The 2020 Federal Election: Another Exercise in Bi-Partisan Gaslighting by Generation Greed and the Media

The U.S suicide rate had increased 13 years in a row – even before the coronavirus, shutdowns and economic collapse hit.

As I noted here…

Although this increase in suicide is terrible enough as it is, what is worse is that while most people don’t kill themselves, a higher suicide rate is an indicator of other things.  How most people feel about life. Their health and psychological well-being.  Their economic circumstances.   Their sense of inclusion in family and community. And those who have been committing suicide in larger numbers – since the early 1980s in fact — are the generations that followed Generation Greed, the richest and most self-serving in U.S. history, those who made the choices that led to the collapse of family and community, an increasingly worse economy generation by generation, and public policies that benefitted themselves in the present (now the past) by cashing in the future (now the present).

But you won’t hear about this massive economic, social and spiritual catastrophe during this federal election.  Not one word about the real lives and future of more than 200 million people, a number that keeps growing.  It is under Omerta, part of a seemingly shared conspiracy by both political parties and the media.  Instead what you get is tribalism on both sides, meant to distract the victims and give them someone else to blame – each other.  Increasingly marginalized people yelling “Black Lives Matter” and “White Lives Matter” at each other, when the reality is that to those who have been taking more and more and putting in less and less for 40 years, none of them matter.  No wonder we also have a political catastrophe.

To read anything about the actual lives of ordinary people, especially all those born after 1957 or so, you have look all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.  After the jump I will repeat a post by the U.K.’s Intergenerational Foundation, with its permission, in full.

And add some commentary.   Because as bad as it is there, it is worse here.  Here is the reality of a nation in decline that our leaders, pundits and journalists won’t tell us about, because it doesn’t fit the approved narratives.


The COVID-19 pandemic is putting intergenerational solidarity under severe strain, as young generations are bearing the brunt on behalf of older generations who are vulnerable – with few signs of reciprocal acknowledgement…

Early lockdown was a time of solidarity and unity. On both the national and international level, old antagonisms were shelved as, together, we fought an invisible enemy. Or at least that is the story we tell ourselves. Six months on, the camaraderie of clapping for carers, and suburban cul-de-sacs breaking into a chorus of “We’ll Meet Again” has faded as we desperately work out who to blame for the crisis.

In the international context we see this in Trump’s attempted rebranding of COVID-19 as the “Chinavirus”. But in the UK in particular, the most pronounced battlelines that have been drawn are those between generations. The recent spike in cases has been overwhelmingly attributed to young people aged 20–29, who have not listened to Matt Hancock’s plea: “Don’t kill your gran.”

There is a key intergenerational tension at the heart of the pandemic, in that lockdown, social distancing and other vital public health measures are primarily for the benefit of older people more vulnerable to the virus, while the costs of these measures have been imposed overwhelmingly on young people.

The young are two-and-a-half times more likely to work in the worst-affected industries, so have borne the brunt of job losses and income squeezes. Moreover, young people have suffered most from the casualisation of labour markets, and thus are more likely to have been forced onto zero- hours contracts and other flexible work arrangements, which in turn has seen them slip through the cracks of the furlough scheme.

And on top of this, going into the pandemic young people disproportionately found themselves in financially precarious situations with two-thirds of their incomes going to essentials, little savings and limited access to credit, so they could least afford fluctuations in their income.

Meanwhile some, mostly older people, actually saw their wealth rise over lockdown(!) due to a forced reduction in inessential purchases.

But the unequal distribution of the burdens of COVID is not limited to finances. Even the claustrophobia of lockdown was not experienced equally: unsurprisingly, people aged 20-29 have the least average living space per person, and are the least likely to have access to private gardens.

More generally, as Dr Daisy Fancourt of UCL has argued, although lockdown rules are manageable for a family with stable housing and at least one parent that can work from home, they conform badly to the logistically more complicated lives that many young people lead.

It is much harder to follow the rules if your housing situation is unstable, or you’re a single-parent keyworker with small children and very limited childcare options. The impossible situations that many young people find themselves in go far in explaining why young people have been more likely to experience an increase in depressive symptoms than any other age group.

