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Archive for the ‘Baby Boomers’ Category

Baby Boomers’ Generational Robbery

Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 20, 2013

The Republican attempt to tie an extension of the government’s deficit spending to defunding Obamacare was a doomed strategy from the onset.  While more than 50% of Americans are concerned with aspects of Obamacare, most have no idea of the actual impact it will have on the economy or individuals.  With that they have much in common with the President and Congress.

The Country has been deficit spending for so long that Americans have become immune to claims it will damage the United States in.  Also, too many Americans are dependent on governmental programs and are therefore unwilling to accept cuts to them, which would be required to bring the deficit under control.

Obamacare will fail because it is based on unsound economics.  Republicans therefor wasted precious political capital on an unwinnable battle.  That took this lame effort on an attempt for political gain and lost.

Obamacare is but another Progressive governmental program designed to redistribute assets from some to others.  While camouflaged under the mantle of attempting to control health care costs, that is a red herring.  Obamacare places the government in charge of the medical services industry, which accounts for about 20% of the US economy.  Given the track record of failed and out-of-control government programs, Americans should understand where this one is heading.

Obamacare’s failure started right out of the gate with the sign-up and distribution website not working.  In a world where private industry transacts business on the Internet without a hitch, the government’s failure to set up a working website is a chilling reminder of its incompetence.

While the economic burden Obamacare will likely place on the Country will be problematic, it is not yet occurring or accrued in significant amounts.  Should the program quickly become problematic, as it likely will, it can be undone by legislation only wasting tens of billions of taxpayer funds.  That economic burden is dwarfed by the entitlement obligations already accrued and owed by America, mainly through Social Security and Medicare.

Blog reader Liz sent in an article from the Wall Street Journal titled “Stanley Druckenmiller: How Washington Really Redistributes Income that points to the coming generational battle to occur when those under 40 understand the economics of deficit spending.  While the handouts benefit many including younger Americans, a fact that helps perpetuate the deficit spending, those handouts are small when compared the entitlement programs that benefit the Baby Boomers and will not exist for future generations.

Stan Druckenmiller is a retired hedge fund manager worth just under $3 billion.  In retirement Druckenmiller tours college campuses throughout the United States preaching the reality of the generational robbing that benefits Baby Boomers, mainly through Medicare and Social Security entitlement programs at the expense of younger Americans.  These programs with undefended liabilities of over $60 trillion dwarf the still problematic $17 trillion US debt.

During his presentations at the colleges, Druckenmiller points out:

  • Even though worth nearly $3 billion, when Druckenmiller reaches 65 a five years, he will receive a monthly Social Security check of $3,500.  Seeing how ludicrous this is, Druckenmiller believes Social Security should be means tested so that wealthier people that do not require it did not receive the benefit.  The government, however, especially those on the Left, do not want to take this reasonable step since it would put a stake in the heart of the false narrative that Social Security is earned by workers paying into the system, and not the entitlement benefit it really is.
  • Druckenmiller points out that an American who is 65 years old today will receive on average net lifetime benefits of approximately $327,000.  However, an American-born today will suffer a net time loss of approximately $420,000 as they will have to pay the bills older Americans have run up for them.
  • During his college presentations, some older attendees have asked Druckenmiller why the obligations to them should not be fulfilled by raising federal taxes beyond historical norm of approximately 18.5% of GDP.  To that, Druckenmiller correctly responds:  “Oh, so you’ve paid 18.5% for your 40 years and now you want the next generation of workers to pay 30% to finance your largess?” and if 18.5% was “so immoral, why don’t you give back some of your ill-gotten gains of the last 40 years?
  • Similarly, Druckenmiller responds to suggestions concerning increasing payroll taxes saying: “Oh, I see.  So I get to pay a 12% payroll tax now until I’m 65 and then I don’t pay.   But the next generation – instead of me paying 15% or having my benefits slightly reduced – they’re going to pay 17% in 2033.  That’s why we’re waiting – so we can shift even more to the future than to now?

