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How about giving out free STEM degrees ? Vol 74

If  you don’t step on the brake when you see a police car because you weren’t speeding, you must be a Boomer !

Its election season all over, and as a Boomer, I am watching closely to see which direction our economy, social policy, and environment will take. In the US, and Canada, there have been recent debates between the candidates, the Democrats being the latest last night. I watched them all, with growing apprehension. I am an optimist at heart, but you can sure get pessimistic in a hurry watching our political class in action ( in-action ? ). Where is the overriding vision, the political guts to say what is needed, the big boy pants to describe the realistic but hard path forward ?

As readers of my blog know, I am a proponent of trying to understand the why. Why are our politicians living in the past ? Why is Donald allowed to be successfully bombastic, without saying anything realistic ? Why have we not just stopped watching ? Why has no-one uttered some common sense thinking, like a proper immigration plan. Why ?

I think the reasons are many. First, we Boomers are becoming ungovernable. We want everything, without paying for it, or better said, let someone else pay. In effect, we don’t want a government, we just want other people to be responsible, as long as you don’t hold us accountable. We live in a victim society, where we think we each have unique circumstances that make us guiltless. Syrian refugees are the hot button of today, ” save them all, everyone take a family in”, oops, I meant some other family, some other neighbourhood …

Second, our 24/7/365 world is training us to only value the short term . Long term planning is a fleeting thought at best. We are left gasping at the rate of change, like gay marriage and family disintegration, instead of looking at the long view. Its why few Boomers have saved anything near what they need for retirement. Pay some debts, or go the Spain for a holiday. Hmmmm.

Lastly, and maybe the most important, we seem to have let our liberal democracy misplace the appropriate capitalist formula. We have gone from the agricultural, to the industrial, to the information, now to the knowledge age, and this transition is proving to be just as painful and confusing as the others.  There is a helplessness, a feeling that no-one really has control or solutions to fix our problems. Capitalism will still work, but it needs to be tweaked, as it has in the past. No one is even discussing how we fix inequality, family breakups, our environment, or our  racial pressures. I suspect the reason is because we are just trying to hang on, without falling off this beast of progress, without knowing where its taking us. It’s hard to see over the next hill, when you are fixated on the ground beneath your feet !

So, to start the conversation, here is my Vision.

We are ungovernable, so let’s downsize government. With modern modes of transportation, the internet, and big data, lets triple the rules for representation. Local, county, state/provincial, federal, let’s cut our number of elected officials by 3.  Really, can you name the people you fund to govern you ? A mayor and a few regional Counselors, no county officials, a governor and 1/3 representatives, a congress cut in half, and a President. Yes, there are some legal issues, like we will still need the US Senate to have 50 Senators, but why have 100 ? Really, do we need hundreds of  Representatives or Members ? Nope.  Do we even need a County seat ? How about State Senators – can you even name yours ? I thought not. Why should government be immune to what you are going thru in your industry ?

We need to tax the polluters and garbage makers, and use the money to fund eco technologies. Someone can do the math, but the pain level must be high enough to force change. Say adding a $1 per litre on gas, and $5 for every bag of garbage you put on the curb, would be a clean start. Am I overreacting ? Consider this one example, my favourite. If the oceans continue their rise from the glacial melting, the US Navy will start losing ports. Can you imagine a Navy becoming obsolete because they can’t dock anywhere ? If the Pentagon is now planning for climate change, shouldn’t we ?

How about a free university education for any STEM degree? STEM meaning science, technology, engineering, or math degree. Free tuition for each year you are enrolled. The same everyday criteria holds for entry, passing, and graduating. Tuition, and maybe books, but not living expenses. Why only STEM ? Well, everyone laments the lack of technology workers we need in our new economy, so why not incent some of our kids to head in that direction. Its capitalistic, solves a real need, and would attract the best students worldwide. Most kids would not have the aptitude or marks to get in, but let’s try this as a pilot program, and monitor the results.

Legalize pot, regulate and tax it, and bring a hidden industry everyone uses, into the sunlight. Treat the hard stuff, like meth and cocaine, as a health issue, not a criminal problem. It’s a capitalistic solution, allows for regulation and control, and would increase tax revenues. Pardon non violent pot inmates, use hospitals as hard drug dispensaries like we do for diseases, say “bye bye cartels”, and lets rejoice in winning the war on drugs.

Being 60, we need some generational goals, so that by the time I turn 80, we can say that we set a path that left the next generation well placed for their own journey. Briefly, one would be Kennedy-like, and set a goal of having a habitat on Mars. Simply, the technological advancements would alone cover any costs, not to mention the idea that a multi planet solution enhances our species survival. The other goal is for us Boomers to pay our debts, the money we spent on ourselves we did not earn. Before I go I want to look my kids and grandkids in the eye and say I paid my debts.

What would you like to see our politicians discuss ?

Next on Boomers – WTF ! ,  beware the gloomers, is our optimism justified ?

Bedfellow’s Putin and the Iranians – so who’s on top ? Vol 73

Whenever I’m caught between two evils, I take the one I’ve never tried !

Mae West

You know, when you are thumbing thru the many channels on cable, trying to find some interesting content, you sometimes stumble onto a show that makes no sense, has no known actors, seems to have no plot, and makes you wonder who watches this crap ! Personally, I feel this way about the whole Walking Dead saga, and anything with vampires. Yes, I am a science fiction nut, and understand that we could potentially see an apocalypse, but watching seasons of slow motion killing and bad make-up is not worthy.

Obviously, people watch this stuff. I am not sure, as a Boomer, if I am more upset about my inability to understand the attraction of reality, pseudo-reality, and just plain gore, or my lack of understanding of the people who watch this stuff. Kinda talks to a generational problem, maybe.

