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Posts Tagged ‘housing bubble’

Now  that the U.S. and the world have experienced a financial catastrophe comparable only to the Great Depression, the thing we might want to ask is this: are we safe now? The answer is no. Even while Ireland is facing financial devastation, because they followed a path that mirrors George Bush’s economic “thinking” for the past several years, the U.S. is seemingly on the road to recovery. That’s because the newly elected Democrats instituted a major stimulus program (admittedly a weak and barely sufficient stimulus – but far better than what the misers of the Party of Herbert Hoover would ever offer).

The problem is that we are a myopic country. Our Congress is incapable of looking down the road beyond the next election cycle. And that is exactly where the problem lies.

The crazy, mind-boggling, economic policies of Ronald Reagan and his Republican successors will soon bear their bitter fruit. I am talking about a little time bomb created by the Reagan administration called section 401k of the U.S. income tax code. It is what governs the 401k plans that most Americans have instead of the old employer-guaranteed pension plans. Reagan’s lunatic idea was that throughout your working life you would contribute tax-deferred money into your 401k account, which would sometimes be matched by employer contributions. You take charge of this money while you are working and cleverly invest it in the stock market. Then, when you retire, you live in grand style off your earnings from the stock market! For as long as you live!

Complete economic rubbish. Complete deception of the American people. However, the good news is that your former employer is completely off the hook, and you are on your own! Isn’t that just grand? It’s a Republican Tea Party dream come true.

If you care to look at the history of the U.S. stock market, you will see that, for the thirty years or so before Ronald Reagan’s administration created the 401k  idea, the Dow had very anemic growth. It was only  when America’s workers started pumping large chunks of their salaries, via the 401k plan, into the stock market that stocks really took off. This soon led to two stock market bubbles (one NASDAQ and one NYSE). Remember the “irrational exuberance” of ten years ago?

A couple of years ago, we had the  housing bubble that led to the world economic collapse. This was enabled by Congress changing the income tax laws so that you could buy and flip houses every two years and not pay income tax on the profit. This gave the false hope to many people that they could still build up a nest egg even though their 401k accounts that had been destroyed in the previous stock market bubbles.

So what has Republican Reaganomics achieved for  our economy (and, while we are on the subject, where is Ireland’s heading)? The answer: A gigantic smouldering ruin.  High unemployment, low wages, a devastated real estate market, and little to hope for. Could things get any worse? As Tea Party Palin would say, “You betcha!”

A large part of our population is about to enter crisis mode, and we are totally unprepared.  The World War II baby boomers are now reaching retirement age and most do not have employer guaranteed pensions. However, most do have those good ol’ 401k plans.  Of course these 401k accounts have been savaged by the Voodoo economics policies of Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. But wait – won’t  Social Security save them? Hardly. Well, yes, maybe from starvation, I suppose. Maybe. Unless, that is, the Republican Tea Party succeeds in cutting or privatizing Social Security, which they would love to do.

We are on the verge of having an entire generation enter a situation so desperate that they cannot meet their own living expenses because the 401k thing was just a gigantic Ponzi scheme and their not-fully-paid-for homes are only worth half of what they used to be worth. It will be a financial catastrophe.  Many have virtually nothing left in their 401k accounts. They will be lucky to survive a year if they have to depend only on their 401k plans – but many have life expectancies that would take them into their 80’s or beyond. What can they do?

Expect another wave of house selling as the boomers divest themselves of this last piece of wealth they partially own. It’s a young Tea Party Republican’s dream of course – think of how cheaply these houses can then be bought and then flipped! What a chance to make a killing! It’s the chance to make a small fortune! The question, of course, is who is going to buy them and at what price? And what will this mass selling will do to an already bleeding real estate market?

The baby boomers are a huge bulge in the population of this country, and as they have gone through life their generation has always had major effects on the U.S. economy simply because they represent such a large part of the population. When they were young, schools had to be built for them. When they earned money they spent it and the economy boomed. When they objected to war, they caused chaos in the streets.They changed the culture. They changed the environment. They changed the way we worked, shopped, ate, vacationed. They changed America because there were just so many of them. Now they will change America again.

Soon, a  significant number of the boomers will start leaving the work force. They have to. They are getting too old to work. They will soon stop putting money from their jobs into the economy. But, they will still need  money to meet their living expenses. Sadly, for many, their 401k money has gone up in Republican smoke.  They have little other savings. In the near future the U.S. will soon be facing another major financial crisis, because millions of these boomers have almost no retirement funds, and they won’t be able to survive on their paltry Social Security check. This is a recipe for financial disaster.

And nobody, as usual, in our government is thinking about it or planning for it.

But the Boomers are coming, and they’re coming soon.

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