Druckenmiller goes beyond calling out Baby Boomers for self-centered behavior.  He also offers solutions that would benefit younger Americans at the expense of Boomers.  For example, Druckenmiller suggests raising capital gains’ and dividends’ taxes to ordinary income rates.  The logic behind this is that the current preferential treatment on capital gains and dividends disproportionately benefit older Americans, who have accumulated significantly more wealth, correctly stating:  “much wealthier than the working-age population.  So the guy who’s out there working – the plumber, the stockbroker, whatever he is – he’s paying the 40% rate and the coupon clippers who are not working anymore are paying a 20% rate.”

To offset the double taxation on dividends and capital gains after corporate profits, Druckenmiller would eliminate the federal corporate income tax.  This would naturally result in the elimination of the preferential tax code and crony capitalism so many companies take advantage of to the detriment of the greater society.  This reality would make special interests in both the Republican and Democratic parties cringe.  It would also be fought by those in Congress whose careers are aided by doling out tax treats to special interest groups in return for votes and money.

Republicans often preach for fiscal conservatism.  Unfortunately policies promoted by the Party often do not walk the talk.  When George W. Bush was president and Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, they spent like drunken sailors.  Since losing power their attacks on spending have been politically motivated and have not addressed the major spending issues that include entitlement spending.  The Tea Party has been an attempt by some conservative and more libertarian-type Republicans to change the fundamental focus of the Party towards fiscal responsive behavior.  However, the media has painted the Tea Party movement as being radical.  Some mainstream Republicans have helped promote this narrative.  Yes, bringing the country’s out-of-control spending back to economic reality will require radical change.

Barack Obama became a rock star in American politics by creating strong bonds with two key constituents.  One group promotes the redistribution of wealth in the Country, many of which receive benefits from entitlement programs.  It is unlikely that there is anything Republicans can do to break this bond that is dependent on an unholy relationship between benefits receivers and a Party that buys their votes by promising even more benefits.

The second group Obama has bonded well with are younger Americans who see the President as hip and offering supposedly no-cost solutions to America’s growing economic problems.  This group is being had.  The Progressive policies of not only Barack Obama, but also some of his predecessors, has been very damaging to younger Americans.  Those that have recently graduated college are stuck with huge student debt and poor job prospects.  They are also stuck with America’s ever-increasing deficit and undefended entitlement liabilities.  Should Druckenmiller and others be successful in framing the narrative to this reality, the political wins in the Country would shift rapidly.  At the same time it will create significance stress between the generations as each fights for a larger piece of what is a finite pie.

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The Coming Generational War

Posted by Steve Markowitz on August 14, 2013

Modern intellects, politicians and philosophers often frame the American political scene as battles between special interests that include Left and Right, gender and/or race.  While these divisions exist, they will be overshadowed by a division that is rarely discussed; the generational division.

Since World War II there have been dynamic macroeconomic pressures that have at first delayed the generational divide, but more recently stoked its flames.  For two decades after the War the United States had a near monopoly on industrial production.  In addition, much of the world was rebuilding from the devastation of World War II.  Finally, there was a baby-boom in the United States and other Western countries that increased demand for all sorts of goods and services.  The result was significant growth in much of the West and a dramatic increase in overall prosperity.

During the prosperous decades, the West squandered much of the newly acquired wealth.  With the aid of bogus figures indicating unsustainable economic and population growth, politicians hungry for power gave out benefits to special interests.  These benefits initially cost taxpayers little due to the future growth projections used in estimating their long-term costs.  However, two major legs of the projections failed.  First, population growth slowed significantly in many Western countries as narcissistic Baby Boomers focused on personal consumption.  This helped increase the extent of the second false projection, unsustainable economic growth as the Boomers grew older.

With decreasing population and economic growth, the initial low-costs of benefits turned into astronomical costs that must be divided over and paid for by a shrinking tax base.  Two major drivers of this cost include medical care and Social Security, most of which benefit the older generation; i.e. Baby Boomers.

