Welcome to the Future


UPDATE below.

An eye-opening set of charts yesterday from Doug Short. For those of us who during the dot-com 90’s foolishly thought we might retire early, this chart explains what happened to that dream: Two burst-bubble economies and the accompanying market selloffs, in part. The data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Click image for cleaner view.


Short believes,

While the LFPR growth for the elderly is the most striking feature in the chart above, we also see a noticeable decline for the youngest cohort. A significant driver of this trend has been the decision to stay in (or go back to) school for more education. Supporting evidence is found in the eye-popping growth of student loan debt, especially since the onset of the Great Recession. To be sure, some of that trend is accounted for by older cohorts heading back to school in hopes of improving their employment prospects.

All of you know it’s tough out there. See Short’s compilation for just how tough. Americans are working longer and harder than any other industrialized country, even as the right blathers about how if you’re struggling, you’re lazy.

Short concludes:

In the late 1990s the dream of early retirement was common among the Boomers. But the reality is that they are increasingly delaying retirement, and many who did retire have now reentered the workforce.

I resemble that remark.


David Atkins at Hullabaloo is working on the same topic:

More importantly, it now takes two and a half incomes to support the same lifestyle one income did in the past. Women’s rights have had a profoundly beneficial social change, allowing half the population of the developed world to fulfill their true potential, rather than be homemakers by default. But the introduction of women to the workforce has also served to mask the erosion of the middle class, as two parents now work to provide a comparable lifestyle to that which one parent used to provide. The situation has also created a conservative cultural backlash–much of it by patriarchalists interested in controlling women, of course. But in fairness it’s also a collective social reaction to a legitimate discomfort with the lack of a parent available at home to raise children.

Simply put, without eliminating child labor laws or forcing multiple generations to work past retirement age under a single roof, there’s no more room for the economy to continue to erode the middle class and poor while maintaining the disguise. The only direction to go is downward.

Combine that with the fact of decaying infrastructure as well as a desperate need to make massive economic investments to head off crises such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, water shortages, antibiotic-resistant infection, terrorism of increasingly dangerous kinds, and myriad others, and it becomes quite obvious that the economy itself is fundamentally broken.

This is the truth which must not be spoken, says Atkins. And he’s right. Washington and the power brokers who benefit most from the status quo don’t want to face the fact that radical change is coming, whether led by them or not. But the masses laboring harder than ever under the yoke of a broken economy for a declining standard of living will bring change to them whether the elite like it or not. That’s how it works when the dreams are broken and those living in castles ignore the peasant class they’ve created long enough. John McCain can’t even keep track of how many houses he owns. Banks can’t even keep track of the papers for houses they’ve illegally foreclosed on, throwing families into the streets. How long do they think that can go on?

Categories : Economy, National


  1. randallt says:

    Thanks for bringing attention to this truly stunning reality.