Obama and the Boomers

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In the back and forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the baby boom generation — a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago — played out on the national stage. The victories that the sixties generation brought about–the admission of minorities and women into full citizenship, the strengthening of individual liberties and the healthy willingness to question authority — have made America a far better place for all its citizens. But what has been lost in the process, and has yet to be replaced, are those shared assumptions — that quality of trust and fellow feeling-that bring us together as Americans.

Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope

presidential hopeful Obama

Barack’s ‘Oh, Boomers’ [Matt Wright / Flickr]

While most of the talk surrounding Obama these days is about his candidacy as a black man, we’ve decided to focus on another aspect of his demographic: Obama as a post-boomer presidential hopeful.

A boomer is typically defined as someone who was born after WWII, and who came of age in the sixties, and who was forced into having to take a side — they were either for the Vietnam war or against it. For Obama, coming of age during the Reagan era was a time of optimism — not division. By then blacks, women and gays had progressed toward equality; the iron curtain had come clanging down, and the Berlin wall was in smithereens. It was morning in America, a far cry from the boomers’ eve of destruction.

Obama’s post-boomer status could become his cardinal trait as he uses it to distinguish himself from his running mates — particularly Empress Boomer Hillary Clinton. All you need to do is replay the elections of boomers past to be reminded that the debating, the stumping, and the campaigning were inevitably stuck in the foxholes of Vietnam and the fraternities of Ivy League campuses. Obama, too young to have dodged the draft, fresh enough that drugs don’t seem to be an issue, is exempt from the accusations that have forever dogged Clinton, Bush, Gore and Kerry.

During this hour we’ll ask the question: how will Obama’s post-boomer status play out on the campaign trail? Will he be able to sustain his cool while other candidates self-immolate? How does a boomer’s approach to politics differ from that of a post-boomer or even a pre-boomer, such as John McCain? What would it mean for the political landscape to have a post-boomer occupy the Oval Office?

What’s your generation? How do your values and approach to politics differ from that of your parents? Or your children? Do you see the boomer presidencies of Bill Clinton and George Bush as distinctly divisive and polarizing? Or do you think harping on generational divides is a way of over-simplifying politics and human behavior? What are your dreams for the next administration?

Brad Coker

Managing Director, Mason-Dixon, Polling and Research

Leon Wynter

Blogger, The American Race

Peter Beinart

Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Extra Credit Reading

Steve Benen, Obama formally kicks off presidential campaign, The Carpetbagger Report, February 10, 2007: “The point couldn’t have been more clear this morning — Obama used the word “generation,” by my count, 12 times in his announcement speech.”

John M. Broder, Candidate Next: Shushing the Baby Boomers, The New York Times [Select], January 21, 2007: “Mr. Obama would be foolish to run solely as the anti-boomer, Mr. Lehane said, if for no other reason than that the baby boomers are the largest generation in American history, and they vote.”

Jane Genova, Barack Obama: Exploiting Baby Boomer Memories to Sideline Baby Boomers, Speechwriter-Ghostwriter, February 12, 2007: “As Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president in Springfield, Illinois, of course a chill went down my spine. I am a baby boomer. Every nuance of the Obama performance awakened memories of my youth filled with John F. Kennedy as well as the hope and promise of a new generation.”

Todd Gitlin, Boomerang, Salon, May 27, 1996: “Casting campaigns as generation wars is always a bit of an intellectual fraud. As screenwriter and essayist Jeremy Larner (‘The Candidate’) says, ‘The concept of generation is a bad and false idea that comes up in every generation.'”

Edward McClellan, How Obama learned to be a natural, Salon, February 12, 2007: “As a black candidate, he’d been too inhibited, too embarrassed, to force out phrases like “our community.” …Obama wasn’t born to be a voice of black empowerment, like Rush or Jesse Jackson. It’s not just a racial thing. It’s generational, too. Confrontational ’60s-style politics are not his bag.”

BransonSavings, The “Baby Boomer” Test: “Scoring 24 to 35 correct answers means that Branson Missouri is your kind of town full of your kind of fun because yes, you too are a ‘Baby Boomer’!”


It may sound like something new, but in a way [Obama] is maybe trying to go back to something old. If you look at Washington politics, up until the baby boomer generation became the majority in Congress — and in most of the positions of power in Washington — Democrats and Republicans would argue all day long on the floor of the Senate or the House, and they would go out and have drinks together and have dinner together and socialize with their families on a fairly regular basis. They did their combat by day, nine to five, and then after business was done, they all went out and were friendly and sociable, and it was a gentlemen’s game, and they don’t do that any more.

Brad Coker


You gotta wonder: it’s almost like [Clinton] is going to be fighting the last war. That is to say, the boomer Democrats… have been fighting to prove that we are good central Americans, and so on, who have these other leftish political values. While she’s trying to fight that war, she could potentially… be outflanked.

Leon Wynter


What’s interesting is that the overall appearance [of Obama’s announcement video] is low-context. Whereas, when you look at Hillary’s, you immediately know where you are. You’re in a drawing room in Chappaqua, in a good, solid, middle-class family home. Obama appears to be coming from the edge of somewhere. Again, in his actual text, note he said nothing about who he is, no statement of “I’m a father,” or even “I’m a Christian,” or such, which I think again plays to that same notion, that he’s going more for the ideas, and moreover, he’s not coming from any obvious context of any past conflicts.

Leon Wynter


Of course, Barack Obama has become a Christian, but he became a Christian, and he has intimate experience, from his father — well, less from his father than his time in Indonesia — of what it means to be surrounded by non-Christians. Compare that to George W. Bush.

Peter Beinart


I’ve actually seen polling which suggests that on the eve of the Iraq war, younger Americans were more supportive of the war than older Americans, interestingly which I think was true for Vietnam as well. So I think it’s not fair for us — particularly those like me who mistakenly supported the war — to suggest that it was only baby boomers who thought that this was a good idea.

Peter Beinart


There is a sense, in the national debate, that America may be becoming an old power. China and India are the young, rising powers. They also happen to be non-white powers. We are the England of our day We are the aging, mature power, perhaps fading into middle age as a nation, perhaps a step slower than we once were. And I think that backdrop — that fear of national decline, national aging; we’re actually getting older as a society too, as are the Europeans — is a real backdrop to much political and cultural debate about America in a globalized world. And that may make Obama attractive, as someone to try to turn that around.

Peter Beinart

Related Content

  • “For Obama, who came of age during the Reagan era, a time of optimism, not division. By then blacks, women and gays had progressed toward equality; the iron curtain had come clanging down, and the Berlin wall was in smithereens. It was morning again in America, a far cry from the boomers’ eve of destruction”.

    Sorry, I’m a boomer and I do not remember it that way AT ALL. We stopped the war in Vietnam. It was the Age of Aquarius. Then evil raised up its big ol’ backlash and gave us the – Star Wars at one minute to Midnight, Central American Death Squad, Ronald Ray-gun era. This rewriting of Reagan as Mr. Smilyface drives me nuts.

  • Lumière

    I’m boomer and I’m proud, but I am willing to overlook Barack’s short-comings:

    too young to have dodged the draft

    fresh enough that drugs don’t seem to be an issue

  • Lumière

    If Chris wasn’t being facetious, the Reagan presidency was a turning point for the country.

    Reagan scared the hell out of me b/c I remember from his Governor days, he wanted to kill me b/c I was a hippie.

    Barack wouldn’t have had that same history with Reagan …

  • Chelsea

    Hi Peggyue,

    One of the issues that we’ll have to ask during this show is: who is a boomer? Obama was born in 1961 and some say that he’s technically a boomer but he was still pretty young during the Age of Aquarius. My remembrance of the 80’s — and maybe it is a sanitized remembrance — was that people weren’t talking a lot about politics — not the way they are today or in the sixties. People were talking about AIDS, people were talking about making money, people were talking about divorce. My parents, who use to argue with their republican parents nonstop in the sixties, stopped arguing with them in the eighties . They sure weren’t happy with Reagan but they weren’t fighting about Vietnam and civil rights either.

  • I forget the reference (I think it was Bowling Alone), but he also came of age in an era where most high schoolers starting answering “can people be trusted?” in the negative. In this sense, its interesting that Obama and Edwards (the other candidate closest to his age) seem to rely heavily on the rhetoric of community, service and trust.

  • Chelsea: like astrological signs, with a generation you can be “on the cusp.” The baby boom petered out in 1963, so Obama can be the first Gen X candidate because he was born in 1961, and therefore on the cusp.

    I was born in 1976, so I define myself as on the cusp between X and Y.

    Hey, since Douglas Coupland wrote Generation X (and was born the same year as Barak), wouldn’t he be an interesting guest?

  • katemcshane

    I swear to God, I did not know ONE optimistic person during the 1980’s. That was when the backlash was just beginning to crush people. I worked with poor people and it was terrifying to see the end of so many programs. I saw things happen to people that you wouldn’t want to hear about. The people I knew were talking about politics, but it felt like there was no force behind a protest. It seemed, instead, that people were defeated and unable to stand up. And it got worse with every year. Seeing more and more homeless people living on the street began in the early 1980’s. It was then that I first heard people refer to the “Post-Feminist age” and, of course, I lived long enough to see that they weren’t kidding. I remember when I first went from a decent wage to making $6.75/hour in a bookstore, in 1997, a customer around my age (born 1947) came to my register. We talked about what had happened to us in the 1980’s and she said, “When we were fighting for things like welfare rights in the 60’s and 70’s, we didn’t know it was going to be us by the 80’s.” When Reagan was President, I couldn’t stand to see his face (he looked like a serpent to me), and when George Bush, Sr. spoke at my graduation in 1982, I didn’t go. I think that people born after a certain time have absolutely no idea what has happened to the culture. And if they’ve never worked on the street with poor people, they have no idea what it has been like to be the victim of these men. You could do 5 more race/class series and what you’d know would be the tip of the iceberg.

  • The first time I ever heard of Barak Obama was when he gave his speech at the Democrat convention prior to the 2004 election. Like many other people I’d been demoralized and disgusted by the spinelessness of Democrats who ever since 9-11 were letting George W. Bush do whatever evil vile thing he wanted to do. When I heard Obama’s speech (and I don’t even remember exactly what he was saying) but it was like… finally, finally, finally, finally! Someone, and I didn’t care what color his skin was, how old he was, what his gender was, he was articulate, he was intelligent and most importantly he was not kissing up and rolling over! It came as a huge relief! He poked a hole in the sufficating plastic bag that George W. Bush has been holding over our faces since September 2001. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who sat up and started paying attention wondering… WHO is that?

