A Two-Part Discussion
Our generation is, of course, the most fabulous group of people who ever walked on two legs… with a more keenly honed sense of right and wrong than any other, before or after.
We not only care about our fellow man… we also care about the blue-tailed horned tree frog… and about the Earth itself.
Not only that, but we have an incredibly learned view of how economies work. We can avoid the downswing of the business cycle, almost indefinitely, and run up such mountains of debt as previous generations would have regarded with alarm and disgust.
But compared to us, those who came before were morons… and those who will come after will be idiots. No doubt about it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be undoing the works of the past… and spending the money of the future.
We know what we think of them – those poor slobs of past generations and the hopeless dumbos yet unborn – but in the spirit of mischief, we thought we’d ask the ghosts what they think of us.
Today, we let a shade from the past speak. Then, we will give the podium to a phantom from the future:
PART ONE: conversations with a ghost
“Uh… thanks for the opportunity, I guess. Gosh, nobody ever asked what I thought… I mean, speaking from beyond the grave and all. So here goes.”
“I don’t mean to sound critical, but right off the bat I notice some big differences between what we did and what you are doing.
“Let’s begin with money. I died in 1960. The federal budget was balanced when I checked out. It’s not that we didn’t know about debt. We ran up huge debts in WWII.
“But we were fighting a real war. One we could lose. Not some phony-baloney war with people who didn’t have a country, an army, a navy, or an air force. ‘Terrorists,’ you call them. Ha ha.
“And then, when our real war was over, we sent the troops home, cut the military budget, and began paying down the debt. Isn’t that the right way to do it?
“But you didn’t have any war to fight… and when your only adversary – the Soviet Union – threw in the towel, instead of cutting back on the military, you actually increased it. Geez, what were you thinking?
“Spending more money on ‘defense,’ even though you don’t have any enemies you needed to defend against? I don’t get it.
“And you increased spending on domestic giveaways, too – medical care and social security pensions, mostly. And I’m not going to bother with all those crazy agencies and departments that spend a few billion here and a few billion there… and nobody knows what the heck it is for.
“And the result is that now, you’ve got a debt of $22 trillion that you can’t possibly pay. They still taught arithmetic when I was in school. And I see you’re spending 38% of GDP, but you’re only collecting about 17% of GDP in taxes.
“And this is in a time of peace. And prosperity. What’s going to happen if you ever have a real war? Or a real depression? I’ll tell you… those numbers – bad as they are – are going to get a lot worse. And you’re going to have a real crisis on your hands.
“What kind of financial management is that? And you’ve got a Fed that is manipulating interest rates to encourage people to borrow more. I don’t get that, either.
“And you think you’re so smart… with all those PhDs at the Fed. Well, let me ask you something. We got 5% growth… throughout the 1950s. You’ve barely got 2% for the last 10 years. We did it while paying down the national debt. You added $13 trillion. How come?
“And our wages went up – for working people, as well as managers and executives – year after year. Your wages (except for the rich) have been flat for 40 years. Why is that?”
Geniuses and Saints
“But let’s switch to politics. We had some heated political debates in our day, too. But people were still usually polite and dignified. And their private lives were generally off-limits.
“And compared to the candidates you vote for, ours were geniuses… and saints. I voted for Eisenhower, a guy who led the largest successful seaborne invasion of all time. Whom did you vote for?
“Honestly, in a nation of 330 million people, couldn’t you find any better candidates than a big-mouth draft-dodger… or a person who says he’s a ‘socialist’? How can you claim to be an American and support either one of them?
“And your president, who never saw a single day of military service, seems to think it is his duty to tarnish the reputation of a dead man who spent five and a half years in a prisoner-of-war camp. He says he likes soldiers who weren’t captured.
“In World War II, we had 120,000 men who spent time in enemy prisoner-of-war camps. Four out of 10 of those captured by the Japanese died in their horrible camps. The rest came back heroes. And if any politician had dared to say anything against them, his career would have been over.
“What happened? What changed? What’s wrong with you?”
