Monday, January 20, 2020

That was not how to fix it

Back in 1986, Jerry Pournelle published an essay in Imperial Stars Vol. I: The Stars at War, in which he addressed the economic concerns of the USA's aging population as it faced the prospect of bankruptcy:
If a family can see that over the next five years they've no choice but to spend money that won't be coming in, they've got some decisions to make. Perhaps a second job, or a new source of income; but suppose there aren't any?

Sell something? But if there's nothing to sell? Cut expenses? Perhaps, although if the expenses are taxes that's not going to work either. And governments, it seems, can't cut expenses. Reagan's "cuts" were only a slowdown of increases; the 1983 budget is considerably larger (in real dollars) than was the 1982 budget. So while we talk of budget cuts, we don't mean it, and I don't suppose we ever will.

Then what's left? In the case of a family, it's obvious. Speculative investments. If you're going to go broke anyway, take a high flyer and the worst that happens is you're bankrupt sooner; at best you make enough to keep going.

Return now to the US: we have an aging work force. It is absolutely predictable that in a few years there are going to be more people retired, and fewer able to work; and somebody's got to support the retired. They're voters, you know, and they'll be organized.

Project this scenario ahead twenty years, and you can scare yourself; yet I think of no single institution, none whatever, that can and will do anything about it. All parts of our government operate on a much shorter time frame. If we had one hereditary house in Congress—heresy as it is to say—we'd at least have an institution that worried about the next decade, since its members would know they'd still be there to face the problems. They might also be concerned about their children. But we have no such institution in government, and now that the family has become relatively unimportant we don't have many private ones to look that far ahead either.

Does this mean we're doomed?

I don't know. It's sure a hell of a challenge.

How, then, can we prevent our children from cursing our memory?

The best way, it seems to me, is investment; to do what Keyworth said the administration wants to do; but do it in a big way. Look: we're facing bankruptcy. They keep projecting federal deficits larger than the whole budget was during the Johnson administration. The remedy, some say, is to raise taxes, but we all know that's asinine. All higher taxes do is stimulate people to spend effort on tax avoidance rather than wealth creation. Right now we have teams of the brightest people in the nation working for the IRS, and other equally competent teams working for their victims; the vectorial sum of their activity is zero. How is the Republic well served by this?

No: if we're headed for bankruptcy, we'd as well be hung for sheep as lambs. You're going to have deficits? Pity; but if so, take some of it and invest. Back long shots. Like space industries. Lunar colonies. Heave money at the universities. Change tax laws to provide really heavy incentives for industry to do basic R&D.

What you're praying for is a breakthrough; some way to change the very rules of the game. That's happened often enough in history, although seldom in response to deliberate stimulation; but what the hell, we're desperate, or should be.

And I mean that: we should be in a state of near panic just now. How can you look into the future and be anything but scared? The work force gets older. Our machines get older. Our taxes get higher, and our savings get lower. More and more people become concerned with "survival", the underground economy is the only thing that's booming (and what a marvelous thing that is! We get surgeons out painting their own houses, because it's cheaper than hiring it done. A real accomplishment). We ought to be scared stiff.
One thing we now know with the benefit of 34 years of hindsight: permitting mass immigration to import a younger work force is absolutely not the answer and will not prevent succeeding generations from cursing the memory of the preceding ones. Bankruptcy and a lower standard of living would have been vastly preferable.

But, unfortunately, that was not considered an acceptable option to the Baby Boomers. Now, ironically enough, and as we may be seeing sooner rather than later in Virginia, there will be war.

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Blogger Shane Bradman January 20, 2020 3:10 AM  

The Eastern European nations recovered faster than communism than the Western world will recover from the foreign invasion of mass immigration.

Blogger Rek. January 20, 2020 3:21 AM  

If only Greta had read this instead of her globohomo approved speech. There is even the part about us having to panic.

Dire times ahead indeed.

