The Laramee Filter: pseudorandom thoughts, subsequently put on the Internet.
 
Author:
Tom Laramee
Date Published:
December 18th, 2019
Word Count:
1,673 (12:30 read time)
Filed Under:

Book Review: A Generation of Sociopaths

I recently read a book called "A Generation of Sociopaths", and when I originally picked it up, I thought the title was hyperbolic, but now that I'm done reading it, I think the title is apt.

The thesis is, in a nutshell: the socio-political choices/priorities/design of the Boomer generation have optimized two things (1) the gains to that generation, in terms of tax breaks, housing gains, medicaid entitlements, etc and (2) left subsequent generation with absolutely massive finanical and climate-related liabilities .. e.g.: the national debt is around $22T, infrastructure is falling apart and will require massive spending, climate change is breaking over the earth and it's financial liabilities are massive, medicaid has a funding liability problem that kicks in around 2030 when fewer people will be contributing to each person who is drawing down on it and so the benefits will need to be cut, a student loan debt crisis, etc.

My own take-away was that American politics, as seemingly dysfunctional, maddeningly-wrongly-oriented, unjust, not-representative of the average American (etc) is really functioning exactly as designed - which it to serve a very specific demographic of people, the same group who comprises the majority of members of congress and the recent executive branch holders.

You can see this via evidence like (a) Trumps only legislative accomplishment was tax breaks for the wealthy (b) student loan debt is impossible to discharge and Betsy Devos is in contempt for ignoring a court order to forgive some predatory for-profit student loan debt (c) the generational limits on wealth transfer were raised from ~$5M to ~$11M (d) climate change is being wholly ignored (e) infrastructue investment is being wholly ignored (f) renewable energy investment is incredibly poor while fracking an oil investment are up (g) foundational medicare funding is being wholly ignored (h) the annual national defecit is someting like $1T (etc).

All liabilites are being pushed further and further into the future .. and will come due at a very strategic time, which is when many Boomers will no longer depend on Medicare, or infrastructure, or the planet being inhabitable, as that generation's life expectancy passes.

"A key feature of Boomer sociopathy is maximizing present consumption regardles of future costs."

The transfer of wealth from younger generations to the boomers is awe-inspiring:

"Boomer lies are systemic, sociopathic, and an essential mechanism for both the destruction of wealth and the transfer of what remains from younger generations to the Boomers. The result is a socially dysfunctional but highly effective system of pacification founded on pathological misrepresentation, oppression, and sustained failures to act."
A Number of Quotes From the Book, Grouped by Subject:

There are too many interesting themes in the book to cover them in any detail, so I've pulled out some salient quotes and grouped them by theme. This will give you a sense of how much detail the author goes into across a fairly large swarth of topics.

On the wholly manufactured student loan crisis:
"Even better, the loans taken out to meet those new educational bills, including those produced by the Boomer-created plague of for-profit colleges, could be converted into today's $1.3 trillion of student loans, profits on which the Boomers harvest and shall so forever."
 
"Education is being redefined at the demand of the uneducated to suit the ideas of the uneducated. The student now goes to college to proclaim rather than to learn."
 
"Many for-profit colleges are either nonaccredited, or functionally so, and worse than useless."
On the influence of television:
"Unlike the media that came before, television is at once ironic, mimetic, unidirectional, emotionally rich, informationally poor, highly habituating, and demands a certain suspension of disbelief."
 
"By the 1980s, as Boomers achieved political power, broadcasters we freed to dispense with even the modicum of balance that guilt prevously induced them to provide."
 
"The unavoidable fact is that the nation is currently run by people who have a deep and unshakable relationship with TV, entranced from their beginnings by a medium with unambiguously negative effects on personality and accomplishment."
On substituting feelings for science:
"Reality and reason are casualties of all sociopathic regimes. ... Feelings would be the great enabler, allowing Boomers to undermine the whole edifice of fact and reason in favor of personal truth, expedient and final."
 
"But Americans, especially older Americans, cannot be bothered to even learn (or anyway, remember or believe) the basics. Hence the regular spectacle of Boomer lawmakers beginning addresses on science policy with the phrase "I'm not a scientest" (which is where the speeches should end) and then proposing laws that fly in the face of scientific concensus."
 
"On a 2014 survey, a majority of Boomers did know know that humans descended from earlier forms of animal. Americans also had difficulty answering how long it takes the earth to revolve around the sun, which shouldn't surprise anyone given that around 24 to 30% of Americans fifty-five to sixty-four and older believed that the sun revolves around the earth, instead of the other way around."
 