  • OliverCranglesParrot

    The irrelevant question never asked: Will he outlive Fidel Castro (and Raúl?) , a boogey man who came onto the scene at the dawn of generation boomer; a boomer marker who still breaths (at least that’s what we’re told)? Gerald Ford couldn’t make the stretch. One post wwii U.S. leader is going to have to outlive el presidente, just to help bury a generation boomer boogey man, so the rest of us can move on to lifting some embargoes and return to a rational cigar trading policy; ‘cus ya know, we gotta let the free market do its value-add thang unencumbered.

  • Chelsea

    Hi Emmett,

    Thanks for suggesting Coupland. His name came up earlier today — I’ll look into him.

  • The 80s were evil. Of course, some people were playing the stockmarket and doing cocaine so they might have seemed optomistic.

    People I knew were talking about politics. They were talking about the death squads in Central America and the runwaway nuclear arms race. And, remember the Ozone?

  • Lumière

    ////return to a rational cigar trading policy\\\

    Any rational national health care policy would eliminate smoking.


    If you expect to be smoking cigars, McCain is probably your choice.

  • Chelsea

    Speaking of smoking… Obama quits.

  • katemcshane

    Peggysue, thank you for that cocaine reminder. I do remember that cocaine was really big in the 1980’s. And real estate, of course. I went to a party given by a social worker I knew and a lot of doctors were there, as well. No one talked about anything but wine and real estate. The cocaine probably came before the party started.

    Peggysue, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been uplifted by your comments. Thank you.

  • plnelson

    I’m really disappointed that ROS is joining the mainstream media in reducing the complexity of politics to parodic stereotypes. First we have Hillary Clinton, reduced to a gender-based Rorschach test. Now we have Obama the post boomer.

    These labels mean nothing! I’m of the “boomer generation” but my musical tastes, my politics, my recreational activities, my focus and interests have nothing in common with my age-peers. And what does Obama have in common with HIS age peers? How many of them are literally African Americans with law degrees and a job in Washington as a US Senator?

    Both Clinton and Obama should be judged by their positions on the issues, their policy statements, their voting records, and, or course, their funding sources (remember: ALWAYS “Follow The Money”).

    I’ve already outlined my reservations about Clinton, based on her apparent strategy to choose her positions mainly on the basis of whatever seems to offer the best chance to advance her political career.

    Meanwhile, as speculation swirls about whether Obama’s color will be a factor in the race, I’d like to suggest that his biggest color problem is that he’s so green that he doesn’t have much of a voting record. And he’s smart (or cagey) enough to avoid committing himself on most controversial issues. So everyone can fantasize that he’s the candidate of their dreams. Of course, as the race heats up he’ll be forced to commit himself, and that’s when the race will get interesting. Until then he’s as big a Rorschach test as Clinton.

  • plnelson

    Speaking of smoking… Obama quits.


    Look, I think smoking is a disgusting habit. But I feel sorry for smokers; I don’t hate them. Every day at my company I pass a little knot of them in the “designated smoking area” outside the entrance. Years ago I passed by “needle park” in Zurich and saw the junkies there and they had the same look in their eyes.

    Obama’s smoking habit does not have any influence over my estimation of him as a leader. I think the media’s fascination with trivia like that, or Hillary Clinton’s cookie recipe, distracts people from the three things that matter the most: policy, policy, and policy.

  • OliverCranglesParrot

    Heh, I didn’t think my cigar/market maker joke would actually encourage a discourse on smoking. My reference goes way back…I was thinking about an old Whoopi Goldberg joke (approximately): “The government said it is illegal to have Cuban cigars in this country — and it is almost impossible to get a Cuban cigar. The government also said it is illegal to have drugs , and you can get drugs anywhere.” Up next: The political public health stylings of Rob SpinalTap Reiner.

  • tbrucia

    I remember a time when the U.S. elites got swept up in political idol worship with some guy from a Camel Lot (oops, meant Camelot): John Kennedy. And we ended up with the Bay of Pigs fiasco, we saw a U.S. sponsored coup d’etat in South Vietnam, and we watched as the East Germans erected the Berlin Wall…. Kennedy — the youngest elected president — had a distinguished war record in World War II. But he was an amateur learning on the job, and it showed… Are we ready for another young, untested, inexperienced man in the White House — simply because he is telegenic, black, eloquent, and — from the ‘right’ generation? We shall see… hold on if so; it may be a rough flight!

  • Lumière

    The overhang of the previous and administration’s policies will crush him….

  • rc21

    I would like to hear more about how extremly liberal obama is,and why the MSM keeps trying to portray him as a moderate. Also this land deal with Tony Rezko smells a little fishy.

  • plnelson

    But he was an amateur learning on the job, and it showed…

    I agree, but the fact is that NONE of the likely candidates of either party have much credible foreign policy experience. From a pure maturity and experience perspective, John McCain probably is tops but look at him: his politics are to the right of Genghis Kahn and he wants to ESCALATE our presence in Iraq! Otherwise you’ve got Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Giuliani, and Romney. All of them are foreign-policy lightweights.

  • And I hope you all are planning to do a show on Dennis Kuchinich? You could call it, Is America Ready to vote for a Vegetarian? Do Americans crave a shoot um’up Cowboy boot wearerin’ Dick Cheney, Ronald Reagan or Texas Bushwackin’ Good ol’ Boy Dubya? Does a Tofu Eater from the Midwest have a chance?

    I was in the Kuchinich camp at my neighborhood caucus in 2004 and we sent a delegate for Kuchinich to our state convention. He’s too good, too pure. Obama smokes, or just quit, doesn’t this give him a little bit of the ‘bad boy’ image that Americans love? I think a big-eared smokin’ Hawaiian black dude from Chicago might be just what this country needs.

    katemcshane, thanks, the feeling is mutual.

  • plnelson

    Does a Tofu Eater from the Midwest have a chance?


    But I hope he keeps running because NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” gets a lot of comedic mileage from Dennis Kucinich. Everybody thinks that WWDTM is a cabal of liberals making fun of the political right. But they FEAST on Kucinich, which gives them political balance.

  • I’m 22, and I am immensely excited about Obama, as are many of my peers. On my generation’s favorite social networking site, the Facebook, there are two major groups cooperating in support of Obama. The numbers change rapidly, but as I write this, one has 57,367 members, and the other has 244,197. As a basis of comparison, the College Democrats of America group has 3,479 members.

    The discussions on those groups are sometimes light, sometimes weighty; right now someone is asking which channel will carry Obama’s announcementthis Saturday, and another “How do we measure blackness?” There’s an examination of his Iraq De-Escalation Act of 2007, and then there’s a lengthy and critical discussion of the merits of his stance on gay marriage. (Obama is for civil unions, but against gay marriage.)

    The support on Facebook has given rise to a student-run draft PAC: http://www.studentsforbarackobama.com. I’m among the leadership of this group, so I’ll refrain from promotion beyond its existence.

    244,286 and counting…

  • plnelson

    I’m 22, and I am immensely excited about Obama, as are many of my peers.

    Having the support of young people today is sort of like having the support of organized labor. It doesn’t mean as much as it used to.

    In the case of labor it’s because unions are such a miniscule portion of the 21st century work force that they don’t carry much political weight. In the case of young people, it’s because young people don’t vote much.

  • John La Rue, Unfortunatly plnelson does have a point. Are you set up to register voters? A student voter registration drive might be worth considering. If you can get your fellow students out to vote you can make a real difference. Training students to serve as witnesses or observers at voting locals watching for and being ready to document corrupt or illeagal voting practices might give practical focus to young skeptics.

  • I would be concerned about youthful inexperience. I need to hear about political accomplishments. How do we know he can make things happen in the labyrinthin world of the U.S. Capitol?

    As for the 80s, I do think there were both experiences of hope and despair. It was false hope. We hoped that all that real estate money was forever and we were set for life. We hope that the civil rights moved had been complete and that women would never have to worry about protecting their own bodies again. We were despairing underneath that we knew what was going on with Iran/Contra, in El Salvador and with the disempowered in the US. I was in my 20s and vividly recall people on cocaine all around me. (I already had such high energy that I couldn’t imagine being sped up.) They all looked like idiots. Blathering on about nothing and pretending that they were the cat’s pajamas. As someone else wrote, it didn’t take long after I started doing work in the poorer neighborhoods of Boston to realize what a sham it all was. It was empty. And then it all came crashing down in in the early 90s.

    I remember feeling very appreciative in the 80s of the feminist work of my predecessors. I was free to choose a career life without reprisal. I could be independent. I thought it was taken care of. Then I learned that we had only chipped off the edge of the wall to equality and the women behind me didn’t appreciate what had been done for them and were willing to walk away from the advances. They had no fight in them. They were willing to compromise themselves by looking the other way at transgressions against other women. It’s a man’s world after all – love it or leave it. It was demoralizing.

    I’m technically a boomer – born in 62. On the cusp, as mentioned above. Don’t feel that I fit in with either generation. Could it be that Obama is more like that. A synthesis of the two? Then the question is, “Which parts did he synthesize?” and “Do you think his mix represents a right path for the US?”

  • Everybody thinks that WWDTM is a cabal of liberals making fun of the political right. But they FEAST on Kucinich, which gives them political balance.

    God bless him, he is a sacrificial lamb. Just like Jesus.

  • plnelson

    God bless him, he is a sacrificial lamb. Just like Jesus.

    I suppose it is a little bit like taking communion – WWDTM seems to regard Kucinich as part of a balanced diet.

  • I’m a boomer but I don’t think my age has much to do with my politics. I generally agreed with my left leaning Dad and disagreed with my republican Mom consistantly over time.

  • WWDTM seems to regard Kucinich as part of a balanced diet.

    As they say, vegetarians taste best.

  • rahbuhbuh

    My friends from Florida always, with such bitterness, cite their poor public schools losing funds because all the elderly don’t care and are the voting majority. If younger people don’t vote and older people do, then Obama (as the youth choice) will not have a shot with the sheer number of retiring boomers. All of the bodies formerly voting with the labor unions are now becoming nurses. How do nurses vote?

    Regarding Coupland: I love him, always have since i first heard snippets of his “life after god” voiced over strange 30 second art videos broadcasted on MTV in 1993. That alone shows my age and relevance to this topic.

    Coupland is:

    1. Canadian

    2. lately, deeply entrenched in wacky art projects including sculpting giant detergent bottles

    3. not much for politics, but a keen viewer of ephemeral cultural trends told in pithy jello or software analogies.

    i won’t claim whether or not those points will add much to the show. However, he would be intersting.

