Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Micro proposals/Micro Solutions

Please read this depressing article about the unsettling economic prospects of Generation Y professionals.

I read with great interest the writings of the Great Minds of our day (as well as the musings of lesser mortals) holding forth about solutions to such world wide problems. These folks make some really great points and string their ideas together nicely - all condensed into the internet's written article equivalent of the 3.03 minute pop song. To be fair, far greater minds than mine have addressed these issues... but they were all wrong. If you want to know the real deal, listen up.

Just kidding.

Seriously. If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I have asserted and maintained that there really are no macro "solutions" to whatever "problem" confronts "us", not the least of which is due to the fact that it is freaking impossible to define "problem", "solution", and "us". I don't have any answers for how "we" (that is an American centric "we") are going to do about employment, the political reality of our Federal Deficits, the mathematical necessity of the exponential growth of our entitlement programs and military budgets, et al... - and neither do any of our political, economic, social, and intellectual leaders. Oh, a bunch of them can vocalize some of the "problems", but, and this is going to be brutal: very, very few of them have their own house fully in order.

How smart can you really be if your health is not the best you, personally, can arrange (some things are beyond our control) for it to be? How smart can you be if you have arranged your life in such a way that your kids don't speak to you? How smart can you be if you have arranged your life in such a way that you have trouble falling asleep at night?

I regularly hear absolutely brilliant people waxing forth about system wide solutions to some overwhelmingly intractable problems and who just can't seem to get the oil changed in their car - even though they are so broke their car "issue" should be consideration numero uno on their list.

(That reminds me of a great quote from Warren Buffet: "Wall Street is the only place where people travel to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from people that went to work by subway". Everybody loves to quote Buffet. Personally, I am sick of listening to the media's worship of the man but I love this particular quote.)

The system's complexities compounded by an insanely confiscatory tax environment and modern consumerism have conspired to make current expectations both unrealistic and self destructive. That's a hard combination to achieve - but we sure seem to have accomplished just that. (When pointing out that the U.S. has low income taxes when compared to the Socialist European Model American Liberals are being just a tad disingenuous. In America, property taxes are much higher than in Europe, and when ALL taxes, especially payroll taxes, are considered they nearly level the playing field.)

I feel for young people like those mentioned in the above linked article. The collective "system" is not going to relinquish its throttle grip on their individual necks. Me thinks it impossible for any individual to overcome this system, ergo its better to avoid its strangle hold at all costs.

The individual needs new paths to "success" or "security". The idea that one can "stay in school" until 30, shop around for Mr./Mrs. Right for 5 or ten years, drop a kid or 2 in their 40's and be financially secure by their 50's is such an outrageous farce that it is hard to believe so many bright people fell for it. (That lie is almost as egregious as "50 is the new 30". When it comes to lies, damn lies, and Whoppers, well, that one tops Whoppers.)

In the final analysis, while our possessions enslaved us, it was our educations that made many, even most, of us poor! Of course, the vast majority of those 30 something M.S. and PhD holders don't know that yet. Most of those in their 40's are just coming around to the brutal truth.

The "Greatest Generation" had mortgage burning parties in their 50's. This generation has foreclosure/short sale/bankruptcy parties. Good thing this generation is sooooooo much more educated than old grampa and gramma. Some might find that a  LOL! moment, but there is nothing funny about this. The Left's propaganda machine continues to pump out material that the overwhelming concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1% is some how the result of those Evil Right Wing Bankers. Right Wing Bankers!!?? How that is possible when we all know that Republicans are nose picking, gun totting, White Male racists from the Red States in the Old South is beyond me. Does anybody know a single Wall Street fat cat that grew up in a trailer park in Arkansas? Whose first job was selling used cars? Quite a leap from that used car lot to the World Financial Capital, wouldn't you say?

The Financial system is run by the Federal Reserve for the benefit of Harvard Business School Alums running the U.S. Treasury/Goldman Sachs. Yea, a couple of very lucky guys have gotten tremendously wealthy out in Silicon Valley, but they don't hold much sway over this system. This unholy triumvirate, our modern day Anti-Christ, is hardly composed of Chamber of Commerce Republicans. So why do some of the smartest people I know believe otherwise?

(Because they need to. To believe otherwise would violate a belief system stretching back to their childhood and nourished by the Main Stream Media. Heck, 40% of Americans believe in the "End of Times" pitch of the Fundamentalist Right. These people are, for the most part, not voting for BHO, and they are not the people running Goldman Sachs - trust me.  And speaking of the Media... It is my experience that Americans believe that their media "experience" is a real life experience. That "cat call" scene/racist scene/anti-Semetic/poverty scene, et al people saw via some entertainment product is so real to them that it has become fact. After all, they said it on TV!)

Geologist Euan Mearns wrote this excellent assessment of the Oil potential for Iraq in general and Kurdish Iraq in particular. I think an excellent piece that pretty much undoes the doomer argument for the moment, and likely changes the short term story for world Oil exports somewhat. But read a little deeper in that... can any thinking person really draw any other conclusion than that the Iraq War was all about Oil? And before the nitwit-true-believers start ranting about Neo-Cons and GWB: How many Lefties ceased to drive a car? Stopped heating an oversized home? Only consumed local food? Stopped flying to "climate change conferences"? Wanted the economy to contract so that the Republicans could blame BHO (and the U.S. would emit less CO2)? Not very many, indeed. The meat eater and the butcher are on the same moral level, me thinks.

Does the Mearns story usher in a new era of low prices and plenty for oil? I rather doubt that, but it does mean that we can't count on resource constraints to solve our environmental/climate change problem for us - and that ain't good. There is no political arrangement on this planet that can withstand the temptations of Keynesianism (the other half of the counter cyclical Keynesian argument is to run surpluses during the good years. Anybody seen many surpluses around the OECD?), and there is no political arrangement that can withstand the lure, temptation, and seduction of Oil.

But I digress.

The machinations of the post-industrial, post-credit inflation, information/robotic economy have left no magic buttons to push in order to address the changes confronting the next generation of workers - knowledge or no. Things have changed, but the credential selling bodies standing guard at the bottle neck are determined to extort their pound of flesh.

The unfortunate 30 something lawyer in the link at the top of this post spent $175K and 3 years of her life attending "Law School". Abraham Lincoln never attended "Law School". Abraham Lincoln never attended college. Abraham Lincoln didn't even go to High School, let alone graduate. Yet, somehow, he passed the Bar Exam, was elected to Congress, and then some think he did rather well as President of the United States.

Go figure.


Publius said...

Great post, as usual Greg.
You're my kind of libertarian (I don't currently subscribe to any political ideology: I think that humanity is absolutely screwed, and that ideologies get in the way of real solutions on the ground. Know your neighbor, and develop trust, whatever their political leanings).

Regarding the oil in the Kurdish part of Iraq: I read the article you link to. They project that at best, this area will produce 4-5 million barrels per day. A quarter or less of what the USA alone consumes.

This is not a game-changer, just a game-prolonger.

Regarding Gen-Y, Gen-X, Gen-whatever you are: there is going to be massive default. Even if student debt is "non-dischargeable," it will not be repaid. To the extent the gov't and the elite scum who are not redneck Republicans (to give you due credit for that point) make it impossible to discharge student loans in bankruptcy:

To that extent, the government and educational gulag system will create not just a generation, but a movement of multiple generations who rebel overtly, covertly, and however they can and must to survive.

The suckers who went into debt are still just going along or committing suicide, but they will eventually develop some consciousness and start to organize, if only to survive.

If the illegal immigrants can work under the table and thrive, why can't college educated ex-idiots?

Publius said...

Also, the fact that published oil reserved in many nations/regions are complete bullshit will more than make up for (negatively) the increased oil potential from Kurdistan.

And that doesn't even get into how much oil can be recovered economically in economically troubled times. (Troubled being a euphemism).

Screw it. Default now, get a little shack, and take it easy with your main squeeze and kids. Eat, grow food, be useful to your neighbors, go to church and festivals, and have a good time. It worked in the Middle Ages.

tweell said...

Agreed. My children are trying to get their scaled down credentials as cheaply as possible, but are seeing that they will have to do many things to have food and shelter. The good thing is that they won't have the heavy additional debt that other millenials are taking on; our country's mega debt is more than enough.

Anonymous said...

The concept that a liberal arts education has little value in the workplace is nothing new. that's been true for decades. That article discusses law school graduates disappointed with their career prospects which is also not specific to Gen Y. Most people don't really understand that a law degree doesn't guarantee you a cushy desk job with a six figure salary. Law is about litigation, which is essentially war without weapons. The only way you can really make a lot of money as a lawyer is to find clients, try cases in front of juries and win. If you lose you don't get paid.

But it is also true that there is nearly insatiable demand in some field such as actuarial work, health care providers, engineers, mathematicians, and computer programmers. In some ways the prospects for the current generation of grads is better than ever, except that the price of college has gone up to outrageous levels. The real solution? Send your kid to school overseas. Britain, Isreal, the Netherlands, Canada and even India have great universities at a fraction of the cost of American ones even considering the slightly weaker dollar. Eventually the American universities will have to compete.