I get this same feeling watching the Republican primary debates and news coverage. I would probably be classified as a RINO ( republican in name only ), a moderate conservative economically with a liberal heart, but the ideas and solutions debated ( yelled ? ) are just not workable. They seem to have lost touch with reality. First, if you think anyone can deport 11 million people, you are insane. Look at Europe and just a few 100,000 refugees, and see the problems they are having finding, transporting, classifying, housing, feeding, and determining their status. Multiply this by the effects on the US economy, as many of those people are working at something.  Even thinking of building a wall, think of the expense and time it would take, and consider all the roads and bridges that could be built instead. Have walls stopped the Mexican drug cartels from getting their drugs into the US, or the Syrian refugees from continuing their walk to Germany ? Secondly, yes the Middle East is a mess, but it is a mess of their own choosing, and they will have to fix it themselves. The West tried, we showed them another govern option, and we even trained them to implement a new path, but all we got for our treasure was the blame. Kinda like an alcoholic blaming someone else for their addiction. Why does Carly and the other bobble-heads want to continue a failed policy of intervention?  And so on with Obamacare, the Iran deal, tax changes, and Planned Parenthood.

OK, so that’s the inability to understand the attraction part of my dilemma. The other part concerns understanding the audience – who are these people that are being courted ?  I am sure that social conservatives, Evangelical Christians, old white folk, and the rich -however you label the GOP primary voters – are good people, wanting the best for the US, wanting the best for their children and grandchildren, are good neighbours, and care about their place in the world. As best as I can, I try to envision a world view as they see it. It probably starts with the American dream, low taxes, and the right to bear arms. No freeloading – you earn the rewards, not have them handed to you. No illegal’s – their ancestors came across in boats and fought for a future, so should you.  God says every life is sacred – no abortions, against gay rights, alcohol is ok, but no other drugs. America is the world’s Sherriff – our law and order is best, or else there is chaos. We are the creators, everyone else copies us.

Into this world view struts Russian President Putin, starring in “Syria – the Rescue” . Like a bad TV show just starting its run, it has interesting content / consequences, known actors, a plot, and weekly cliff-hangers. Unfortunately, I get this show.

Putin needs another country to conquer, to keep his nationalistic audience at home pre-occupied, away from the economic mess he has created. He needs help to muzzle the Muslims in his own country, to control the terrorism in Russia. He wants the world stage away from the Ukraine, so his troops can complete the annexation of part of the country. He wants markets for his armaments, such as Iran.  He believes he has picked the winner in the Shiite / Sunni war, so supporting the Alawites curries favour with Iran, and sticks a fork into the US and its allies.

Since he has lots of oil and gas, this is not a play for resources. Its simply a power grab, and if I can predict the shows future, it will have a short bloody run. He is now in the quagmire of the Middle East, where all the locals will let him do everything, so they have to do nothing. Sound familiar ? Its Afghanistan all over again, in reverse.

Like the Chinese did in their recent gas deals, the Iranians will use Putin like a bulletproof jacket as long as they can, then blame him for all the ongoing problems, and discard him.

Its interesting that Putin’s world view is similar, in many ways, to the GOP primary voters, and to the Iranian hardliners.  The difference is that the hardliners are in charge in Russia and Iran, and are unelectable nationally in the US.  Perhaps trying to understand the Ayatollah will work to explain Donald Trump. I hope so, because otherwise, those people up on the GOP stage electorally are the Walking Dead.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! ,  can I nudge a response from you Boomers ?

Why don’t Boomers have Visions ? Vol 72

You don’t need a parachute to skydive, you just need a parachute to skydive twice ! – Anonymous

In my last blog, I discussed why Progressives and outsiders were doing so well in most of the western world, especially in our many election cycles now ongoing. Established stars, like Hillary, Jeb, and even Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are facing headwinds to getting elected.  Boomers seem to want more of the “vision thing”, a grand purpose, a story, not the same old status quo. C’mon, we have seen that movie, and its prequel, and want something more meaningful !

To me, Boomers are looking for some big Visions to get behind, to have our own 1960’s Kennedy “Moonshot” goal.  We have our toys, our technology, our trips, and want more. I will not go as far as to say that we lack some moral compass in our lives, but there is definitely a growing hunger for purpose. As we tire of navel glazing, lifting our sights up to the future is beginning to stir a desire to do more, to better our selves, to make life easier for our kids, to make a difference.

We see enough negative in the world, and choose to be positive. The conundrum is that there are lots of small goals / projects / ideas to pursue. Cleaning up your neighbourhood, helping parents in their later years, perhaps volunteering, all great personal things we are starting to do. The vacuum is that if we are to really to sacrifice, we need everyone to buy in, to see real teamwork, to realize that satisfaction that only comes from accomplishing something really hard.

In this endeavour, our political class is failing us. Of course, it’s not all their fault. They are victims of us. We want everything, want to pay nothing for it, and we punish politicians who tell us “NO”. How dare they ! Capitalism gives us what we want, when we want it, and lets us pay for it later. Why can’t our leaders do the same ?

The answer of why not is $200 Trillion. That’s the debt we have accumulated as a capitalist society, and many economists believe the actual debt is much higher. At this point, I like to ask where the money went. Did we build new schools, did we build new roads or bridges, new nuclear sites, or some other asset ? Frankly, I do not believe we did many of these things, so the only answer must be that we swallowed it.  Our waistlines visually answer the question.

