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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11595/the-war-on-the-young/

The War on the Young

February 3, 2010 by

We live in an age rife with oppression. No group of Americans is better aware of this than the nation’s youth — the first generation in US history not to surpass their parents’ living standards. FULL ARTICLE by Brain Foglia


Colin Duesterhaus February 3, 2010 at 10:06 am

Another article to confirm that my generation is royally screwed if no one begins addressing the problems with the overspending in the government.

I am one of those unfortunates who fall between the 16 to 19 age group. I know that college tuition will likely rise by the time I transfer from the community college I am currently enrolled at, but can anyone give me a range on how much will it rise, if it is even possibly with all this growing debt?

Matt R. February 3, 2010 at 11:06 am

Excellent article. I still have many acquaintances who remain in denial about the real costs of the deficits we face.

ABR February 3, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Colin Duesterhaus,

Can you tell us what your goal is re a degree? Is it to learn something or to obtain a job-earning certificate?

If your goal is to make a living, have you considered a trade? Depending on the era, one would be better off as a plumber, investing wisely and avoiding toys, than a medical doctor who has huge expenses for many years.

Note that MIT’s curriculum is now online.

Painesright February 3, 2010 at 1:54 pm

The government is the predatory lender of student loans.

They are giving kids and their families tens of thousands of dollars (sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars) in federally guaranteed student loans without any regard for their ability or inability to pay them back.

This easy-to-get money is driving the cost of education through the roof, while driving the quality of education into the ground (Dr. Thomas Sowell’s book, Economic Facts and Fallacies, is worth the price of the book just for the chapter on the damage that student loans are causing to our higher educational system).

More than any other debt, it is next to impossible to get out of re-paying Federal student loans… they practically cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and you have to be almost completely disabled to have them forgiven.

Defaulted gov’t student loans can stay on your credit report indefinitely and destroy your credit scores for many years. You cannot get an FHA or VA loan if you have defaulted gov’t student loans. Most states and gov’t agencies will not allow you to get certain types of licenses if you have defaulted student loan debt. The gov’t will garnish your wages and confiscate your tax refund in order to get it’s money back for student loans. (and we call bankers ruthless!?!)

And we are giving billion and billions of dollars of these loans out to kids like candy?!? When it comes to student loans, the gov’t is no better than the drug dealer on the school playground corner!

The most evil part of all is the government’s offer to “forgive” the debt in exchange for years of “public service”.

Imagine how hard it will be for a kid who is tens of thousands of dollars in debt, who holds a worthless college degree in his hands and has very few prospects for employment to turn down a job with the Federal government, who is willing to pay him twice the private wage rate and give him unbelievably generous benefits and allow him to retire at an early age with a pension.

There is no way he will be able to turn that offer down… like an offer from the mob, it will be an offer from the gov’t that he simply can’t refuse.

There is also no way the private sector will be able to compete for the best workers against a gov’t who pays double the average wage and forgives all of that debt. So, private companies will go overseas to find workers, which will make finding a job even harder for non-government workers… what a vicious cycle!!

Americans need to wake up and stop the enslavement of our children to the Federal government. Student loans are creating a generation of indentured servants and they are a back door entrance for a gov’t takeover of our private economy!

Colin Duesterhaus February 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm


The thing is I am interested in history, economics, chemistry, and engineering. So I am going through trying to figure out what even my major is…..believe me I am more confused now from when I was graduating from high school.

I have thought about looking into a trade when my uncle made a comment on how plumbers will forever be needed in society because we will always need water and a piping system to get rid of the waste. I really do enjoy actually working with my hands more than doing writing, though I do enjoy thinking about things that have an indirect or direct impact on my life. The thing is I do not have much experience with it so I would need to start gathering some. I did some research into the plumbing industry and saw how you start out as journeyman and work your way up the ladder.

I am just worried that if the worst case scenario happens….,ie. the people finally are pissed off and start taking to the streets, that I might have other priorities to have to deal with. Though I can see that having a skill with something say carpentry would come in handy now and maybe in that hypothetical situation.

ABR February 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm


This web site has ample reading material in the history and economics department. Won’t cost you a nickel. [But you might want a mentor to guide you through the various materials.]

Other than a certificate, what use is a degree? I’d say, apart from the external discipline imposed, the benefits are being around smart, inquisitive people and being able to ask questions of knowledgable people.

But how many students actually ask questions? How many are actually inquisitive? And don’t forget: you’re also paying for research, which is of little direct benefit to the student, and you may be paying for gobs of real estate, sports programs, and so on.

