Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The New Normal Economy

Victor Davis Hanson notes that the new normal for our economy is one in which savings doesn't benefit savers, the old can't retire, and the young can't find jobs:
I’ve witnessed two of the most radical developments in my lifetime the last four years — changes far greater than those brought on by the massive new increases in the national debt, the soaring gas costs, the radical decrease in average family income, the insolvent Medicare and Social Security trajectories, or the flat housing market.
One is the fact of less than 1% interest rates on most savings (well below the rate of inflation), and the other is an epidemic of 20-something unemployment.
Sometimes, you may find that you are ignoring the obvious.  Or, you may not realize that what is happening to you and to most of your friends is actually part of a nationwide trend.  In one sense, it's comforting to know that you're not alone.  But in another, it's even more depressing to think that there's probably no solution to these problems for any of us.
The hallmark advice of retirement planning was always to scrimp, save, and put away enough money to make up for retirement’s lost salary, increasing medical bills, and the supposed good life of the “golden years.”
...But well aside from the fact that many Americans have been laid off, taken pay cuts, lost home equity, had their 401(k)s pruned, or had to take care of out-of-work relatives, there is no 5% any more on anything, not even 2% or  in most cases 1%.  Saving money means nothing really in terms of return, only the realization that inflation eats away the principal each year.
...The old American idea of receiving a fair so-so interest on a little money in the savings account vanished. And no one seems to care.
I've never been able to save money.  Perhaps I shouldn't bother trying.  Whenever I get a little set aside, something always comes up and my savings is wiped out.  Retirement?  Fugeddabouddit!
Few seem to note that those who receive nothing on their retirement savings don’t retire so easily. And when they don’t retire, jobs don’t open up — which brings us to my next observation: the lost generation of those between 21 and 30, who at various ages and periods came into the workplace the last four years. Many have 8% plus student loans. I doubt half of those will ever be paid off, given the epidemic of unemployment in this cohort.
Unemployment rates of those 16-24 are now officially over 50%. Even the cohort between 16 and 29 suffers from 45% unemployment.
What's the best way to ensure perpetual Democratic rule?  Expand the dependent class, so that Democrats can appeal to them by promising to soak the rich to support them.
The new model for the next generation is to cobble part-time work together, intern, occasionally draw on unemployment, send out resumes hourly, and hope for something to turn up (preferably in government, state or federal). 
What Hanson doesn't mention is that this generation will be motivated, like no other before it, to avoid having children.  Marriage rates can be expected to fall, divorce and abortion rates to rise.  No wonder the Democrats are all about making taxpayers and employers provide free abortions and contraceptives.
But these days, the game has changed somewhat — or rather been downscaled: the PhD is not being hired for anything other than part-time teaching; the JD is reduced to the law library gofer; the freshly minted MD is the equivalent of a salaried, high-paid nurse; the credentialed high-school teacher is subbing; the engineer is a draftsman; the carpenter is cobbling together home repair mini-jobs.
 I know people in most of these situations.  I know a Ph.D. who works at three part-time teaching positions, two JD's who can't afford to practice law, they're computer consultants, and at least one highly skilled industrial engineer who barely scrapes by "cobbling together home repair mini-jobs."

It's easy to blame Obama and the Democrats for bringing our problems to this extreme over the last four years.  It's much harder to have confidence that Romney and Republicans can be successful at reversing them over the next four.