There and Here, Generation Greed Wants Everything but Refuses to Pay For Anything

Who, in a decade or two, will want the job of changing former President Donald Trump’s diapers, and who will have to pay for it?  

As I’ve said for years, The Donald is THE MAN of his generation.  A generation that came to interpret freedom as freedom from responsibility, to a greater extent than the generations before or after.  For those on the so-called “right,” it was freedom from social responsibility — to the community through paying taxes, to the planet by conserving natural resources, and even, it turns out, to those around them by wearing masks and getting vaccinated.  For those in the so-called “left” it was freedom from personal responsibility, to family members, or non-family progeny, when personal fulfillment, or sexual gratification, or just wanting to get high made that responsibility burdensome.  That has been the story, but not the fact.  In reality Trump, like the majority of his generation, was against any responsibility at all, social or personal.  Eventually, however, he and those of his generation will age to the point where they require custodial care, care that is either hugely expensive or personally draining to provide.  To be provided and paid for by whom?

I bring this up again because it would appear that in the UK, the generation that demanded lower taxes on itself is now demanding additional old age care for itself, paid for exclusively by the less well of generations to follow. Generations already on the wrong end of slashing social benefits for children, while putting a triple lock on a guarantee of benefits for aging adults.  Thus continuing to align Generation Greed’s economic, social and political choices with what, at least here in the United States, have been the personal and family choices of many, if not most.  All while engaging in a culture war to distract attention from what they, collectively, have done.  But there, unlike here in the U.S., generational inequities are at least talked about.

If you happen to be a comedy writer or comedic playwright, hold that thought about Trump’s last days.  I’ll have a suggestion for you at the end of this post, one that could bring 40 years of economic and social trends home to the later-born in a way that perhaps lots of boring data and analysis that you’ll have to get through first does not.

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I read about the new UK proposal in two articles in The Economist magazine.  

https://www.economist.com/leaders/boris-johnson-deserves-credit-for-reforming-britains-social-care/21804374

The UK, like the U.S., has been left deep in debt by the generations that have run it for the past three decades, and yet is now facing rising costs for the growing number of very old people who require custodial care.  Care once provided by family members, prior to the sexual and social revolution of the 1960s.  Many seniors who end up in nursing homes, or in need of similar services, will end up draining all their assets to pay for that care, before ending up on the dole – if the national government can still afford the dole. 

The Economist approved of an increase in spending on today’s seniors, even though there (as here) the generation now in old age has been far better off throughout their lives than the generations to follow.

To reform care, he will cap care costs at £86,000, beyond which the state will foot the bill. The main beneficiaries will be elderly homeowners and their heirs. Although they may not seem like the most deserving beneficiaries, helping people share uninsurable risks is a worthy goal for governments. The NHS is not means-tested, and it is reasonable to move social care in this direction, too.

But The Economist did not approve of the plan to pay for this exclusively by raising the payroll tax on disadvantaged younger workers.  The retired and the rich (receiving capital gains) will pay nothing more.

A measure that insures the estates of the elderly against catastrophe should have been funded by levying an insurance premium on older people in the form of higher taxes on property or inheritance. The government instead decided to raise all the new money by lifting national insurance (a payroll tax) and taxes on dividends. Outrageously, income from pensions and property will escape higher levies, meaning many well-off elderly voters will be spared from paying anything for a reform of which they are major beneficiaries.

Had the government raised income tax instead, every generation would have contributed. Mr Johnson says that national insurance is preferable, because firms pay part of the cost. This is a fiction. In the long run the burden of payroll taxes, even those paid by companies, falls on workers, whose wages fall as their employers’ tax bills rise.

Especially since the later-born are stuck being “independent contractors” and “freelancers” and paying both halves of payroll taxes themselves.  So the Brexiteers are going to raise taxes on younger pakis and chavs to pay for the toffs! 

The UK could also have raised the VAT (Value Added Tax), which everyone (including the rich and the retired) pays as they spend money.  (In the U.S. we don’t have a VAT, just payroll taxes, and we don’t have a universal health care finance system that includes those under age 65, like the NHS or those of other developed countries, either).