But, being an Boomer optimist, I think it’s still up to us to map out a future that has big visions, ideas that can be uplifting, stories we can get behind and help mobilize our generation to be great.  My last blog bespoke the Trump phenomena, a bombastic politically incorrect campaign voicing the thoughts of the middle class. The pundits say the Donald is unelectable, but he continues to flesh out some small visions, like a wall to fight immigration. What if he pivots to some large visions ?

I was thinking about what these Boomer visions should be, and watched a CNN show, Fareed Zakaria GPS, on 5 potential Moonshots.  His list included a MARS colony, an unlimited solar power source, mapping the brain to fix diseases, 3D printing your own replacement heart, and using a scramjet to travel around the world in 4 hours. Amazing stuff, all with a foot in reality today.

Since I would suggest that these ideas are rooted in known science, excluding the Mars idea, they are not really generational goals. They do not feel like we Boomers would have an emotional attachment to them, a connection we will need to get enough support to mobilize us into action. Look at climate change, for example. Our changing world will impact on our kids and our grandchildren, but we resist the impulses to make a positive change.

While I await your suggestions, let me start our Boomer todo list. First, fix our impact on our climate. I believe that our species will eventually use up all the resources of our planet, and will venture out into space, as our numbers expand. Having said that, we still need to drink clean water and breath clean air. Looking at China and their pollution nightmare is a reminder that our planet is still our home. Perhaps a carbon tax, legislation already initiated in many jurisdictions, would be a start. Let’s go hybrid ! Otherwise, we get to see the oceans rise over 5 feet, and kiss our port cities goodbye.

A MARS colony would be high on my list. As the NASA administrator on the CNN show stated, a single planet species can be destroyed, whereas a multi-planet species would survive almost every type of extinction event. Let’s let Elon Musk and Space-X start the journey, but let’s help fund the endeavour.

As a peoples, we waste a lot of energy, lives, and materials in stupid disputes. Let’s try to end them. Fixing poverty would go a long way to maximizing humanity. Image our potential if we could increase education worldwide, wipe out many diseases, and open the door to individual fulfillment.  A hand out is a hand up, right ?

I know, watching all those Syrian immigrants walk to Europe is heart wrenching. Remember that they walk because Syria is an ecological disaster, which led to the civil war, as the farmers could no longer survive on their desert-like land. They can’t go back home ! There are so many of them, what are we to do ? Well, let’s remember where we can from, empathize with their plight, and take them in. We have the space, the wealth, and especially the humanity.

Without goals, we are just barnyard animals, existing day to day, hoping to be fed, without a future. If you think this vision is harsh, just look around your man cave. What do you see ? Yes, its Vision time, and if our leaders don’t see our yearning, lets provide it ourselves.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! ,  what’s your favourite fix ?

Has Donald “Trumped” the GOP ? Vol 71

I like going to the park and watching the children run around because they don’t know I’m using blanks  !                                                                                   – Emo Phillips

The Donald. Where else do you start in discussing this election cycle, whether its in the US, Canada, or the UK ?  As Boomers, our cohort will have a large part to play in the ongoing battle for our future, so we can either decide to play along, or else take the blame if things go wrong.

Hillary and Jeb were the early locks for the nominations in the US. Both have money, name recognition, organizations, and somewhat centrist platforms. The US is a 50/50 country these days, with elections being decided by the slimmest of margins. So, “do no harm” seems like the right path forward. Canadian Prime Minister Harper ( also known as ” The Hair” in some circles )  is following this strategy for his October vote. Cameron, the UK leader, also continues to opt for a middle road, to stay in power. Now, all are looking at unexpected challenges.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the apparent rise of the Socialists. In the UK, Labour is about to elect a purebred Socialist as Leader, completely swerving away from the old New Labour of  Tony Blair. In Canada, New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair, he of the beard, is leading in many polls, a first for the left wing party federally. In the US, Democrat Bernie Sanders, a progressive liberal, is getting rave reviews and large crowds for his anti-establishment rants, forcing Hillary to the left, and giving Vice President Joe Biden an election window no-one expected.

I know its early, but let’s read the tea leaves anyway. After all, us Boomers have a lot at stake. We have investments to protect, an economy that needs to keep growing so our savings, and homes, will continue to increase in value. We have kids and parents to support, as more and more of us are doing. We see danger in the world, and need to feel secure. Lastly, and most importantly, we have and see the potential ruinous amount of debt the world has. Now is not the time for amateurs to be running things, right ?

So, perhaps the rise of progressive liberalism, which I define as socialism with a capitalist backbone, is really the ongoing battle of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, augmented by certain immigrant groups, capped off by the Mitt Romney 47%’ers ? Economic and social inequality is an issue worth protesting about, and Sanders et al seem to be giving voice to a portion of the populace that feels strongly about being victims. Good on them for standing up !

Perhaps it’s the rise of the vision thing ? Its easy to see Hillary, Jeb, and Stephen Harper as holders of the status quo, same old same old, easy as she goes, don’t rock the boat strategy. They worry about playing defence, as they have records to be attacked, and face an electorate that does not want a lot of changes. Let’s remember that we Boomers are almost ungovernable. We want everything  right away, in our colour or flavour, and don’t try to put any gas plants, prisons, transmission lines or homeless shelters anywhere near our communities !  Incrementalism is the only way to get change thru our society, and sitting politicians know this.

Along comes Bernie and the Donald, playing offence, storming the political fences with their oratory about political correctness, hitting homeruns saying things that a portion of the populace is thinking, but not hearing in their leaders. Jeb is at a disadvantage because he can only do things that will hurt his standing, while Trump is starting from ground zero, with nothing to lose.

