“Generation Greed” is a name frequently used by New York City blogger Larry Littlefield in his posts on Room Eight (a New York City political blog) and other websites. Several generations have been nicknamed, such as the “Lost Generation” (immediately after World War I), the “Greatest Generation” (Americans who grew up in the Great Depression of the 1930s and fought in World War II), and the “Me Generation” (author Tom Wolfe wrote about the “Me Decade” in 1976).
“Generation Greed” is a political term describing politicians and special interest groups who have mortgaged the future to pay for the present. For example, Social Security funds were raided to serve the present generation, bankrupting future generations. Local governments became addicted to long-term bonds, accumulating tremendous debts. Politicians often took the easy route of submitting to special interest groups, giving government workers lavish (but unfunded) health care and pensions. Many new labor agreements increased health care and pension benefits for those nearing retirement; new hires were often given lower salaries and benefits to pay for “Generation Greed.”
Financier Ivan Boesky declared that “Greed is all right…greed is healthy” is a 1986 speech before the California-Berkeley School of Business Administration. The speech was borrowed in the Oliver Stone film Wall Street (1987), where Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko character declared that “greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.” The term “Generation Greed” reflects these famous comments; “Generation Greed” began to appear on several blogs in 2008-2009, after the Wall Street downturn.
“Generational theft” is a similar term to “Generation Greed.” In 2009, there was some opposition to President Barack Obama’s federal stimulus bill, with claims that the nearly trillion-dollar bill would bankrupt future generations of Americans. John McCain (Obama’s Republican presidential challenger in 2008) called the stimulus bill “generational theft” on the Face the Nation CBS News television program in February 2009. About a month earlier, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin had called the stimulus bill “The Generational Theft Act of 2009.” The term “inter-generational theft” dates to at least the 1980s and was used often in discussions about Social Security funding.
Another term, similar to “Generation Greed” and dating to 1988, is “greedy geezer.” Deficit spending has also been called ‘fiscal child abuse,” cited in print from 1984.
Wikipedia: Greatest Generation
The Greatest Generation is a term coined by journalist Tom Brokaw to describe the generation of Americans who grew up during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II, as well as those whose productivity within the war’s home front made a decisive material contribution to the war effort. Some of those who survived the war then went on to build and rebuild United States industries in the years following the war. It follows the Lost Generation of the 1880s who fought in WWI, and precedes the Silent Generation of the 1930s. On a world scale this generation is often referred to as “The Veterans”. Seven consecutive U.S. presidents were from this generation: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Tom Brokaw’s book
Broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw wrote in his 1998 book The Greatest Generation, “this is the greatest generation any society has produced.” He argued that the men and women fought not for the fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. When they came back they rebuilt America into a Superpower. The book was a great popular success. Some critics and historians found the phenomenon overblown, or simplistic. Others felt an implied criticism of the Baby Boomer generation, and defended that generation’s social values against those of the Greatest Generation.
In their 1991 book Generations, the historians William Strauss and Neil Howe use the term “G.I. Generation” to describe those born in the United States from about 1901 through 1924.
In 1976 he published another collection, Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine, which included his well-known essay “The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening.”
“The right stuff,” “radical chic,” and “the Me Decade” (sometimes altered to “the Me Generation”) all became popular phrases, but Wolfe seems proudest of “good ol’ boy,” which he introduced to the written language in a 1964 article in Esquire about Junior Johnson, the North Carolina stock car racing driver, which was called “The Last American Hero.”
Internet Movie Database
Memorable quotes for
Wall Street (1987)
Gordon Gekko: [at the Teldar Paper stockholder’s meeting] Well, I appreciate the opportunity you’re giving me Mr. Cromwell as the single largest shareholder in Teldar Paper, to speak. Well, ladies and gentlemen we’re not here to indulge in fantasy but in political and economic reality. America, America has become a second-rate power. Its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions. Now, in the days of the free market when our country was a top industrial power, there was accountability to the stockholder. The Carnegies, the Mellons, the men that built this great industrial empire, made sure of it because it was their money at stake. Today, management has no stake in the company! All together, these men sitting up here own less than three percent of the company. And where does Mr. Cromwell put his million-dollar salary? Not in Teldar stock; he owns less than one percent. You own the company. That’s right, you, the stockholder. And you are all being royally screwed over by these, these bureaucrats, with their luncheons, their hunting and fishing trips, their corporate jets and golden parachutes.
Cromwell: This is an outrage! You’re out of line Gekko!
Gordon Gekko: Teldar Paper, Mr. Cromwell, Teldar Paper has 33 different vice presidents each earning over 200 thousand dollars a year. Now, I have spent the last two months analyzing what all these guys do, and I still can’t figure it out. One thing I do know is that our paper company lost 110 million dollars last year, and I’ll bet that half of that was spent in all the paperwork going back and forth between all these vice presidents. The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated. In the last seven deals that I’ve been involved with, there were 2.5 million stockholders who have made a pretax profit of 12 billion dollars. Thank you. I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.
Wikipedia: Ivan Boesky
Ivan Frederick Boesky (born March 6, 1937, in Detroit) is an American businessperson. He is notable for his prominent role in a Wall Street insider trading scandal that occurred in the United States in the mid-1980s.
Boesky is of Jewish descent. He graduated from Detroit’s Mumford High School before attending courses at Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. He then went to Iran for several years where he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. After his return, he was admitted to the Detroit College of Law, which allowed him to enroll despite having no undergraduate college degree. He graduated from the Detroit College of Law in 1965.
By 1986, Ivan Boesky had become an arbitrageur who had amassed a fortune of over US$200 million by betting on corporate takeovers. He was investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for making investments based on tips received from corporate insiders. These stock acquisitions were sometimes brazen, with massive purchases occurring only a few days before a corporation announced a takeover. Boesky was on the cover of TIME December 1, 1986.
Although insider trading of this kind was illegal, laws prohibiting it were rarely enforced until Boesky was prosecuted. Boesky cooperated with the SEC and informed, including the case against financier Michael Milken. As a result of a plea bargain Boesky received a prison sentence of 3.5 years and was fined US$100 million. Although he was released after two years, he was barred from working in the securities business for the remainder of his life. He served his prison sentence at Lompoc Federal Prison Camp near Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Boesky has never recovered his reputation after doing a stint in jail, and paying hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and compensation for his Guinness share-trading fraud role and a host of separate insider dealing scams. In later years he embraced Judaism strongly and even took classes related to Judaism at the Jewish Theological Seminary where he was previously a major donor; however, in 1987, following the fallout from his financial scandal, The New York Times reported that “after Ivan F. Boesky had been fined $100 million in the insider-trading scandal, the Jewish Theological Seminary, acting at his request, took his name off its $20 million library.”
His involvement in criminal activities is recounted in the book Den of Thieves by Pulitzer Prize-winnining author James B. Stewart.
The character of Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street is based at least in part on Boesky, especially regarding a famous speech he delivered on the positive aspects of greed at the University of California, Berkeley in 1986, where he said in part “I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself”. Note: this is not a good reference, it does not mention the Berkeley speech, it misquotes it.
The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
U.S. financier, 1937-
“Greed is all right….Greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”
Commencement address at University of California School of Business Administration, Berkeley, Cal., 18 May 1986
Privacy in a Fishbowl:
Spiral to Economic Disaster
By Gyeorgos Ceres Hatonn
Las Vegas, NV: Phoenix Source Publishers, Inc.
First Edition 1989
Second Printing June 1995
Another facet of the above is that the government knows that the Social Security System will cave in on the generation of workers who will be on those IRS forms. Those poor people will never, ever be paid off, and they will have to support the rest of you with up to 25% of their annual income (combined payments from workers and employers), if projected demographic figures are borne out by the facts. There will be a political revolt, eventually, The kids aren’t going to pay. You and your parents before you set up a morally corrupt system of compulsory inter-generational theft by ballot box and it should not inhibit them from exercising their political rights and voting the system into oblivion and THEY WILL DO SO!
26 February 1990, Press (Atlantic City, NJ), “Voice of the People”:
The (Social Security—ed.) funds are being used illegally in what amounts to inter-generational theft.
16 April 1991, Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard, “Social Security Isn’t Welfare: Seniors Deserve Return on THeir Investment in Us” by Vernon L. Greene, pg. A7, cols. 4-5:
There is much discussion these days about intergenerational justice.
The Social Security Administration no more runs a welfare program for elderly people than does Merrill-Lynch. Rather, it manages a system for distributing returns on investment in human capital. Trying to appropriate this return, modest as it is, back to the work force is tantamount to intergenerational theft—and worse, it is ungrateful.
The State in New Zealand, 1840-1984: socialism without doctrines?
By Michael Bassett
Published by Auckland University Press
Pg. 434 (Notes):
The historian David Thomson has written about what is sometimes labelled ‘inter-generational theft’. See NZH, 31 October 1987, Section 2, p. 2. Also Daiv Thomson, Selfish Generations? The Ageing of New Zealand’s Welfare State, Wellington, 1991.
The Independent (London)
Pensions are enough to drive anyone to drink
Sunday, 2 April 2000
Every spring a group of Parisian financiers descend on a small seaside resort in western France. This is an informal gathering in a large American-style beach house, where much calvados is consumed and the world is put to rights.