Blogger furor kek tonicus ( according to the 13th Amendment, Slavery is neither Cruel nor Unusual: MSAGA ) January 20, 2020 3:30 AM  

"How, then, can we prevent our children from cursing our memory?"

this is how you can tell that Dr Pournelle was not a Boomer. he admits the responsibility his generation has to subsequent generations, and admits that the mechanisms in place will fail the succeeding generations. thus, he acknowledges the validity of the complaints of those who shall inherit.

Boomers sit there going, "Why are you complaining about me, I made out great?"

"Heave money at the universities."

we did this.

unfortunately, we allowed the universities to use that money to create high value courses such as Gender Studies and Diversity Grievances instead of STEM and Ag.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine January 20, 2020 4:21 AM  

I wonder if the generations following us won't curse our names for not actually pillowing most of the boomers decades ago.

Blogger bodenlose Schweinerei January 20, 2020 5:02 AM  

we should be in a state of near panic just now

'We' usually are. It's just that most people's reaction to said panic is fatalistic complacency and willful ignorance, becoming, as Pournelle says, 'scared stiff'.

Blogger Amethyst Dominica January 20, 2020 5:21 AM  

All one has to do is look at the labor cost as component of GDP over time to see how much high immigration has screwed over the average American.

Where did all that extra money we were supposed to be making go?

Blogger Dan in Georgia January 20, 2020 5:38 AM  

How different would the USA be today had Bush succeeded in killing Reagan? He came close, barely a month after he office. No Reagan would've been like 8 more years of Jimmy Carter, but with more wars. I guess Putin would be the Secretary General of the USSR now. A communist Mexico would've put a wall up to keep Mexicans from leaving. Truly a different world...

Blogger Critias January 20, 2020 6:09 AM  

The current mass immigration isn't even an attempt to fix this. If mass migration was being used to fix this they'd be trying to get people from Europe to go to the USA and not third worlders who sit on welfare. This isn't about fixing it.

Blogger SSgt Snafui January 20, 2020 6:56 AM  

The most important investment in life is in your own children, where the numbers show that Boomers failed to do so, with over $20T in national debt, greater $200T in unfunded liabilities, and $1.7T in student loans...

Gen Z may become known as Generation Jubilee.

Blogger Brett baker January 20, 2020 6:58 AM  

"Let the dice fly high" is better advice than most want to admit.

Blogger CarpeOro January 20, 2020 7:22 AM  

We've also seen what happened with throwing money at universities - bigger salaries, buildings and enrollment. The results have been a steeply declining value of the end product - not just from the number that should never have gone but the dumbing down of the general curriculum to accommodate the lower baseline of intelligence. I have no clue what the answer may have been. Sometimes the inertia of bad choices further back (starting in 1910 or so) makes it so you just have to deal with it, no way of dodging the bullet. That is on a societal level. On a personal level you have to ignore much or most of the group wisdom that got us here.

Blogger Doktor Jeep January 20, 2020 7:32 AM  

They'll be cursed before they are a memory.

Blogger Ska_Boss January 20, 2020 7:38 AM  

The world that gen z grew up in is vastly different than that of the boomers. Debt, bankruptcy and insolvency are the norm for the former, whereas the latter are expecting to retire on social security and pensions promised to them by an era long forgotten. Trump may be the only one able to solve this problem, or at the very least be able to kick the can down the road for a while longer.

Blogger ZhukovG January 20, 2020 7:48 AM  

Today will likely be an interesting day in Virginia. In the Chinese curse context.

I swear, the Kursk Offensive made more sense.

Blogger Solon January 20, 2020 8:08 AM  

The baby boomers were NEVER concerned with "later generations cursing their memory." What do they care if the younger folks hate them? What do they care if the economy falls apart? They'll be dead before any of it comes to a head.

Vain, selfish, narcissistic hedons whose only concern was having more toys than anyone else.

The only bright side for the younger folks is knowing that the boomers will die alone, in a nursing home, with an obese nurse named Shaniqua who won't stop tidying up her nails while they go into cardiac arrest.

After they're gone, maybe we can pull something back together again.

Pray for their souls, and pray God has mercy on them in the afterlife, because they will find none here in this life.

Thanks for nothing, a**holes.

Blogger restless94110 January 20, 2020 8:11 AM  

"Bankruptcy and a lower standard of living would have been vastly preferable.