While the potential economic Armageddon of 2007 may have been forestalled by massive governmental interventions, the cost to the younger generation has been staggering and will continue long into the future.  The unemployment rate for the under 25-year-old age group in some European countries exceeds 50%.  In the United States adult children are moving back in with their parents for lack of jobs.  While various factors contributed to this sorry economic state, a significant portion of the blame can be laid at the increasing dollars being sucked out of the economy by the Baby Boomer generation.  The Boomers are unwilling to give up any of these benefits and strong political power.

vanityThe problems relating to “generational theft” can be seen throughout the economy.  Brian Majeski, Editor of Music Trades Magazine, published an op-ed posted below showing one example.  Majeski writes about the problems of Buffalo, New York’s school system that is in the process of eliminating the availability of all music programs for its 42,000 students in order to save $2.2 million annually.  At the same time Buffalo’s teachers have a plastic surgery benefit that few private workers have access to costing nearly $5.5 million per year.  This is but one example of the older generation taking assets, in this case music education, from the next generation even though the parents of these children pay 28% more in taxes over the national average.

While Buffalo’s example is tragic, it would be wrong to be too harsh on their teachers give the rest of our society’s similar greed.  Buffalo’s teachers are merely emulating so many others in America that place their personal needs over the overall good.  Certainly the senior citizens, i.e. the Baby Boomers, who are unwilling to discuss any cuts to their Social Security and Medicare benefits, have paved the way for other Americans to look out for their own.

Music Education or Botox … Make a Choice, Brian T. Majeski 

What provides a greater social good, music education or unlimited Botox treatments and liposuction?  Given the debate currently underway at the Buffalo, New York school system, this question isn’t as silly as it might seem, and it also has some serious implications for how best to advocate for school music programs nationwide.

 Here’s the back-story.  By any measure, Buffalo is a metropolis that has seen better times.  Citizens have fled the Empire State’s second largest city, causing a 22% population decline over the past two decades, and the median income level is only a tad higher than Detroit’s.  With a current population of 261,000, Buffalo actually has fewer residents than it did in 1900.  The exodus has resulted in a declining economy, high unemployment, and sagging school enrollments.  Against this doleful backdrop, the city recently announced that it would eliminate all music programs in the coming year to trim about $2.2 million from its budget.  Yet, while music programs are coming under the budgetary scalpel, the Buffalo News reported that a plastic surgery benefit in the teachers’ employment contract has been left untouched.  Giving Buffalo’s 3,200 teachers’ unlimited access to dermabrasions, breast augmentations, and any other cosmetic procedure, with no co-payment, costs the district about $5.4 million a year.

The benefit has been a bonanza for plastic surgeons.  Local physicians interviewed by the Buffalo News said that teachers represented four out of ten of their patients. Not surprisingly, they also asserted that unlimited plastic surgery was a well-deserved perk. Dr. Kulwant Bhangoo, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo for almost four decades, told a local CBS affiliate, “I feel the teachers have paid their dues and it would be wrong to take it away from them.” Dr. Bhangoo and several of his colleagues regularly advertise their services in publications aimed at Buffalo educators.  Left unsaid is that these funds could be spent on other, perhaps more worthwhile activities, including offering Buffalo’s 42,000 students exposure to music making. 

The template for most music advocacy efforts has been a straightforward call for more money, as if additional funding will solve all problems.  However, as the situation in Buffalo forcefully illustrates, how money is spent is every bit as important as how much is spent.  Which brings us to the issue of how best to craft a persuasive argument for school music programs.

Buffalo residents are among the highest taxed in the nation, paying lofty income, sales, and property tax levies.  The school district’s $14,800 per-student expenditures are also about 28% higher than the national average.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that residents are getting much bang for their buck.  Local civic and news websites are filled with anecdotes of feather-bedding municipal labor practices, funds squandered on poorly thought out capital projects, and rampant cronyism.  This well-documented mismanagement makes it doubtful that a simple plea to increase school funding would gain much traction with voters.  Yet these same voters are highly receptive to arguments for the better allocation of existing funds.  The plastic surgery/music program trade-off has sparked a torrent of commentary from the citizenry.  And with the exception of a few plastic surgeons and school teachers, opinion seems unanimous in favor of keeping music and ditching plastic surgery.  Union officials, obviously embarrassed by the situation, are back-pedaling in the face of public ridicule, and administrators have seized the high ground.  As of this writing, Buffalo’s Mayor, Byron Brown has managed to come up with $400,000 to partially restore music programs.  Whether music programs will regain full funding is still under debate.