The fact is that despite the narrative of a nation coming together through shared suffering, people’s experiences of lockdown have varied dramatically, with young people coming out on the bottom precisely because of the accumulative impact of years of intergenerationally unjust public policy in employment, housing and healthcare.

Note:  emphasis mine.

And indeed, as Gabriel Winant has argued (in his article “Chronopolitics: The young are trying to save the old”), “these generational burdens are piling up further as joblessness, homelessness, and indebtedness take their toll most of all on them – a toll that will be all the more powerful the more care we take to meet what is our real ethical and epidemiological obligation to our elders [my italics].”

Against this background of intergenerational injustice, it is of little surprise that the government has failed to articulate a positive message for young people to take their intergenerational civic obligations seriously, and have instead fallen back on the rather narrow and flat demand to “not kill your gran”.

What is required now to get young people invested in what is quite literally the health of the nation is a radical vision for how we can reverse their marginalisation and what the Italian philosopher and activist Franco “Bifo” Berardi refers to as the “slow cancellation of the future”.

At an ever-quickening pace, young people are seeing their futures gradually stripped away as job opportunities dry up, and the possibility of enjoying a standard of living similar to their parents is being foreclosed.

All this while we sleepwalk impotently toward environmental oblivion, and increasingly atomised communities and workplaces intensify what Bifo refers to as the “psychic frailty produced by precariousness, competition and loneliness”.

These problems will only deepen when we face the inevitable question of how to pay for the crisis. As sociologist Gøsta Esping-Andersen observed back in 1999, “A new, asymmetric ‘chrono-politics’ appears to be displacing the old political frontlines when it comes to welfare state support. Not only is the median voter aging, but as the necessity of financial cuts mounts, the need for trade-offs mounts.”

The current political conflict is asymmetric in at least two ways. First, older people are structurally better positioned to influence government policy due to better organisation, and the fact that they are the primary mass political constituency of the current regime. And second, as Winant argues, “the young are not interested in reducing old-age benefits but rather increasing other ones.”

It is remarkable in itself that ending the triple-lock on state pensions is even on the cards. The election and subsequent re-election of a government, which consistently polls over 60% with voters over 65, with an explicit agenda of defunding welfare and educational programmes that help the young, show that this commitment by the young towards the old is largely unreciprocated.

Emphasis mine.  Note:  in the UK the triple lock is a promise that no matter what happens to everyone else, increases in spending on benefits for today’s seniors will at least match the rate of inflation, or more likely exceed it. 

Therefore, given the recent preference of governments of making spending cuts instead of raising taxes at times of fiscal difficulty, the policy preferences of older voters are more likely to be enacted.

But there is cause for some cautious optimism. There seems to be a growing consensus that our response to the pandemic cannot further entrench generational injustice, and of all the surreal experiences of 2020, we face the prospect of a Conservative government raising taxes on capital gains, pensions and inheritance.

Not in the United States.  The Trump Administration cut these taxes and tried to wipe out Obamacare for the young, while promising that those already old will not have to sacrifice anything.  Those working the system to the max can now have $100,000 in income and not pay a dime in federal taxes.

Candidate Biden wants Social Security benefits for the richest generations in U.S. history to be increased $2,400 per person per year, all paid for by later born generations who are paid 25 percent less, on average, than Baby Boomers had been at the same age.

And while he won’t admit that although payroll taxes would not be increased – for now — for those earning less than $400,000 to pay for it, his proposal does little about the fact that Social Security is going to run out of money. It also does not ask for any additional taxes on the rich benefit income of unionized public employees, or the retired.  Only later-born workers wage, contract, and freelance workers.  In fact, a proposal with over 200 Democratic co-sponsors would not only increase benefits for today’s seniors, but also cut the federal income taxes of the best off among them.

Out in Michigan, now-famous Governor Gretchen Whitmer was elected to that office by promising to exempt the retirement income, now being paid to the rich generations that got gold plated pensions, from state income taxes – even though many later-hired auto workers are now temps paid $15 per hour.

Despite the fact that Michigan’s total state and local tax burden, per $1,000 of its residents’ personal income, has fall from somewhat above the U.S. average to significantly below average, even as its infrastructure and public services fall apart.

A similar repeal of taxes on retirement income – associated with higher taxes on everyone else – already passed in Connecticut.

Continuing with the post.

Another reason to be hopeful is that, as Will Cashmore has argued, during the pandemic we have witnessed the “retemporalisation of politics”. A familiar feature of our politics is the acknowledgement that an issue is important and urgent, while the solutions are indefinitely postponed.

We see this in strange juxtaposition of the government setting an ambitious net zero target by 2050, while doing very little to make that target achievable, making it ever more likely that once we reach 2050, the target will just be postponed. In this way, politics has been “detemporalised”. Although we can always ask questions of the government, their answers are always deferred to another time: “we don’t have the money right now”, “the state doesn’t yet have that sort of technical competency”, or just “we’re not sure if the argument has been won”, and the status quo persists.

But COVID-19, in its potential to unleash imminent catastrophe, has retemporalised politics and in the wake of an unprecedented mobilisation to contain the virus, exposed as illusory the idea that the state is impotent in solving large-scale problems.

Now that it seems that our chances of avoiding a second wave increasingly depend on finding a solution to intergenerational injustice and fostering intergenerational solidarity, the possibility that there could be a similar mobilisation of state capacity to foster a fairer intergenerational settlement becomes more concrete.

So it seems that at least to some degree, there is now both the political will from those in power to pursue a recovery that promotes intergenerational fairness, and the acknowledgement that a more intergenerationally just future is possible in a time-frame that reflects the urgency of the problems it poses.

Indeed, the path to the sort of civic solidarity necessary for us to take seriously our ethical and epidemiological obligations to maintain distance, runs through the empowerment of young people. As Winant argues, “the old and the young need each other now… for the first time the immediate question of our survival depends upon resolving the antagonisms that have separated us”.

Another future is possible, but its realisation depends on intergenerational justice.


Here in the United States, on the other hand, there will be no such justice, or even the avoidance of even worse injustice, until there is some acknowledgement of how much worse off the best off but most self-serving generations in U.S. history have left those coming after.  And yet you hear nothing about it.  

Instead, those pressing additional demands and getting heard are those who are already taking more out, and putting less in, then was required of the generations that preceded them, or have been imposed on those that follow them.  Even as within each generation the most privileged get further ahead while others get further behind, in a country where the free market economy has collapsed and the government is redistributing income on a massive scale.  They demand more, and more, and more and feel fully entitled to do so.  No one dares to make the connection between the choices they have made for themselves, and the situation faced by those coming after.

Consider the smallest unit of society – the family.  The vast majority of one generation, the “Generation Gap” generation, was provided with a stable childhood by its parents, but then decided that their own desires and fulfillment were better served by breaking up the families of their children.  The poster child for those choices is President Donald Trump. And yet has anyone, in this “bitterly partisan election,” been willing to criticize him on those grounds? No one, because Generation Greed doesn’t want to hear it, because so many of its members made similar choices. No one dares to speak up in favor of responsibilities to other people – personal or social – in the middle of a global crisis that has exposed just how irresponsible we have become.

So it is with the economy, the future of Social Security, health care, state and local government.  The fact that those in later-born generations will end up paying a substantial share of their incomes for the rest of their lives, on public services and benefits, and private goods and services, that Generation Greed received but did not fully pay for, is never brought up.

Shocked at how abysmal the Presidential debate was?

What did the moderator decide not to ask about?  What did Trump and Biden decide not to talk about? Which generation are they, and Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and Grassley – from?  Where is the evidence they care about the future of this country and those who will be living in it 20 years from now? This blog is called “Saying the Unsaid in New York” for a reason.  The biggest lies are not the lies that are said, but the truths that remain unsaid.

The pandemic is likely to make things worse in the short run by accelerating what was already happening.

When America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) carried out a survey this summer, it found that one in ten of the 5,400 respondents had seriously considered suicide in the previous month—about twice as many who had thought of taking their lives in 2018. For young adults, aged 18 to 24, the proportion was an astonishing one in four.

Meanwhile, the suicide rate seems to be getting better everywhere else in the world.

Beyond America’s gloomy trend is a more optimistic story: that at a global level, suicide is down by 29% since 2000 (see article). As a result, 2.8m lives have been saved in that time—three times as many as have been killed in battle. There is no one reason. It is happening at different rates among different groups in different places. But the decline is particularly notable among three sets of people.

One is young women in China and India. In most of the world, older people kill themselves more often than the young, and men more than women. But in China and India, young women have been unusually prone to suicide. That is decreasingly the case. Another group is middle-aged men in Russia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, alcoholism and suicide rocketed among them. Both have now receded. A third category is old people all around the world. The suicide rate among the elderly remains, on average, higher than among the rest of the population, but has also fallen faster since 2000 than among other groups.

Again, when you think about these statistics, think about what they say about the lives of people who don’t kill themselves, lives that are nonetheless diminished by the same conditions.  With the loss of family and community, the ability to spend on the goods and services that the advertising industry has convinced people are necessary to live a meaningful life is all that is left.   

And as the wages and benefits of most Americans have fallen, generation by generation, even as they have been sold more, that spending has only been made possible by soaring public and private debts, inadequate retirement savings, inadequate investment, and selling off more and more of our country’s assets to those who have financed Generation Greed’s decades-long party.

Now people are faced with losing a pattern of consumption that has been the sole project of their lives, as they are evicted from their homes and their SUVs are repo-ed.  No one is talking about how they could live differently in order to have a meaningful life given the situation they have been put in, because that would require admitting that they have been put in that situation.  Something those in charge and those over 62 in general, don’t want to face.  

Although this article is about Canada, it pretty much summarizes where that generation has left us here in the U.S. as well.

When you really think about it, society is hanging on by a thread. And the thread is called massive government deficits. We’re hanging on here because the government is borrowing record amounts of money that’s been largely financed from the central banks to pay people not to work. It’s necessary, but that’s really where the story is. There’s no way you can live with this situation. The glue holding the system together is the fact that unskilled, uneducated people laid off from their jobs were deemed to be non-essential. We learned how much of the economy turns out to be non-essential.

The government decided who was going to stay open and who was going to be locked down. So a bar, non-essential. Restaurant, non-essential. Movie theatre, non-essential. There were some parts of the production sector that were essential. The medical sector, some stores. It was really quite subjective. I never realized so much of the economy was non-essential. And that’s because we really built an economy that has hinged on conspicuous consumption. And I would say it’s probably even more acute in the United States.

And we’ve just scratched the surface of what this recession is looking like. And it has been muted, because the government has doled out so much money, the way they measure income in the national accounts is actually running stronger now than it was before COVID appeared. Look at the United States, because we have up-to-date numbers. In the United States, personal income is up 12 per cent so far this year, even though wages and salaries are down 17 per cent.

How is income up 12 per cent? Because government transfers to the personal sector have ballooned 230 per cent. It’s no different in Canada. The government is creating income by borrowing money and transferring it to the personal sector. Will the cupboard ever get bare? What if it does?

All Generation Greed cares about is putting that off until they are no longer around, or are exempted from any related sacrifices.  And not having to hear about how their choices in their own perceived self interest have affected those coming after, and the future of the United States, New York State, New York City, and their own children.

They don’t want to hear it, see it, face it, think about it.  They want to blame someone else, and believe everything will be OK if only they can be put in their place.  The socialists.  The fascists.  The Chinese.   Trump. Obama.  Even as the trade gap actually soars, the debts are run up to unpayable levels, and our inability to even provide ourselves with medical masks is exposed. This has been a phony election of willful blindness.  

1 thought on “The 2020 Federal Election: Another Exercise in Bi-Partisan Gaslighting by Generation Greed and the Media

  1. larrylittlefield Post author

    There is more intelligence in the street-level economics of this electronics repair entrepreneur than anything else I have heard this year. Starting at 2:10 through 15:32.

    What he doesn’t say is that the situation he describes is not sustainable, and will eventually collapse.

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