Take Immigration, for example. The GOP contenders realize that they need a wall, but also realize deporting 11 million souls is impossible. Along comes Trump to ignore the real life facts and simplifies the issue to ” kick them all out, and we want the good ones back” ! What a nightmare socially, legally, morally, economically …  my head spins. Even Scott Walker now wants a wall with Canada ! To sum, while everyone knows the difficulty, Donald is getting mileage because he has a vision, and is plucking the thoughts and feelings out of the heads of the middle class. He is putting on a master class in solution selling.

Bernie, on the democrat side, is talking about taxing Wall Street, also connecting with a populace who wants someone to blame. Being a victim means never to have to accept blame, and Bernie has tapped into a treasure trove of resentment.

Thomas Mulcair, the NDP Opposition Leader in Canada, is a little softer in his rhetoric, as probably befits the Canadian psyche, but he still pushes a progressive agenda on spending – his main push is for cheap daycare for all. In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, the potential Labour leader, wants to nationalize the banks.  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat ?

I get that our leaders will promise us anything, guilt free because someone else will pay for it, but isn’t it time to wake up and start asking the right questions ? Let’s start with why not immigration amnesty, with the proper follow-up identification procedures. Why not tackle our crumbling infrastructure. Why not start on the race relations fix, by calling a truce on the war on drugs ? Why not climate change, or is El Nino becoming the defacto ruler of North America ?

Better said, where are our big visions, our moon shots, our eliminate polio pushes, our  equal rights and equal opportunity goals ?

So, in our big vision vacuum, we seem to be getting hairy bombastic shrill complainers, popular not for their positions, but for their adeptness at channelling middle class angst.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , let’s talk Vision, or who do we want to be when we finally grow up ?

#BlackLivesMatter, can I say Maybe ? Vol 70

To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first, then call whatever you hit the target !          – Anonymous

As a white Boomer with no Black friends, I want a conversation on race. No holds barred. Educate me ! Let’s get everything out on the table. If we can deal with abortion, approve of gay marriage, and even watch Bruce Jenner change on TV, it’s time to bring on the next phase of the race discussion !

Unfortunately, few of us seem to want that discussion to occur, to engage in asking and listening. Why ? We have so many opportunities as a people, that it is a waste of our considerable energy and talents to leave this festering wound in our society. So, lets begin …

Maybe it’s because most of us White’s do not seem to care to listen ? Could it be that our society seems to revolve around all types of victims today, and we are in no mood for more ? Mitt Romney’s 47% comment in the last Presidential cycle bespoke to the view, rightly or wrongly, that a portion of our population do not believe in the American dream. You earn your opportunity, it’s not a given, so not having that opportunity is somehow our fault ! Look in the mirror if you want answers.

Maybe it’s because we non-Black have accepted our guilt, and have moved on – why can’t you ?  Ta-Nehisi Coates, the writer of “Between the World and Me”, got lots of press and praise on his literary racial guilt trip, even from the New York Times. So, maybe we have accepted our part in the Black experience. Job Done ! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat ? You are still angry ?

Maybe it’s because the Black’s are going about their end of the discussion without listening ?  CNN showed a clip of a meeting between Hillary Clinton and a group of #BlackLivesMatter leaders, where the leaders told Hillary to just talk to white folk, and stop telling Black’s what to do – they would talk to their own people. Hillary, to her credit, politely dissed this proposal. She started talking about solutions, but got talked down. Was this an example of listening, or another lost opportunity. Really, Black yelling is starting to sound a lot like what the Israelis used to say about the Palestinians, that ” they miss every opportunity to miss an opportunity” !

Maybe it’s because the Millennial’s don’t care ! They must be listening, but to my mind, they are not as motivated or as engaged as they were in the gay rights battle. The gay march to collective acceptance was successful within a few generations. Why have race issues not been pushed as openly, or as successfully ? Are gay rights bigger than Black rights ?  As a Boomer, gay issues have little effect on me, so when my children called me an old fuddyduddy for my views, I accepted their rational, accepting that is sounded like the right thing to do, realizing that I could turn off the TV if Jenner was on, to no lasting personal effect.  How come our youngsters are not chanting about race rights ? They accept the melting pot of relationships, but are mostly silent on race. This conversation will never become mainstream until the 20 somethings get engaged.

Maybe it’s because some underlying reasons for Black anger have not been dealt with. To me, one reason has to be the war on drugs. All the stats point to discrimination, from drug use, to the gangs who supply drugs, to the legal system and policing practices, to the incarceration rates. Why blame the Black’s for losing the war, when it is a collective loss. Let’s call a truce, and move on. Legalizing weed would be a start, fully pardoning all non-violent drug offenders, and treating drug use as a health problem, not a legal issue !

Maybe it’s because we see other parts of the melting pot society that is now prevalent in most of the world thriving, even though these people came from countries that repressed their citizens. Why don’t we see #LatinoLivesMatter, or #PolishLivesMatter, or even #EvangelicialsLivesMatter ?

Maybe there is some latent memory aspect to this issue, a nature versus nurture schism that Black’s have to mature through, for this issue to grow up ? Aggression is an admirable trait, until it isn’t. Maybe it’s time #BlackLivesMatter tried a different strategy.

You know, this conversation has all the feel of trying to sell a new technology. It’s called the product curve, which starts out with sales flat-lined, trying to get traction selling your idea or service without much success. Then, after the period investors call the valley of death, the time when you spend all your money trying to get traction, some un-foreseen catalyst occurs that results in some sales, some results. These buyers are called early adapters, believers in the product who don’t mind any ridicule as they are seen using the service. These early adapters pave the way to the mainstream sales push that finally grows the product.  The story of Hush Puppies, the urban leather shoe, is the classic example.