An alternate strategy to getting a degree would be to to apprentice as a plumber, and read up on history, economics, science and engineering in your spare time. Eventually, you could run your own plumbing business. You might even be able to get a degree later on, either online or attending night courses.

BTW: repair plumbers do use their brains. An owner reports a symptom. The plumber has to determine what the actual problem is, before fixing it.

Once, when I was house-sitting, I ended up with a plugged kitchen sink. A young plumber showed up, and the first question he asked was: is there a basement in this house? I thought he was nuts.

We went into the basement, and he put his hand up against various pipes. At this point, I definitely thought he was nuts. Not at all. He found the problem.

Bits of food had accumulated over time. The sink garberator was of inferior quality. He recommended a few that were reliable.

He noted that the typical idiot plumber might have blindly used a snake to clear the problem, temporarily, without ever really determining the source of the problem. This guy sawed off the pipe, emptied out the gunk and water, and put it all back together.

The problem that some tradesmen make is that they spend all their dough on toys, rather than investing. Or they buy real estate unwisely.

A friend of mine made a killing as a plumber on an oil rig back in the 80s, then blew it all by purchasing a condo, sight unseen, which he eventually walked away from. Handed the keys to the bank. No real estate agent would touch his building.

Good luck!

Colin Duesterhaus February 3, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Thanks I am going to need it.

I just do not know how my parents will take it if I bring it up at dinner, but who knows. I might think about checking about doing an apprenticeship maybe over the summer I just worry that by the time I finish this semester we may be in more *insert expletive* than we already are, which will affect the current plumber’s abilities to bring on more workers, especially if states start jacking up taxes and requiring businesses to have health care.

Todd February 3, 2010 at 3:45 pm

I’ve been telling my mom that the Boomers 1st bankrupted this country morally, then they did it financially. She tends to agree with me, though she doesn’t like it. I’ve also started to call that particular generation the “Bastard’s of 69″ loosely based on a Green Day song. I am trying to teach my children differently and give them a worldview that runs very much against the consumption driven culture of today. It is definitely an uphill battle.

Curt Howland February 3, 2010 at 4:28 pm


I didn’t go to “college”. After a few years out making a living, I found a 2-year electronics school. It was accredited, so I came out with an Associates in Applied Science, but that was less than important.

Rather than focusing on the “degree”, the classes focused on actually learning the materials from instructors that actually knew what they were talking about. Most of the students were retired truck-driver types who were injured and were looking for something more along the lines of a sit-down job.

But the big difference was in me, of course. After a few years in the “real world” I had overcome most of my public-school imposed antipathy toward learning. I dove into the material myself, instead of waiting, and did very well. Learned a ton, which has helped me greatly in computers and networking because I understand what’s going on with the transmission of data from the wires up.

But that’s me, not you. What interests you is not something anyone else can know. Give yourself a chance to find out.

Take some time, DO something instead of jumping from one “school” to another.

Kat February 3, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Wow! I agree with a number of your points. I am unfortunately a baby boomer who is a victim of big governments quest for more and more control. Roosevelt gave us a taste of entitlements and “we the people” never looked back. In defense of the boomers, I must say my generation had no choice about whether we wanted to participate in these Ponzi schemes. We were told that we had to play the game. I would have much preferred my own system of saving and preparing for the future. In fact, I did it anyway. I never expected that government would use the money I gave them wisely. They cheat and steal and “give away the bank” in order to buy votes. I don’t think I will see my Social Security checks coming in the mail when I am 70 years old. Sadly, according to my statements, I contributed a chunk of money to the system. What I am afraid of is that government will take my savings as well. They are talking about taking over our IRA and 401 accounts. You say the younger generation are victims but I believe the boomer generation will be victimized as well. Inflation is going to eat away at what little we have saved and the government is going to try to get the rest. Personally, I wanted to save so my kids could have an inheritance. Sounds like the government has some interesting plans for that as well. My investments and home have lost a great deal of value. I worked weekdays at minimum pay jobs for many years and then worked weekends as well so I could save for the future. I took one vacation in 36 years. I always thought that hard work would be rewarded. Well, I now expect to be working until the day die. Guess that is my reward.