  • plnelson

    As they say, vegetarians taste best.


  • plnelson

    My friends from Florida always, with such bitterness, cite their poor public schools losing funds because all the elderly don’t care and are the voting majority

    That’s an issue that needs deeper analysis.

    My wife and I have no kids AND we have an expensive house (read: high property taxes), but just the same we always vigorously support increased funding for schools because we think education is very important. On the other hand, we have good jobs so we can afford it. Nonetheless, schools here in Massachusetts are mainly funded by property taxes, and our property taxes are higher than the principle+interest on our mortgage! And in New Hampshire, a few miles north of us, property taxes are even higher!

    Thus in most of the scenarios that pit older adults against increased school funding the REAL culprit is a tax system that relies too heavily on local, usually property, taxes. Often old people are on limited fixed incomes and have no choice but to vote against property tax increases just to stay in their houses.

  • Terrific question.

    I guess the main point of reference I have for the differences between the generations is my mom and myself.

    Born on New Year’s Eve 1946, my mom was literally on the crest of the baby boom. She grew up in an Italian Roman Catholic family outside of Boston in the 1950s and came of age in the 1960s, when she had me.

    My mom grew up with two parents. Her mom stayed at home with the kids. Her dad had a job at the Boston Navy Yard, with union wages that supported the family of four. There was a home, thanks to the VA, a new car in the garage every couple of years, vacations, television, and the seemingly endless prosperity of an era when the US produced half of all the goods and services in the world.

    Unfortunately, she was lesbian, so there was also repressed sexuality, prejudice, and sexual abuse. There were also two parents who, in many ways, were emotionally ruined by the privations of the depression and, in my grandfather’s case, the horror of war. (I wonder what it says about us as a culture that we refer to my grandparents cohort as “The Greatest Generation?”)

    I was born in 1968, at the height of the war in Vietnam–where my father was serving–and the zenith of the unrest and social movements of the 1960s. My dad left for good when I was one and he and my mom divorced. We lived in apartments. Moved five different times. Relied on public assistance in one degree or another until I was 12. My mom was first and foremost a feminist and had a string of live-in female partners.

    There was also an Ivy League education after high school thanks to financial aid and enlightened admissions policies, a lot of therapy, access to the intellectual life and culture of the city, and several (and counting) interesting careers.

    There’s a lot more, but I don’t mean to run down a list of pros and cons between the baby boomers and my generation. My point is that our different experiences as children and adults left us with different ways of seeing the world. My mom was part of a generation that worked for changes that made a real difference in my life. At the same time, she’s always felt much more entitled than I do. She’s declared bankruptcy twice and is on her way to number three. Every want is a need, and every need must be filled, whether the money is there or not. She’s owed. She’s sixty and has nothing saved for retirement.

    This makes perfect sense to me, incidentally, seeing she grew up in a world where material wealth seemed limitless, but where tolerance, sobriety, and care were lacking. So the stuff becomes the compensation for the lack of affection and relationships. And screw the debt.

    Which, I suppose, is the way I see Clinton’s generation and the boomers in general. They still identify with the social change and idealism they identified with as youths, but their sense of entitlement has gotten the better of them with age on any number of issues: taxation, social security, housing, healthcare, global climate change, terrorism. The best example of this I can think of is the back of my mom’s greenhouse gas spewing SUV covered with bumper stickers that sport progressive slogans.

    My generation, on the other hand, has done much less to effect social change. I mean seriously, what’s the banner we wave, gay marriage? It’s an important issue, but not quite Selma, or the March on Washington, or the Berkeley Free Speech movement, or protesting the war in Vietnam.

    At the same time, I grew up in the age of long lines at the gas station, the recessions of the early 1980s, Reaganomics, market fetishism, global climate change, towering debt, and an unsure future for Social Security and Medicare. I have a sense that resources are limited and have to be used wisely, but if they are, the future will be alright.

    So raise my taxes, sure, but balance the budget; give me higher fuel economy standards, but also hybrid vehicles; shore up Social Security, but raise my retirement age to 67; provide universal healthcare, but ask me to pay my share and give me access to information that will allow me to make good decisions; tighten up port security, but get us the HELL out of Iraq (and no more support for petrofascists!).

    So for me that’s the difference between the generations and the candidates. Clinton, to me, represents a sort of withered idealism that has, in practice, proved unsustainable. Obama represents a sober–but by no means dreary–realism that offers fewer grand ideas, but maybe some real hope for the future.

  • OliverCranglesParrot

    “Everybody thinks that WWDTM is a cabal of liberals making fun of the political right. But they FEAST on Kucinich, which gives them political balance.

    God bless him, he is a sacrificial lamb. Just like Jesus.”

    Jesus will make a future guest appearance on the “Not my job” segment.

  • OliverCranglesParrot


  • plnelson

    This makes perfect sense to me, incidentally, seeing she grew up in a world where material wealth seemed limitless, but where tolerance, sobriety, and care were lacking. So the stuff becomes the compensation for the lack of affection and relationships. And screw the debt.

    Which, I suppose, is the way I see Clinton’s generation and the boomers in general.

    But that’s complete nonsense!

    I’m in a similar generation to your mother and I’m a fanatical saver and always pay cash for my cars, pay off my credit card in full every month, and am a deficit hawk. I paid my way through college with summer jobs and acdemic merit scholarships so I had no student loans. But I also went to a state university to keep costs down. Today’s kids are graduating from college with house-mortgage sized debt, but they still insist on going to gold-plated Ivy’s and private schools.

    I would also remind you that in Clinton’s term they actually managed to achieve a balanced federal budget.

  • Sutter

    Personally, I’m less worried about Obama’s political experience at the federal level. For one thing, he has accomplished a great, great deal outside the federal government, and that counts. For another, intelligence and sense matter much more than experience here (which is not to say that experience doesn’t matter). Note that the current President, in his first term, had what probably was the most experienced foreign policy team one might have imagined. In contrast, let’s talk about JFK. Posts above cite the Bay of Pigs, but let’s talk about the Cuban Missile Crisis. At several points during the crisis (there are lots of great books, including one publishing transcripts of White House discussions over those tense days), JFK’s military advisors advocated a military strike on the missile site. JFK, the record shows, probed deeply, probing the pros and cons and looking hard for an alternative when the generals told him there were none. As we all know, he found one, ending the crisis. And as we’ve all learned as Soviet archives have opened over the past decade, the strike the generals were urging would have prompted a nuclear counter-attack on US soil.

    Obviously, this is anecdotal, and I’m not purporting to give a comprehensive defense of JFK, but the point stands: Thoughtfulness can be much more important than experience, if experience is wielded dogmatically and close-mindedly.

  • Sutter

    Closed-mindedly, that is.

  • What has happened with the current US executive has proven that the checks and balances in the US system don’t work, at least not in the critical short run. So the fairness, decency and dignity of the individual is crucial for the democracy, but if concern if for the empire, then there is always John McCain.

  • Lumière

    ///I would also remind you that in Clinton’s term they actually managed to achieve a balanced federal budget.\\\

    The prosperity of Clinton era was from what? his policies ?

    Come on, you know better than that. The germ of those ideas started during Nixon – laws passed during the Carter admin and policies ramped up during Reagan (remember Michael Milken?) & Bush lead to that unsustainable bubble.

    It will be years before we reap what Bush Jr has sown…

  • plnelson

    The prosperity of Clinton era was from what? his policies ?

    Who said anything about prosperity?

    You don’t need prosperity to balance the budget, you need fiscal restraint.

    The Clinton Administration (probably because one party didn’t control everything) exercised vastly better fiscal restraint than the current one. Under the Bush Administration the “party of small government” has spent the afternoon at the shopping mall with Daddy’s (make that Uncle’s) credit card. On top of that Bush’s tax cut reduced federal revenues just when Bush’s spending spree was ramping up.

  • Sutter

    Yes — the party that loves to criticize “tax and spend” has become the one thing that’s far worse — the party of borrow and spend.

  • Sutter

    RC21, when you speak of “how extremly liberal obama is,” what positions do you have in mind, specifically?

  • Sutter

    Lumiere, I agree with PLN re fiscal restraint, and I think you’d have a very hard time arguing that this was not a Clinton policy. Clinton made a very tough decision in pursuing the 1993 budget deal. It was politically unpopular at the time, and made him some enemies in his own party. Al Gore had to cast the deciding vote in the Senate. The budget showed that Clinton and Congressional Democrats (the deal got no or almost no Repubican votes) were serious about deficit reduction, and had a very real effect: Reduced interest rates from the fed, expanded investment, and sustainable growth. (Your talk of the bubble speaks to the subsequent overheating of the dotcom market, but that was later and separate.) You are correct in stating that we haven’t yet seen the consequence of GWB’s fiscal policies, but we won’t be so happy when we do: Vastly higher taxes to pay for his massive spending increases, and very possibly a move away from the dollar as the reserve currency of choice internationally (which in turn will prevent us from borrowing at nearly the rates we borrow now from Chinese and Japanese central banks, and will therefore force even more tax increases and spending decreases). It’s not going to be pretty. And to think we were on the right track for a while…

  • Lumière

    First, the congress controls expenditures, not the president.

    Second, it’s the revenues that caused the budget to balance.

    See the little bump up in revs (chart below at link) ? that was the Clinton era – notice revs started trending up from the date of his election – his future polices didn’t cause that – it was already determined.

    Do you see the expenditures dropping anywhere on the chart at the link?


  • Sutter

    First, Clinton proposed the budget, and no Republicans voted for it. So either way, it was a Democratic policy.

    Second, it was both revenues and spending. And to the extent it was revenues, those revenues were boosted BOTH through higher rates on some taxpayers and through higher receipts resulting from investment stemming from lower interest rates that all parties agree stemmed from the new commitment to fiscal discipline.

    Third, even setting aside the obvious questions inherent in relying on Heritage Foundation data, one should expect expenditures to rise — even in inflation-adjusted dollars — because the economy generally expands. The relevant question is not whether expenditures grow, on an absolute (inflation-adjusted) basis, but whether those real expenditures grow or contract vis-a-vis the rate of GDP growth.

    This is the problem with the Clinton-haters — they’re willing to distort the data in any way necessary to avoid the obvious conclusion that his fiscal conservatism (not inherent — he was tempted by pump-priming at first, and reportedly was persuaded otherwise by Greenspan and Rubin) resulted in a very healthy economy.

  • Lumière

    plnelson Says: Who said anything about prosperity?

    Sorry, I didn’t answer your original question.

    I mentioned prosperity b/c that is what balanced the budget, not Clinton policies.

    Hope this helps.

