize they must still pay for the $1 Trillion + debt that is being incurred right now to bail our economy out.

    They are going to be p****d and rightly so.

    This is an excellent diary, wm, and belongs on the rec list.

    "When the going gets tough, the tough get 'too big to fail'."

    by New Deal democrat on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:29:32 AM PST

    •  they'll have bigger things to worry about (6+ / 0-)
      the bailout itself is likely to pale in comparison to the fallout of what's just beginning, IMO. i wouldn't be surprised to see the US go into default, before this runs its course.

      if anyone knows of any good books on argentina in the late 90s, i'd love to read one.

      surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

      by wu ming on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:36:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sources re Argentina (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wu ming

        Here's a few places to look.  Online there is a good short encyclopedia article here:
        http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/...

        There is also a book review online that reproduces many full pages of a lengthy discussion of Argentina's inflationary history  here:
        http://books.google.com/...

        Finally, Professor Gerald J. Swanson of Arizona State University was a co-author of "Bankruptcy 1995", which cited the real estate bubble/deflation/hyperinflation history of Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil in the 1980s.  Unfortunately the book does not list any sources nor go into details.  I once emailed him, but of course to actually expect a reply you would have to write him and ask for his source material or a fuller explanation.  If you do, I'd love to hear what you get back!

        - Peace.

        "When the going gets tough, the tough get 'too big to fail'."

        by New Deal democrat on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:48:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  2029 is likely to look and feel (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wu ming, New Deal democrat, marykk

      Very, very different from 2009. In the best case scenario those who reach adulthood then will be brought onboard to a new way of doing things that is built from the residue of, but is quite different from, our present condition.

      Unfortunately that "new way" could be very progressive, or very regressive. Both outcomes are entirely possible.

      I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day
      Neither is California High Speed Rail

      by eugene on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:08:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I feel bad for the Boomers (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bink, eugene, cotterperson

    True, they've never collectively supported policies that would maintain a middle class for the young, or facilitate upward mobility for the young lower class, but 1) they were never really given the tools to do so since the agenda-setting interests always manage to leave these options off the menu, and 2) as a result of 1, none of the generations that followed have done any better in this regard, even where their own direct self-interest is at stake.  We've had a growing and unsustainable buffer between what employees in supposedly middle class occupations must be paid to maintain a middle class lifestyle and what employers in those occupations could pay to maintain the illusion of sufficiency, and it is disappearing, taking along the home values and 401Ks of the Boomers at the exact moment when they have run out of time to make up the difference with future labor.  There is still hope for the young, as I remain optimistic that the end of the debtor society could ultimately lead to a more equitable and generous outcome for young workers going forward.  

  •  aoeu (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eugene, wu ming, marykk, kafkananda, whoknu

    As it turned out, it did not work; you cannot sell out a large part of your society indefinitely without crashing the whole edifice, and thus the foundation of one’s own prosperity as well. We are all, ultimately, in this together, and the conservative Republican promise to the have-somes and the have-a-littles that you could successfully defend what’s yours by screwing the have-nots has now been revealed to be a cruel lie. In reality, we rise and fall as one people, and beggaring your neighbor eventually lowers your own property values and 401K, and results in bankrupt governments unable to fill potholes or provide the basic services that one relies upon.

    This is IMO the reason for this economic calamity--our economic system undermined itself. The entire system was predicated on pumping up short term profits at the expense of long term profits. Sure, you can pay out more to shareholders if you cut wages--but at the same time, fewer people can afford to buy your product. The economy was set up to cheat the consumer instead of to serve the consumer. This is the inevitable result of such shortsightedness.

    You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

    by Opakapaka on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:55:14 AM PST

  •  The lie has been marketed well. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hoolia, marykk

    As a person born on the tail end of the boom (1960) my view is that it all came down to how much we believed the lie and what we took away from our depression era parents.  My parents always preached those depression era values.  Put some away for a rainy day, don't throw away what you can use and don't buy more than you can afford.  In fact, my parents taught me that I needed to borrow in order to gain a credit standing (because that is how the world works) but encouraged me to borrow my own money at a credit union.  They also taught me how to do things for myself, the value of an education and that you can get ahead by working hard.
    I think it is a little silly to say that Boomers are going to be in shock in the coming depression. Of course we will be in shock - we already are.  But my Mother knows that she will rely on all of the same values that she instilled in me because she has an optimism that she learned at her parents and grandparents knee that we will make it through.  There have been many times during our life that things have not gone our way, that we have had to make due, that we have had to make hard decisions.  It is the basic optimism that the country found collectively during the depression that got them through.  Whining about what you don't have, can't get and had taken away is not what they did and not what I have done.  I have buckled down, got my own house in order, made a plan for the worst and recognized the hard realities of the next few years.  
    I am not sure what 'deal' you think we boomers have gotten that you were cut out of but if there was one, I was not on that list.  I believe I am in the same boat as you.

