“At this point, there are no good solutions — only a choice among painful and distasteful ones.”
Steven Pearlstein’s words in today’s Post make for a glum start to the day, but there’s no better time than the morning to ring the alarm. And when it comes to our economy, you can’t sound the warnings often enough.
Pearlstein notes the infuriating lack of consensus among experts about our economic predicament. Do we spend more stimulus, or start cutting back on spending? Do we worry about deflation or inflation? Do we encourage more consumer spending to speed up the recovery, or should we orient our economy toward more saving and sustainable growth?
There’s confusion on where to go – but everyone can agree on how we came to this pass:
The controlling reality is that the global economic system is rebalancing itself after years in which the United States was not only allowed but encouraged to live beyond its means, consuming more than it produced and investing more than it saved. Now the bill for that is finally coming due — all the clever and seemingly painless ways for postponing that day of reckoning have pretty much been played out.
Pearlstein’s diagnosis brings to mind a headline from last week: “Save Us, Millennials.” Timothy Egan’s blog post covered a Pew survey on millennials, which painted a picture of a generation that is “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.”
If any generation had a right to be steamed at their predicament, it would be the millennials. Their parents may have given them cars and paid for their tuition, but they also left the kids with crippling obligations. They join an American economy that will be less generous to the children than it was to the parents. And yet the millennials, according to Pew, are “more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation.” (The audacity of hope!)
They’ll need that sunny disposition to weather the coming storm. Egan’s plea seems jokey, but there’s more than a hint of justified desperation there. If we are to emerge from this economic mess, it’s the younger generation that will have to carry us. The bill has come due, and they will have to pay it.
There are no good solutions, as Pearlstein says, and a culture weaned on the happy ending has been throwing tantrums for the past year and a half. There has been not a hint of reflection, no acknowledgment that the American disconnect between what it expects from government and what it expects to be taxed is to blame for our problems. Instead we’ve been treated to a nonstop primal scream session. Thank god the kids are acting like grown-ups.
Photo credit: Lamtastic’s Photostream