“But I’m not finished. That’s just politics and economics. I see, in Baltimore and many other cities, you’re taking down the monuments to Confederate soldiers… and to a Supreme Court judge.
“And you can’t listen to Amos ‘n’ Andy… and some schools want to ban Tom Sawyer. You say we were ‘racists.’ You say we were ‘homophobic,’ whatever that means. And we didn’t have special bathrooms for ‘trans’ people, whatever they are. And you say we were all ‘misogynists.’ You can’t even ask a girl out without risking a federal case.
“But what makes you think our fathers and grandfathers were any more nasty or mean-spirited than you are? They put up those monuments – to soldiers of the North and the South in the War Between the States – because they wanted to honor men who did their duty, as they saw it, and died for a cause they believed in.
We had some heated political debates in our day, too. But people were still usually polite and dignified.
“And now you come along and tear down those statues. Who do you think you are? What do you know about their suffering? What do you know about their sense of honor… or right and wrong… and what is worth remembering?
“And you think you’re making progress? You think you’ve made a better world? Well, it doesn’t seem better to me. Back in my day, we could laugh at each other… and ourselves. Now, you can’t laugh at all. You take everything deadly serious. You tell a joke and your career is over.
“And there were a lot of things that were just better back in my day. We didn’t need no damned wall with Mexico. We got along with the Mexicans just fine without a wall.
“We didn’t have any federal welfare program, so those who came across the border came to work and we were happy to have them. By the way, you spent $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs over the last 50 years. And guess what? The percentage of poor people when you started was about 15%. And it’s still 15%. Good work.
“We didn’t have a drug war, either… So we didn’t have all the violence you have. Didn’t you learn anything from our Prohibition program? It was a disaster. And we could have told you that your prohibition on drugs would be a disaster, too.
“You spent $1 trillion on your campaign to eliminate illegal drugs – while simultaneously promoting legal drugs, which often turned out to be more dangerous.
“And now you’re spending $100 billion per year. What do you get for it? The rate of drug use remains about the same… but you arrest 1.5 million people per year on drug charges. Good work, again.
“And we didn’t need a trade war, either. We had the strongest economy on the planet, with trade that was in balance. Of course, we also had real money back then – a dollar that was backed by gold… so neither trade nor debt could get too far out of whack.
“I’m not saying we were perfect. Of course we weren’t. But we weren’t any worse than you are.
“So how can you be so sure we were wrong… that we were so awful?
“Do you think we didn’t care about right and wrong… and didn’t try to separate good from bad… in our own way? Do you think you’re so smart… so pure… so sure you’re right about everything that anyone who ever had any different ideas must have been either evil or stupid?
“Do you think that the thousand generations that came before you had learned nothing… and had nothing to teach you? So that you can ignore everything they told you?
“You think that, don’t you? Well, I think you’re a fool.”
PART 2: a message from the future
Rather than pass judgement ourselves, we call upon the dead… and the unborn… to do the talking. Now we’ll let the phantoms of the future tell their tale:
“Thanks. I’ll get right down to it. Thanks a lot… you jerks.
“You’re supposed to leave your children and grandchildren a richer, safer world. You are doing neither.
“You ran up $22 trillion in debt by 2019. Who did you think was going to pay that? Not you. Donald Trump was already 72. And the average baby boomer was in his 60s, getting ready for retirement. He expected to draw medical and pension benefits for 20 years. Where did you think that money would come from?
“The feds were already running deficits of $1 trillion per year. At that rate, it was just a matter of time before they went broke. But rather than put on the brakes, you just kept at it… So the debt hit $40 trillion by 2030.” [Our speaker has the advantage of being able to see what happens in the future.]
“What’d you think? That you needed that money so much more than we did? That we should pay for your stupid wars… your stupid programs… and your stupid medical and retirement benefits? Didn’t it occur to you that we might have our own stupid programs?
“And didn’t you ever stop to think that we might have some ideas of our own? You think your hopes and your desires are of such paramount importance that you can’t imagine that any future generation could have an agenda of its own?
“You spend $800 billion a year claiming to defend yourself. Against whom? You build all those ships… and planes… and have troops stationed all over the world… What do you think you’re doing… preparing to re-fight WWII? Well, I got news: No WWII replay is coming.”
“And then there are your other dumb programs… fighting drugs… rounding up immigrants… subsidizing poverty… encouraging ‘equality’… keeping the planet from overheating… paying people with handicaps… offering unlimited free medical services to old people…
“… I could go down the list of all the things you spent money on. About one out of every three dollars was borrowed. Now, what does that mean? It means you wanted it, but you were unwilling to pay for it.
“So you took the money from us – in future generations, who weren’t even born then… and had no say in it – to pay for a third of your numbskull spending.
“Did you think that we would be such morons that we wouldn’t be able to come up with any boondoggles of our own? That you had to spend our money for us… because we wouldn’t be smart enough to spend it for ourselves?
“And just look at what you spent the money on. The War on Poverty had no effect on poverty. The war on drugs just increased the population of prison inmates… and made the streets much more violent. The war on terrorism radicalized Muslims so they wanted to kill us. And your cockamamie finances opened the door to a series of calamities.
“You want to know what happened? It was obvious. But you never even bothered to look. You must have thought some miracle would take care of it. But someone had to pay that $40 trillion of debt. And guess who did? We did.
“We neither borrowed it, nor lent it, but we suffered one financial disaster after another, as the feds kept trying to avoid it.”
Crash of 2019
“First, the Crash of 2019 caused the feds to panic. They tried the same tricks they used in 2000 and 2008. But they didn’t work (partly because they never ‘normalized’ interest rates.) So, they turned from monetary stimulus (the Fed) to fiscal stimulus (the federal government).
“The Trump government passed another tax cut and a big infrastructure bill (more stimulus). Now the deficit was at $2 trillion. Still, everything seemed to be going okay for a while. But by then, the whole economy was running on fake money.
“More than half of federal spending, for example, was funded by the Fed. And after a while, we noticed prices beginning to edge up as the money worked its way into the economy.
“At first, it seemed like a good thing. Finally, the economists said, we were overcoming the deflation. The stock market went up. It was the best performer in the world in 2023, for example.
“But it was all phony. All distortions. The feds were printing money and pumping it into the economy. We all felt richer, at first. The economy seemed to be picking up. But then, as prices continued up, we realized that it was no different from Zimbabwe… or Venezuela… or Argentina.
“That’s when it got really rough. People were getting poorer and losing faith in the system.
“This was at the end of Trump’s second term. The two parties had radicalized, with the Trump supporters on one side and the socialists of AOC on the other. They would each hold political rallies, and one side would attack the other. It was getting bad. Almost like a civil war.
“You can’t hold an honest election in those circumstances. So Trump called another state of emergency. And he put into place that Chinese system of social credit. Everybody got a score. And if you were seen at a demonstration or you said something against the government, you lost points. Then, they’d cancel your credit card or take away your job.
“It sounds harsh. But it’s probably a good thing he did it. Because things were getting out of control. Inflation was running about 40% per year. But what did you expect? You set that up… your generation.”
‘It was your fault’
“The retirees – your generation – weren’t going to agree to a reduction in benefits. And the military wasn’t about to surrender its honey pot. The result was political and economic dysfunction. Nobody could cut spending because the other side wouldn’t go along with it.
“And who were the main victims? You’re hearing from them now. The young. Even the unborn. Depression, inflation, martial law, street fighting, repression… Young people couldn’t get jobs… and couldn’t cover their own living expenses.
“We had to live with Mom and Dad… and yes, we voted for AOC because at least she promised to forgive our student loans and give us an income. And then Donald Trump cancelled our votes because it was a national emergency.
“It was crazy. But it was your fault. Jerks… We spit on your graves…”
Bill Bonner is the underground news mogul and founder of The Agora publishing company. He’s written the New York Times bestselling book Empire of Debt and most recently published Hormegeddon: How Too Much of A Good Thing Leads to Disaster. He is one of the great writers and minds in America today and also publishes a free daily letter, Bill Bonner’s Diary, which you can sign up for here: bonnerandpartners.com.