    I am an optimist, I am positive we will screw it up

    by whoknu on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:25:35 AM PST

  •  I recced your diary even though (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wu ming, marykk

    it's too big an opportunity for generation bashing, but you went on to say

    I wonder if boomers pulling a 180 on spending habits aren’t the decisive shift here

    I'm a boomer, frozen in place, watching as my house, my retirement funds, my savings, wash away from under me.

    Here's what I can't afford:

    airline travel
    Amtrak
    dining out
    gifts
    cable TV
    veterinary visits
    new clothes
    makeup
    home maintenance
    annuals and perennials for my yard
    my yard
    furniture
    new linens
    window dressing

    You get the picture.

    Since the 70's, there's been a bubble of affordability PLUS new technology we absolutely have to have. Growing up in the 60's, to be cool, you needed a transistor radio and some Madras plaid. Look how that compares to today.

    I'm afraid we're all headed back to the 60's.

    That screeching sound you hear is folks around the world putting on the brakes and taking another look at how to simply stay alive.

    •  that was exactly what i was trying to get at (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hoolia

      the shift in consumer purchases happened so quickly, it sort of hit me while buying groceries yesterday who probably had the biggest sudden shift in attitude. my own boomer parents went from months of telling me "oh, it won't be that bad" when i ranted about where the economy was headed, to "OMFG we're pulling all our edges in and getting our debts dealt with NOW" in september/october and into the winter. when i read mish's short post, it suddenly made sense that this reaction might be broader than just them.

      surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

      by wu ming on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 05:30:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm smack dab in the middle of the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wu ming, marykk

        curve. It's been true for a couple of years.

        If I can't afford a new dishwasher, few can. If I can't afford to buy books, few can.

        Etc.

        I don't have the statistics, sorry, but I do see the people around me making the same decisions.

        We are all in this together. Thank you.

        I'm having trouble posting this. I have books to read and a furnace.

        Here goes.

  •  Class trumps generation every day (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Land of Enchantment, marykk

    they myth that boomers were all whtie suburban and upper-middle-class is utterly ahistorical and actually represents one of the great triumphs of image-making, in that case by the marketing whizzes of Madison Avenue in the 1960s and 70s.  That a marketing scheme of nearly a half-century ago remains a piece of conventional wisdom is solely a testimony to the lack of social awareness on the part of the American people, regaardless of their intellectual and educational credentials.

    This sig line is in foreclosure. For details on acquiring a credit default swap on this sig line, contact H. Paulson, Dept of the Treasury, c/o Goldman, Sachs

    by ActivistGuy on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 08:52:12 AM PST

  •  I never bought into it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wu ming, marykk

    My biggest expenditures over the last decade have involved planting an orchard.  I've long joked that I worry about real fur-bearing, warm-blooded bears and bulls rather than their metaphorical counterparts in the stock market.  That food-bearing investment grows every year, no matter what.  Trees don't shrink.

    I've had people give me crap about it, too.  Ridicule and mockery that basic survival matters should come first.  That said, while everyone else has quit buying, I'm looking to get myself a car now.  Something that will outlive this downturn, that will last over a decade.  I'm very frugal in my spending habits - always have been.  Long term, I'm looking to shop now.  

    Lot of people I know are gonna be in a world of trouble when their current vehicles curl up their toes, or even need major repairs.  I'm noticing a new crop of advertising for extended warranties, probably responding to that new reality.  Though I suppose there will be used cars to get pretty cheap?  Today's cars have so many expensive bells and whistles, too.  Harder to get 'em to last for so long.

    "The river always wins" - Mark Twain

    by Land of Enchantment on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 10:14:30 AM PST

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