Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Panic Sideshow


As the national and beyond financial plunges and panics play out to unknown ends, I'll keep one eye on a sideshow. Specifically, the Korean-War-Era Americans have been getting their economic way since the 1950s, regardless of what happened to the rest of us.

The 10% to 12% of us of that group have been the leading proponents of the AARP crowd. They have demanded and gotten protection from the economic hardships the rest of us endured. Despite the misnomer of one of their nicknames, The Silent Generation, they have been anything but quiet.

They get to stay on their easy ride, but that train will surely stop at the BAILOUT STATION.

As background, we need to know that this group has sloughed off its sociologists' original nickname, The Entitlement Generation. Somehow that got passed along to the young workers, a.k.a. Gen-X and Gen-Y. Also, in a fit of passive aggression, many of them like to call the baby boomers The Me Generation. Despite the diminishing real income and wealth, despite the boomers paying the freight for both the Korean War Era herds as well as their own children, we are to believe it is those dreadful, selfish boomers who are worthy only of disdain.

Unlike the WWII folk, the vast majority of the Korean War men had nothing to do with the police action as it was called at the time. That has not stopped the generation from lumping themselves with the overlapping WWII folk and saying, "You owe us. You owe us big time. You'll owe us forever."

Disclaimer: My father was in protracted combat in both WWII and Korea. He'd admit the benefits as triple dipper — Army retirement, teacher's pension, and Social Security — allowed him great comfort and freedom. There are still a few in their 80s and 90s who overlap both WWII and Korean eras.

The original entitlement folk have successfully finessed a lot. They don't lack for ingenuity and for self-preservation. While the working crowd, mostly boomers, paid and still their Social Security, Medicare and other benefits from payroll taxes, they saw that they were shielded. While the rest of the nation saw its income drop and diminish, they made sure their benefits — with full COLA adjustments — continued. A good part of that is that Congress still includes a fair amount of them and seems terrified of cutting their benefits. Effectively, the Korean War Era folk have said, "You share in the pain, not us."

That gig is up. There will be adjustments now, even for these most sacrosanct of seniors. I'm betting that the first scream and the first protest campaign are already loaded, at AARP and elsewhere. We are to think about what they did for us (even if a small subset of them) and not what they took from us.

This will be fine theater to distract us from the coming, long-lasting economic pains.

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