"The defining trait of all of these new sciences ("Bible science" and "Creation science") was that they were obligingly tailored to the specific needs of their audience, not deduced from fact."
On trickle-down economics:
"Never again would the Boomers be told to save, or adjust the thermostat, or define themselves other than by their material posessions, to work on their families, to trust a meddlesome government, to abandon the pursuit of unrestrained individualism, or to undertake an "all-out effort" of any kind." .. "The only option, therefore, was to tolerate huge deficits, until such a time as Americans were preparted to do away with the big state".
 
"Regan [and Trump] turned to a new theory that held that tax cuts would pay for themselves." ... "The only unambiguous benefit would be a near-term increase in consumption. Therefore, the program required an electorate that cherished consumption above all, was willing to overlook the long-term consequences in favor of short-term gains, had no compunction about stripping benefits from the most vulnerable, (etc)"
On debt:
"The government continues to spend at a fairly stable (and substantial) rate, and the resulting deficits have been financed with debt, whose burdens will be passed on to younger generations."
 
"Of course the debt ceiling has been raised sixteen times between 1997 and 2015..."
 
"On a personal basis, American debt totaled more than $14.2T in 2015, of which about $9.5T is mortgage debt, $1.3T is educational debt, plus an assorted remainder."
On the stock market:
"RN [the Riegle-Neal Act] catalyzed the Boomers' privatization of gain and socalization of risk"
 
"Undeterred [by the market collapse in 1998] another Boomer congress deregulated derivatives in 2000 and the market for these items, often conveniently kept OBS [off-balance sheet accounting], vastly expanded".
On retirement:
"The apocalyptic figured often cited is that half of Americans have no retirement savings; that's roughly correct." ... "Nevertheless, private savings are crucial, so let's begin there. The situation is dismal."
 
"People spend more time planning annual holidays than planning for the permanant holiday of retirement."
 
"Absent an overhaul, Central States will be exhausted around 2026, with Boomer pensioners continuing to collect benefits at patently ridiculous rates until the grisly end."
 
"The risk of multiemployer program [pension] insolvency rises rapidly, exceeding 50% in 2025 and reaching 90% by 2032 ... there are those magical years again".
 
"The Boomers had more than enough tailwind and time to prepare for retirement. They chose not to, and they have not been honest with themselves or with the population they govern. While Boomers retain power, they will do their utmost to ensure that the consequences of their improvidence are borne by anyone other than those really responsbile. And so the Boomers will leave us with a titanic entitlements crisis."
On climate change:
"Inaction prevailed even as the scientific concensus became nearly universal and increasingly dire. Humans do affect climate, with consequences including warming, famine, flooding, rising and acidifying oceans, and so on. In essence, the consequences are serious, and we will shortly approach the point of no return if real efforts aren't made. Unfortunately, the point of no return is toward the end of Boomer lifetimes and the consequences will start arriving - you can already guess the dates - between the 2030s and the 2050s. Millennials will not be eager to retire to Florida."
On for-profit prisons:
"For many, school is just the waiting room before formal incarceration."
 
"The US has by far the largest prison population per capita - around 0.7% os Americans are in dentention (1 in 143)."
 
"These completed the neoliberal custodial trinity: charter schools, for-profit universities, and now their barbed-wire equivalents, privatized prisons."
On immigration:
"Whatever partisans said, Boomer American wanted these immigrants and the cheap labor they provided, just as they wanted cheap foreign goods."
 
"[Boomer political propositions on immigration] walls, and look-the-other-way."
On infrastructure:
"The Boomers inherited some of the lightest intergenerational burdens in American history and will leave some of the greatest. In doing so, the Boomers have authored one of the greatest injustices of a modern nation (mostly) at peace."
 
"It is very hard for one generation to engage in "the pursuit of happiness" if it is busy paying the bill for another generation's sociopathic pursuit of the same."
On money in politics:
"As a result, money and companies have more direct and potent influence in American politics than they have in decades."
 
"So, just as Shelby opened the door for Boomer state legislatures to refigure voting rights, Buckley made it possible for big money to return to politics."
 
"By the 2000s, it became trivial to dispose of irritants like McCain-Feingold, and courts dispatched them in a series of cases culminating in Citizens United vs FEC (2010)".
On war:
"For the record, there have been at least seventeen military interventions under Boomer presidents, some lasting many years."
 
"That has changed again, and the generation that pledged "not another Vietnam" has found itself with several."