The Terrifying New Normal
I don’t know where this all leads. The aging baby boomers are not going to have the retirements that they envisioned, and their children are not going to have the good jobs their baby-boomer parents enjoyed. The more I talk to those my age (58), the more I hear that they are madly trying to save money, buy an extra house, get a good used car -- all for their children who may not otherwise ever have a savings account, a home, or reliable transportation. The ancient wisdom was always “don’t spoil your kids,” “no one helped me after 18,” and “keep it up and they will never fend for themselves.” All true.
But these days, the game has changed somewhat -- or rather been downscaled: the PhD is not being hired for anything other than part-time teaching; the JD is reduced to the law library gofer; the freshly minted MD is the equivalent of a salaried, high-paid nurse; the credentialed high-school teacher is subbing; the engineer is a draftsman; the carpenter is cobbling together home repair mini-jobs. The new plum job? Landing one of those federal or state regulatorships, inspectorships, or clerkships, which are paid for with borrowed money, produce little, and grow as those they audit and fine shrink.
In other words, we are seeing the proverbial chickens coming home to roost in an economy that has run up $16 trillion in debt, regulated its way into paralysis, hounded the private sector, and demonized profit-making. The strange thing about the 2008 disaster was not just that hand-in-glove with Wall Street banks Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae created a huge real estate bubble and then watched it pop (one inflated through private speculation and government-backed sub-prime loans), but that the blame went not to the intrusive, incompetent federal government or even to a Goldman-Sachs-like bundler (a firm from whom Obama got more campaign money than did any other prior presidential candidate), but to the vague “private sector” -- as if the well-driller or timber man had somehow collapsed the economy. The result was that Obama’s medicine from 2009 onward was worse than the original disease.
Oh, one other thing. We don’t see any more of those funny, though obnoxious, bumper stickers with the words “We are spending our children’s inheritance” on huge Winnebagos as they zoom by. Perhaps that's because there are not so many inheritances any more or the children (now in their late 20s) are inside the Winnebago on vacation with their parents. Or maybe the parents sold the Winnebago and are working at Starbucks.
Finally, where does all this lead? To a great deal of pressure and expectations upon a Mitt Romney, whom a growing number of people seem willing to entrust with the remedy to Obama’s Hellenic malady. The more Obama tsk-tsks saving the Utah Winter Olympics or creating a Bain Capital, the more the strapped public may say “bring it on.”
(Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on a modified Shutterstock.com image.)