Saturday, November 29, 2008

And the 'Boomers' Went BOOM

Are the present 2008 economic dilemmas of deficits, stock market crashing, China owing 10% of our debt, etc. nothing more or less than the death rattles of the often-self-congratulatory 'Boomer' Generation? Is the decline of American prestige and moral aythority an inevitable bi-product of the 1970's "Me First" philosophy finally crashing to its inevitable hell, burning in the devilish fires of selfishness and excess (credit-card mania, no savings, sub-prime mortgages--a curse on both buyers and sellers--and greedy executive compensation)?

I must admit, I was never a fan of the Boomer Generation. They seemed like selfish children, romping in a social playpen, incapable of learning the regimental lesson of Kindergarten 101: sharing costs as well as benefits. They wanted the immediate gratification of an open democracy: social goodies (and they were good, wonderful, necessary goodies--primarily social advancement for minorities of all colors, genders and religions) but boomers didn't want to pay for them--share their paychecks with the newly enfranchised.

Instead they offered much cheaper words and slogans: "Come on out of the closet, guys and gals, blacks and browns, and play ball with us! Sorry about the last two hundred years. Forgive me if I don't see the rickets you have from being cooped up in the closets of sexism, genderism and racism for centuries and therefore forgive me (don't call me on it) if we unfortunately miss seeing your $$$-need for medical and educational attention, extra programs (more $$$$) to enable you to catch up and play on our level playing field.

That would cost us too much $$$, and deny us boomers our e-toys. How about we offer you shouts of busing, affirmative action, NOW, loving 'rap' and a lot of hollow commiseration?

J'accuse: The Boomers are guilty of having neglected to fund the assimilation of worthy millions of race, gender and sexual-identity individuals who here-to-fore massively deprived of a great many of the benefits of the US political and economic system...and we are all now paying for it. The Boomers wanted revolution without cost. "Free now and pay later!" seemed to be their mantra.

Well...we are paying now.

Because of all this, and other things (SEE following), I never did think the Boomers were anything special. All they really had going for them was: (1) sheer numbers (a reflection of their parents desires and optimism for kids after WW II's end); (2) a result of these same parents who survived the Great Depression and World War II wanting more and better for their children (and, helped by Dr. Spock and his theories of child-rearing) spoiling them rotten and leaving them with a legacy of long-delayed adolescence; (3) an inevitable social change (blacks, women, gays) which would have occured without their screaming and carry-on); it was more a legacy of the war (WWII soldiers and workers democracy-empowered through mixing on the battle-lines and in the factories) more than anything the Boomers did; and (4) their inherited (and subsequently wasted on themselves) post WWII economic power.

Baby-boomers parents passed a vast economic legacy on to their children; and the Boomers spent it not on social programs but on themselves (hence the debt); and here we are today.

"Free now; and pay later."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Origins dictate process

When I tell my students that all human life is conflict, they look at me skeptically I tell them it even begins in conflict; two people moving furiously at each other in opposite directions. Why should it change for the rest of our lives?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Repression, like Greed, is Good

Freud said that "civilization was built on repressed sexuality". I know he is much maligned now, but: could the disintegration of the American economy (if not its civilization) be a result of "letting it all hang out". We should have repressed more of our sexual energy, and diverted it into hard work, sacrifice and savings. Too much sex, too much "hooking up", not enough burkas and moo-moos? We spent our greatness and future on the wrong head? The blood of greatness flowed into our penises and vagina instead of our hearts and brains? The stock market dried up (and went down) because our sexual organs got too moist (and penises went up)?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Factoring in Luck in a National Mission Statement for the Ideal US Economy

The purpose of a democratic national economy should be (1) to maximize the collective national wealth of its members and (2) have that wealth be subsequently apportioned to its individual members according the individual effort....minus luck: that is, the highest salaries and profits should go to those who work hard and smart; with the warning on the label: if a portion of high benefits derive from luck (advantages of birth, such as high IQ, inheritance, freedom from other responsibilities, such as taking care of aged parents, etc), those luck-achieved salaries/bonuses/ them birthright benefits...will have a confiscatory tax levied on them. The revenues thus derived will be placed in a common pool; the tax revenues to be distributed to the economically unlucky who work just as hard and and just as smart, but were/are hampered by an non-level playing field (caused by the disadvantages of birth, such as low IQ, non-inheritance, special responsibilities such as taking care of aged parents or mentally ill offspring, etc.)