Re: cheap school loans and perpetual students who spend their college years partying and socializing, I do want to add that my 25 year old son paid for his college out of pocket while married and working full time. He finished his B.A. in 15 months instead of the usual 24 and graduated Summa Cum Laude . He was married and out of the house at 20 years old. He bought his first home at 20 as well. He started his first business at age 14 and now has a going enterprise with many prestigious accounts. Even in this economy, his business is growing. Thus, opportunity is there for those who seek it. I might add that he was home schooled through high school. Anyone who wants to understand what is wrong with today’s youth might like to read “The Underground History of American Education – A Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation Into The Problem of Modern Schooling” by John Taylor Gatto, former New York State and New York City Teacher of the Year. Today’s youth have been sold a bill of goods. The “system” teaches them that school is not a serious matter and that they need not be responsible for themselves. They are not taught to love learning and are in fact discouraged from questioning anything they are “taught”. It is no wonder they can not function in the “real” world. Living with their parents and becoming a perpetual student seems the only safe option. God help us all!

Terri K February 3, 2010 at 6:55 pm


ABR, Painesright and Curt Howland are giving you some excellent advice here, much the same advice that I’m giving my own children, two of whom are getting ready to go to college (and are hell-bent on going).

Yes, trade skills will likely always have value and if you do think worst-case scenario, you can surely imagine a carpenter, plumber, mechanic, gunsmith, etc. being in higher demand than say a history professor (not to denigrate history professors, just sayin’).

And if you like working with your hands, then it will be easy to find something you’d like to do. By the way, and I hate to make generalizations, but of all the people I know, those in the trades are by far the happiest and wealthiest (if they didn’t buy toys), not to mention intelligent.

As I tell my kids, there is no blueprint for your education and life and for heaven’s sake, as Mark Twain said, “I never let my schoolin’ get in the way of my education”

Painesright, you really nailed it on the student loan thing. I am making my daughters read your post!

John February 3, 2010 at 8:20 pm

I agree with this article.

In my native Chattanooga, we have had an explosion of educational services… ITT Tech, “Chattanooga College”, Virginia College, Chattanooga State Satellite Campuses, DeVry.

They offer 2 year degrees whose actual ability to provide a job remind me more of get rich quick schemes than a way of emancipating my generation. Instead, they enslave my generation into more and more college debts. (BTW, I’m 27).

I live with my parents because I have been unable to find a steady job, and I don’t believe in family generation till I have such. (Others my age didn’t let this bother them.)

I don’t know if I blame boomers for exporting our jobs in the name of cheap goods at Wal-mart, dipping into Social Security Funds to hide costs (*ahem* Reagan…), offering houses and loans to 30 somethings knowing full well they couldn’t possibly pay it back, coming out of retirement b/c of a recession they caused thus preventing 20 somethings from getting in, and the usual nepotism-buddy system that 40 somethings use when hiring. Now more then ever in this economy, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.

The War on the Young goes deeper than this article details. Obama mandating health insurance, so that the young are FORCED to pay for elderly health costs, bias towards hiring older workers due to a stigma on mine that we are lazy, etc. I know of one man who conducts 6 (6!) online classes. The fleecing of my generation continues unabated.

Obviously my anger is not very concealed. I’ve worked hard at all my jobs, only to lose them to bosses who wanted to hire personal connections in my place, and typically people 10-15 years older than myself. Even where I work now, it is rare to see someone under 30.

I know boomers are in the same boat, and are hurting too. But still, those I know in the workforce know in full knowledge that Social Security, Medicare, etc. will probably be gone by the time we need it. I hope all generations can work together to solve this mess, and I hope my anger doesn’t get in the way of solutions.

Gil February 3, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Unfortunately, the U.S. doesn’t have a tradie-shortage, apparently.

Bennet Cecil February 3, 2010 at 10:35 pm

There is no war on the young, just typical American politics and denial of Austrian economics in Washington and NYC. The politicians will steal as much from living successful people as possible and then more from their estates when they die. They buy votes with the money to stay in power.
Both parties do it and it is not likely to change.

I am a successful boomer, working and paying taxes for forty two years. Citizens get to vote but do not get to choose what happens. High taxes, low taxes, inflation and deflation are beyond our individual control. Things change, getting better and worse, but nothing lethal yet thankfully.

The job market for young people who are hard working and friendly will improve. The trick is to choose what business you might want to do for forty or fifty years. Try to decide while still in high school. Ask someone in that business to allow you to spend a day with them to see what you like or dislike.

If I were 18 now, I would go 2 years to a state community college, working and paying my tuition as I went. I would then get a business degree at a state college paying as I went. I would go into a small business at 22, learn how to run it, and become an owner at 25. I would grow that small business, incorporate it, and give my children shares at birth, thereby reducing my future estate tax. I would plow my profits into the business and avoid borrowing for business or home.

By the time I died at 50, 75 or 100 the business would be successful enough to sustain my children and grandchildren in a comfortable standard of living. When you own a business, no one will fire you. When you do not owe anyone money you do not need much income for your personal expenses.

When I was 17 I saw people in their 40s and 50s getting laid off from their “good jobs.” I decided right then that I wanted to own my own business and not be at the mercy of a boss or a bad economy. Small business; pick it, learn it, start your very own and prosper. Help your children and grandchildren prosper too.

Gil February 4, 2010 at 12:19 am

“I decided right then that I wanted to own my own business and not be at the mercy of a boss or a bad economy.”

How can you truly escape the mercies of life when others can’t, B. Cecil? What does being at the mercy of a boss and getting be any different from being self-employed, having few customers and risk going out of business? Why should you necessarily profit in a bad economy when others are hurting? When a large business collapse they tend to take a lot of their self-employed contractors with them. What happens to you when your debtors are broke and can’t pay you? And so forth . . .

boniek February 4, 2010 at 5:22 am

“The average amount these students owe has grown about six percent per year since 2003–04, reaching $23,200 for the class of 2008. For comparison, in 1996, only 58 percent of students graduated with debt, and they owed an average of $13,200.”

Is this before or after inflation?

mushindo February 4, 2010 at 5:56 am

‘When I was 17 I saw people in their 40s and 50s getting laid off from their “good jobs.” I decided right then that I wanted to own my own business and not be at the mercy of a boss or a bad economy. Small business; pick it, learn it, start your very own and prosper. Help your children and grandchildren prosper too.’

good for you. Just recognise though that in your own business, YOU are the boss that YOUR employees are at the mercy of! Do you also advise them to go off and start their own businesses? Or do you pay them in keeping with the value they add to your enterprise and make them want to keep working for you? Success is never certain and failed start-up businesses probably outnumber the ones that prosper – and it wont necessarily immunise you from a bad economy. There are no guarantees, and reward scales with risk. theres room for the low-risk seeker who looks for the certainty of a stable paycheck in exchange for doing what his boss wants him to do, and theres room for the high-flyer who is prepared to stake his everything on the One Big Idea. Each needs the other to make an economy work. we’re agreed Neither needs the interference of the bureaucrat.

Paul Stephens February 4, 2010 at 6:23 am

For most urban people, the reality they face is something akin to feudalism. If your family has money (and I’d assume that most participants here are from the college-educated class), lived in a neighborhood with good public schools, or were able to afford good private ones, etc., you will probably go to college with the expectation of becoming some sort of “professional” – if only a public school teacher or bureaucrat.
I was born in 1947, and thus a “boomer”, but the reality today is almost entirely different. It didn’t help me that I learned Austrian economics, and considered myself a libertarian for the next 20 years. I was more suspect than a Marxist to the usual chamber-of-commerce types, and even worse to the public school or other govt. bureaucracies. Several people advised me to get a job with the Post Office – take the Civil Service test, and you start out at about twice what similar jobs pay in the private sector. You get full benefits, good pension, etc.
If you come from a rural or working-class family, with union connections, you can probably get apprenticed (also starts out well-paying), and be a journeyman whatever. Although most construction workers in large cities are either immigrants or minorities, that’s not true in rural areas. Most people here grow up learning basic mechanical and labor skills from an early age – and most importantly, with a strong work ethic. It’s easy to start a small business in these areas, too. But it is all a matter of character and “family values.” The society which emerges is more like the mafia than “perfect competition” in an unregulated, free-market economy. It’s all about who you know, and how well you fit into your community. Everything you do and say will be held to account – positively and negatively.
The fact is, Americans are presently consuming at least 5 times as much energy and other non-renewable resources than they should be. Our human population (and not just in prisons) is at least 5 times denser than it should be. And all readers, here, understand very well that the government we have is dysfunctional, and manipulated constantly to reduce the incomes and utility of nearly everyone but those closely connected with government and “free money.”
For reasons stated well by the author and many comments, the choice to marry and procreate is the really excruciating one these days. Unless you already have a good economic situation and a lot of family support, the decision to have children is likely to be irresponsible. There is simply no way that we can have any assurance whatsoever that they will have lives worth living.

Roy February 4, 2010 at 6:35 am


If you are a failed engineer, you can learn to become a plumber. If you are a failed plumber, you can’t become an engineer.

David Roemer February 4, 2010 at 7:51 am

I was hoping you would analyze whether or not my generation (I am 67) is worse off than my parents’ generation. My father was only a foreman in a factory (one level above an hourly worker), but we lived in a house in the suburbs, had a car, and my mother did not work.

Bogart February 4, 2010 at 8:10 am

I was working in Brazil and I was picked up at the hotel by a young woman instead of her boss. I knew she had a car and I asked why she did not driver her car. She responded that she had sold it to buy a house with her soon to be husband. I thought wow, that make good sense. Instead of this crazy devalued currency that lenders dump on anybody, there actually are people in the world who make life changing choices on where and how to live based upon income and savings. And EVEN MORE AMAZING these people are actually saving.

Ned Netterville February 4, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Brian: “Current estimates of unfunded welfare liabilities are staggering — $107 trillion for Social Security and Medicare alone.”

If it wasn’t for the federal government’s ability to borrow money–an utterly stupefying feat, in MHO, given its debt and prospect for unremitting revenue deficits long into the future–plus its unholy ability to create money out of thin air, the government would clearly be currently insolvent. But bankrupt? I wonder?

Could not the fed sell off some or all of the valuable assets it owns to meet its obligations? I’d certainly be willing to join a syndicate to buy Grand Canyon NP. If the valuable resources and national treasures owned by the fed and managed to maximize political ambitions were transferred to private interests, not only would the government acquire funds to meet it obligations, but in addition that nation would enjoy a profound increase in the nation’s productivity and in its citizen’s freedom. The former because political ownership combined with bureaucratic management is notoriously inefficient, the latter because political ownership always requires servile obeisance and political patronage (bribery) to obtain use of government resources where there is more than one prospective user. National treasures would also be safer from exploitation in private hands.

I don’t have the time, skill nor inclination to calculate the value of the fed’s assets, but I suspect that the point is rapidly approaching, if it has not already passed, when the value of all of its assets will not be enough to meet its obligations.

Put up a yard-sale sign on the steps of the capitol.

Sneakers February 4, 2010 at 4:02 pm

You’re all a bunch of whining brats. I am 67 years old and heard the same crap when I was going to high school. ‘Automation was eliminating good factory jobs and we’d have nothing to do.’ The generation before was complaining about the war and depression. Stop crying. There will be many opportunities to succeed. You’ll be electing the politicians and making the laws. I hope some of you cry babies do a better job, but I don’t think you will.

JMiller February 4, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I think this thread needs a bit more disagreement.

Higher education is an industry of expansion-minded corporations that peddles the cultural narrative-myth of “education leads to innovation leads to wealth” to convince our civilization that a college education is a universal good regardless of the cost. The narrative may have held true a couple of generations ago, but was pretty noticeably negated back at the turn of the century. If you’re taking on debt based on a cultural narrative rather than solid values — and just ask anybody who owns a house these days about this — then you’re getting fleeced. This is not a “war,” it is a “swindle.”

If you want a war, well, we’ve got a couple of those too.

But there’s another “war” (I would call it “confused annoyance of uniformed quasi-democracy”) going on which you don’t mention, and it’s the Socialization of youth, mostly on that same “if we give them an education it will all be okay” schtick that is stacking years of debt on people who have been brainwashed over the course of several years that education is a good to be had at any cost. The war is being fought with public school budgets and metrics; the most direct Power-Pointed association to this would be “No Child Left Behind.” The problem with this method of operation is substantial. First of all, failure is feared and punished; the failure of any student reflects on the teacher so rather than having teachers spending additional time advancing their most promising students such that they can actually achieve something, time and resources go into the least promising students so that they do not get “left behind.” But secondly, and more concerning for me as a taxpayer with no children, is that the private, personal/intimate choice to procreate (re-affirmed by Roe v. Wade) gives tax deductions to the people who procreate even as their spawn consume more public resources regardless of whether the child is the first (entirely reasonable) or fifth (really, what did you think would happen?) to be pushed out.

If you want to feel oppressed, try being smart enough to be disenfranchised when you’re young and then taxed for resources that you’re not consuming when you’re old, knowing that those resources will be disproportionately allocated to the people who will put them to the least use.

At least in part, I reject this oppression: I volunteer at a local high school to work with the smart kids (at least the ones on the debate) who need to be challenged to think rationally instead of being left to their own ennuiastically bored devices.

john February 4, 2010 at 5:06 pm


Please do not take our estimation of the problem as “whining”. I do not think pointing out a problem is whining. Nor are we crying. We are merely exploring the causes, reasons, depth, and possible solutions. If that is “whining”, then perhaps we need more of it.

To me, whining is complaining over trivial things, or complaining to elicit pity from others. Kids whine as their complaints are trivial… “Bobby called me silly!”. Adults do so when they complain about a condition longer than seems appropriate to elicit self-pity.

I assure you, my generated doesn’t want nor need your pity. (Though apparently, you need our money).

As for triviality, the debt is currently… 12,354,041,054,846.90
With 308,611,000 people, that is…
40,000 per person. Does this sound trivial? Fixable maybe, but trivial? Hardly.

I don’t preach doom and gloom, nor am I looking for a scapegoat. We CAN fix this. But first we must recognize the problem. The War on the Young (and Healthy and Employed) should be recognized, analyzed, and then fixed. It’s something all generations can work on together.

P.M.Lawrence February 5, 2010 at 10:09 pm

“Laws dictating the minimum wage and regulating child labor play a significant role in preventing young people from finding jobs. The minimum wage forbids would-be workers from accepting wages below the arbitrary cut off, and greatly increases the cost of hiring unskilled workers (many of whom are young people trying to pay for college). This results in far fewer of these workers being employed. Last year’s federal minimum-wage hike will only exacerbate the youth-unemployment problem and make it more difficult for young adults to become independent.”

That can be fixed; see this submission I made to the (Australian) Henry Tax Review for something applicable to Australia, and its appendix B for something applicable to the USA (that may be the sort of thing that Barack Obama had in mind when he spoke of a “small business tax credit”).

P.M.Lawrence February 5, 2010 at 10:10 pm

“Current estimates of unfunded welfare liabilities are staggering – $107 trillion for Social Security and Medicare alone. The recession and the resulting nosedive in payroll-tax receipts have devastated the current Social Security surplus… Because these programs are unsustainable, the younger you are, the less likely it is that you will recover the purchasing power lost through taxation. What this amounts to is a massive redistribution of wealth from the young to the bureaucrats and beneficiaries of these systems.”

Some while back I worked out a way of winding this back without the burden being concentrated. Most recently, I put it into an earlier submission to the (Australian) Henry Tax Review (it’s also appendix C of the later one).

P.M.Lawrence February 5, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Colin Duesterhaus wrote “I did some research into the plumbing industry and saw how you start out as journeyman and work your way up the ladder”.

Actually, you start out as an apprentice; journeyman is the first independent stage. I don’t meant that you hire out independently to end customers then, but you do to the ones that do – you don’t have a dependence on other tradesmen.

Kat wrote “I don’t think I will see my Social Security checks coming in the mail when I am 70 years old. Sadly, according to my statements, I contributed a chunk of money to the system. What I am afraid of is that government will take my savings as well. They are talking about taking over our IRA and 401 accounts. You say the younger generation are victims but I believe the boomer generation will be victimized as well. Inflation is going to eat away at what little we have saved and the government is going to try to get the rest.”

My guess is, precisely that will happen, most likely by implementing just part of what I proposed for winding back age benefits: gradually raising entitlement ages, more slowly than calendar dates pass so that eventually everybody does qualify. Precisely that is now being proposed for Australia. It switches it from being a problem for this new generation to being a problem for the generation about to qualify without hurting those already getting benefits – so there’s a much smaller group losing out and less political cost. A war on the late middle aged is easier and cheaper for the politicians than a war on the young, at any rate in the near term which is all that counts for them.

Terri K wrote “Yes, trade skills will likely always have value and if you do think worst-case scenario, you can surely imagine a carpenter, plumber, mechanic, gunsmith, etc. being in higher demand than say a history professor (not to denigrate history professors, just sayin’)”.

No, that’s not worst case. Worst case is, there are lot of people who need plumbers but can barely afford basic survival, if that, so effective demand for plumbers is low. It’s like Gil’s comment.

Roy wrote “If you are a failed engineer, you can learn to become a plumber. If you are a failed plumber, you can’t become an engineer.”

No, you couldn’t learn to become a plumber, because you would be older and you would face the barriers John described in reverse: ageism for new entrants.

Ned Netterville, your asset sell off plan wouldn’t work in the time scale available because it would be a distress sale; there still wouldn’t be the resources around that would need to be bought with the proceeds, at the time they were needed. It would only help with unrelated, later needs, once the assets had been used more productively for a while.

Consumer February 7, 2010 at 1:53 pm


There is absolutely nothing wrong with consumption. As long as you consume within your means and with your own money. As long as you don’t consume your neighbor’s wage, consume all you want.

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