But, unfortunately, that was not considered an acceptable option to the Baby Boomers."

You are mistaken. As a Boomer who is living on a vastly reduced income and who has declared bankruptcy, I know personally 100s of Boomers who are doing and have done same and know of thousands more.

Not mentioned as potential "remedies" to this coming "situation" are: 1) scale back military expenditures by 50 to 75 percent, which would fund Social Security and other programs for the next 200 years, and/or 2). Do the "helicopter money" QE for people suggested by Ben Bernacke a decade ago, and proposed by MMT heterodox economists like Ellen Brown. A third, and probably the most likely would be a Debt Jubilee.

One or all 3 of these things look to be about to happen in the next decade. They are the answer to the mistaken vitriol of the Gen-X generation. The only workable ones.

Blogger A rebel without a General January 20, 2020 8:23 AM  

The sooner the collapse the better. There will always be war.

Blogger David Ray Milton January 20, 2020 8:30 AM  

Lower standard of living and an invading culture. Thanks Boomers!

Like my millennials are any better. At least the Boomers weren’t all sodomites.

Seems like the best long-term investment at the time would have been to create incentives for late boomers, Gen X, and later on for the Millennials to have more children. More people in the workforce. Outlaw abortion, get rid of no fault divorce (thanks Reagan), huge tax credits for children.

Blogger Linda Fox January 20, 2020 8:51 AM  

There are, of course, different types of bankruptcies. What you're talking about is a Chapter 7 type - you declare you can't pay, and the creditors divvy everything up (with some exceptions).
Chapter 13 - spreads out the payment schedule, to make repayment more manageable. Or, reduces the amount owed. After a period of time, during which your finances are looked over by trustees, you are off the hook.
The United States should go for a Chapter 13 type of bankruptcy. Trump would be ideal to put together a team and oversee it, as he has extensive experience with debt reduction.
This plan would look at:
- Selling off unneeded assets for market value - parks, unused facilities, buildings. That, alone, would both bring in some cash - which, by the terms of the bankruptcy, could only be used to reduce the rest of the debt - but, also would eliminate a lot of employees who were managing the properties.
- Reduction of the Federal workforce by at least 10%, concentrating that reduction in specific agencies. Employees would be given a choice - either take your EARNED retirement money as a lump sum to invest in and IRA or similar product, or, receive payments AT RETIREMENT AGE - 65 or more - that will NOT be raised, EVER.
- Move Departments/Agencies to other parts of the country, where the cost of living is lower. This would save on buildings (do NOT build or buy - rent). For those positions where the worker will not move, employ the locals. Anyone not moving is NOT guaranteed a job in the government, ever. No extended time for unemployment, no bonuses.
- Each year after, 10% of the workforce goes, or is moved to temp status, no federal benefits or retirement credits. CANNOT be moved to a permanent job without specific authorization of the Director.

That's just a few ideas. Of course, move the Federal pension to a private investment, with matching. Only way to get a pension is to serve militarily, in combat, not support, positions, for at least 5 years. After that, you may move into other occupational categories.
- ALL military support positions are to be filled with civilians, who will work for an outsourced company. They can, and will, be fired, if they steal, loaf, or otherwise don't do their job.
You may have noticed that this will eliminate a whole lot of women in the services.
Yeah, that's the point.

Blogger LES January 20, 2020 9:08 AM  

I recently had a conversation with a Bernie Sanders supporter who considers himself a libertarian socialist. He wants a decentralization of economic and political power. I told him that to accomplish that would require force. He was not opposed to violence to achieve his vision. As I see it, right now we are on a path of vulture capitalism for the 1% and socialism for the masses. Caviar for the elite and hotdogs for everyone else.

Blogger Richard Holmes January 20, 2020 9:17 AM  

that was not considered an acceptable option to the Baby Boomers VD

Yeah, this is true. I got laid off a lot in the 1980's. Finding a job wasn't easy. So yes, my budget shrunk considerably at times. A $5.00 an hour job was considered ok. Meaning you could feed yourself and pay rent and heat. Couldn't afford to buy a house, but you could move forward. Baby Boomers didn't find that acceptable, but reality forced some into it.