Union officials are now saying that they will scale back the plastic surgery benefit if the administrators come back to the bargaining table and renegotiate a contract.  School administrators counter that the union isn’t prepared to bargain in good faith because a failure to reach a new agreement leaves the current contract, with its guaranteed annual wage increases, in place.  Hopefully, mounting public pressure will break the stalemate.

Regardless of the outcome, the Buffalo case suggests illustrating how existing funds might better be directed towards music programs is a more effective way to motivate the citizenry than a simplistic call for “more money.”  Not every school district offers such a clear-cut choice between music and plastic surgery, but some careful budget analysis could uncover some misplaced fiscal priorities.  The New York City schools, for example, spend close to $100 million a year on “rubber rooms,” holding pens where demonstrably incompetent teachers sit idly all day and collect their salaries because union contracts make it too costly to fire them.  In our fair state of New Jersey, stories about graft in school procurement policies regularly make the headlines.  

Management in a world of finite resources involves making choices, some of which are difficult.  Music advocates would better advance the cause by highlighting the misplaced priorities that limit access to music education rather than issuing a blanket plea for more money.

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Bill Clinton – ‘Father of the Year’

Posted by Steve Markowitz on January 10, 2013

lewinskyPolitico published a story that speaks volumes about the degradation inflicted on society by Baby Boomers.  Yesterday, former President Bill Clinton was named “Father of the Year” by the National Father’s Day Council.

It is remarkable that a philanderer and a man disbarred for lying is the best role model that we can come up with for our children.  This goes a long way towards explaining why America’s young men have so little respect for women.

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Economic Reality Check for Younger Americans

Posted by Steve Markowitz on September 2, 2012

Most Americans do not require more economic data to realize the economy is weak five years after the economic meltdown.  At the same time certain granular data offers a broader context for of the long-term implications of the economy’s challenges.

Economists John Mauldin posted an article titled Boomers are Breaking the Deal that offers interesting data on how different segments of society had been affected by the downturn.

  • According to the Associated Press 54% of bachelor degreed Americans under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed.  It is also projected that by 2020 that the majority of largest job opening occupations will not require college degrees.  This will be caused by ongoing computerization that is eliminating the need for highly trained professionals in many jobs.
  • While President Obama promotes class warfare, the real growth in societal inequities is age-based.  The Baby Boomer generation is taking a greater share of wealth through entitlements like Social Security and Medicare.  They now also take a greater bite of the job market.  The chart below shows the employment level of those 55 years and older since 2007, which has continued to rise at a steady pace.  At the same time, the total employed in the United States has dropped by 4 million, as indicated by the red line showing that Baby Boomers are taking a larger percentage of available jobs.
  • As of June, 2012, the total civilian labor force in the United States was 155 million with 111 million being in the private workforce.  There are approximately 56,000,000 Americans either on Social Security or disability benefits equaling a staggering 50% of the private workforce.
  • One in eight households receive food stamps and over 50% a government check of some form.  It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to understand this trend is a train wreck.

While the above are unsustainable, they continue only because of United States ability to borrow and print money.  Believing that this Ponzi scheme can continue is akin to believing in alchemy.

It is remarkable that younger Americans have failed to understand the implications of the massive entitlements going to Baby Boomers.  The government uses handouts, such as subsidized college loans, to keep mollify them.  This sleight-of-hand is running out of steam as young Americans find it increasingly difficult to find jobs.  When they wake up to reality of their plight they will become a powerful political force that will likely be adversarial to the interests of the Baby Boomers.

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Baby Boomer Math

Posted by Steve Markowitz on May 3, 2012

Blog reader John forwarded this lesson in Baby Boomer mathematics that is full of political correctness and illogic.  It would be funny if not so true.