A truly just, efficient, fully-incentivized democratic meritocracy demands no less.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Human Tragedy

From a news posting on Earthlink:

"MHANGURA, Zimbabwe--

"Rebecca Chipika, a child of 9, prods a stick into a termite mound to draw out insects. She sweeps them into a bag for her family's evening meal.

"Katy Phiri, who is in her 70s, picks up single corn kernels spilled from trucks that ferry the harvest to market. She says she hasn't eaten for three days. 'If you rest, you starve,' she says.

"These scenes from a food catastrophe are unfolding in Doma, a district of rural Zimbabwe where journalists rarely venture. It's a stronghold of President Robert Mugabe's party and his enforcers and informants are everywhere."

The above are horrid tales of elemental survival; they are horrific reminders that in some parts of the world people have been forced to go back 5000 or more years, to pre-agriculural life-styles, where human existence is a 24/7 hunting and gathering for food.

How can the world stand by and allow that? There can be no rationalization to justify it, political, economic, practical or philosophical. If ever there was a basis for a 'just war', that is it. Each day the developed world delays in eradicating Mugabe's control of Zimbabwe is a day of mortal sin on the world's soul.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Clinton Redux

RE Citibank's problems, from the NY Times:

"The bank’s downfall was years in the making and involved many in its hierarchy, particularly Mr. Prince and Robert E. Rubin [italics mine], an influential director and senior adviser.

Citigroup insiders and analysts say that Mr. Prince and Mr. Rubin played pivotal roles in the bank’s current woes, by drafting and blessing a strategy that involved taking greater trading risks to expand its business and reap higher profits. Mr. Prince and Mr. Rubin both declined to comment for this article.

When he was Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, Mr. Rubin helped loosen Depression-era banking regulations that made the creation of Citigroup possible by allowing banks to expand far beyond their traditional role as lenders and permitting them to profit from a variety of financial activities. During the same period he helped beat back tighter oversight of exotic financial products, a development he had previously said he was helpless to prevent.

And since joining Citigroup in 1999 as a trusted adviser to the bank’s senior executives, Mr. Rubin, who is an economic adviser on the transition team of President-elect Barack Obama, has sat atop a bank that has been roiled by one financial miscue after another."

My comment: So much for blaming it all our financial woes on George Bush and the Republicans; and revelations such as this are why I have deep misgivings about Mr. Clinton, Mrs. Clinton, and the trail of ex-Clintons' advisers streaming in the Obama (whom I voted for) cabinet! (I only hope it is not a case of letting foxes back into the chicken coop?) What ever happened to "Change"?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Child-like Yelp of Pain

"Locked-up lending is a prime reason why the United States is suffering through the worst financial crisis since the 1930s."

That was the quote I read in the newspaper today. So now everybody is bitching because it's hard to get a loan. Just last week (and this week and next week) we were/are bitching because there has been too much lending--sub-prime housing mortgages, derivatives and default swaps, etc. Which way is it: too much or too little? You can't have it both ways. Only children can...providing Mommy and Daddy continue paying.

The facts are: in the 1990s and 2000s we adults-acting-like-children spent the past (used up our savings...refinanced our homes); we refused to replenish the savings stock (0% savings rate the past few years); and we spent the future (credit card debt, debt, debt). We used up too large amount of the past and future. All that is left now is mostly the bleak present: hamburgers instead of steak, meals at home instead of going to expensive restaurants, re-reading old books (or going to the library) instead of buying new ones.

But don't despair: there are still pleasures: freed up time to watch a sunset, seeing old friends, and good conversation...the way we used to live before we, like grown-up children, needed more and more toys...and paid too high a price for them.

Friday, November 14, 2008


"No poet is obsessed with craft per se; craft is just a name for the mechanics of immortality." (Dan Chiasson)