To be fair, I have had the same job with several different owners for 31 years.

Blogger Akulkis January 20, 2020 9:26 AM  

And none of this would be a problem if the Baby Boomers feelings hadn't been indulged by the creation of all sorts of social spending to the primary effect of subsidizing sloth and fornication.

Any program which treats a slut as if she's a widow is doomed to tremendous cost overruns, and the administration of said program is soon primarily BY sluts.

As far as I'm concerned, the Baby Boomer's Social Security funds were spent decades ago, in the wake of the Boomers marching in the streets for the creation of myriads of social spending programs.

From about age 10 to 16, I delivered the local morning newspaper, and would read it while eating breakfast. In 1977, I noticed an article buried near the back of section A (the hard "news" section) that Congress had "borrowed" hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars from Social Security.

My first thought was, "this should be front-page news," followed by the realization that it wasn't front page news because it had been going on for at least several years.

"I'm Spending My Children's Inheritance," indeed.

The locust generation can't die quickly enough.

Blogger Johnny January 20, 2020 9:27 AM  

By having a larger dependent population, the same amount of stuff has to be spread among more people, producing a lower standard of living. That is all. The real problem is that people will strongly resist any decline in their standard of living, and that makes it impossible politically to do anything about this stuff.

I don't want to name names because that would make this openly political, but watching social events, I think it only a matter of time before we elect a national government that implements unwise economic policies. Or should I say more unwise than what we are currently doing. Probably not the upcoming election, but eventually. Meanwhile we can sustain our very large foreign debt only as long as foreigners have confidence in the United States. If we start looking like a country that can't be trusted with borrowed money, all that foreign debt will start tumbling home. It will be the "1998–2002 Argentine great depression," to name a country that went through a loss of foreign credit. That's all. Not a soft landing, a black swan event. What triggered constructive action in Argentina was when they shot a couple of people in the street in the effort to retain order. And then, finally, the government got into doing some things that would actually deal with the problem.

Blogger Newscaper312 January 20, 2020 9:50 AM  

I would suggest that fracking has been a bit of a reprieve, albeit not a true breakthrough game changer as Dr Pournelle was hoping for.
Re what to sell, well there's still insane amounts of federally owned land. Only problem is purchases likely to still be financed by debt... Unless you take foreigners cash, which has different downsides.

Blogger cecilhenry January 20, 2020 9:56 AM  

Genocide your entire race for the economy, goy!

These anti-Whites would literally render cultures, languages and races extinct for 2% more GDP growth.

What does a ((("stronger economy"))) matter if your people don't exist?

Blogger Scuzzaman January 20, 2020 10:25 AM  

3/4ths of boomers are still living and they’re already a curse, a joke, and a hissing.

Blogger Steb January 20, 2020 10:58 AM  

This is Dominic Cummings' plan for the UK exactly. High risk high payoff research. Here's hoping he gets a chance to put it into effect.

Blogger Meanoldbasterd January 20, 2020 11:06 AM  

My lawyer friend (also a Democrat) stated in 2008 during the financial crisis and after my 20 minute breakdown of what was happening said that the bailouts HAD to go through to "give them (the government) time to figure something out"
12 years later he has never ventured to describe what that something is.
My advice was to eat the pain in 2008 and let the chips fall where they may.

Blogger Hammerli 280 January 20, 2020 11:15 AM  

Mass immigration didn't merely import a younger workforce, it imported a far less skilled workforce. And was therefore a net drag. A high-tech society needs fewer unskilled laborers, not more.

Having said that, Dr. Pournelle wrote those words a decade before the Internet shook the world of commerce to its foundations. And it was not merely big business that profited. If anything, small business did even better. The small hole-in-the-wall shop turning out left-handed pink widgets now had access to a global market - and could make a reasonable income from a small sliver of a vast total market. Surgeons don't paint houses any more, they go online and hire it done.

Blogger Uncle John's Band January 20, 2020 11:17 AM  

Sobering piece. Like many - myself included - he underestimated the ability of the lunatic system to keep running on hot air and optimism, but the main premise is on point.

The problem with historical analogies is how many of people there are now, and how comparatively tenuous the mass support structures needed to maintain them. From mass logistics like JIT inventory to mass dependency on big pharma, society is way less robust. The downstream of that is not hard to see.

Blogger Azimus January 20, 2020 11:18 AM  

A population that raises no children of its own is a leech population, worse than useless.

Start basing social security benefits on the number of children raised to adulthood without a criminal record. If you had no kids, you better start saving your pennies instead of blowing them on weekends in Vegas and Wine tasting tours in southern Italy. If you raised 8 healthy kids you should retire like a king, that is to say a public school teacher.

Blogger George Phillies January 20, 2020 11:34 AM  

A hereditary House of Congress? Look at how long many folks spend in Congress. Biden is around 40 years in some DC activity. Did he worry about his children? Well, not the way Pournelle wanted.

Blogger peacefulposter January 20, 2020 11:57 AM  

The USA will not go bankrupt, at least in the conventional sense. Social Security checks will still come thanks to the govt printing press.

The real question is what will those checks buy? With a rapidly shrinking and increasingly incompetent workforce, there won't be many goods or services we will be able to buy.

Blogger Akulkis January 20, 2020 11:57 AM  

I know some good boomers. However, every one of them served in the military voluntarily (either beyond their initial draft obligation, or joined after the draft ended). They are the only ones I've known who demonstrate any concern about the future and what's being left for succeeding generations to work with. I don't know if it's because people concerned for future generations are more likely to join the military, or if the military makes someone more concerned for future generations (in the form of younger soldiers even if not society as a whole.)

All the rest you could plant in the sand up to their necks at low tide for all I care.

Blogger Akulkis January 20, 2020 12:02 PM  


"They are the answer to the mistaken vitriol of the Gen-X generation."

Mistaken vitriol???

Have you had to live your life in the wake of a cloud of locusts, and every time you prepare for some opportunity, the locusts shut it down and give it away to foreigners, so that they can buy more antiques to hang on the wall, or enlarge a collection of cars they never drive or houses they never live in.

While not all baby boomers are locusts, ALL of the locusts in American are baby boomers.

Blogger Akulkis January 20, 2020 12:14 PM  

@28 Meanoldbasterd

If there's one things Democrats despise, even (especially?) wealthy lawyer Democrats, is bearing the thought of guilty parties bearing the consequences of their own bad decisions.

"My god, if my phony-baloney banker friends get financially wiped out, what ever shall I do?"

To which the reply should be nothing more than not giving a damn.

Blogger VFM 3412 January 20, 2020 12:25 PM  

The boomers are already getting theirs. Their is an assisted living place that has tripled its death rate. People needing meds dont get them or get someone elses. They fall on friday night and are found monday morning after "being checked on twice" over the weekend.

In dinning room full of diners they choke to death because no workers are there to see it. Contrary to state law. But hey they just change the records with their bosses approval.

Sad but true.

Blogger Uncle John's Band January 20, 2020 12:26 PM  

"You are mistaken. As a Boomer who is living on a vastly reduced income and who has declared bankruptcy, I know personally 100s of Boomers who are doing and have done same and know of thousands more."

Me, me, I, I, me...

The solipsism of this parasite generation is like a form of collective retardation.

This is a societal-level discussion. No one cares about your idiot anecdotal "wisdom" unless it's narrating days of the pillow, and then for entertainment purposes only.

Blogger RC January 20, 2020 12:59 PM  

As a society's time preferences shorten so does the lifespan of that society. Go Chiefs!

Blogger justaguy January 20, 2020 1:26 PM  

Bunk all bunk. The US is still the most productive country and has the most educated (by credential) and most productive large workforce. Every year we print $1T and the world just goes "ok". The rest of the civilized world is in even worse shape-- we easily outcompete Europe.

So while being "woke" is hurting us, the rest of the world is more woke and hurt more. It will not be economic issues that hurt the US, but political ones. We still have more wealth than anyone else and our poor live like Europe's middle class-- think about that. Get past thew tourist areas in Europe and the few European rich-- the bulk of Europe lives worse than our poor single mother's on welfare.

So don't be black pill-- the debt will kill us-- but work on the political.

Blogger Zander Stander January 20, 2020 3:27 PM  

So we should buy stock in Space X? I'll pass.

Blogger HouellebecqGurl January 20, 2020 3:40 PM  

They cannot resist identifying themselves.

Blogger HouellebecqGurl January 20, 2020 3:41 PM  

A libertarian socialist?

Blogger Ariadne Umbrella January 20, 2020 3:55 PM  

I suppose my question is "Who is we?" Are we talking about white, male, cisheteronormative Christian Americans? Because that is who pays taxes. Everyone else is interesting, but not "we." And, as far as I can tell, that's a pretty distinct look: pale, male, etc.

Which means, why on earth are these pale males expected to pay for the social income transfers to swarthy foreigners? We are watching that particular experiment being run in the UK. You don't just get income transfers: you get incompetent doctors, malicious nurses, vile social workers, evil mayors and roaming rapists targeting said pale male's children, male and female.

Blogger Johnny January 20, 2020 3:58 PM  

justaguy wrote:unk all bunk. The US is still the most productive country and has the most educated (by credential) and most productive large workforce. Every year we print $1T and the world just goes "ok". The rest of the civilized world is in even worse shape-- we easily outcompete Europe.

You shouldn't see this as us competing with other nations. We are the biggest tree in the forest. If we go down we pull the rest of them down with us. It is not us or them, it is the collective group.

>>Every year we print $1T>> Well exactly, that is the whole point. When you are riding high you get to borrow more than you should. That is our weakness, not our strength.

As for us being the most productive, it has been like that since the close of WW2. Damn near a hundred years. My problem is not where we are but where we are headed. It all has to mesh for our productivity to continue. If it doesn't all mesh then all at once it won't all mesh. We are still living off the social capital accumulated from the spirit of 1776. And I am predicting that we have used most of it up.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine January 20, 2020 6:36 PM  

""Let the dice fly high" is better advice than most want to admit."

We let the dice fly anytime we do anything if you're looking at things as sheer statistics.

The reason we don't feel that way is because we worship God rather than Madame Fortuna. God is faithful where Fortuna is only ever capricious.

"Today will likely be an interesting day in Virginia. In the Chinese curse context.

Better to live in interesting times than to be ruled by weakness.

"At least the Boomers weren’t all sodomites."

Neither are the Millennials, Boomer.

Blogger Daniel Heneghan January 20, 2020 7:16 PM  

@ 24 Newscaper

>>Re what to sell, well there's still insane amounts of federally owned land

You're little different than the people you decry. Put a $$ amount on everything. There is precious little land left in trust to the people (I'm not endorsing this government or any of our governments in how they have managed the People's land). Not an acre of Public land should ever again pass into the hands of private interests, for whatever reason. When the US government can no longer pay it's bills, just too damn bad for the bond holders. They should have known better.

Blogger furor kek tonicus ( according to the 13th Amendment, Slavery is neither Cruel nor Unusual: MSAGA ) January 20, 2020 8:34 PM  

i explain how you can identify that Dr Pournelle is not a Boomer.

Boomers leap forward to identify themselves as Boomer.

it's almost enough that i miss my absent pillow.

fortunately, Boomers are dumb enough that they sleep on their own pillows every night.

they're practically committing suicide.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd January 21, 2020 8:50 AM  

Daniel Heneghan wrote:There is precious little land left in trust to the people (I'm not endorsing this government or any of our governments in how they have managed the People's land). Not an acre of Public land should ever again pass into the hands of private interests, for whatever reason.
The Federal Constitution forbids the feds from owning land, except for post roads and dockyards and such. If we were going to actually follow the constitution, every national park, every national wilderness, pretty much every acre of federal property must be disgorged. Public land is bad, and that is why the constitution was writen that way.
Daniel Heneghan wrote:When the US government can no longer pay it's bills, just too damn bad for the bond holders. They should have known better.
This I agree with. It is odius debt - it would be immoral to repay it.

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