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

February 18, 2015

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 ?

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