Among the disadvantages of higher payroll taxes are the economic effects.

https://www.economist.com/britain/boris-johnson-at-last-grasps-the-nettle-of-social-care-reform/21804364

The levy will also introduce new distortions to the tax system. A firm using a self-employed contractor will be spared the 1.25% charge; one employing someone directly will not. Economists fear that this will encourage bogus self-employment, undermining both the fiscal base and workers’ protections.

Sound familiar?  The self-employed accounted for more than a quarter of New York’s private sector positions in 2019, a share that has soared in the past three decades.  Elsewhere in the U.S., even assembly line workers are hired as “temps” or “freelancers.”

There, as here, the payroll tax on work income has been raised repeatedly while the income tax has been cut – to the benefit of those with investment income (like the rich), retirement income (which the later born will largely not receive), and lots of non-wage benefit income (like unionized public employees).  All those who have been grabbing, grabbing, grabbing for 30 years.

As the basic rate of income tax fell from 30% in 1980 to 20% today, nics (payroll taxes) almost doubled, from 6.75% on most workers’ earnings to 13.25% including the new levy. 

If these objections sound like something I might have written about the U.S., you are right.  While in the UK it is the right wing “conservatives” who want to raise taxes on the poorer later-born to provide even more to the richest generations, here it is the Democrats who made a similar proposal – to “expand Social Security” for current better off beneficiaries while handing the bill to the later-born.

Then again back in the early 2000s, while engaging in the second of three rounds of drastic cuts in income taxes on the rich and corporations, the Republicans also added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, during the administration of Bush II.  To be funded entirely by soaring debts the later born have to pay back.

And before that, is anyone else old enough to remember what happened when the Democrats proposed expanding health benefits for seniors, but also asking them to help pay for it?

And that was before Generation Greed.  Like the Republicans, the Democrats haven’t really given a damn about anyone born after 1957 or so since.  Given what the Republicans have done, the Dems think the youth vote is in the bag anyway, so why do anything or it?

Already, here in the U.S., the later-born pay a much higher share of their incomes in taxes than do those older (and the rich), thanks to the payroll tax and a host of exclusions for seniors at the federal, state and local level. 

These breaks for the old, and many of their public benefits, were put in place at time when each generation was better off than the ones before.  But for nearly five decades the reverse has been true — the later born are poorer on average, increasingly so.  The Social Security Administration found that the average male born at the back end of the Baby Boom in 1958 earned 10 percent less than the average male born in 1942.

This was offset, for a while, by rising income for women as they became integrated into the labor force, at least for the minority of households in which people got and remained married.  With women now having mostly “caught up” in educational attainment and work opportunities, however, they have joined the falling income trend, a trend that started with the less well educated but has now reached those with graduate degrees.  

The analysis linked above only covered the generations that had already reached age 62, but the Social Security Administration could also tell us how much each generation had earned, on average, by age 40 and age 50 too, if it wanted to.  To show where later born generations are heading.  Based on household surveys, however, the average Millennial is paid 25 percent less than the average Baby Boomer had been at the same point in life.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/playing-catch-up-in-the-game-of-life-millennials-approach-middle-age-in-crisis-11558290908

As hard as their young adulthood has been, however, being young is an advantage in and of itself.  Thus, the social and economic generational disadvantages that have been dumped on the later-born by Generation Greed will really become terrible for the later born when they become old themselves.  Multiply lower career wage earnings by the underfunding of Social Security and the average Millennial will receive 40 percent less from that program than the average Baby Boomer, while also not getting the other retirement income that prior generations received.

And they’ll get that income for fewer years, as the life expectancy of those born after 1957 has been falling for decades, to the point where overall life expectancy had started to fall even before COVID-19, as disadvantaged generations started to reach the age of early death.

Will the generations that put freedom from responsibility ahead of their children’s future ever face a reckoning?  What will happen when the tax cutting, I’ve got mine jack generations reach deep old age and require custodial care?  Won’t they still expect to get everything, and pay for nothing?  Aren’t they planning to promise themselves even more, and then demand that someone else keep those promises?

In the UK the answer is apparently yes.  And here, as well, our aging leaders in Washington have a sudden interest in spending more on “the caring economy” – to benefit those generations who were characterized, in the majority, by a lack of caring.

And if our broke government, with total debt soaring as a percent of GDP as both political parties battle to show who cares about the future less, can’t afford more caring, what about the family?

Here is the underlying issue.  Prior to Generation Greed, a much higher share of people put family (and community) responsibilities ahead of personal preferences.  But while perhaps two-thirds of the members of Generation Greed benefitted from stable families in childhood, only one-third of their own children did, at least here in the U.S.  And now, as Generation Greed reaches deep old age, they will create yet another crisis for everyone else, one that I predicted back in 2014.

In the book Basic Rights

https://press.princeton.edu/books/paperback/9780691202280/basic-rights

Professor Henry Shue argued against the classic liberal (we would say libertarian) idea that only social obligation of adults is to avoid actively harming others – to avoid reducing their security.  People have additional obligations to others as well, Shue said, and subsistence rights are just as basic as security rights.

For everyone healthy adulthood is bordered on each side by helplessness, and it is vulnerable to interruption by helplessness, temporary or permanent, at any time…The infant and the aged do not need to be assaulted in order to be deprived of health, life, or the capacity to enjoy active rights.  The classic liberal’s main prescription for the good life – do not interfere with thy neighbor — is the only poison they need.  To be helpless they need only be left alone.

Prior generations of adults met their responsibilities to their children and parents to have that behavior serve as a model, so their children would feel a similar obligation to meet responsibilities to them in old age, individually and collectively.  Back then old age, decline and death were not out of sight and far away, but close at hand and visible.  A larger share of people thought about the end of their lives in the middle, and acted accordingly.

What was it, in the end, that convinced Ebenezer Scrooge, in A Christmas Carol, to be more concerned about his family, neighbors and employees?  The Ghost of Christmas future, and the thought of ending his life alone, un-mourned and poorly remembered.  

https://victorianweb.org/art/illustration/green/66.html

In addition to or in place of families, back in the day far more people joined mutual aid societies and contributed to them, in large part to ensure that someone else would provide care for themselves in their last days, support for their funeral, and aid to their families afterward.  

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/16222

People died quicker at the time, but there were still needs and expenses to be covered in death.  Helping others outside the family was yet another responsibility.

Consider what PBS tele-journalist Bill Moyers told the 1988 graduates of the University of Texas, where my sister attended college.  

https://www.csmonitor.com/1988/0727/ubread.html

Listen in some quarters and you will hear predictions of worse days ahead: that the United States, like empires of the past that lived beyond their means and took no thought of the morrow, has begun an irreversible slide. Because we have not been investing in modern industries, because we have been cutting back on our investment in education and the universities like this, because we’ve not been rebuilding our infrastructure, it’s said our problems are going to intensify.

Listen in yet other quarters where I travel and you will hear it said that even if the trend of economic stagnation reverses, even if wages and incomes get better, the slow growth and the greed have done too much damage, the polarization between rich and poor will increase, and the class divisions between us become more aggravated. Even if some of you do better individually, the society you live in runs the risk of being poorer and less just, less equal and less creative.

People saw it coming in 1988.

I was there, and later wrote a letter (people did that then) and asked Moyers to send me a copy of the speech, which he did.  I can’t find it now, but beyond what was quoted in the link above, I recall him talking about how in small town Oklahoma, when he was a child, the whole community pitched in and helped out when someone was dying, and after they were dead, because “it was just the thing we did.”  One of a series of things Moyers said were “just the things we did.”

Over the past century, more and more of what had been provided through family, community and mutual aid organizations has ended up either being taken over by the government or ended up outsourced to the marketplace, to businesses with services to sell.  If you are rich enough to just buy things, it seems, you don’t have to feel obligated to other people.

A couple of decades ago, having everyone purchase Long Term Care Insurance was seen as a possible solution to the upcoming old age care crisis.  But the cost of that insurance, and future benefits, were under-estimated, some long-term care insurers went broke, and the rest jacked up premiums and slashed payouts to stay in business.

https://prospect.org/familycare/the-collapse-of-long-term-care-insurance/

My parents and my wife’s parents, as members of the Silent Generation that preceded the Baby Boomers, the richest generation of all, got the good deal.  Though it remains to be seen if my parents, asked to pay more and more, will be able to collect.  Apparently not even the Chinese, having sold Americans stuff in exchange for IOUs for 30 years, want to pay that bill.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/merger-of-u-s-insurer-genworth-and-china-oceanwide-fizzles-11609777604

Given what has nearly bankrupted GE Baby Boomers, and those born after, will not get a great long term care deal at the expense of losing investors. I don’t have Long Term Care Insurance myself.  

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-01-29/what-s-bad-for-ge-will-be-worse-for-america

General Electric’s multi-billion-dollar loss in a unit that sold long-term-care insurance is a blow from which the iconic company is still reeling. But it’s also a harbinger of a much greater challenge for society at large: paying to care for the growing number of Americans who can’t look after themselves.

The debacle illustrates a troubling truth: Private insurance can’t handle this problem by itself.

By 2050, the U.S. will have almost 90 million people aged 65 and over, and more than half will need long-term care at some point. Yet only a sliver of that group can afford the premiums insurers require. As of 2015, private insurance covered less than 10 percent of U.S. spending on long-term care — and the private market has been shrinking.

In our over indebted, future-selling, irresponsible society, the counter-party risk is too great to pay now in exchange for something in return perhaps two decades from now.  Even if that counter party is the federal government, let alone some “regulated” private sector entity.  

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-aig/aig-gets-new-yorks-help-in-accessing-20-billion-idUSN1440161120080915

Embattled insurer American International Group Inc received New York state approval to post $20 billion of policyholders’ assets as collateral as it seeks to stave off a liquidity crisis and works with banks to fix its problems. 

Under the plan, AIG will be permitted to shift the funds from its insurance subsidiaries to the parent company, New York State Governor David Paterson told a press conference.

AIG worked with New York officials, including New York Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo, through the weekend seeking ways to shore up capital after rating agencies threatened downgrades.

The latest-born Boomers and Gen X had better have a Plan B, such as money in the bank, people they had cared about in the past for who might care about them in return in the future, and not taking actions to extend their own lifespan unnecessarily past the point of good health, to the point where their body outlives their brain.  Some of us paid attention to the future that was coming and lived cheaply accordingly, but most of us did not, I’m afraid.  And once Generation Greed is done there will be no common money left either.

But now, what about all those parents who got divorced in the 1960s and 1970s, benefitting themselves (or so they believed) but harming their children?  What about the sperm providers who were never part of their children’s lives to begin with, along with the egg providers who weren’t there either, in the “zero parent families” of the 1990s?  When Generation Greed was young, their predecessors – the seniors of that time – had the highest poverty rate, and the most deprivation.  Everything was for the young then.  Now that they are old, and for the past 30 years, it has been the children who are the most disadvantaged, and the old who are most advantaged, COVID-19 aside.  

And yet, facing their decline, I’ll bet many members of Generation Greed are suddenly realizing that mutual care, through the government, mutual aid organizations, and/or families – even if burdensome and stultifying – has its advantages.  At least when they are on the receiving end.  So it seems to be in the UK.  So it will soon be in the US.

You want a “conservative” solution, as opposed to a “liberal,” solution to long term care, as if those two purported ideologies were anything more than hypocrisies?  How about this?  

For a senior to even get custodial care under Medicaid after spend down, some other household must be willing to pay an extra 2.0% of its income in a special tax to help fund it.  Perhaps a child (assisted by their siblings), a niece or nephew, a friend, or a member of mutual aid organization that the now in need senior had similarly contributed to in the past. 

What about those who reach the end of their lives without having done enough for anyone else for someone else be willing to pay that 2.0%?  Sorry.  If you chose to only worry about yourself in healthy adulthood, then no one else should be obligated to worry about you in old age.  

Your parents did right by you, as mine did?  Then you have obligations.  Your parents had better things to do with their time and money?  The government shouldn’t force the later born to shoulder obligations their elders had rejected, though a higher payroll tax or otherwise.

You wanted small government.  You paid for small government – in fact you didn’t even pay that much.  And with all that public debt, you won.  So now, you get small government too.  You are on your own.

Could you imagine our aging “right wing” “anti-government spending” Republicans proposing such a policy?  That is as likely as the “pro-tax” Democrats proposing a shift from the payroll tax to a higher VAT, one that the corporations, rich, retired, and benefit-rich public employees would also have to pay, as I have proposed.  

There isn’t a real philosophical battle between meeting responsibilities through family and faith-based organizations, and meeting responsibilities through tax-funded government programs.  That is just for show.  In the end, they all want what in the end they always seem to get.  Higher taxes — on later-born ordinary workers only – and public services and benefit reductions — for those same people.  Freedom from responsibility in general.

And unlike in the UK, they manage to keep it under Omerta, out of the media, out of political speech, out of the culture.  How to force this reality to the surface?

____________________________________________________________________________

So now let’s get back to Donald Trump, THE MAN of his generation. 

Three years after I decided to make fun of him to make a point about generational equity he was President, and the joke was on me!

But I haven’t learned my lesson.  So now imagine a comedy based on his last days, in a luxury nursing home in Florida, and the reading of his will after his death – as a fictional analogy for what has happened to the United States.  With The Donald as the sneering, preening, laughing star and the joke on the rest of us, all those in the generations following his.

Most of those who are changing his diapers and wiping his ass are refugees, or illegal immigrants, who he constantly hits on.

I didn’t really mean those things I said.  I only said them because I knew the suckers would buy it, when all I ever planned to do is cut taxes for the rich.

Hey honey, I wouldn’t make you wear a burqa, that’s for sure.  In fact, if you want to take off all your clothes, that’s fine with me!

Now that you’ve taken care of the back side, can I have some service on the front side?

You don’t have to join that stupid religion of yours to have a harem, you know.  Fake Evangelical Christianity works too! 

Sure I used a word that starts with “p” on that tape, but I was being polite.  I actually wanted to say a word that starts with “c.” 

Meanwhile his four wives (Melania is, after all, past her sell-by date) and children, and various other women and children who come out of the woodwork, suck up to him, though they secretly can’t stand him.  Hoping for a bigger share of the inheritance, they bite their tongue as he lectures them on filial piety, and disses them to each other, and to their faces, with his characteristic humorous insults.  Though the insults are a little less spot on than they had been, due to dementia.

My family, all my families, were always what was most important to me.  You all know that.

You’d think the kid could at least play basketball.  Oh well, maybe I can use my connections to get him a job playing Lurch in a remake of the Adams Family. You rang?  My son the servant!  What a loser.  Is Harvey Weinstein still making movies?

So do the staff and management of the luxury nursing home, even though the purported $billionaire is somehow months behind on paying for his stay.  Because The Donald has promised to leave a big endowment.

This place is going to be Great! after I’m gone.  You’ll probably all get big raises.  But let’s not rush things, OK?

The endgame is foreshadowed in a brief conversation with a memorable associate.

Scaramucci!  Of all the people I fired, I liked you best.  Don’t tell the Great Again nursing home that all the money is gone, and whatever you do don’t tell the kids!

With former cronies from the 1980s who come by, he recounts war stories of how much he was a winner, and others were losers.  Talking about all the women, employees, contractors, and lenders and customers he successfully f-ed, the taxes he didn’t pay, and the government subsidies and benefits he scored as a member of both political parties.

I was for whatever party was going to let me put the least in and take the most out, just like everyone else.  Oh, they pretend there is something else to it.  What a bunch of phonies!

You know Crooked Hillary, Mini Mike Bloomberg, and Pocahontas were all both Democrats and Republicans too? And Morrison was right, we’re all going to be gone before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.

Can you imagine, Donald Trump the anti-abortion President?  That’s my biggest joke of all.  I screwed as I pleased, and now the Millennials are all going to get knocked up.  What do I actually believe?  OK ladies, you have your birth control, you have your abortions, you have your careers, you are making the choices and I think that’s great, at least for those who are good looking enough to have choices.  But given that, can we stop with all this child support nonsense?

And then, finally, The Donald dies.  Scenes of private, secret celebration by his wives, children, former employees, customers, lenders and business associates.

Followed by the reading of the will, with initial feigned tears from as would-be heirs.  And then shock and impotent rage as they, and the later born in general, have their legacy read out to them by the executor.

In this case, my role is kind of like an executioner.

It turns out The Donald had spent every last dime on himself, and then some.  Whatever money he managed to earn, net, in his life, plus the far larger inheritance (plus interest) that he received from his self-made father.  

Not only will his heirs get nothing, they will actually required to pay some of The Donald’s past taxes and debts.  Under a deal that Pelosi and McConnell cut while still in power in their 90s, to keep consumer spending going a little while longer, by allowing seniors to borrow against their children’s future income and spend the proceeds.

It’s kind of like the national debt you will also have to help pay, but more personal.

What about Mar A Lago?

We couldn’t even sell it to the Chinese, the Germans or the Arab petrostates, even though after four decades of trade deficits they all have more dollars than they know what to do with, and they have bought up everything else. It’s worthless because the banks and insurance companies know it will be under water in a decade or two, along with everything around it.

Trump Tower?

Gold-framed mirrors on the ceiling are out of fashion among younger people who are too stressed from working three jobs to have sex, so no one wants to live there.  Especially given how high property taxes have risen to pay for New York City’s public employee pensions.

Then the final insult – a videotaped message to the would-be heirs, and everyone else left behind, from the man himself, with the characteristic combination of braggadocio and mocking insult humor.  Leave ‘em laughing when you go.  It’s hard to remember now but before he became President The Donald was always good for a laugh, at least among those who were fortunate enough to not work for, do business with, or associate personally with him, and were thus not the butt of the joke.  

Who knows?  If the writing is good enough, The Donald might be willing to do the fictional videotape himself.

If you are viewing this, like my friend Jeffery Epstein I took everything I wanted in my life and got away before there was any accountability.  Which just shows what a winner I am, and bunch of losers you are.

He’ll start out with just how Great things were for him.

There was no AIDS!  I could have had 100,000 of them, but it was only the top one percent of the top one percent for me.  The rest of them?  Forget it.  I wasn’t like Bill Clinton.  I had taste!

We were the generation that had balls!  We beat the system and made everyone listen to our music.  There were a few suckers who were too patriotic or stupid to get out of Vietnam, or went to jail for protesting the war, but the rest of us were winners!

Before mocking the later born.

Millennials!  One third of them were over-parented, and the rest abandoned, so they are all useless.  Your fired!  If it wasn’t for the porn industry they’d be good for nothing, and only a few of them are good looking enough for that.

They complain they are working their asses off but can’t even live modestly because all the money is going to taxes and debt payments.  But when I was bankrupt, I lived large!  What a bunch of stupid wusses.  

Those snowflakes are whining about what is happening to the climate.  Well, it isn’t as hot as where I’m going, I can tell you that!  But I’m not afraid. I’ll be running the place in a month!  I hope my hearse runs over a few bicyclists on the way to my funeral!

All we had to do was talk about Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, where transgendered people went to the bathroom, and stuff like that and they’d get all riled up at each other, especially since they spend all their time on social media and never actually do anything.  Meanwhile, we could get away with anything!

OK, Broadway.  You want to get my fanny back in the seat for a straight play?  You know what you have to do.  Unless the West End beats you to it.  What is there left to do but to laugh at The Donald and his generation laughing and sneering at the rest of us?  Where have you gone Mel Brooks and Monty Python?  A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.  

1 thought on “There and Here, Generation Greed Wants Everything but Refuses to Pay For Anything

  1. larrylittlefield Post author

    From the American Prospect article linked above.

    Some policymakers are finally coming around to this reality. Washington state passed a long-term care social-insurance program last year, which reimburses at $100 per day for in-home care up to a fixed lifetime maximum that translates to one year of daily support.

    So Washington State has finally put in place a state income tax, that it hasn’t had, and which everyone has to pay?

    It’s funded by a small payroll tax on all wages.

    Nope, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Generation Greed still don’t pay.

    The tax begins in 2022 and payouts in 2025.

    To those who never put in a dime, and spent their adulthood being unwilling to pay taxes for public benefits for the generations before or after.

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