Sunday, May 17, 2015

We Got Out At Just the Right Time- A Boomer Story

I began my career in Jan. of 1983. As luck would have it, I would spend nearly all of my law enforcement years in small town America. I didn't really plan it that way nor did I particularly like it at first- that's just the way it worked out for me. There were a few bumps, I tried to get out once, but as fate would have it- I would spend the better part of 25 years in small town America. They were good years mostly- until the end.

My generation, the boomers, had one foot in the lives of the Greatest Generation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greatest_Generation and the other foot in the lives of Gen Y and the Millennials. When I contrast those three generations, I am struck with awe. Only about 75 years separates those generations and yet they seemingly have very little in common. The Greatest Generation in a way- sold Gen X, Gen Y, and the Millennials out. I'm not sure the new kids have figured that out yet.

You see, old rich people run this place. That's how it has always been. People like Warren Buffet are the new plantation owners. And their job, indeed their self worth, is measured by how much they can exploit others and make even more wealth while pretending simultaneously- that they are great humanitarians.

The Greatest Generation were my teachers, people older than me, who had lived through or been influenced by the Great Depression. Most had very little, so they were frugal. I do not use the word cheap because they understood the cost and value of buying quality merchandise. Quality goods were made in America. We made the best houses, the best cars, the best motorcycles, the best guns, the best can openers. Americans made them. When we saw "Made in Japan" on a product we put it back on the shelf. Back then the government tended to side with the working stiffs and they told the truth about most things I think and if they didn't- our citizens were quick to forgive them because everyone knew they were on our side. The Greatest Generation supported government- not because they were stupid or gullible but because they believed our government was the best there was and it represented our values.

The children of the Greatest Generation were the Boomers. We were taught our work ethic from the Great Generation. We showed up on time, we fought for unions and benefits and got them, and we worked hard. What changed in our lifetimes was government. Government became crooked and unresponsive. With the death of JFK, the Vietnam War ratcheted up, and we found ourselves fighting some war that nobody really cared about. By 1971, Nixon had closed the gold window and forever ruined our currency's gold standard. By 1973, Nixon was caught in a bungled burglary of Democratic Headquarters during the 1972 elections. We were held hostage, watching Watergate proceedings on television like the Watergate burglary was the crime of the century. People lied under oath, Nixon failed to produce a segment of tape, and the whole thing seemed like some shameful charade. Eventually Nixon resigned and went away. The boomers were entering the workforce enmasse' and were starting to work through the ranks.

We had a number of other shocks, mostly economic, and the failed Presidency of Jimmy Carter which ended in 1980. I have always thought Jimmy Carter was just too nice of a man to be President.

The 80's brought about Ronald Reagan and Reaganomics, the best music ever, and a stock market bull which arguably lasted more or less through 2007. That bull market spanned 25 years- the start and the end of my working life- almost to the very month.

At the end of my career, I was hiring the members of Gen Y. They were latch key kids. Kids from broken households- the kind Reagan warned us about. Their education, their knowledge of our history and of our government was poor. They were apathetic. They didn't just distrust government, they avoided the subject altogether. They seemed to care more about computers, video games, and cell phones than actually doing something physically constructive. Like every generation, they were self absorbed and thought they were smarter than those who preceded them. I think that is a thread of commonality that we all share.

I got out of the workforce in 2007 at the ripe old age of 46. I knew the markets were about to crater at that time so I adjusted everything I had- pulled it out of equities and beat the rush into bonds that occurred in 2008. I had just enough dough set aside to make it to age 50- when I would start getting retirement checks.

I was able to do that because I paid attention to history. That's it. I have always relied on history to tell me what to do next.

After the crash of '08, worker salaries and benefits were destroyed. Production and manufacturing jobs were lost to NAFTA, Mexico, and the Pacific Rim. Government has never been worse- our leaders are nothing but pathological liars- following some unwritten historical script that must take place before the fall of our Republic. Wall Street bankers own our government now- they are part of the script. They most certainly will bring about the final collapse.

Indeed, in my short life, I have seen the Greatest Generation and I just don't think they were that great. One day there will be a calamity of such magnitude and duration that it will most certainly spawn a new sense of what is important and what is not. That's how I think these things reset.