Maybe Ferguson is the catalyst, the event after the valley of death time that will result in some societal transformation.  If so, and I hope so, the next few years should be a healing time. If not, then what kind of catalyst will we need to take the issue seriously as a people ?

So, #BlackLivesMatter ? Maybe, but probably not !

Next on Boomers – WTF ! ,  Has Donald Trump’ed the GOP ?

Boomer Fantasies are Killing Us ! Vol 69

That’s no Lady, that’s my Wife  !                               – Rodney Dangerfield

Lately, I have been contemplating the future, extrapolating from the past and present, and I seem obsessed with trying to predict hobbies, trends, things to value, pitfalls, and world events. I even took time out from this blog to read a book, “Awaken the Buddha Within” ( by Lama Surya Das, Broadway Books ) to see if I could get some clarity in our 24/7/365 world.

This blog is about Boomers, our present and our future, the mistakes we are making, and the vast opportunities we have before us to become the greatest generation ever ! We are the richest, best educated, and safest generation in history. What we do with our environment, human rights, technology, and security will set the tone for many future generation, including our grandchildren. We are on the cusp of either spending the rest of our lives poor on the couch, or showing some initiative and building a better future. Its our choice !

Why the time off and introspection? Maybe because I turned 60 this year, and will shortly walk my eldest daughter down the aisle. Maybe because I don’t seem to have a label to now call myself, at least not one that feels comfortable. Most importantly, I am trying to see thru the various fantasies we Boomers seem to have entered, or created. It feels like driving into a large unexpected fog bank. Yes, you slow down a bit, but drive on, seemingly lost, in a cloud of doubt about where and when this will end.

As a Boomer, I am definitely going thru a life change. My views on work have evolved. Work always denoted a time commitment, with ego stroking pay and benefits, a purpose ( or excuse, depending on your motivation ), a funded lifestyle, and a reason to get out of the house.  This salary trap and work / life balance fantasy now looks stupid, a “work harder, not smarter” plan. Now, I realize that doing the things you enjoy are more important. If you have a job that gets you out of bed after a peaceful sleep, leaves time for exercise, family and friends, and keeps stress to a minimum well, you are lucky. Yes, you may have to somehow turn this time into a moneymaker of some type, but keep on this track – it’s a winner !

My views on sex have changed. This being Boomer Blog volume 69, perhaps it’s appropriate to discuss Boomers and their various fantasy stories. A 50 Shades of Boomer, perhaps. With the cheater website Ashley Madison’s customer information being recently released, and with the Gray divorce rates climbing, I am very happy to be celebration my 38th wedding anniversary this week. Marriage is work, but I guess I can now fully appreciate that the rewards out-weight the effort.  My fantasy that I somehow magically get a six-pack, and that sexy girl across the room is really looking at me well, I am almost over it.  My hope that my lovely wife will be transformed into a pre- menstrual hotty is misplaced. I know that some company just announcer a sex drug for women, a Viagra type stimulant. Good luck with that. I think I will just love the one I am with, and let real life be my fantasy.

Yes, there are other sexual fantasies, mostly illegal or immoral, and thankfully these seem to be a phase of our lives. Let them go. Otherwise, you may find your penis all over social media, or worse, jailed.  I am sure prison is not the place to advertise a sexual deviance !

My view of retirement has evolved. According to surveys, many of us fantasize that we will win a lottery, or get a big inheritance, so we can spend everything now. Household debt is at all time highs, and retirement savings are nowhere near close to what Boomers need to retire on. We have expensive lifestyles, and the sooner we realize that our needs are a lot lower than our wants, realism will creep into our fantasy. With the flow of reverse mortgages, inheritances are fading, and with no savings, …

My view of health is growing. Like many of my generation I smoked, drank ( infrequent, but intense ), ate excessively, and dabbled in narcotics. The fantasy was that I was invincible. I did exercise regularly, feeding my fantasy that it all balanced out. Well, with a new hip, a new knee, having undergone chemotherapy and full body radiation as part of a bone marrow transplant, all in my 50’s, that fantasy got ripped up. Looking at my circle of friends, it seems everyone has something. Parkinson’s, MS, heart attacks, nerve issues, it’s like we all have an industrial disease. As you can imagine, I applaud the wonders of modern medicine, but doctor’s can only do so much. Having a fantasy of invincibility will kill you. Now, I prefer the fantasy that I have the opportunity of living to 100, if I do the right stuff.

My view of humanity as vastly improved. Boomers were raised to acknowledge risk, and while we all did the things that helped minimize the dangers around us, it did bespeak of a negative or pessimistic world view. Remember, it was a “dog eat dog” world that evolved into the ME generation. Today, I could not be more optimistic  ! Yes, climate change is a worry, but are slowly addressing it, Yes, the Middle East remains a mystery, but Africa is emerging. Yes Donald Trump is growing in the polls, but maybe this is a good thing !

Since this blog works to present a positive push to Boomers to get off their asses and out-due the Greatest Generation, our parents, we do need to look at the fantasies that hold us back, that inhibit our individual ambitions.  To assist, I ask you to send me a note on your favourite Boomer fantasy, and the steps you suggest to successfully “drive through the fog”, and I will incorporate it into a future blog.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! ,  do Black Lives Matter  ?

Greece, an immature kid, or an aging Parent ? Vol 67

I am supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder to find one !
– author unknown

In my last blog, I stated that I am a Boomer, both in the population sense, and also in the futuristic sense of the word. Things are going great, and will only get better. My only caveat was the concern about our generational debt.

Its huge. Just look at the unfunded public pension liabilities in the US. School teachers, policemen, nurses and their elk, their pensions are unfunded by trillions of dollars today. Trillions ! Detroit looks like a walk in the park compared to the income issues these municipalities, states, and union employees will have. Compare this stat to the large governmental , household and personal debt levels, and we are looking at a generational issue.

