Thursday, March 02, 2006

The New American Dream: Mortgaging the Future

The promise of the future is being mortgaged for short term 'joy'. This phenomenon is not just apparent with regards to the housing bubble but it runs across many areas of life. Here are just a few examples:

Government: The US national debt is now at 8.2 Trillion or 8,200,000,000,000. The estimated population of the United States is 298,265,468 so each citizen's share of this debt is $27,423.28 ( US National Debt Clock ). "After four years of budget surpluses, the government fell back into a deficit in fiscal 2002, after which the deficit climbed to $378 billion in 2003 and $412 billion in 2004. In 2005, the tide of red ink receded to $319 billion" Much of the federal deficit can be ascribed to the huge tax cuts enacted by the Bush administration. The short term economic gains that are ascribed to the lower tax rates will be followed by a period of painful policy choices. The long term fiscal outlook for the United States is being sacrificed on the short term.

Corporate: Too many corporations are thinking about the short term profits. Think Ford and GM who were focusing on sales of large SUVs, then the high oil prices came. They neglected to think long term.

Personal: For the past 7 months US households actually had a negative savings rate. The money will have to be payed back. The long term being mortgage on the alter of "I want it and I want it now." You sound like 3 year olds. Grow up! It is absolutely pathetic. Or someone who wants to buy a house and says 'what can the lowest monthly mortgage payment be?'. Sure a interest Only, no down payment, adjustable rate mortgage sounds great. They don't think long term about what happens when it adjusts in a few years.

The long term is being neglected or mortgaged for the short term.

Is this the new America Dream?

It sures seems so. :-(

My fellow Americans, it is time we all think more long term. Good things come to those who investigate, plan, save, and wait.


  1. But David,

    Ditech wants to loan EVERYONE 125% of LTV??? Stop being such a sourpuss.

  2. I am so sick of hearing about the negative savings rate. I put 20% of my income into bond and stock funds, but I would be considered a negative saver since I keep very little cash on hand.

    30 years ago someone like myself wouldn't have access to all the wide range of investment opportunities I have now. I'd probably be stuck putting the money in the bank at 5%.

    I'm a bubblehead, but this statistic is constantly used INCORRECTLY to claim Americans are mortgaging their future.

  3. Don't forget about student loans. The average undergraduate has $20,000 in student loans from a 4-year university. Graduate students can rack up another $20-$40,000 in student loans. Law school loans could be between $50-$125,000. Medical school loans could reach over $200,000. You have college graduates mortgaging their futures even before they get their first housing mortgage!!!! Student loans have prevented from investing in the real estate market and expanding my investments in stocks and bonds.

    I am angry that as an American citizen I cannot have access to affordable housing, education, and health care. Three basic human needs: shelter, learning, and health are cost prohibitive in this country. I am fed up with these things.

  4. "I put 20% of my income into bond and stock funds, but I would be considered a negative saver since I keep very little cash on hand. "

    This is not true. It measures the total income earned by people subtracted by the amount spent (investments in stocks and bonds are considered spent money).

  5. david
    I'm not sure if that is true.

    I think it is

    It is money earned--income , salary, interest on savings account(not mutual funds divident or IRS)


    money spent (not invested)-- on thing that is bought.

  6. "This is not true. It measures the total income earned by people subtracted by the amount spent (investments in stocks and bonds are considered spent money). "

    Typo: it should read (investments in stocks and bonds are NOT considered spent money). "

  7. OK, what I meant to say is the income and capital gains generated from the 20% I put into stocks and bonds is not counted as savings. I must remember to think before I type. Anyway, that's the way I understand it.

    To the anon above... There is plenty of affordable education available. It's just most people would rather not take advantage of a state school, or a lesser school where they would receive a scholarship to cover all costs.


  9. Oh no. I believe most high-school students want to attend a state university. Unfortunately, admissions standards have increased at state universities. You could fill only so many enrollment slots at Maryland, Penn State or Virginia Tech for example. The back-up plan is either a private college or community college. Parents and students will choose the more expensive private college option because a 4-year degree carries more weight in the employment world than a community college degree.

    Plus, state universities are jacking up tuition rates higher than private institutions. The cost of in-state public education is getting out of reach for many families.

    Second, more incoming college students have fewer access to grants. Scholarships are doled out to high-achievers in the academic and athletic world. That leaves 90 percent of the student population who must either get funding through grants (not much $$$ there), Mommy and Daddy's bank account, or student loans. Guess where the most tuition payments come from?

  10. "Much of the federal deficit can be ascribed to the huge tax cuts enacted by the Bush administration."

    What about?: Much of the federal surplus in the Clinton Adminstration can be ascribed to the huge defense cuts that needed to be corrected by the Bush administration."

  11. Robert, I think you meant Bush I's cuts. Let's not be revisionists. And it wasn't too long ago that Rumsfield was talking a "leaner" armed services.

  12. Nah, 8 trillion is grossly understing the problem.

    Interestingly also under Clinton there was no real surplus if you discount the money the government took from the social security trust funds. They robbed the cookie jars and put some IOY's in.