Gen X, Gen Y, and the Millennials have inherited a mess. It will not matter who was responsible for it. The only thing that will matter will be whether or not these generations are capable of diagnosing all of the problems that this country has contracted and whether or not they can plot a course for recovery. Unfortunately, they do not have history on their side. I cannot think of one time in history, when a deeply diminished and bankrupt society realized what was happening to them, stopped it, and plotted a course for recovery that didn't involve war.

Our entire culture has changed. I look at the the young kids now days and I can't believe they are still working for the same shitty wages we have always seen without benefits. Wages haven't really moved up in 30 years. Those that do manage to get a leg up are increasingly exploited. My gal has made the leap to restaurant manager only to find herself working 60-70 hour weeks with non stop texts and phone calls during her "non working" hours. All that for a measly 50k and benefits. It all works out to about 18 bucks an hour because if a company wants to avoid paying overtime, they simply make you a manager and get around it.

I often watch her race off to work for another 12 hour day, every day, 5 or 6 days a week. This upcoming week, she has no days off. Work is like a war zone for her and she returns home exhausted. How long can people endure this? I don't know. Left with no other choices, human beings can tolerate a lot of misery.

We had it pretty good. All I  had to do was 25 years and out. Just a few eternal days, health and dental insurance,40 hour weeks with overtime and an employer/employee retirement program.

Boomers didn't sign NAFTA or get rid of Glass Steagall. We didn't lever up and exploit every would be homeowner with pick a pay loans that issuers knew would never be repaid and didn't care- because they were going to sell them off anyway while greasing an entire industry to lie about their triple A rating. We didn't steal a few trillion from the treasury either- to keep our hordes of wealth intact.

You see, old rich people run this place. The old, rich people were still in charge 10 years ago. They were in charge of protecting all the wealth they had accumulated, privatizing profits for themselves and socializing losses. They were not ashamed to steal a few trillion from the Treasury in 2008 in order to keep their estates intact- they just had to find the right people to let them get away with it- which they did.

A lot of us, a few of my older boomer friends, we got out at just the right time. I see that all very clearly now.

The Greatest Generation- Tom Brokaw called them that. Surely, it must be true if Tom Brokaw said it. Old, rich people using whatever means they can muster to hang onto their fortunes. People like Warren Buffet, the Koch brothers, Kerkorian. Come to think of it, Brokaw at age 75, is exactly the kind of old, rich guy that runs this place. Why wouldn't you label yourself a member of the Greatest Generation? In the end, it always seems to make sense.















5 comments:

PeterE said...

Quoting Brian;

"Old, rich people exploiting an entire country to keep their hordes of wealth intact. People like Warren Buffet..."

Me thinks that old money can keep us kicking the can for a while still.

At least we'll be good at kicking cans by the end.

Anonymous said...

Brokaw retired to Montana, according to a map seen elsewhere, which has the lowest ratio of 'immigrants' (Muslim refugees) to Americans of all 50.

Idaho has one of the highest.

Falcon said...

Wow great articl - Sad but so true.

Anonymous said...

Brian, NAFTA and the great sucking sound began in early 90's. Automotive suppliers to the big 3 were the first casualties. Now our government will be selling us out to pacific rim. If our representatives gave a shit we would tax the piss out of overseas mfg goods with a huge VAT and eliminate corporate taxes on US based product. Streamline immigration as feed-stock for the jobs created and establish a flat tax.

Anonymous said...

Bleak dude, very bleak.

I'm a bit older then you and never did anything else but work for myself-I never worried as my philosophy has always been, make the money, spend the money, make some more. I earned and spent lots.

Still with the spending part of that, I was a millionaire by 49, almost in spite of myself. That's cash in Nevis, not some liability vs assets stuff.

Was being the operative word here-it sure is different being broke in this country now as opposed to being broke in 1990.

So now I'm old(er) now & broke on top of having a skill that, to say the least, ain't in demand.

Being the optimist that I am, I'm planning on getting wealthy again-it's actually kind of exciting.

I hope the shooting part of the story holds off until I've gotten a pile together again-I can still keep my groupings tight but my reflexes are definitely waning a bit.
MM