A quick aside – I would really like to know where all this money went. Granted, a large portion resulted to politicians buying union peace by promising large pay increases, usually in the form of pension benefits payable in the long distant future, but it seems to me that a lot of this money is just missing. But, are we not paying more in taxes every year ? Did we just promise more that we collected in taxes, a financial interest compounding theory that works well in your 401K, but sucks in real life ? You know, just save a little every pay, and the positive effects of compounding ensure you will be a millionaire buy the time you retire. Have our politicians figure out that the same is true, in reverse, for taxes ? Fuckers !

Imagine the politics when all the budget money has to go to fund Boomers retirements, a time when they are not being productive, but demand a guaranteed income from their various levels of governments. No money for roads, sewage pipes, electrical lines, water safety, or defence !

Our options are limited, but there is still time. One theory is to use the inheritance tax to cull back the Boomer’s parents wealth gains. You guessed it – blame someone else. Take 50% of the estate of deceased people, and get back the untaxed inflated value of their assets. Noble, until you realize you are losing your inheritance. Another theory is just to ride out the cohorts needs, those being short term and otherwise politically unstoppable, and recover on the other side. Unfortunately, Japan is showing us that this plan results in stagnation, deflation, and economic pain for decades.

Greece becomes an interesting case study in how we will deal with our debt issues. On the one hand, we could treat Greece as our immature twenty-something child living in our basement, nice enough, but having no drive. Some education, no job, little direction, with hobbies we do not understand, like video gaming. You don’t even speak their language, so how do you express your anger while motivating her to try harder ? Tough love ? A weak timetable of requested results ? You raised this child, and to look upon her as a liability is a little cold. So, where do you draw the line ? Life on the streets, really ? Its only money after all. Your child is young, strong, and its time she learned a few lessons in the real world. Kick her ass out !

On the other hand, is Greece like an aging parent, past their prime, perhaps disabled, but definitely needing daily assistance. You look at her, and see yourself, love partially blinding your view of what should be done. Interestingly, Boomers seem to discount the ” mom will live with me” mantra of past generations, and settle on nursing homes instead. Cart mom off to strangers, and sell the house. I need a new car !

Both options bespeak to the caricature of Boomers being selfish, me first people, breaking with a long established tradition of caring for our family. Children should have a stable launching pad, irregardless of when that occurs. Our parents should expect to live in the bosom of their family, and be taken care of, as they took care of their parents. Should boomers break this tradition, and what would be the consequences ?

Yes, sometimes kids need a kick in the pants, just as we got ours. And yes, we need to take care of our parents, just as we put up with grandma for a few years. But our kids are staying longer, and is that ok ? Our parents are living longer, with diseases I can’t help with, so isn’t a nursing home more humane ?

Difficult question, only answerable on an individual family basis, It’s your conscience, after all. That s why Greece, and how we decide to deal with their issues, will be so instructive. If we play hardball, and they leave the Euro, who really pays the price. If we bail them out again, are we not reinforcing their way of life. A fundamental decision, one I hope we ponder for all its personal ramifications.

Is this how our society is supposed to grow, grading our relatives on some kind of efficiency scale ? Are you helping us grow, cause if you are not, you will be found undeserving of precious resources ! Are you capable of watching the kids, cause otherwise you are not an asset worth investing in. Solent Green anyone ? Is this the point of decision Boomers have evolved to ?

Remember, our kids are watching …

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , Greece, round 2 ?

Greek Debt is the new Orange Vol 68

“You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing – after they have tried everything else” ! – Winston Churchill

Every time I read Paul Krugman discussing debt, my head explodes. Krugman, the famed Nobel economist and NY Times columnist, has been waxing on lately about debt in general, and specifically how the EU should be treating Greece. As a Boomer with most of my assets in housing, the subject of debt is my major retirement worry, on many levels.

First some numbers, to keep the economists among us happy and really scare the rest of us. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, world governmental and household debt is now over $200 Trillion. Yes, you read right. Trillion !!! With world GDP in the $70 Trillion range, we now owe over 250% of our income. While some countries are de-leveraging since the 2008 economic meltdown, some countries are growing their debt, China being the biggest. In this context, Greece looks to be a very minor problem at best. Slap their wrists, allow them to have a reasonable payment, or some combination of repay and forgiveness plan. We have much bigger issues to fix. How the EU handles Greece however, could be very instructive

Back to Krugman. His main argument is that our debt is not the issue ! We think of household, credit card, and student load debt at important for the family to deal with. World debt however, is immaterial in a time of historically low interest rates. We are supposed to spend money now, to get back to full growth, and then repay the loans in good times. Unfortunately, the Liberal Krugman does not explain why we did not do this the last time we had a chance to curtail our spending, and pay down the national debt. He only sees the spend side of the equation, and somehow is blind to the lack of repayment when we had the chance. When the Tea Party and other groups clamor for some fiscal prudence, he writes them off as austerity nuts.

His other argument is that we just owe the monies to ourselves, so why worry, as we will not foreclose on ourselves. Wrong ! Aside from the government bonds owned by Japan and China, who will need to sell them at some point to fund their elder/rural populations needs, Boomers will be needing that money to fund their own retirement, and we are starting to foreclose now. Think of the CHIP mortgage plans, where you borrow against the value of your house, to buy groceries or travel. Where does that money come from ? Straight out of your kids inheritance.

The point is, debt is the new Orange. It appears free, so why not take as much as you want ? Without a price or consequence, we become addicted. There have been lots of past examples of this insanity, the latest being the 2008 financial crisis, but everyone needs examples of the real cost of this borrowing behaviour. Austerity causes hardship, but if that is what it takes to get thru our hard heads, then bring it on. let Greece be the latest example.

