American Elephants


Seventy-Six Million Americans: The Baby Boom Generation. by The Elephant's Child
July 29, 2010, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, History, Politics | Tags: , ,

Today’s senior citizens often speak about “the War.” Younger generations may wonder “Which one?” but for the older generation, there is only one that is “the War”.  It changed everything, and after VE Day and VJ Day, when they all came home, no one had any idea how much change was yet to come.

After “the War,” returning veterans flocked to America’s colleges and universities to take advantage of the GI Bill, one of America’s better ideas.  It made it possible for the young men who had given so much, and lost so many friends in the war, to go to college on the taxpayer’s dime. And they signed up and they married the girl they had left behind, and off they went.

Colleges and Universities were unprepared.  Barracks and Quonset huts became dormitories and housing for married students.  Cartoons in the New Yorker showed graduating classes of masses of young men, and on the sidelines, the chairs were filled with young women — each with a baby in her lap or in an adjacent buggy. The United States had a population of 140 million, soon to expand in a generation that changed America, and is still changing it.

In February of 1946 , exactly 9 months after VJ Day, there were 206,387 babies born in the United States.  In May, there were 233,452 babies, in June the number had swelled to 242,302.  In October births had spurted to 339,499.  An all-time high of 3.4 million babies had been born in the United States — one every nine seconds.  In 1947, 3.8 million babies were born.

Demographers were unimpressed.  The rise in births was sudden…but a classic case of satisfying pent-up demand. …In 1946, the Census bureau director said that the U.S. population would  not reach 163 million until the year 2000.¹

In eleven straight years from 1954 through 1964 there were more than 4 million babies born each year.  By 1964, four out of every ten people in the United States were under 20 and there were more children under 14 than there had been people in the entire nation in 1881.

They grew up on steak and milk and Wonder Bread that made strong bones and good teeth.  Advertisers quickly discovered that American mothers had created the biggest market in history, and from that moment on the boomers were surrounded with products created just for them.  There were Slinkys and Silly Putty, skateboards and hula hoops.  They grew up with bomb shelters and the knowledge that their world could someday end in a flash of light and heat.  They revolutionized everything they touched.

Car companies churned out station wagons, developers built Levittown,  housing tracts sprang up all over the country, with fenced back yards and patios for the barbecue and cul-de-sacs where the kids could ride their bikes in safety.  Malvinia Reynolds wrote a song about “little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky” when she saw the sprawl of suburban houses in Daly City, California that “all look just the same.”

The country has been dominated by the baby boom ever since 1946.  There were simply so many boomers that what they did and thought and bought influenced everything.    There was rock music and there were protests, assassinations, Vietnam, flower children.  Businesses who catered to the tastes of the boomers grew and succeeded.  Journalists who wrote stories about the boomers always had an audience.  But they were also the over-crowded generation, standing in line for school, for lunch, for concerts.

And now the first boomers are turning 65 next year, eligible for Social Security and Medicare, and the numbers of seniors will increase exponentially until 2026.  This is the problem unaddressed by the stimulus bill,  ignored by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, by Barack Obama, by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and untouched by any other bill drummed up in the back rooms of Congress, or in the White House.

Citizens alarmed by the profligate spending by Democrats are indicating in the polls that the upcoming election will be a difficult one for Democrats.  Democrats have fiercely resisted any effort to reform entitlements.  Claiming that Republicans will take away old folks Social Security and Medicare may gain them some votes from credulous senior citizens, but we have run out of time.  Reform is possible that will not harm those who depend on these programs. The problem will not go away, it must be faced.  Pretending otherwise is a recipe for real disaster.

¹Landon Y. Jones: Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation.



12 Comments so far
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Voting in Republicans will just make things worse.

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Comment by Ben Hoffman

Oh? And how does that make thing worse, Ben?

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Comment by The Elephant's Child

Republicans only know how to do two things when it comes to the economy: cut taxes and deregulate. The Bush tax cuts are responsible for most of the huge deficits and the doubling of our national debt during the eight years of the Bush administration. Deregulation allowed the banks to become high-stakes gamblers. It also allowed speculators to drive up the price of oil. Those were big factors leading to the collapse of our economy.

At least the Democrats are trying to fix the problems.

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Comment by Ben Hoffman

Well, you have the Democrat talking-points down. Unfortunately, they are just not true. The financial crisis had its origins in the Community Reinvestment Act passed in the Carter administration. It was a well intentioned bill, designed to help poor people and minorities own their own homes. Over the years, Democrats expanded the program because it wasn’t moving fast enough. They demanded more loans to less-qualified people in the interest of more home ownership. They insisted that banks make loans that normal rules of prudent banking would have prevented banks from making. If you will follow the link, I explained it more fully there.

I can tell that you are a Democrat who is more open to other ideas, Ben, because you visit us now and then, and we are pretty clearly Republican. Democrats have hauled Keynesian economics out of the rubbish bin, for we believed they were thoroughly discredited. The idea behind Keynes is that if you flood the economy with money, a “multiplier effect” will boost the economy by 1 1/2 to 2 times or more. Christina Romer, Obama’s chief economist, has a Keynesian computer program that predicts on the basis of the “multiplier effect” how many jobs “should” be created and/or saved. Those numbers are not based on any factual counting of employment — just what the program says should happen [if Keynes was right]. Here are the facts about the Bush tax cuts.

Obama has tripled the Bush deficits –according to the CBO. Economies do not revive by taking money out of the left-hand pocket of the economy and putting it into the right-hand pocket. Economies recover by growth in the private sector. The private sector creates jobs when business sees the prospect of making a profit in the future. Right now business is sitting on their hands because of uncertainty. New Taxes, new mandates, vast new regulations in bills topping 2,300 pages that nobody (including the authors) understands as yet. There are always unintended consequences. To revive an economy, all you can really do is targeted tax cuts that make it easier for business to make a profit. “Profit” is not a bad word. If business cannot make a profit, they cease to exist. The Democrat’s favorite theme”tax cuts for the rich” was always a lie. Around 75% of “the rich” are sole-proprietors who file their taxes as individuals — the owners of those growing businesses that employ 30, 50, 100 people — an engine of growth. And it is growth that ends recessions. See here for some dandy graphs that explain who pays what.

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Comment by The Elephant's Child

[Well, you have the Democrat talking-points down. ]

No, actually they come from well respected economists. I have yet to see a legitimate economist claim what you’ve claimed. That’s because they are just right-wing talking points, and they’re lies.

[The idea behind Keynes is that if you flood the economy with money, a “multiplier effect” will boost the economy by 1 1/2 to 2 times or more. ]

No, that’s what some right-wing pundit told you to believe. There is indeed a multiplier effect, but it’s not from “flooding the economy with money.” It’s from creating jobs, even if those jobs are government jobs. Working people spend money, which creates demand for goods, which creates a demand for more workers. The problem is, with NAFTA and all the outsourcing of jobs overseas, many of the jobs created are in other countries.

[Obama has tripled the Bush deficits]

That’s another common right-wing lie. The big jump in the deficit last year (Bush’s final fiscal year) was due mainly to decreased revenues from high unemployment. There was also the Bush TARP bailout, the some $500 billion dollars going to interest on the Reagan/Bush national debt, a few hundred thousand from the stimulus, and increased funding for the Bush wars.

[Right now business is sitting on their hands because of uncertainty.]

That’s true. Many businesses have stockpiled cash but the economy is still too uncertain for them to start hiring. That’s not Obama’s fault. He’s offering tax cuts to companies that hire here in the U.S. Much of it is also due to lies coming out of right-wingers and Republicans blocking everything the Democrats are trying to do to stimulate the economy.

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Comment by Ben Hoffman

You didn’t click on a single link in my response, Ben. I would suggest you go back and do so. Here are a few “legitimate” economists who claim what I claim: Alan Reynolds,Cato; John Taylor, Stanford; Richard Epstein, University of Chicago; Robert Barro, Harvard; Greg Mankiw, Harvard; Arnold Kling, Cato; Veronique du Rugy, Mercatus Center; Lawrence Kudlow; Daniel Mitchell,Cato; Michael Boskin, Stanford; Martin Feldstein, Harvard; Raghuram Rajan, University of Chicago; Walter Williams, George Mason University; Arthur Laffer, Laffer Asso.; Stephen Moore, Wall Street Journal; Lee H. Ohanian, U.C.L.A.; Robert Hall, Stanford; Kevin Hassett, AEI; Lawrence Lindsay, AEI; John Makin, AEI; Allan Meltzer, Carnegie Mellon University; R. Glen Hubbard, AEI; Andrew Biggs, AEI; Mark Perry, University of Michigan; Thomas Sowell, Hoover Institution. These are the economists whose work I read regularly, and save. Republicans, by the way, don’t do talking points — they argue. [The “JournoList” scandal pretty much proves Democrat talking points]

Keynes believed that if you gave someone a job digging a hole and then filling it up, it would benefit the economy. He was proved wrong back in the FDR administration. What Obama has been doing IS “flooding the economy with money”– most of it has gone to Congressional earmarks and to Democrat supporters. If there is a multiplier effect, most economists think it is less than 1%. The 300 million jobs”created or saved” that Obama keeps talking about exist only as what “should have happened” in Christina Romer’s Keynesian computer program with whatever multiplier effect
she used. They are wishful thinking, for they do not exist in the real economy. The “shovel ready” projects weren’t ready, and most of the stimulus money hasn’t been spent yet, but is being saved to spend right before the election. Most of the money has simply been wasted.

Obama’s tax cuts for businesses to hire is a joke. Business will hire when they see a hope of making a profit. (Profit, by the way, is not a bad word, if there is no profit there is no business). Business has turned sharply against the Obama administration’s policies. And yes, the fact that business faces uncertainty IS Obama’s fault — The administration just nationalized the car companies, quite illegally. They shut down dealerships that were privately-owned businesses who simply bought the cars they sell from the car companies. The government’s own Inspector General has said that this was unconstitutional. The HealthCare bill is a disaster waiting to damage business, the Financial Reform bill does not address the causes of the financial crisis, and as people wade through the 2,300 pages they discover provisions that will increase the costs of doing business. farmers, for example are big users of derivatives to protect from risk. Obama and the Democrat congress want to dump the Bush tax cuts, which would mean an huge tax increase for everyone. Economists agree that you don’t raise taxes in a recession. Obama’s unnecessary moratorium on drilling in the Gulf has put something like 35,000 people out of work, and estimates of damage to the economy of the region are huge. Obama’s enthusiasm for a “green economy” is misplaced. Wind and solar simply are not cost-effective, and don’t work, “green jobs” do not exist without government (taxpayer) subsidies, and cause 2 times as much unemployment in the real economy. And the Volt is a lemon.

It’s not a good idea to assume that anyone who disagrees with you is a liar, Ben. That just demonstrates a closed mind.

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Comment by The Elephant's Child

[Keynes believed that if you gave someone a job digging a hole and then filling it up, it would benefit the economy. He was proved wrong back in the FDR administration.]

How can you say that? Unemployment went down almost every year after FDR took office. People learned valuable skills. We got national parks, libraries, farming technologies to prevent another dust bowl, roads, bridges, art centers, literacy programs, and much more. The people employed under the WPA spent the money they made and that benefited the economy.

Things would have been a lot worse without the WPA just like things would be worse without the stimulus bill. We already have things to show for the stimulus spending such as repaved roads, new bridges, new research in alternative fuels, new technologies…

[The “shovel ready” projects weren’t ready, and most of the stimulus money hasn’t been spent yet, but is being saved to spend right before the election. Most of the money has simply been wasted.]

That’s a lie. The stimulus program was a five year plan.

[Wind and solar simply are not cost-effective, and don’t work, “green jobs” do not exist without government (taxpayer) subsidies, and cause 2 times as much unemployment in the real economy.]

That’s a lie. Here in Colorado, wind farms supply about 10 percent of our power and the energy companies are expanding that percentage because it is cost effective.

[And the Volt is a lemon.]

The Volt hasn’t even gone on sale yet. Nissan, Ford, Mazda, and many other companies are coming out with electric cars this year or next. While they will be expensive until the price of batteries goes down, they are the future of the automobile.

[It’s not a good idea to assume that anyone who disagrees with you is a liar, Ben.]

All of your sources are right-wing shills. They lie and right-wingers repeat the lies as if they were facts.

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Comment by Ben Hoffman

You still never followed a single link, Ben, they are bright red, but I don’t put them there just to decorate a post.

You have just embarrassed yourself, Ben. Not only did you just call 25 prestigious economists “right-wing shills”, but you called the Congressional Budget Office, The Office of Management and Budget, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics “right wing shills.” And there’s the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and Doug Elmendorf, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, all of whom are my sources.

Stimulus funds have improved, at the cost of millions, airports that have only one small flight a day, bridges have been replaced that get as many as 5 cars a day, a guardrail has been built beside a “lake” that is always dry. There are as yet no alternative fuels that are not damaging to the environment or contain the same amount of energy as gasoline. You do know that ethanol contains less energy than gas? Won’t take you as far, damages engines like your lawn mower, boat, whatever is gas-powered because of the percentage of ethanol now in gas. Only a small percentage of cars have flex-fuel engines, and other machines just don’t. The EPA wants to raise the % to 15, which will damage all car engines.

Wind farms are not cost effective anywhere. Denmark has the highest percentage of wind farms in Europe, and the most costly electricity. To power the City of New York would take a wind farm the size of Delaware. Wind is a very old technology, but some things have never changed. Wind blows less than one-third of the time. To drive modern wind turbines, it must blow just at the right speed–in high wind they have to be shut down, and not enough means they don’t produce much power. Wind farms must be backed up 24/7 with conventional power plants, for the times when the wind isn’t blowing. Imagine operating rooms, elevators, electric trains –can’t just suddenly shut off the power. Most of the confusion comes from official claims of a wind-farm’s “capacity” which refers to what a turbine can produce when the wind is blowing all the time at the right speed — which mostly doesn’t happen. The heaviest demand for electricity comes in hot summer days when air-conditioners are all on, and that is just the time when the wind is not blowing (which is part of the reason why it is so hot). I can probably guarantee that your wind farms in Colorado are not providing anywhere near 10% of your electricity. Solar energy is also an ancient technology. Right off the bat, the sun sinks beneath the horizon every night, and produces energy only on clear sunny days. We have no technology for storing energy.

Spain went in for a “green economy” in a big way, and has gone broke in a big way. Economist Gabriel Calzada (I think I’m getting his name right) of Universidad Juan Carlos looked into their wind and solar policies and determined that every “green job” meant the loss of 2-2 1/2 jobs in the private economy because of the increased price of energy. Spain has shut down their green program. And is now faced with cutting spending and austerity programs.

Economists Lee H. Ohanian and Harold Cole did a study for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis proving the persistence of the Great Depression. Amity Schlaes has written an important study of the Great Depression that has been widely celebrated. Burton Folsom has a book out on the failures of the New Deal, as does Jim Powell. But of course they are just “right-wing shills” and liars as well. You might notice that you have not presented evidence of anything except your own “true believer” status.

Here are another eight economists’ quotes from a post about 10 days ago. You might note that only 27% of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction.

About the Volt, I merely quote an article in the New York Times from a left-wing shill. GM didn’t want to manufacture the Volt, which was just a test car, but Obama forced them to. It’s not bad looking, but it costs $41,000, entry level. It is supposed to go 40 miles on a charge. Plugged into a 120 volt outlet with the special adaptor, it takes only 6 1/2 hours to recharge the battery. Obama has made 4 trips to battery factories, and just went to the groundbreaking ceremony for another in Holland MI. There is a glut of battery factories, and no outlet for the batteries. The Volt is the only one so far, and they don’t expect to sell very many Volts. Even if they sell lots, they wouldn’t use all the batteries the factory is expected to produce. Europe also has a glut. Johnson Controls is trying to lobby the government to buy more Volts for the federal car fleet, so there is some use for the batteries. Brilliant, on top of the subsidies for GM for making the Volt, for the buyer who buys one, for the battery factory — and on top of that the potential of the government buying a whole bunch of these lemons. That’s about as close to insane as one can get.

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Comment by The Elephant's Child

[GM didn’t want to manufacture the Volt, which was just a test car, but Obama forced them to.]

That’s a lie. GM was already committed to the Volt before the bailout, and that’s a good thing. Other car manufacturers are also introducing electric cars this year or next. It’s time the U.S. was a leader in new technologies. We’re far behind in rail transportation and quality in American autos.

What ever happened to American exceptionalism? Reaganomics is what happened to it. It’s time we were leaders again instead of laggards. And we’re not going to get there with conservatives in our government.

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Comment by Ben Hoffman

You know, Ben, I really don’t appreciate being called a liar. I stand by what I said about the Volt. Car manufacturers are being forced to produce electric cars, either with government demands or subsidies. Electric cars are prettier and fancier than they were back in the early 1900s, but the problems are the same. Nobody knows how to make batteries that will store enough energy to make electric cars practical.

The problems that we have with transportation are in major cities, not between cities, and Obama’s high-speed rail will do nothing to relieve that. High speed trains cannot run at high speed on regular track that is built for freight trains. Go to Cato and read Randall O’Toole’s work. He has been studying this for years, and is an expert.

You are a typical Democrat, Ben. You offer no information, no proof of anything, and you are uninterested in research; but if others present information that contradicts your cherished beliefs you have nothing to offer but name calling and insults. You might consider the possibility that you are just plain wrong.

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Comment by The Elephant's Child

[Nobody knows how to make batteries that will store enough energy to make electric cars practical.]

That’s another lie. The Volt can go 40 miles on a single charge, which is plenty for most commutes and trips around town. Demand will provide innovation and it won’t be long before we can go hundreds of miles on a charge. We’ll be pulling into service stations for recharges instead of gas. Smog will be a thing of the past as will racket from cars on busy streets. We can’t afford to be left behind.

[High speed trains cannot run at high speed on regular track that is built for freight trains.]

No sh*t, Einstein. Neither can light rail trains, but light rail transportation has become extremely popular here in the Denver area. High speed rail will also be popular. It’s much more comfortable, reliable, and efficient than air travel.

[read Randall O’Toole’s work. He has been studying this for years, and is an expert.]

O’Toole wrote about Denver’s light rail and he’s wrong. Our light rail system is extremely popular and it is being expanded, as it should be. He’s also against urban planning. He’s an idiot. Most problems with growth can be attributed to LACK of urban planning.

[but if others present information that contradicts your cherished beliefs you have nothing to offer but name calling and insults.]

Information from right-wing think tanks is biased. I prefer to get my information from respected economists and scientists — not shills for the Republican party.

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Comment by Ben Hoffman

[…] reforms that would contain the exploding growth of Medicare.  Medicare faces dramatic growth as the baby boomers begin to reach age 65 next year.  How wonderful to discover that after all, they have fixed […]

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