Dollars to Sense
46 million Gen Xers have little or no savings, but they do have voter registration cards.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
The electorate seems to be hungering for presidents in the mold of TR, FDR and LBJ – old-school leaders who painted ambitious visions of where America could go and why it should, who anticipated crises and challenges and explained why we had to act sooner rather than later.
The craving for leadership is evident in the polls. Though personally popular and enjoying the advantages of incumbency, President Obama is running neck and neck against Mitt Romney, an awkward candidate from a minority religion who has trouble connecting with, and is seen as out of touch by, ordinary voters.
What’s going wrong? Mainly, it’s the economy. Democrats say the president inherited the meltdown from Bush, but many Americans blame Obama.
“The nation’s painfully slow pace of growth is now the primary threat to Mr. Obama’s bid for a second term, and some economists and political allies say the cautious response to the housing crisis was the administration’s most significant mistake,” reports The New York Times. Obama’s big screw-up: “He tried to finesse the cleanup of the housing crash, rejecting unpopular proposals for a broad bailout of homeowners facing foreclosure in favor of a limited aid program – and a bet that a recovering economy would take care of the rest.”
IT’S STILL POSSIBLE FOR OBAMA (OR, THEORETICALLY, ROMNEY) TO GET AHEAD OF THE ECONOMY.
Recovery? What recovery?
The depressed housing market, coupled with the reduced purchasing power of tens of millions of Americans who lost their homes to eviction and/or foreclosure, makes recovery unlikely to impossible for the foreseeable future.
Many people warned that the millions of Americans who were evicted under foreclosure, many of them illegally, were more “too big to fail” than Citigroup. Some, like former U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, D-GA, voted for TARP, but urged the Obama Administration to condition the bailout on forcing the banks to refinance mortgages and write down principal to reflect the new reality of lower housing prices. “There was another way to deal with this, and that is what I supported: forcing the banks to deal with this. It would have been better for the economy and lots of different neighborhoods and people owning houses in those neighborhoods,” Marshall says.
Voters are pissed off because he ignored people who were smart and prescient in favor of those who were clueless and self-interested, like Tim Geitner. He may be about to pay a price for that terrible decision.
It’s too late to stop the 2008-to-2012 economic meltdown. But it’s still possible for Obama (or, theoretically, Romney) to get ahead of the economy – permanent unemployment benefits, anybody? – and other pressing issues.
Americans want leaders who point the way forward, to anticipate monsters we can’t yet imagine. For example, there is a huge looming crisis: pensions. In 10 to 15 years, Generation Xers will hit traditional retirement age. How will they eat?
Close to none have traditional defined-benefit pension plans. Gen Xers, who earn far less than the Baby Boomers at the same age, have been shunted into 401(k)s, which turned out to be a total ripoff. And much of that was withdrawn under penalty to subsist on after layoffs.
“[Gen Xers] have no savings. What they had was devastated by two market crashes,” said Andrew Eschtruth of the Center for Retirement Research. “They never got off the ground.”
If you’re 45 years old now and just beginning to save for retirement, financial planners say you should save 41 percent of your annual income. As if.
The Gen X retirement crisis represents 46 million people waiting for a savior – and 46 million potential votes.
TED RALL’s most recent book is Wake Up, You’re Liberal! How We Can Take America Back from the Right.