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“Occupy Wall Street” Wants Revolution

Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 4, 2011

The link below is to a video of Reverend Al Sharpton interviewing Harrison Schultz, an organizer of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that is gaining traction.  This is a telling interview, even though conducted by a person of dubious character.

Sharpton starts by asking a reasonable question of the Schultz, who proclaims he is a Professional Sociologist, “What are the goals?” to which Schultz answers: “We don’t want to fix them [the problems].  It’s revolution, not reform.”

Those of us who lived through the “revolution” of the 1960’s recall the narcissi and greed that came with those revolutionaries.  The groups that included the SDS (Students for Democratic Society), the Black Panthers, and others have since gone mainstream and in fact currently carry huge power with the Democrat Party and the White House.  It is ironic that only after a sixties’ revolutionary who promised “hope and change” took the White House did this new-revolutionary movement gain traction.

The spoiled children of us Baby Boomers are now talking revolution.  It’s not surprising that these youngins didn’t start complaining until they left the nests and were forced to consider working for a living.  Like revolutionaries that precede them, the real motivations are more about personal gains than changing the world.

Al Sharpton Interviewing Revolutionary Harrison Schultz

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When the Our Children Figure Out What Debt We’ve Created

Posted by Steve Markowitz on August 12, 2011

Paula sent in this piece of humor to end the week.  However, there may be more truth than humor in this if our children ever figure out that they have to pay off the debt that we Baby Boomers created.

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Final Shuttle Flight Emblematic of Baby Boomers’ Failings

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 21, 2011

The final space shuttle mission ended this week when Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.  This final 5 million mile mission was the 135th for the shuttle program that spanned 30 years.  Over its 26-year career, Atlantis flew 33 times for a total of 126 million miles and spent 307 days in space while circumnavigating the world nearly 5,000 times.  Remarkable!

Atlantis’s final mission included taking 8,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station.  America now is left without a space exploration vehicle and must hitch rides on other countries’ (mainly Russian) vehicles to fly into space.  How sad!

It is instructive for us Boomers to use the sad current state of America’s space program to critique our failings as a generation.  This example is a microcosm of the overall economic challenges America currently faces and our responsibilities for these challenges.

During the later part of the 1950’s and into early 1960’s, we were in the heat of the Cold War against the Evil Empire, the Soviet Union.  It was evident then that space would play a crucial role in that war and the Greatest Generation did not shirk its reasonability.  While expensive, that generation through its spokesman John Kennedy committed America to putting a man on the moon within ten years (video below), even though they did not then have the technical capability to do.  They also committed to paying for this program without stealing from future generations.

While not initially foreseeable, the rewards from the space program were a bonanza to society that still pay huge dividends.  Any product that uses microcircuits owes the current status of their advancement to the space program.  Lasers, GPS, digital sound, camcorders, medical devises and much more are advanced to where they are today because of the technology developed for the space program.  The fact that shuttles flew for thirty years and retired as the most advanced space vehicle available is telling.

With the retiring of the space shuttle program, the flaws of the Baby Boomer generation comes front and center.  What is America’s current vision for space exploration?  It is none existent mainly because we cannot afford one as we Boomers wasted money on self-indulgent programs.  Worse still, we stole from future generations to allow us to live and retire better than we deserve, given our overall productivity.

While told the Greatest Generation and to reach for the stars, the Boomers’ current leader, Barack Obama, harps on why we cannot achieve.  For NASA, he went so far as to include in its mission outreach to the Muslim world (see video below.).  While JFK told the world that America was exceptional and would lead, Obama apologizes for America’s past failings and commits to following.  While the Greatest Generation invested in hard programs like the space exploration with clearly defined goals, Obama wasted $800 billion on a Stimulus Program without defining goals.  Worst yet, the Stimulus money was stolen from future generations.

While the folks in Washington and the mainstream media focus on the tactical issue of the debt ceiling, more strategic issues are be conveniently avoided.  What is the real definition of “investment” when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money?  Who benefited from the huge deficits that America has a run up?  Who and how should these deficits be paid back?  While we Boomers avoid addressing these questions, sooner or later younger generations will pursue them.  That will be the start of challenging times between generations.