  • Sutter

    So then, Lumiere, did we suddenly become far, far, far less prosperous when Bush took office and we went from large surpluses to large deficits?

  • Lumière


    this is precisely why I don’t usually get on political threads:

    If you are implying that the heritage data is a lie, post another chart. Trust me, they all show the same thing.

    I saw a documentary that traced ideas in the Nixon administration all the way to Clinton – one was NAFTA (obviously, it wasn’t called that in the 70’s). The point of the documentary was to show how history unfolds – slowly.

    ///BOTH through higher rates on some taxpayers and through higher receipts resulting from investment stemming from lower interest rates that all parties agree stemmed from the new commitment to fiscal discipline.\\\\

    This is an interesting comment – although not exactly true ( see chart

    http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/fed/fedchart.asp ) it does dovetail with what I am saying – policies a take a while to effect the numbers so a balanced budget during the Clinton era ( not his policies – my chart shows that) had a later effect on interest rates.

    ///…that all parties agree…\\\

    Sutter, there is vast disagreement on the what effect government spending has on the economy – again the budget was balanced but government expenditures went up during the Clinton admin. This is a supply side phenomena i.e. rev based result

    The Laffer Curve:

    ///…non-intuitive aspect of this idea is that setting the tax rate too high can actually decrease revenue as well.\\\


  • Lumière

    Tax revenues reflect economic activity – if you make more money, you pay more taxes.

    Ask someone who was heavily invested in the dot com bubble if they lost prosperity.

    My point here has been that polices were in place to create the Clinton budget balance.

    Using linear regression on the original chart you could conclude that there was a little extra going on and I would agree the Clinton admin had a favorable business outlook which added fuel to the fire – but it is to a large degree, the march of history that balanced the budget.

  • Sutter

    Recognizing that this is going a little bit off-topic, I’m going to let Lumiere have the last word on this one. I want to note, though, that this all really is closely tied to the Obama question posed above. The fiscal mess we’re in — whomever is at fault — will be the key crisis faced by the next administration. Not Iraq, and short of WBD attacks, not terrorism. Our problems have been papered over by the willingness of foreign banks to lend and lend and lend. That willingness will likely evaporate quite soon. I haven’t listened to the Chalmers Johnson show yet, but we are headed toward a big, big problem, and the outlook of the leader we choose in 2008 is going to matter a lot.

  • Sutter

    Oops — wMd attacks.

  • plnelson

    My point here has been that polices were in place to create the Clinton budget balance.

    but it is to a large degree, the march of history that balanced the budget.

    Dot-com bust notwithstanding, the fact remains that US GDP has been going up steadily since the 1990’s – some years faster, some years slower but there has been no significant contraction of US economic activity. Even in the lowest part of the dot-com-bust there was never any full fiscal year, or any 4-quarter period, when it went negative. And in the last few years it has been just as robust as in the 1990’s (3-4% ann. GDP growth) So by your theory, one the budget was balanced, as long as the economy continued to grow it should STAY balanced. Yet the budget was balanced during the Clinton Administration and went back into deep deficit under Bush.

    So to suggest that these things are written in the economic stars and not the result of specific policies is simply not supported by the facts. The fact is that growth in federal spending under the Bush administration went up way faster than the economy or tax revenues, and the resuklt was a huge deficit.

    As I said above, the three most important things to consider in a candidate are policy, policy, and policy. Bush and the GOP have had a policy of wild, unrestrained spending which has resulted in a huge budget deficit despite the strong economy.

  • Lumière

    Obama declares candidacy for president

    By Steve Gelsi, MarketWatch

    Last Update: 11:51 AM ET Feb 10, 2007

    NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Sen. Barack Obama on Saturday declared his bid for the U.S. presidency in a speech that laid out an ambitious agenda of universal health care and bringing the U.S. troops home from Iraq.

    The Illinois Democrat, addressing a rally under crisp winter skies in his home state, evoked the work of Abraham Lincoln as he called for policies to help the middle class and end the war in Iraq.

    “People who love their country can change it,” Obama said of Lincoln, who hailed from Illinois. “That’s what Abraham Lincoln understood. Through his will and his words he moved a nation and helped free a people.”

    Citing the loss of U.S. lives in Iraq, he said has a plan to bring troops home by March, 2008.

    Voicing support for alternative energy, Internet access in the inner city and boosting education, Obama promised to work for change.

    “I want to win that next battle for justice and opportunity,” Obama said. “I want to win that next battle for better schools, if you will join with me — if you sense that the time is now to shake off our slumber, then I am ready to take up the cause and work with you today. Together we can finish the work that needs to be done and usher in a new birth of freedom on this earth.”

    He mentioned the challenges of imported oil, ailing schools and families struggling from paycheck to paycheck.

    He said he’d work to recruit teachers, give them more pay, make college more affordable, and invest in scientific research.

    “Let’s be the generation that ends poverty in America,” he said.

  • heaviest cat

    ARRRGHHHHHHHH! tO HELL WITH ALL THIS INTERGENERATIONAL NONSENSE!let’s all work as PEOPLE for social justice and equality. it doesn’t matter how old we are.I never thought i would hear the trite term ‘babyboomer” on ‘Opensource” one of the few remaining snactuaries for intelligent discourse these days. yes, i’m 56 years old and was ‘coming of age’ during the Vietnam war protests. And felt priviliged to be young then. But I do not recognize the term ‘babyboomer’ as an accurate or legitimate descrpition of who i am. Please let’s lose all such labels as that or “GEN X” “thirtysomething” et al. such convenient ,trite labels only serve market ideology. Let’s keep the discourse intelligent, thank you.

  • Lumière



    The economy contracted. As you say, it didn’t go negative, but it contracted enough so that the excess of expenditures over receipts returned to a normal relationship. Look close and you can see expenditures returned to its normal slope.


    The chart speaks for itself – revenues took off starting the quarter Clinton took office – could not have been his policies that caused that. It looks like receipts started to drop the last year he was in office.

    * Ergodicity essentially implies that over time, generally a long period of time, randomness gets eliminated from a time series

  • Sutter

    Lumiere, does Heritage have a chart showing government spending as a percent of GDP over time?

  • Sutter

    (Percent of real (not nominal) GDP, that is.)

  • Sutter

    (Though maybe that caveat is superfluous, as expenditures will be in the same “period” as the GDP measurement.)

  • plnelson

    “Look close and you can see expenditures returned to its normal slope.


    Saying that “expenditures returned to their normal slope” is just another way of saying that when the GOP took over Washington they returned to the reckless, fiscally irresponsible pattern of spending more than revenues that we suffered in Administrations prior to Clinton. And in fact, the upward slope of the spending curve under Bush II is steeper than any steeper administration.

    According to your own chart, federal expenditures were flatter (read: more fiscally responsible) under Clinton than under the GOP before and after. So your chart reinforces my message that the GOP is the party of fiscal IRresponsibility. Also, that huge DIP in federal revenue in your chart is largely the result of the Bush tax cut.

    If I can balance my OWN personal budget, and live within my means year in and year out, as I have for the last several decades, then so can the government. The GOP have been fond of painting the Democrats as the big spenders but with the GOP in charge of all branches of government for the last six years we can see that story for the hypocrisy it is.

    Nevermind what Bush II has done to US security, and the military with this idiotic war, or how he has single-handedly turned the US into an international pariah; just on the basis of his fiscal policies he should be charged with treason. A generation of young Americans just graduating from school now and becoming taxpayers, will be paying off this debt. Even if the budget is brought back into balance, the interest on the trillions of dollars in debt added in the last six years and still being added, will have to be paid by GenX and GenY and whoever comes next. If Obama and/or Clinton can get that message across the GOP is toast.

  • plnelson

    Bush II is steeper than any steeper administration.

    “…any previous administration.”

  • Obama did refer to his generation in his announcement but I agree with heaviest cat. This generation stuff is immaterial. Maybe he plays the generation card to separate himself from Hillary Clinton. For me it’s his being against the war that separates him from Clinton. She’s saying “if I only knew then what I know now” she would not have given Bush the war powers. Well why didn’t she know? I knew it was a big mistake and I’m just a hippy. Senator Murray from my state knew. Robert Byrd knew. She was just being politic and it’s coming back to bite her. Every generation has their power mad war hungry fascist. My parent’s generation had Hitler. Now we’ve got GW Bush.

  • Lumière

    ///…government spending as a percent of GDP over time…\\\


    This is all I can find in chart form up to 2001:


    After 2001 it is in table form – excel or PDF – example 2008


    If you download the tables in excel format you can make it into a chart.

    These guys are really on top of things – it projects to 20012 ….lollollollol

    List of all years:


  • Lumière

    ////Also, that huge DIP in federal revenue in your chart is largely the result of the Bush tax cut.\\\

    Dip started in Clinton’s last year

    Tax cut resulted in later uptick in revs (see Laffer Curve) or as the result of increase in spending?

    Probably both, huh?

    I work from nature, so my understanding of world economic models is explained in cow theory:

    SOCIALISM: You have 2 cows, and you give one to your neighbor.

    COMMUNISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.

    FASCISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.

    BUREAUCRATISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away.

    TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

  • Lumière


    The generational issue is thus:

    Getting used to the idea that the young will be making the decisions for us, just as some of us are making decisions for our elderly parents.

    Barack’s inexperience doesn’t matter if he hires good people. Nonetheless, they may be young and possessed of ideas that may make us uncomfortable – older people don’t like risk.

    I like what the kids are doing in Estonia though – flat tax and lots of economic growth !

  • Sutter

    Thanks, Lumiere. At the risk of getting political again, I think this proves what I was expecting it to prove: Under Clinton, government spending as a percentage of the economy dropped to a point far lower than it had been during any point in the Reagan/Bush I administrations. (The chart ends, as you say, but I suspect the line under the current administration would shoot upwards again.)

  • Sutter

    …far below WHAT it had been. Sheesh — I really need to proofread these before hitting submit. Sorry, everyone!

  • rc21

    To sutter; What positions do I have in mind that demonstrate his liberal minded views?

    These are a few . He has voted against permanently repealing the death tax. He voted against the bankruptcy abuse bill. The NRA gives him an F rating.

    In 2001 he voted present on a bill that would require parents to be notified if a minor was seeking an abortion. He even opposed a state version of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act,which would require medical attention be given to babies who survived a botched abortion.

    More disturbing to me are his votes regarding crime. In 1999 he was the only member to vote against a bill that would have prohibited early release for crimminal sexual abusers.

    In 2001 he voted against a bill that would have given extra penalties to crimes commited in the furtherence of gang activities.

    While in the senate he voted against confirming both Alito and Roberts.

    Is that enough or would you like some more.

    Obama is quite charming and very sly. His retoric is moderate but his voting record is liberal. If your a liberal I would say he makes a great canidate. For my self I’d have to say he’s not my cup of tea.

    I also have serious questions about his dealings with Tony Rezko.

  • Lumière

    Sutter Says: (The chart ends, as you say, but I suspect the line under the current administration would shoot upwards again.)

    Be careful – I read charts for a living !

    We are getting far off topic here, but let me say one thing about the US economy:

    The rolling over of debt is essential for the survival of this country. So long as the economy grows, the debt will rollover.

    So when we are attacked and the prez says: Go shopping ! you better believe he knows what he is talking about.

  • plnelson

    Tax cut resulted in later uptick in revs (see Laffer Curve) or as the result of increase in spending?

    You need to study economics instead of resorting to bucolic metaphors involving cattle. The laffer curve predicts that a tax cut stimulates the economy – it does not predict a one-to-one replacement of tax revenues lost to the tax cut (i.e., that 1 dollar of tax cuts generates 1 dollar of tax revenue).

    For all your verbal dancing, the bottom line remains the same – the GOP spent WAY more than the tax revenues, resulting in a HUGE deficit. The total amount of debt resulting from this deficit even if we actually manage to reach balance in the time BWB predicts is in the trillions of dollars and that will be paid for by the generation just enetering the workforce today. They should be royally pissed at the GOP and if Clinton or Obama or whoever the Dem’s pick can get that message across, the GOP will be in deep trouble.

  • plnelson

    Nonetheless, they may be young and possessed of ideas that may make us uncomfortable – older people don’t like risk.

    Risk is fine but people should be able to CHOOSE their risks. It is immoral to IMPOSE a risk on someone. The GOP has been IMPOSING risk on the public by this stupid war or by their fiscal irresponsibility.

    I’m a big stock market investor. For years I’ve had a mix of mutual funds and individual stocks. But between 1999 and 2002, when the rest of the market was in a swoon, I noticed that my individual stocks did great, while my mutual funds followed the market (down). Since that time I’ve been unloading mutual funds and concentrating on individual stocks. I’ve been WAY outperforming the market. (BTW – most people don’t realize that the average mutual fund underperforms the S&P500).

    Mosat people would regard this as a risky strategy but that’s my choice. What Bush wants to do IMPOSE risk on people, who may not feel like making that choice.

  • plnelson

    Be careful – I read charts for a living !

    So do I, what’s your point?

    We are getting far off topic here, but let me say one thing about the US economy:

    The rolling over of debt is essential for the survival of this country. So long as the economy grows, the debt will rollover.

    The only thing that’s essential for the economy is continued growth in GDP, and the only thing that’s essential for that is steady improvement in productivity, so we remain competitive on a worldwide basis.

    Debt is not necessary for either of these. While you can argue that debt might be invested in productivity-enhancing things like infrastructure, basic research, or education, it might also be invested in stupid wars which do NOTHING to make our economy more competitive. But the interest on that debt still has to be paid, and represents 17% of federal taxes so even if you roll over the principle, and those interest payments represent a drag on the economy. That 17% does not deliver ANY productive goods or services, and increasingly it’s not even peing paid to Americans, since more and more US debt instruments are held by foreign nations such as Communist China.

  • Lumière

    Could not agree more !

    Part of that post I didn’t submit was about the limits of the Laffer curve. Iraq is metaphor for our debt position – if we leave we are screwed, if we stay we are screwed. If we pay down the debt the economy contracts, if don’t pay down the debt the economy contracts by way of non-productive interest payments.

    In what regard do you read charts for a living?

  • Sutter

    RC21, with only one exception (the sex offender vote), none of these positions seem ultra-liberal to me. You are of course free to harbor your own views, but I disagree with the suggestion that he is far outside the mainstream because he voted against Alito, or parental notification requirements (was there a judicial bypass provision?), or even the gang bill (as a lawyer, I am a bit discomfited by additional penalties for doing the same thing someone else did just because it was done in connection with gang activity — generally, murder is murder, and robbery is robbery, and they should be punished alike; for this reason, I’m also skeptical of hate-crime penalty enhancements, which many liberals generally favor).

    Again, I’m not trying to debate the substance: You disagree with him on these issues and so do many other people. But they don’t make him a wacky crazy lib.

  • Sutter

    Lumiere says: “So long as the economy grows, the debt will rollover.”

    This is not exactly true. Specifically, it is only true if (1) the lenders believe the debt is still “good” — i.e. can and will be repaid, and (2) the lenders do not have better things to do with their finite resources. If the opportunity costs of investing in T-Bills become too high — if the risk and reward mix of other investments become more favorable vis-a-vis investment in US debt instruments — they will invest elsewhere, and even modest growth will not ensure that we can roll the debt over.

    Of course, even if the above were not an issue, you can’t grow your way out of debt if you don’t stop accumulating debt at a rate that exceeds GDP growth. This is PLN’s point, and on this issue we agree 100%. We’ve gone far, far off course.

  • Lumière

    Uh, I missed half doz of your posts.

    ///The laffer curve predicts that a tax cut stimulates the economy…\\\

    That’s where the additional revs come from, huh?

    Yes, ditch those MFs.

    I like cows….

  • Lumière

    I agree there are limits – so far, the economy is strong enough to have the Fed raising rates

    To get back on topic is to ask what Obama’s generation is gonna do about this stuff.

    My father just laughs – he has a good pension and his inheritance – when I remind him it’s my inheritance too, he laughs more and says: hey dude, don’t worry, I’m spending it as fast as I can.

  • Lumière

    Sutter Says: Specifically, it is only true if (1) the lenders believe the debt is still “good” — i.e. can and will be repaid, and (2) the lenders do not have better things to do with their finite resources.

    1. debt is good if revs and profits are growing

    2. lenders by regulation have to lend – when there is growth, the money lenders have money to lend

  • Sutter

    1. No, not necessarily. We’re talking about international loans here, from foreign central banks. And even if GDP is growing, the risk of the debt can be very high, particularly if debt is rising at a rate faster than GDP.

    2. No, again you’re confusing bank lending to individuals with central bank lending (really the purchase of government bonds) by other governments. The latter is what is at issue here, not the former. Nothing requires the central banks of other countries to buy US T-Bills. And if they stop buying the T-Bills, that’s the very sudden end of deficit-spending.

  • Sutter

    (And, to your point, the end of debt roll-over. Domestic financial institutions don’t buy sufficient quantities of U.S. government bonds to continue to finance the debt.)

  • Sutter

    For a better understanding of how this all works — and in particular how the era of foreign willingness to finance U.S. debt might come to a sudden end — I recommend this article: http://newleftreview.org/?page=article&view=2625 . I don’t claim that the New Left Review is nonpartisan, but it’s a mostly economic, nonpolitical article.

  • Lumière

    Sutter Says:

    1.We’re talking about international loans here, from foreign central banks.

    2. No, again you’re confusing bank lending to individuals with central bank lending

    1. I was thinking about biz loans – the availability of credit to fund domestic growth

    Milton Freidman said: look if the Chinese sell our debt it will pass from weak hands to strong hands

    this is terminology that all traders understand: there is always a greater fool.

    2. The ability of the feds to fund the debt is based on the economy producing tax revs. – if our economy is growing then gov debt is a safe bet for central banks

    Proof is in the pudding – foreign banks are buying & long term rates have been dropping over the last 20 years


  • Sutter

    If my daughter’s economic security rests on there always being “a greater fool,” God help us.

  • Lumière

    That rate chart is kinda interesting – if the risk was going up, rates should go up – but foreign banks kept buying all the way down

    Only In America !

  • Lumière


    the Dutch invented the greater fool theory in the 1500’s –

    it has been working for almost 500 years !

    As they say on Wall St: Dont fight the tape !

  • Pingback: jacksnupple: Time Well Wasted » Obama to Quit()

  • Lumière

    Maybe we could get back on the generation topic if we looked at the probable final 4

    I see 3 populists and a hawk.

    Remember the great society programs?

    Is that gonna be the answer this time? Or will Bill Cosby come into play?

    As for the hawk – is anyone tired of, as plnelson said, the waste of productive resources?

    One issue not addressed on the Chalmers Johnson episode is what happens to the empire when you close the bases – I think we have a huge social problem in that the returning seabees may not have job skills given that we have exported our manufacturing to where the bases are.

    Funny thing about the hawk – he is probably the only one who de-militarize this country.

    Which brings up the question for all 4:

    can they get elected if they tell the truth & are there enough voters able to think through the policies?

    I’m ready & able to think these things through precisely b/c my age comes with experience.

    ….. and I vote.

  • Sutter

    With apologies to the ROS crew, I’m just having a very hard time seeing this in generational terms. As PLNelson says, it’s mostly about issues, and those aren’t dividing on boomer/post-boomer lines. After that, to me it’s about judgment: How will the next President deal not with the issues we expected him or her to deal with, but with the unexpected issues? While there’s no way to tell what the candidate’s views are going to be on these new issues, we can look for good judgment and hope that it will be exercised in times of crisis. But while judgment may improve with experience, it too defies generational lines.

    Sure, I could write about how Obama might be able to envision the post-entitlement landscape better than boomers who grew up expecting their social security checks, or how Obama might be less inclined to see the needs of the elderly because of his youth, but I don’t really buy any of that. Well-informed views on the issues and good judgment come in all shapes and sizes, in all adult ages, in all ethnicities, and in all (not just “both”) genders.

    As the comic Jack Handey once said, in a Saturday Night Live “Deep Thought,” “I hope that if dogs ever take over the world, they don’t choose their leader based only on size, because I bet there are some chihuahuas out there with some pretty good ideas.”

    (Lumiere, we’ll have to continue the economic debate in some more pertinent thread — for now, suffice to say that I wish I had the luxury of putting my financial future, and that of my daugher, in the hands of “Hakuna Matata” fiscal policy.)

  • Lumière

    I apologize for this being way off topic, but coincidently I saw this – don’t worry about your financial future – ‘da boyz’ are working overtime to justify the inverted yield curve.

    But S&P says, in effect, that we shouldn’t be worried.

    Their argument, which appears in the Feb. 14 edition of flagship newsletter The Outlook, is that global capital flows have made this country’s yield curve less important than it once was. As Alec Young, S&P’s international equity strategist, puts it, “Capital flows around the world more freely than ever — meaning the global yield curve is far more relevant in assessing U.S. economic and profit trends than its domestic counterpart.”

    What’s the current picture painted by global interest rates? To find out, Young turned to a global yield curve in which each country’s individual yield curve is weighted according to the share that its gross domestic product has of global GDP. In contrast to the U.S.’s inverted yield curve, this GDP-weighted global yield curve is positive right now, according to Young.

    “We believe this helps explain much of the recent resilience of both the U.S. economy and corporate earnings in the face of the inverted yield curve in the United States,” Young concludes.

  • Lumière

    Back to the generational thingy – we have to wait and see what Obama does – if he does something new and radical it could be called generational – don’t think it will happen, but if it does, Chris will have given us a heads up.

  • OliverCranglesParrot

    No, it’s not Jack & Rexella, it’s just good ol’ JHK waxing Obamamania

  • Lumière

    I thank you for this:tighter rictus

  • Ben

    The rhetoric of the political landscape has been spoken in the style of previous generations for a very long time and seems to only become a more inept caricatured version of itself. How is one supposed to transcend the limitations of the past without abandoning knowledge of and a comfortable attachment to it? As leaders, it remains to be seen if he or peers will bring further entrenchment in the simulacra of the culture wars of the 1960s – 80s and the myths of the 1930s – 1950s as much as they may steer the conversation into the actual 21st century and its own problems and potential.

  • Compare and contrast the dueling video hats each tossed in the ring:


    She’s restoring the “American promise” from her comfy, tasteful suburban couch by the terrace garden door, her traditional family photos in the background.

    “I grew up in a middle class family…in the middle of America… and we grew up on that promise.”

    “While I can’t reach everyone’s living room, I can try.”

    Read:”While I can’t be Oprah, I can put almost as much money behind projecting this reasonable yet tough, responsible Mom image. And I do have a few friends who are or have been in high places.”

    I find it very telling that she found it necessary to remind us that she’s a daughter of middle-class, middle America. Clearly she sees a need to distance herself from representing electric blue New York. But I wonder if she won’t be setting up a “middle America” versus “next America” competition with Obama in the process. This is clearly a much more difficult hand for her to play.

    OBAMA (funny, but calling him Barack just doesn’t feel right):

    There’s a much lower context to his video: he’s .not necessarily a dad or especially male/fatherly; no obvious class/race/gender signifiers.

    The only culture context offered is a modern cool: open collar shirt (you could imagine it not even being tucked in) cool background colors (ice-blueish shirt versus Hilary buried in warm earth tones). The only thing warm is his mocha skin.

    Net effect: he looks warm against the cool, somewhere near the edge, while Hilary looks relatively cold (though putting great effort into sounding warm) deep inside the warmth of her suburban living room.

    Obama necessarily focuses more on his motivation (read: his qualification) than his background, of which he says nothing. He’s responding to a “hunger” for a different kind of politics, especially the “smallness” of our politics, what with all the big money that’s “gumming things up.”

    Read: I’m an outsider looking to connect with all of you who feel outside of the money/power/ agenda that still dominates Washington, and the institutional memory that keeps us going around in the same basic circle, no matter who is driving the car.

    Though it seems unnecessary to say, it must be pointed out: even running on two separate browser screens, he REALLY makes Hilary look old. As unseemly as it may become, once they get on the same screen every night, popular media will have an awfully hard time ignoring this unstated context. This could very well be about his youth versus the feminist politics of aging, rather than race or gender per se.

  • gular

    The only reason Obama is being discussed around the country is because he is black. Because he is the first black man to run for president, the coverage nation wide is equivalent to possibly $100 million of free advertising. If he does an adequate job he will be elected President because of the HUGE advantage he has for name recognition because he is black. This is the same for Hillary Clinton, if her husband was not a former president no one would be even talking about her.

    How else did a simpleton like George W Bush get in office for TWO terms – association/name recognition – not because he was an outstanding candidate.

    (for this discussion let us not get sidetracked by the stolen elections)

    Finally – I heard on report say there are 17 indivduals looking to run for President – can you name more than 3?

  • OliverCranglesParrot

    Because he is the first black man to run for president, There have been others before Senator Obama; most recently Alan Keyes and Jesse Jackson. Perhaps we can embrace the Recent single-origin hypothesis and reorient our views … or not Multiregional hypothesis.

  • Potter

    But what has been lost in the process, and has yet to be replaced, are those shared assumptions — that quality of trust and fellow feeling-that bring us together as Americans.….. Barack Obama

    I think he has that right. The “boomer generation” split the country and the crack has widened since. It started with Nixon- partisanship that stayed trhough the presidency….. and it continued through Reagan Bush and the “Great Divider” GWB. I don’t know if it can be repaired so easily, I’d like to hear what he has in mind, but to note this fact is important.

  • DanJaffe

    This is my first comment ever to ROS. I totally agree with you, Pinelson, that this framing of Obama’s candidacy in “post-boomer” terms is as silly as framing Hillary as a Rorschach test and, frankly, ought to be beneath ROS.

    But I’m sorry that you, like many others, are so quick to dismiss Obama. I am totally smitten with him. He is clearly a liberal or progressive or whatever term we are using these days, but he presents his positions better than any progressive I’ve seen in ages and 2008 just might be a “liberal moment” in American history—with the right spokesman.

    Underpinning this is a real depth of character and perceptiveness that makes him so special and makes him appeal to people who might not buy into him if it was just a matter of a laundry list of positions. How am I so certain about that character—the kind that JFK had, that Havel has? I’ve read his first book, Dreams from My Father. I’d really like to hear from people who have read it. I don’t want to ignore the issues, but someone who has lived the life he has, grappled with the issues he has, and seen the world with his intelligence is coming from a vastly different place than Hillary or even John Edwards.


  • Sutter

    Leon Wynter, I think you hit on something important (though I’m not sure you’d agree with me about the interpretation): The real difference between Obama and Edwards, on the one hadn, and Hillary, on the other is that Hillary shares the (Bill) Clintonian focus on keeping the middle class in the Democratic coalition, whereas Edwards has thus far aimed his message at the working classes, and Obama has been a bit vague. I for one think that it’s critical to keep the middle class in the coalition. You can still be progressive and recognize as much — Mario Cuomo saw how important this was, for example. I generally prefer Obama, but if he doesn’t learn this from Hillary she could pick me off.

  • Sutter

    Dan, I picked up Dreams a week or two ago and have been debating whether to return it. I’ll let you know if I read it.

  • drpeacerose

    I just finished Obama’s new book and I wasn’t as impressed as I expected to be.

    It’s a nice little history of the US according to Obama and features some stories about his life and family, but I didn’t detact the FIRE I need to hear when he was talking about the “have nots.” It seemed a little vanilla to me. Edwards has a lot more fire!!!!

  • Sutter

    This is why I might read “Dreams of My Father” but will never read “The Audacity of Hope” — books by modern American politicians are invariably vanilla. “Dreams” was written when Obama was back in law school, and so might actually say something.

  • J Dub

    I think the pivot is not post-boomer but post-civil rights movement. White prople just go bonkers for a black politician who is identity is not invested in trying to try to get back at whitey, or remind whitey that his ancestors bought black people. Obama’s work as a community organizer was not about enfranchisement, but about capitalizing on enfranchisement (I may be spitballing here). And this engenders his synthetic worldview.

  • jonallen

    If you want fire in the belly, Obama’s not your man.

    If you want intellegent dialogue that might actually accomplish something, that’s what Obama has been refining for most of his adult life.

    Sure, JDub, “white people just go bonkers for a black politician who’s identity is not invested in trying to get back at whitey”, but Obama is so much more than that.

    He is one of the few valedectorians of American politics of any complexion who knows what is possible in this nation in the 21st. century.

  • Lumière

    This show is ‘lite’ on issues & analysis

    “cool with a nice mocha color”

    Sounds like political analysis by interior decorators…

  • DanJaffe

    Good comment jonallen. I totally agree.

    J Dub – I’m not sure what you meant in your comment about Obama’s work as a community organizer (or about spitballing, even though I’m nuts about baseball). But if you were thinking that he saw his community as already enfranchised (because the old civil rights era was long past), that would be way off-base, at least based on what he wrote in Dreams from My Father. The community was poor, the people were definitely powerless, treated awfully by bureaucrats, and exploited by politicians and his organizing was not much different than old-fashioned Alinsky organizing. But again, one of Obama’s greatnesses was that he saw all of the people he worked with as individuals, as each so unique in circumstances and outlooks as to defy simply broad-brush characterizations.


  • katemcshane

    This was one of the most interesting shows I’ve heard on ROS. I have to say that, at first, I was put off by the idea that Obama was “against” boomers, because I felt a bit alienated, even though I haven’t liked any of the politicians you mentioned as being part of the boomer generation. Tonight, though, in this discussion, I began to feel hope for the first time. Leon Wynter is VERY interesting. (I think I’m more interested in bloggers as guests on ROS than academics.) And I liked what Peter Beinart described about what Obama could offer. I like the recognition of what this country looks like, who lives in this country. Perhaps because I’m not married and not mainstream, I do not identify with soccer moms and middle class people in general. So, I’m open to anyone who recognizes who people are in this country and around the world. I grew up in an all-white working class neighborhood in Philadelphia, and as soon as I got out of there, I looked for as many people who were different from everyone and everything I had known. I like to live in the world. As Leon Wynter and Peter Beinart discussed, Bush is clueless about these things, but for me, he’s just the last in a long line of out-of-touch presidents. I don’t care how charming people think Clinton was — just on the basis of NAFTA, as far as I’m concerned, he was appalling.

  • Sounds like political analysis by interior decorators…

    Are those giant blue Venetian blinds behind him? What does THAT mean?

  • BOOMERS FOR OBAMA is fun to say. Might look good on a Boomers Bumper.

  • babu

    peggysue: I swear I think you’re starting to chanel Molly Ivins for us. Every time you land one of your high voltage five-liners, I hear her voice. You go, girl. It’s a high road with a great view.

    So I think this discussion, has ignored the obvious fact that Barak Hussein Obama the man and now hopeful, is a 100% product of the american realpolitik. We boomer dinosaurs have scrapped and scrubbed the landed gentry’s laundry for the last 50 years to set the stage for him. And t’s been a fabulous ride. This is not the same country it was in 1957 and those forces raised up Barak. I’m GLAD he’s NOT older.

    But I am worried that he’s thrown the dice too early. It could be that that’s all he’s doing: rolling the dice. The Dems in DC have been so muzzled that the younger ones have never crafted a Bill, never worked the aisles, found common ground. They’ve had GOP duct tape over their mouths and around their wrists. I don’t blame Obama for taking a look around and thinking “I’m not going to cut bait around here for twenty years.”

    I loved the comment about his video that said that the warmest thing about him was his skin. It was almost too good to be true. Hats off to ROS for putting that moment together and on the air. BTW, where does this fit into the series about black men?

    Now we have to see who wants to buy him and what he ends up selling.

  • babu

    peggysue: You know, I’ve had a soft spot for Joseph Biden ever since he led the Senate Confirmation Hearing for Clarence Thomas w.r.t. Anita Hill. To this day I remember his even, gracious, intelligent, empathetic handling of a tricky and despicable public spectacle. I listened to the Hearings for hours and remember finding much to admire and respect in him.

    Barak Obame may be an inheritor of political capitol we banked for him over that.

  • David Weinstein

    I’m a boomer for Barack. My inspiration and support has nothng to do with age or any of the other categories mentioned in the press or by the pundits. I simply have the feeling that he is the best America has to offer among all the candidates. I think like John Kennedy we have the making here of more than an adroit politician, we have a leader who can heal old divides and inpsire this country to live up to its potential greatness while solving the enormous problems we face today.

    Of course Barack must begin to offer specific solutions to these looming problems: global warming, healthcare, education, endemic poverty… It will be interesting to see how he will balance his natural gift as a conciliator with leding the country to solove these central issues of our time. I’m betting that he will be up to the challenge.

  • Sutter

    In a roundabout way, this show convinced me that generational issues matter more than I had thought. The conversation kept returning to Vietnam and Iraq as boomer bookends of sorts, and in other spots couldn’t escape the sexual and racial politics of the 1960s. As an Xer, I have to say that it all felt somewhat foreign. I of course recognize the significance of these events, and feel their reverberations, but they are not guiding political lights for me (nor, I think, for others in my generation). I got the strong sense during the show that while boomers are — as Barack suggests — still in many ways caught up in the campus battles of the late 60s and early 70s, Xers approach politics with fewer scores to settle, less ideology, and more pragmatism.

    I don’t mean this as an attack on the boomers — we Xers get to be pragmatic because boomers fought so many of the important battles for us. Our pragmatism may well result from the fact that our political coming of age took place in much more banal times. But I also wouldn’t mistake the Xers’ pragmatism for indifference. It’s nice to be able to pick what works and cut out what doesn’t rather than being stuck within the orthodoxy of a particular ideology, and there may be some grounds for hope that when a new generation comes to power, some of the screeching shrillness of contemporary political discourse might, finally, subside.

  • Lumière

    Did the irony of what he is doing get by everyone?

    He is saying this is generational thingy so let’s stop the us & them routine of the boomers

    boomers vs Barackers

    Same deal, different croupier

    He doesn’t have a chance unless he grasps the fact that this is a numbers game – what I heard is gen-x-ers don’t vote in primaries.

    Nelson is right, without specific policies this is all populist poppycock at this point in the game

  • Shaman

    not poppycock.

    After 6 years of

    Bush’s bullheaded, religio-doped, politics of defense

    the clarity, breadth and positivity of Obama

    is just damn


    He renews the notion that politics is

    ‘the art of the possible’

    and not

    ‘the defense of the indefensible’.


  • Lumière


    Populist: “Vote for me and I will make the gov solve your problems”

    How will he do it?

    If he can tell me how he will do it, he has my vote.

    Two things:

    1. Most of the things he wants to solve have been worked on since Lyndon Johnson – e.g. why do we still have poverty?

    2. I don’t think one can get elected if one tells people the truth and that truth requires analytical thought

    regarding #2. the real solutions require sacrifice – sacrifice requires the ability to see beyond the next ten minutes. The bulk of the species isn’t wired to do that – our society is based on immediate gratification – one reason GWB could sell the ludicrous war: it would be over right away !

    It is too early to tell, but he has my attention….

  • plnelson

    But I’m sorry that you, like many others, are so quick to dismiss Obama. I am totally smitten with him.

    But being “smitten” is an emotional reaction, and we’ve seen, in Iraq and elsewhere, what happens when we make big decisions based on our gut. In the end it will come down to Obama’s policies.

    Anyway, in today’s headlines it’s being reported that Obama is furiously backpedaling and apologizing for his recent comments that the lives of over 3000 US soldiers have been “wasted” in Iraq. Apparently many people take issue with the idea that our young people’s lives were “wasted”.

    Still, if you take a valuable resource, like a human life, a dedicated, patriotic, highly trained young person with their whole future ahead of them, and sacrifice it needlessly and carelessly, and with no demonstrable benefit resulting from that sacrifice, why isn’t waste the operative term?

    It’s like that line in A Few Good Men : “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth! “ The American public cannot handle the truth that the current Administration has gone out and wasted the lives of our young people.

  • Lumière

    On Charlie Rose Mark Halperin just said Obama inspires emotions

    The implication is that emotionalism is good.

    What happened to John Dean’s candidacy?

    Politics of personal validation?

    How I will any of this solve problems?

  • Lumière

    Nelson/Sutter – did you see this?

    U.S. Jan. federal budget surplus $38 bln vs $21 bln yr-ago by Greg Robb

    WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – The U.S. posted a budget surplus of $38.2 billion in January, the Treasury Department reported Monday. The surplus is slightly below the $40 billion estimated last week by the Congressional Budget Office. There has been a dramatic improvement in this year’s budget outlook compared with last year. The January surplus is 82.4% higher than the January 2006 of $20.9 billion. Through the first four months of the fiscal year, the deficit has fallen to $42.2 billion, down 57.2% compared to $98.4 billion in the same period last year. Receipts in January rose to a record $260.6 billion compared to $230.0 billion in the same month a year ago. Outlays in January rose to a record $222.4 billion, compared with $209.0 billion in the same month one year ago.


    I don’t understand the premise. To me Obama brings out the idealism I felt in my college days as a year-before-the-boomers person (’45). I was at Berkeley but not a radical. I still feel very idealistic and see in him a possibility of my hopes fulfilled. If I continue to trust in his judgment as I learn more about him I don’t see why his inexperience will hinder him. He’ll be more open to the many advisors and opinions around him and choose wisely the road to take on issues before him. I don’t hear him as an alternative-to-boomer at all but an inclusive candidate.

  • jazzman

    In order to win the nomination, a politician must capture the imagination of the electorate, i.e., the voters perception that candidate with positions most closely aligned with their own is the one for whom they vote.

    The selling of that perception is the tricky part and where the politics comes in. It may be an appeal to idealism, the sense that the candidate is member of the larger group with which we identify, or that they are the only one with a chance of winning, or the only one with viable ideas to solve the challenges that confront us or the nation. This is largely accomplished by fallacious appeals, misdirection, ambiguity (weasel wording) and constant high visibility, repeating the message like a mantra. As plnelson stated above, people in general do not want to reflect on what may be seen as Al Gore put it: An Inconvenient Truth, they want to believe that there is a magic bullet answer to the seemingly insurmountable challenges and who can blame them?

    The candidate who best convinces the electorate by whatever means, that they have the magic is the one who will win. Obama is no liberal, but neither is Hillary or Edwards. Kucinich is probably the most liberal but he has the proverbial snowball’s chance of either getting the nomination or winning the general.

    Whoever becomes the Democratic Candidate regardless of experience in foreign or domestic affairs, they are to me, far preferable to the likes of Romney, McCain, or Giuliani, or Gingrich and would be hard pressed to be worse than who we’ve had for the last two terms.


  • Lumière

    If McCain had as part of his platform to begin to de-militarize this country – would you vote for him?

    Assume everyone else followed suit after his polls numbers went up.

    This is an example where you have to understand power – McCain could do it, Hillary or Obama couldn’t.

    Feeling good about what your candidate says, doesn’t work in this example.

  • gular & OCP,

    Because he is the first black man to run for president and then There have been others before Senator Obama; most recently Alan Keyes and Jesse Jackson.

    Don’t forget Al Sharpton not to mention Shirley Chisolm and Angela Davis (not only black but female). Davis was on the communist ticket. I’m sure if you counted all the communists and socialists there would be lots more black candidates.

  • Hey Babu, good to see you here – thanks for the compliment (it would be such an honor to channel Molly Ivins I think I’ll light my candles and get out my Ouji board).

  • If McCain had as part of his platform to begin to de-militarize this country – would you vote for him?

    I think that is a pretty darn big IF!

  • Above Lumière and Sutter apologized for getting off topic in their discussion of GDP and debt funding, but I think in many ways you were at ground zero (pun intended). It is critical to frame the Iraq war, government spending, GDP growth or decline in the larger picture of capital accumulation and crisis. Many people are against the war and see it as a aberration based on the whims of neo-conservative thinkers and evangelists. Though this is not incorrect, it is only the foreground of the picture. The background is the important role of war to solve the crisis of excess capital, labour and capacity that arises. If this crisis is not resolved or avoided, ever-expanding GDP is not possible. To do this, huge amounts of government spending, a large part of it on the military, is required.

    The question is how to solve this crisis or potential crisis in a way that is by the people and for the people (globally speaking) and not by the special interest groups and for the special interest groups.

    Any politician that addresses this question is right for the job. Let the campaign begin.

  • plnelson

    Above Lumière and Sutter apologized for getting off topic in their discussion of GDP and debt funding, but I think in many ways you were at ground zero

    Fiscal and economic policy is CENTRAL to choosing a candidate.

    Regardless of what people think of its far-right op-ed positions, I have long argued that the Wall Street Journal contains more real news than any other big daily newspapers.

    Most newspapers and all TV news networks will lead with dramatic stories about train crashes and plane crashes and bombings in Baghdad and eight feet of snow in Buffalo and who won the Super Bowl. But none of those stories have a DIRECT effect on the lives of more than a handful of people who see them.

    But boring financial news about interest rates and commodity prices and exchange rates and the money supply and employment levels and all that other dry financial stuff has a bigger impact than any of the “if it bleeds it leads” stories.

  • rc21

    It is all that boring financial news that helps keep this country running at a pace in which we all can find success and prosperity.

  • plnelson

    It is all that boring financial news that helps keep this country running at a pace in which we all can find success and prosperity.

    Exactly. That’s the important news. Most newspapers bury it in the back somewhere. It’s also AMAZING how little most Americans know about anything to do with money. The average American can’t name the top 5 items in the federal budget; they don’t know the difference between a budget deficit and a trade deficit; they don’t know the difference between the deficit and the national debt; they can’t read an annual report; they don’t know what “earnings” mean, etc, etc.

  • candreola

    Great topic! As for the discussion – boomers bashing boomers, post after post. whatever.

    Obama is sooooooo my guy.

    Yes. I’m genX.

    I think a great book that explores these generational interactions is from the social science / marketing duo of Strauss & Howe. Their book The Fourth Turning lays it out very nicely.


    They use archetypes to explain how the different generations interact with each other and how they respond to the world. They argue that the generations behave in a consistent way throughout their lives. As a result they argue for recurring cycles in US history that can be predicted according to the behavioral aspects of the generations. They can’t predict events but they do predict how the generation will respond to events.

    The Boomers are a “Prophet” generation.


    What they’re really good at is creating a vision and believing in it no matter what happens. What they’re not so good at is making that vision a reality – because they won’t compromise on their vision. Usually because they’re so busy trying to convince everybody else to believe what they believe. Al Gore doing the “Inconvenient Truth” thing is the perfect embodiment of the Boomer world view. He’s not gonna solve global warming but he’s gonna convince everyone else that we have to! Go Al! George Bush? He believes his Iraq policy is right no matter what anyone says or what contrary evidence is presented! Now that’s a Boomer! Traditionally the best leaders in America shared this archetype. Sadly, we got a bunch of duds this time around.

    GenX is a “Nomad” generation.


    Their perspective can be described as “nothing matters and what if it did?” They’re not joiners, they’re pragmatic and happy to do tough work but don’t expect them to “believe” in it too. They do it things because they need to be done or they’re grtting paid. Of course they’re just as happy to work on “good” issues as “bad”.

    All “astrology” and pseudo-science comments will be happily ignored.

  • Lumière

    ///….they don’t know the difference between …..; they don’t know the difference between the ……; they can’t read …….; they don’t know what ……., etc, etc.\\\

    They must be having way too much fun.

    Now, gen-x:

    ////He’s not gonna solve global warming but he’s gonna convince everyone else that we have to\\\\

    Lots of people (boomers) are working on global warming – it didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be solved overnight.

    Gore’s role is to bring it into priority – this facilitates getting more support to those working on it and makes the concept politically acceptable.

    Gen-x-ers are mercenaries?

  • rc21

    pln, Most Americans may not know much about the federal budget, our economy,earnings,deficit or other financialy related items, but apparently millions of people from other countries do,because they are flocking to our shores,just to have a chance to participate in the whole thing.

  • Peggy Sue @ work

    It is all that boring financial news that helps keep this country running at a pace in which we all can find success and prosperity.

    The thing is we don’t ALL find success and prospeity. With vast resources being diverted to war, critical services (health, education ect.) get cut. We are now even cutting vetern’s services just while we are creating a great need for them.

    Historian Howard Zinn (of the “great” generation) says “All war is class war”. He is correct because the wealthy profit when wars are fought to protect their interests. But the interests of the wealthy are being protected at the expence of the common good and particularly the poor suffer. For the most part (with the rare ivy league execption) those who join the service are those who can not afford to go to school. Those who, for whatever reason need to rely on societal support find it lacking.

  • plnelson

    pln, Most Americans may not know much about the federal budget, our economy,earnings,deficit or other financialy related items, but apparently millions of people from other countries do,because they are flocking to our shores,just to have a chance to participate in the whole thing.

    That’s right, and thank God for them because they’re keeping the economy going.

    I would guess a third of the new hires (scientists and engineers) at the company I work for are from India and China. And some people we hired a few years ago have already left to start new companies of their own. The Indians and Chinese have a great entrepreneurial spirit, both in their own countries and here in the US.

    But the problem with most Americans not knowing basic economics is that they are easily duped by politicians who promise them that they can do everything for free – increase government programs and spending while cutting taxes AND eliminating the deficit. My guess is you may be able to do any 2 out of 3.

  • rc21

    pln, Your words are true. Remember it is much easier to get someone to vote for you if you promise them everything for free. Free health care, free education, you name it it should be free according to some politicians. It’s called socialism by most people.

    Imagine trying to tell a voter how a free market economy runs. How it benefits the rich as well as the poor, through job creation. How by lowering taxes we allow for more investment and risk taking by small independent business owners. How showing people, through hard work and frugality and proper decision making success is possible for all. This is a much tougher sell.

    It is much easier toj ust promise them everything for free and then slowly and in small increments tax and fee them into submission.

    Even when things are free people want more. Read Peggysues above comment . She laments that education is being cut. When in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Spending for public education has been on a steady increase for several decades. But it sure sounds nice and makes us miserly evil people look bad for even suggesting money earmarked for education is, and has been wasted for years with no appreciable educational gains being made. That is why your company has seen an influx of foreighn workers. I’m going off on a tangent so I will cease. But I wonder how much spending is enough ? My guess is to PeggySue and others like her there can never be enough government spending on social programs.

  • rc21

    peggysue, At the end of WW2 the govt spent 1,214 in inflation adjusted dollars per student. By 2002 that figure stood at 8,745 dollars per student. Spending has been steadily increasing not decreasing. You are a believer in myths.

  • Potter

    Regarding the belief in myths RC21 uses statistics that are referring to elementary and secondary school spending. We can ask WHY the need for more spending beyond inflation adjustment. The cost of living ( not only inflation) is higher relatively speaking- including needing to provide more for kids than we ever did to be ready to support themselves in a more complex world. Two additions to spending that I can think of beyond more expensive textbooks are computers and teacher salaries which include health benefits that have skyrocketed.

    I believe Peggy Sue was referring to college costs prompting those who cannot afford it to go into the service.

    I will not get into this discussion with you again RC21… you know the one about state schools raising tuition and appealing to the wealthy. Peggy Sue’s point is another facet of that topic…

  • Potter

    I forgot- this is a link to RC21 statistics.


  • bft

    Lumière What happened to John Dean’s candidacy?

    probably Howard Dean

  • rc21

    Ok Potter, I’ll tell you what, let me have 8,000 dollars and I will do 10 times the job educating my kid than what the govt does. By the way if 8,000 is not enough, then tell me how much is enough . 10K ,15K 20k . Let me know how high we need to go.

  • Potter

    RC21- I doubt it.

    Check out what per-pupil spending includes.

    Privatization of schools widens the gap between rich and poor, already a problem with the way schools are financed ( through property taxes).

    It’s not what it costs to educate an individual child which might vary wildly, but the average to educate a community, a nation of children with varying needs ( including “special education”). The problem is equity; the per pupil spending figure averages poor districts with the wealthy. The wealthiest districts can spend double the amount spend in the poorest. No doubt there is need for reform.

    Interesting article refuting your POV:

    Why Money Matters

    See also recent review of California K-12 school funding:


    This is off topic. and I do not want to continue.

    I made my point which you have not acknowledged instead side-stepping, morphing the discussion to funding education for K-12.

    Peggy Sue was referring to college costs prompting kids to sign up for military service, war-making, in the name of national security ( choke), taking money and attention away from solving problems at home.

  • Coming in late to the conversation – listening to the podcast now.

    Lydon “Obama as a generational candidate against the boomers”

    I was born in 1967. I’ve never felt that I’m a ‘Y-er’ or anything ‘generational much at all – but those are handy tags.

    But .. yes. I keep reading and seeing things from ‘Boomers’ that astound me; as if you’re stuck in the 60s and you just don’t get that – maybe – things have changed.

    I’m not arguing that we should throw everything old overboard – that way lies, well, the mistakes the Youth Movement from the 60s made. What came before has value.

    But we shouldn’t hang on to useless cultural trinkets and conventions. When it makes sense to change, change.

  • plnelson

    But we shouldn’t hang on to useless cultural trinkets and conventions. When it makes sense to change, change.

    But, like Obama himself, these comments are just platitudes and short on specifics.

    Have you ever heard ANYONE suggest that we should “hang on to useless cultural trinkets” or that when it makes sense to change, we shouldn’t change? Is there some candidate or party that has those as its platform?

    Obviously the debate is about WHAT we should change, and in what way. And I have not noticed a substantial generational divide in that respect. War in Iraq? National debt? Maintaining a competitive, properous economy? Climate change? Health care costs? Et Cetera? Can you cite any positions on these issues that distinguish Obama from the boomers in this forum? My biggest complaint about Obama is that the way he’s avoiding specifics makes him look like a much more experienced politician than we thought he was.

  • rc21

    pln That is basically the point I was trying to make earlier. If anything Obama seems to be the consumate politician. Bobbing and weaving his way through issues like Ali bobbed and weaved his way through many title fights.

    His comment on wheather he favored big govt or small govt always struck me as typical politician bs His reply “”I favor smart govt” As if everyone else favored stupid govt. What an illuminating response to an incredibly difficult question. I’m sure we will see more of this as the campaighn progresses.

  • rc21

    Potter, regardless of why we are spending more for public education,the fact is we are. These numbers have been adjusted for inflation. It is factualy untrue to say spending for public education is being cut. The truth is it has been on a steady rise for over 40 years. There may be cuts to certain programs,but spending has been on an upward trend for quite some time. I just wanted to point this out. We don’t need to let false statements go unchallenged.

    In peggysues post she spoke of cuts to education. She did not specify what kind. I assume she meant public education at all levels.

  • acoates

    I don’t mean to seem flippant following the meaningful conversations above, but I clicked on this because it was titled “Obama and the Boomers”. Why is he considered young at 45 and I’m old at 47? Exactly how much experience does a person need to have policies and the wherewithal to make them work for the nation? GW has experience. I’m not sure that’s what it takes.

  • pmcbroom

    I’ve just listened to your podcast on Obama and the boomers. Fabulous! When your guest said Obama looks like the country now and promises to be able to talk to the rest of the world with more sophistication and less bluster, my heart said “YES, FINALLY!” And I’m from the Cold War generation. Please don’t forget that many women are different in these political respects from men and some of us — well educated, world savvy, feminist at heart — are desperately tired of holding up an alternative to the military-industrial complex. A little help from a serious presidential candidate feels like water in the desert. Why not Hillary, then? Unfortunately, I don’t see her as leading this reassessment of national post-Cold War priorities. As much as I loved having President Clinton in office, he did not do that reassessment and it was a huge lack.

  • CookiesAndCream

    [This comment has been deleted. Please refer to the rules. — Greta]

  • jzachar


    I have a quick question regarding the global yield curve that you mentioned a while back. This subject is of particular interest to me because I believe it is currently driving the strong world economy. I know that Japan’s low interest rates have had quite a large impact on offsetting the rising US interest rates in the global yield curve (or at least I think that is correct). Do you know of anywhere that I can get information/charts regarding the global yield curve as I think it is a very important measure and would like to find a source that can consistently provide this information?

    thanks in advance

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