It has to be noted that Greece is also feeling pain because of its socialist leanings. We talk about Greece being in a depression as its GDP falls, but it can be argued that a large percentage of their economy was false. People were paid to do nothing, not even having to show up for work. Austerity is also a wake-up call to governments everywhere to get more efficient.

As you can see, Boomer debt is our main problem as a generation, and not fixing it will shift its burden to the next generation. They will ask the right question, where did the money go, and we will not have a good answer.

I would love for Krugman to do an article and explain where the Trillions went. How did we get this way ? Was it all spent on healthcare ? Who has the money, as it sure was not destroyed ? Show us where it went, and we can try to get some of it back !

You start to see how Greece is the canary in the coalmine. If the EU treats the Greeks like an adult child living in your basement in need of tough love, they will force restructuring of their way of life, and cause huge societal damage. If they consider the Greeks to be an aging parent who needs our help to sustain their life, then some form of forgiveness will be agreed. See, its all about family, no matter what Krugman says.

As noted, Greece is a minor issue. Imagine those scenarios playing out globally ? Lenders suddenly realizing that their chances of repayment are diminishing, asking for their money back, and no-one being able to find the cash. This is the Gloom scenario, similar to what happened in 2007 / 2008, but on a global scale, No money, then no loans, then no spending, then no jobs, then no pensions, then anarchy.

If on the other hand, what if we go the Boomer scenario, a route Joseph Stiglitz discussed in a recent article ( Europe Should be giving Greece a Break ), and Krugman’s preferred approach. Like an aging parent who we love, who made some mistakes in life, we take them in, and forgive them. Maybe they get a stern lecture, and their bank books are confiscated, but they live life comfortably. Unfortunately, the holders of that debt lose everything. Since that debt has been diffused around the world, we all almost certainly own a piece of it. So, we will all be poorer for the forgiveness, but like an insurance policy, the risk will be individually minimal. The biggest hit will be the 1% who have a larger share of the paper assets. That might be the best way to solve inequality !

Greece will probably get a piece of both solutions. They will have to transform their economy, inject some realism into their citizens, but in a way that allows for a soft landing. The other option is too fraught with the lesson the rest of the world will learn – hunker down, because you could be the next victim.

As a Boomer approaching retirement, your overriding priority is to pay down all debt. Only then, will you have some say over your financial future in a world full of angst !

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , our favourite fantasy’s ?

Are you a Boomer or a Gloomer ? Vol 66

“Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak” ! – author unknown

In today’s world, there seem, at least from my perspective, to be two opposite positions on where this planet is heading. Either you are a Gloomer, who believes that a plague is about to kill us all, WW3 is about to start in Ukraine, Greece will cause the EU collapse, the FED is causing deflation and a recession by printing money, insert your own doomsday scenario … you get the picture.

Or, you believe that we are doing better. Islam is now going to work to solve its own internal issues without outside interference or someone else to blame, our over consumption is finally on the wane, saving resources and the climate, human rights have never been more possible, science and technology will fix our health, solar is overtaking oil as a fuel, insert your own feel good story … you are a Boomer.

Normally, I use the Boomer word to describe our generation, the 46 to 66 year olds that are the biggest cohort in history. In this case Boomer, I believe, resonates in both a population and a belief context.

Of course, there are people who see the Boomers, the cohort, as nothing like the boom time in our society. I just watched a Joni Mitchell interview (on you tube), where she really disparages us Boomers. As an icon of Woodstock and a poet, she lectured on the Boomer’s parents competitive nature and how that resulted in us getting everything we wanted. We got spoiled. Drugs, birth control, free love, and an absence of hearing the word “no” made us feel entitled. The ME generation became consumers. George Carlin, in one of his famous rants chronicled on you tube, belittled Boomers as selfish, “me first”, “give it to me cause I want it” people , basically stating that we are ungovernable.

Even Willie Nelson and Jesse Ventura, in their “Lost Interviews” ( you can look it up ), bemoaned the fact that Boomers have lost their way, and were, in many ways, asleep. We love drugs, but started the war on drugs. The rebels of the 60’s, the anti-establishment anti-war crowd just spent most of the last 15 years on a bloody Eastern crusade. Free love is now abstinence. Boomers seem to have gone back on every core principle of our generation. We live in our own little world, and if we are not personally effected, we just don’t care. Kinda sounds like the vaccine discussion of today, does it not ?

Wow, some pretty damning opinions. I have not included the younger cohort’s thoughts, as we tend to discount our children’s comments as uninformed or immature – they don’t know the real world. Sound familiar ? Hearing our icon’s comment negatively, however, should give one pause.

Ok, pause over. I get that the older generation can see life thru a certain lens, but the world has changed from their day, and their inability to change is damning. Good thing we love them ! Just keep giving them smartphones, and enjoy their utter bafflement …

Today, we are curing diseases, making inroads into cancer, increasing individual human rights, eliminating poverty, keeping conflicts regional, managing population growth, using technology to save the planet, melting all types of people together into one society, going to Mars, integrating all countries into a global frame of reference – all in all, with one exception, a noteworthy path of accomplishments that we Boomers can be proud of. A path, as our work has only started as we come of age, but progress to be proud of. When the richest person on the planet, Bill Gates, is using most of his fortune to transform people and societies, well, what other time in history did the wealthy do that ? Thanks Bill, and all the other billionaires who have taken the 50% challenge !