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Boomers Create an Economic Storm

Posted by Steve Markowitz on June 28, 2011

Attempting to wade through and interpret the mass of economic data available is a daunting task, even for expert economists.  That becomes clear when considering the fact that most experts did not foresee the 2008 economic meltdown until it was already upon us.

This writer recommends economist John Mauldin’s website, Investorsinsight.com, for concise information and insights of our economic world.  John not only has a unique way of explaining complex economic matters in understandable ways, but his calls are right in most cases.

Investorsinsight.com often includes guest writers in its Out-of-the-Box section.  This week there is an especially thought-provoking piece titled “The 3-D Hurricane and the New Normal written by Jason Hsu, Chief Investment Officer, Research Affiliates, who has a PhD in economics and is a professor at UCLA.  Hsu’s article concisely ties together the significant macro-economic challenges that Western countries face.  In order to wet your appetites, included below are some quotes from The 3-D Hurricane and the New Normal.

  • Debt, deficit, and demographics – the 3-D hurricane – is heading to the shores of all developed economies.
  • More importantly, the emerging economies will demand their fair share in the consumption of resources and goods.  That competition for resources and goods will lead to higher prices at a time when developed countries are less able to further finance their consumption.
  • Democracy is one of the great equalizers for income inequality in the cross-section of population.  The poor have a mechanism to instigate wealth transfers by voting for welfare and public goods production and to avoid exploitation by voting for pro-labor regulations.  Democracy seems to serve quite the opposite role, however, when it comes to equalizing the inequality between generational cohorts.  There is no doubt that our future generations have become extremely poor; they are each responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in national debt – in some countries, Gen Xers are staring at outright national bankruptcy.  But today, our political process continues to allow the Boomers to pile on new debt for the next generation in order to fund their current consumption and future retirement.
  • It is projected that the support ratio in developed countries will decline from 3.5 working age adults per retiree to below 2:1 by 2050. In comparison, in 1970, the support ratio was 5.3:1.  By 2025, at the height of Boomer retirement cycle in the United States, there will be 10 new retirees for each new entrant into the workforce.
  • Thus, the trade deficit between developed countries and the emerging countries must continue to widen aggressively or the standard of living for developed countries must decline precipitously.  However, the only way for most developed countries to maintain (and increase) their trade deficit against the emerging countries is to borrow heavily from the emerging countries.

Hsu profound conclusions are hard to find fault with.  It is evident that the entitlement programs that the Boomers have given themselves are Ponzi Schemes teetering on the unsustainable weight of an inverted triangle.  (And yes, Social Security has become an entitlement since Boomers will get far more out than they pay into it.)

Those that receive incomes from the government through salaries or entitlement programs, including those 47% that pay no federal Income tax, will offer great resistance to macro-economic problem resolution.  That makes for a dicey road ahead.

The 3-D Hurricane and the New Normal, by Jason Hsu

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Socialists Being Rebuked in Spain

Posted by Steve Markowitz on May 23, 2011

The protests in Spain are growing by the day.  A tent city has sprung up in Madrid with an estimated 30,000 people joining the protests last night.  Spanish newspapers indicate that Spaniards are tiring of the Socialists that have run the country since 2004.  They blame the Socialists for the weak economic conditions in Spain that has led to high unemployment.

It is reported that the demonstrators represent a broad spectrum of Spanish society.  However, a high percentage of the protesters are in their 20s and 30s, a group most adversely affected by the unemployment.  It is estimated that approximately 50% of Spaniards between 18 and 25 years of age are unemployed, double the European Union average.

It is evident that Spain has tired of Socialists economic policies that have given Spain the highest unemployment rate in the European Union.  At the same time, the Spanish problem highlights the growing divide between the Baby Boomer generation and younger citizens.  The Boomers have created all sorts of benefit programs designed to make their retirement years more pleasant.  However, these programs are now being paid for by a generation that sees its chances for wealth slipping away.

The clash between the generations is likely to be repeated in many countries, including the United States, as the newer generations realize they are on the bad end of poorly planned Ponzi schemes.

Posted in Baby Boomers, Unemployment | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »