lundi 18 juillet 2011

Mr. Greenspan, will you please STFU already?

Far be it for me to pick on what increasingly looks like a senile old man. But this obviously senile old man has been wrong about just about everything that led up to the financial crisis. In 2008, in the depths of the financial crisis, he had to admit in front of a Congresisonal committee that he had been wrong about the self-correcting mechanism of free markets.. This is a guy who never outgrew his adolescent fascination with Ayn Rand. Even the tweens who avidly wait in line for the "Twilight" movies will outgrow them and not try to turn them into a kind of lifelong religion. But Alan Greenspan has grown to very old age still worshipping the ironically anti-religion author of the book of his adolescent fantasies. It was Alan Greenspan who advocated massive tax cuts in 2001 -- tax cuts that did nothing to create jobs or forestall recession. It was Alan Greenspan who said in 2003 when my POS cape cod house in New Jersey could have sold for $400,000 that there was no housing bubble. It was Alan Greenspan who said in 2004 that people like me, who had just refinanced a mortgage down to 4.75% for fifteen years, would be better off with adjutables.

For over a decade, this man, who is still inexplicably regarded as a sage by far too many people, has been wrong about everything. And now he's shot off his mouth again, this time by fostering generational conflict that's already a tinderbox:
Former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, has lashed out at America's younger workforce, saying they don't match up to the 'baby boom' generation.

Mr Greenspan said the U.S. is in the process of seeing the baby boomers, which he called 'the most productive, highly skilled, educated part of our labour force' retire.

'They are being replaced by groups of young workers who have regrettably scored rather poorly in international educational match-ups over the last two decades,' he added in the interview with Globalist.

He went on to say how the average income of U.S. households headed by 25-year-olds and younger had been declining in comparison to the average income of the baby boomer population.

'This is a reasonably good indication that the productivity of the younger part of our workforce is declining relative to the level of productivity achieved by the retiring baby boomers,' he said adding: 'This raises some major concerns about the productive skills of our future U.S. labour force.'

Mr Greenspan then suggested it would be better for America to hire skilled immigrants to counter the worrying trend.

It's one thing if Alan Greenspan advocates hiring skilled immigrants because by and large they are willing to work for less pay than American workers. That's consistent with his Randoid worldview, after all. But I'm a baby boomer, and I know that this is horseshit.

First of all, judging younger workers by income relative to baby boomers is ridiculous. Most of us were fortunate enough to enter the workforce before the Theology of Greed took hold during the Reagan years. Even the vast majority of us, who DIDN'T go to work on Wall Street but tried to find some balance between idealism and pragmatism, gained a toehold in the wordplace before globalization started this corporate race-to-the-bottom of the global workforce. Yes, we endured the recessions of 1973 and 1977 that were caused by the oil embargoes. Yes, we dealt with the recession of the late 1980's that resulted from a financial and real estate bubble-and-crash following nearly a decade of Reaganaut greedmongering. And now we're dealing with rampant age discrimination at a time when our parents are aging and often need our help and our kids are facing six-figure college expenses. So we haven't always had it so great.

But what we did have was the good fortune to grow up in a country that recognized the value of the social safety net that Franklin D. Roosevelt started and Lyndon Johnson continued. We had the good fortune to attend decent schools and had parents who valued education rather than focusing on school sports because pipe dreams of athletic scholarships is the only way to make a significant dent in college expenses. We were fortunate enough that our college attendance didn't drive our parents to the poorhouse. And we were fortunate enough to have our formative and young adult years take place before Ronald Reagan had a chance to wreck everything by starting the I Got Mine And Fuck You theory of economics -- a system whose goal is to return to the golden age of 1905, with a few preposterously rich guys controlling everything and the rest of us scrambling around along with the desperately poor people of developing nations for an ever-decreasing amount of scraps they throw under the table.

Workers 25 and under don't have those advantages, and even if they did, to make a productivity comparison based on the incomes peope relatively new to the workplace in relation to those who have been in the workplace for over thirty years is ridiculous on the face of it. I used to say to young couples who bickered all the time, "Why are you emulating your parents' marriage? Don't you realize that they didn't start out this way, that it took them 25 years to get like this?" Historically it took time for adults to get to high incomes, so in a normal economy those with more experience would be expected to earn more than those with less -- and it is no reflection on their "productivity."

I'll grant you that there are some young people who are ill-equipped to handle coming to adulthood in this economy. These are the kids who have grown up in McMansions where they never had to so much as share a bathroom. These are kids whose parents bought them new cars when they got their learner's permits. These are the children of late boomers and early Gen-Xers, who reaped the benefits of the illusory financial bubble and now find that the world in which they are going to be adults bears little resemblance to the household in which they grew up. And maybe the boomers WERE more prepared to start out in the tiny apartment and the 10-year-old car and work up to higher income. But at least we had the promise and the hope and the expectation that working our way up was something that was possible, even likely. Today's young people don't have that expectation. And it's ridiculous for someone to try to make the comparisons that Alan Greenspan is doing and expect to be taken seriously.

Alan Greenspan has been wrong about everything. It's time for people to stop listening to him.

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