Yes, our television news can look bleak at times. Conflict, poverty, crime, and injustice can all seem prevalent. I would argue, however, that they are actually smaller than they used to be. Crime levels are dropping, injustices are now usually individual in nature, not group or regional. The fact that the news organizations have to search hard to find individual stories is telling. Also, every time I see a Kim Kardashian story, I know we are ok. If that’s the worst they can throw at us …

My only exception, my basic worry, concerns the debt we Boomers have rung up. Governmental debt, household debt, student loans, credit cards, unfunded pensions, all these things keep me worried that we could kill this golden age we have nurtured. On the one hand, I wonder where all the money went ? Trillions seem to be missing. I would love to have someone tell me where it is, cause it didn’t get spend on things I can see. Now that’s something I would like Paul Krugman, the economist and NY Times columnist, to write about !

On the other hand, we do seem to be slowly reacting to the situation, Not wanting to go into retirement owing money, and really not wanting to pass this liability onto our kids, we do seem to have cut back on consumption, the economic horse we rode to prosperity on. Slowly, we are realizing that our wants are different than our needs, and both are higher than our income, especially our retirement income.

Pick your poison, but I am a Boomer in both senses of the word. Or, as George Carlin ranted, Boomers, be strong, work hard and play harder, gimmie more, and just do it. The results so far look pretty good.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , is Greece more like a adult kid who just won’t leave, or an aging parent who needs our help ?

Can Boomers ever Retire ? Vol 65

If half of the stuff in your shopping cart says “for fast relief”, you must be a Boomer !

As a Boomer who contemplates retirement at some point, I am filled with many thoughts, most of the negative variety. Where to begin ?

You look around the world, and see that everyone has too much debt. Whether its countries like Greece, who wrote the book on freeloading for a generation, to Japan, who have an aging population consumed with eating their young economically, few of us have the formula on how to survive and retire in today’s world.

Where did the debt come from ?Where was the money spent ? I look at public debt, like governmental deficits and pension under funding, and probably blame healthcare or our generous income distribution programs for most of it. We sure are not spending it on roads or bridges. Personal debt, on the other hand, must be mostly housing related, like mortgages, cause otherwise the other place to look is our waistlines !

Looking at statistics from a few global studies, if you have a net worth of approximately $250,000 USD, you are in the top 5% of the world. If you have a net worth of $800,000 USD, you are in the top 1% globally. Wow ! Anyone with a big house probably has that amount in assets. which probably explains the CHIP mortgage popularity, where you sell part of your future housing profits ( and thr kids inheritance ) for cash today. Of course, we do not live in Africa, China, or India, so those numbers really mean nothing. Perhaps if you are contemplating a move to Ecuador and their cheap living conditions, but otherwise, our Western standards mean you need a lot of cash saved.

We must remember that our houses have gained soo much because the underlying interest rates are at historical low levels, inversely inflating the value of our real estate, and because of the Sellers market that has existed for 30 years. Yes Sellers, as we Boomers asked for big suburban homes with property, bidding up all types of homes. What happens when the next generation, having fewer kids and wanting more of a non-car no-lawn lifestyle, start a Buyer’s market ? How much is your house worth then ? Big ensuites, hot tubs, granite, so what ? Dime a dozen…

I remember buying my first house when interest rates were 21%. I assumes a mortgage at 15%, and thanked god I was not paying the full rate, as I could not have afforded it. That row house was 1,000 square feet, finished basement, 3 bedroom 2 bath, and I paid $42,000. in 1982. That house today is going for a lot more, depending on the market. The point is, if you are counting on your house funding 30 years of retirement, give your head a shake, because you are dreaming. First, where are you going to live ? Yes, you still need some space, maybe a rental with less room ?

Sounds too good to be true, so it probably is. If we Boomers all tried to cash out, sell our houses and downsize to say, a bungalow, it would trash the market, and minimize our cash dreams.

Its not all doom and gloom. I have more than a few friends who believe that the only way they will retire before 70 is with a lottery win. Yes, a few lucky folks will realize this windfall, but the chances of it being you, well, watch out for a lightning strike first. I have other friends who believe that their health and habits are so poor, they will not live past 65 anyway, so why bother to plan for the future. Uggg.

The point is that all the surveys still show household debt at all time highs, with the average Boomer holding less than $50K in their registered retirement accounts. Both vectors are going in the wrong direction. All the experts say you need to retire with no debt, and enough savings to top up the shrinking governments pensions, aid that will start to be clawed back to fund our health care system.

Still we Boomers, buying expensive toys, funding 20-something offspring, and perhaps an aging parent, still spend to the max. I know, maybe we will just keep working forever. Forget that. Technology is already making many jobs redundant. Hopefully you can get one of those part-time Walmart jobs, while you compete with thousands of other Boomers in the same predicament as you are. How are your seasonal skills ?

So, huge debts, no savings, a housing market about to collapse or at least shrink, few jobs, poor health, little hope of a government bailout, what are you thinking ? Maybe it was about that inheritance from your folks ? Not so fast, as governments are already eyeballing that.

Of course the 1% will not have to worry too much, but they will also be under political pressure to fund poorer people’s needs. The class wars will only get meaner, inequality only worse.

This should be a wake-up call for most of us, to spend less than you earn, pay off debts, and downsize your housing while you can still buy something smaller, and have some money left over to augment your savings.

The other way is to gamble your money in the stock market, hoping for a few quick kills. Maybe if you had foreseen the oil price drop, you could have made a killing. What, you did not see that coming ? What makes you think you’re going to see the next big opportunity ?

Its never too late to wake up to reality, and start on a path to financial stability. Otherwise, perhaps investing in Purina Pet Food stock is a good bet, since you will be buying lots of it.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , boom or gloom, which way do you lean ?