    Looking at the US interms of 'normal business accounting' where you need to state future liabilities, you should add about 40-60 trillion $ (number depending on the level of Medicare promises) in unfunded liabilities.

    Looking at the US, my conclusion is ... it is bancrupt and can never repay their debt in true value. So it will be defaults and/or huge hyperinflation which will evaporate the debt away. Dollar down 4 times .... than debt in true current value also down 4 rimes.
    And politicians don't need to break promises ... you get your 3000 $ retirement check. But this only will buy you so much with bread at 40$ a loaf and petrol at 20$ gallon.

    If you need an idea about the possible outcome read up on history and Google for what happened in Germany before the war (Weimar).

  13. The Clinton 'defense cuts' at least made us reach a point of some kind of fiscal sanity. Bush and his misfired wars of 'democracy' in the middle east have left us no safer then before.

  14. The funny thing I see as European that in general you are so hung up on politics.
    Wake-up .... basically you will be scr*wed from the left or right.... whatever the political landscape may look in your country.

    It is the same in Holland, also way to much dept, big promises but always too much spending on pet subjects or items that may ensure the next election and helps your friends or related 'interest groups'.
    The problem is that the 'general public' is not interested in the real numbers .... but who will win the next soccer match or idols.
    There just is no control from the public on the government.

    If you are really interested in the US debt etc. you may want to read this:
    or try listening some weeks to

  15. Savings, in terms of macroeconomics, is a fundamental entity. S = I - E, or something like that. Capital gains are not considered savings b/c there needs to be real money around to buy them. If everyone who owns stocks decided to liquidate at the same time as everyone who had savings decided they wanted to buy stocks, the value of the stock market would only be what the buyers have in cash. Ditto for the housing market.

    Another point: To spend is to tax. However, the taxing part does not have to take place at the same time as the spending part. This is generally accepted as OK if the spending is for things that increase future revenue, aka investment. Wars aren't usually regarding as improving future revenue. Choosing to have both tax cuts and a war at the same time might be good politics, but it is irresponsible fiscal policy.

    The raiding of the Social Security Trust Fund has been going on since 1983 when payroll taxes were substantially raised and SS's operational surplus began. Last year the surplus was in the neighborhood of $175B, IIRC. The unified budget was actually in surplus in 2000, which means the total debt of the USG was decreased that year, though not by much.

  16. No offense, but the discussion digressed pretty quickly into some kind of sectarian conflict between Republicans and Democrats (which is exactly what your party wants you to do, BTW)

    It's all about fiscal/monetary policy. We are in a stagflationary recovery mostly because of increased productivity and partially by global wage arbitrage; not caused by either political party (they don't really control business cyles, if you can imagine) If they did, they would always choose to be in a recovery and there wouldn't be any recessions.

    In the end, the government will just monetize the debt and payback interest to itself out of it's own treasury. Fiscal shortfalls are really not as bad as people think. They just cause inflation. Fiscal policy is still in a recovery mode to ensure we don't have deflationary pressure. Without it, we would be in the middle of a depression right now.

    The statement that corporations are "thinking about the short term profits" is really not a very specific statement. Of course they think about them, that's how they pay their bills. We would be so lucky if people were as responsible as corporations. If anything, laissez faire competition is what America is all about; finding lower costs of business is the American way, not ensuring jobs stay here. And, most importantly, most Ami corporations' balance sheets look cleaner than they have for 40 years (excluding the auto and airline industries). American companies are healthy; it's the american workers that are getting the shaft (and that's because we're fat, lazy, and have a major trade imbalance financed by Japanese ZIRP and the Chinese Grow a Middle Class at Home Project. Would you force someone to buy GM's just so Ami's have a job?

    As for the consumer; well, that's partially skewed by demographic shifts of the boomers from savers to spenders, and at least partially because we have turned into a greed-filled, workerless, blog-reading, nose-picking society that thinks nothing of the future except how expensive the next import SUV is going to be and how they can leverage their "equity" to have one with bling-bling wheels.

    Criticism is definitely due to some people (we see them every day in their too-expensive car, and with their expensive clothing and accessories) But, many are right, there are almost as many that make up for their stupidity. They're called immigrants and their willing to take your job and work for half the pay. It's all a race to the bottom.

  17. "It's all a race to the bottom."

    And to the top (education and technology wise).

  18. John Doe, government monetizing debt thus causing inflation is not so bad? You have no concept of conservation whatsoever! If it is that easy to wipe out debt, no country would ever be poor! Is deflation always worse than inflation? How about a 3% per year inflation vs. 50% or 100% per year inflation? Also, please show me some data or proof that shows we would be in a depression if it has not been for the reckless monetary and fiscal policy of George and Alan. Some may even argued that they have only delayed the inevitable and that the coming crisis will be much more severe.
    How can anyone with even a high school degree think that we can get something for nothing is beyond me? Spending our way into prosperity...please...!