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February 04, 2013

DOOM: Baby I'm Howling for You


I suspect the decline of Japan from a major first-world economy into...something else...will be one of the major events of our age. It's not clear what that "something else" will be, but chances are it won't be particularly pleasant. Japan's closest neighbors, Korea and China, don't exactly have warm feelings towards the Japanese after their experiences during World War II, and memories are long in that part of the world. Japan still has enemies, and they are always watching for signs of weakness.

GOP: "Hey, we can drive the country into the poorhouse just as fast as the Democrats!"

America: from Baby Boom to Baby Bust. Demographics alone would doom the welfare state we've built, but the fecklessness and incompetence of our elected officials is accelerating the process.

Michael Barone notes that much of America's welfare state was designed when we were experiencing a historically-atypical demographic bulge, and we are now witnessing the consequences of our over-optimistic estimates of both population and economic growth (which are almost the same thing).

You know how liberals love to talk about how Scandinavian countries like Sweden are good examples of successful welfare states? Yeah, not so much. It turns out that they can't afford the pervasive welfare state either. Even the Swedes are admitting that there is no such thing as magic beans.

ObamaCare continues its unbroken string of success: the retail workweek hits a three-year low as firms adjust to the demands of the new healthcare law. Forward!

They call it "the January effect", and it's not a sign of a recovery. (Or even a sign of being "poised" for a recovery.)

More good news: one third of student debt now belongs to subprime borrowers. Remember how well that worked out with mortgage loans?

The fact that Boomers, as a demographic group, haven't been saving enough money for retirement isn't exactly news. But as the Boomer cohort ages and retirement looms closer, the realization is setting in that there just isn't enough money to retire. Many are choosing to stay in their current jobs for longer than they planned, but in many ways this is simply delaying the inevitable: if you don't have enough money saved to retire at 62, you're probably not going to have enough by age 65 (or 67) either. And if older workers stay in their jobs longer, that just means fewer jobs will be available for people wanting to move up. In a slow-growth economy, that translates into fewer opportunities for young people because companies aren't in growth mode: they're doing replacement hiring for the most part, not expansion hiring.

Just staying in the job market isn't easy if you're an older worker, but it's tough out there for everybody. It's certainly difficult to find work after you reach a certain age, but that's in large part due to the distorting effects of regulation and misguided public policy. It's no picnic to be a new entrant into the job market either, and young job-seekers generally don't have the income cushion that older workers have.

One of the biggest problems that people have in retirement is that their spending habits don't change. Things don't magically become less expensive when you retire; in fact, many costs (like healthcare) consume a larger part of your budget than before. Many retirees also over-estimate how much money they'll be bringing in on a monthly basis -- overly optimistic investment return scenarios, miscalculation of social security benefits, and reliance on pension plans or annuities that don't pan out or go bankrupt.

Amnesty and the welfare state. I'd love to hear immigration proponents explain how legal amnesty for millions of "undocumented workers" is going to do anything for the economy but burden it with a lot more transfer-payment recipients (who will, mostly, vote Democrat).

I have more money in my sock-drawer than Zimbabwe has in their national treasury. Once again, socialist economic theory and a politicized central government brings a benighted populace into a land of happiness and plenty! Obama shoots Robert Mugabe the finger-guns and says, "You're doing some fabulous work there, Bob! Props!"


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posted by Monty at 08:05 AM

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