The solution requires massive saving. It requires cutting coats to suit cloths. Has Europe the political will for this? All attempts at pension reform have ended in tears. Meanwhile, the younger worker is taking matters into his/her own hands, massively gearing up personal savings. Anyone under 40 who is reading this column is a victim of generational theft. You could say they have stolen from your future to fund their present. No wonder we reach for the calvados.
Fire on the Rim: the cultural dynamics of East/West power politics
By William H. Thornton
Published by Rowman & Littlefield
WIth the lowest birthrate of any developed country, and one of the highest rates of longevity. Japan’s working population is already dropping at .6 percent per year. This is the demographic foundation for what one economist calls the “dominant gerontocracy,” a voting block that for the past decade, in a kind of “inter-generational theft,” has borrowed against future growth to pay for present benefits.
I just don’t get my parent’s generation. Let me sum them up real quick. They want their social security and their medicare, but they don’t want to raise taxes. They want the kids out of the house, but don’t ever talk about better working conditions or more affordable tuitions. They want cheaper gas, yet they drive big cars. They want their guns but bitch about crime rates. This list could go for a while. Here’s the point. They want and want and want, but they don’t want to pay. Then they turn around and put the youth down as a bunch of slackers. Here’s a suprise, you don’t want to pay for us in the expensive world that you created, we don’t want to pay for your retirement that we most likely we’ll never see. I don’t want to pay for goddamn medicare when I don’t even have health insurance. Unfortunately the people running the country are of your generation so your issues get front page.
Hmmm, doesn’t seem fair now does it. Well, see, you’ve got it already. You got your houses when land was affordable. You got your jobs when benefits still existed. You have your social security and your savings and your medicare. You had good jobs to pay off your debts. You had affordable college, hell, you could get good jobs without a degree. You had the glory days and took it all, leaving nothing for us, and now you still want. You want low taxes, more moeny, more, more, more!
This entry was posted on Thursday, 28 December 2006 at 22:46
Kevin’s Back Forty
August 13, 2007
Talking about How Wall Street got into this mess - Investing Jim Jubak - Sympatico / MSN Finance
What a huge fraud. This debacle is going to be worse than the S & L crisis (savings and loans fraud) and the technology bubble times ten. There are huge amounts of money this time stretched out all over the world tied up either willingly or not in this crime. And it all boiled down to appeasing a generation of Americans that already had squeezed MUCH TO MUCH already out of the country. The priviliged generation is going to finally get theirs.
But I don’t say that with glee because LONG after they get bailed out and returned to their pampered position in the economic and political food chain of this great country your generation, my generation and a whole bunch of other people that never, ever heard of the Baby Boomer generation will be cleaning up the mess for many, many a decade to come.
Thank you Baby Boomers! Where did all your social-activist ethics go? Right out the window as soon as you could do whatever you wanted to and no one was looking, that’s where! Thanks guys and gals! I hope you don’t believe in Karma still, I know your hippy selves back in the sixties and seventies did. You better hope it ain’t real… that what goes around comes around.
Thanks Generation Greed!
Cranelegs Pond - The Blog
Thursday, September 25, 2008
687. how the hell did that happen?
it has been my rather simple contention for years that the so called economic growth was nothing more than borrowed, a pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain economic growth if you will.
and the balloon payment finally came due.
and we don’t have the money.
because we never had the money.
it was all pretend.
and rather than foreclose this fantasy now and endure the pain like responsible folks should do, we are being asked to refuel this shell came with a loan of a trillion (it’s never as cheap as they say).
thus, foreclosing the future, since that is the only place this money can come from.
and for this, i apologize now to my son and the grandchildren i don’t have yet.
my generation really messed this up.
who would have thunk that those three days of peace, love and music were an anomaly for what turned out to be “generation greed”.
Pensions: Generation Greed Strikes Again
posted by Larry Littlefield
Thu, 12/18/2008 - 6:54am
The AARP-eligible people who control out institutions can never do enough for their contemporaries. In Albany, they have joyfully handed out pension enrichments that public employees have neither worked nor bargained for, over and over, for a decade. And when there isn’t enough money to go around, do they ever tell those of their own generations they will have to give something back? Never. They decide that those in younger generations will have to be worse off, without saying so. So Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg have decided that future hires should have much less generous pensions, and thus much lower total pay overall, a few years after Bloomberg agreed to cut the retirement age for teachers from 62 to 55 and Paterson voted for all those pension enhancements as a member of the state legislature (they generally pass the legislature unanimously). Do they truthfully say “shared sacrifice” means that because those of their generation have shared, future generations will be sacrificed? No, they do not. Thus, they are frauds, as are the news organizations (with their aging readers and viewers) which don’t point that out either. The New York State legislature, of course, is far worse.
The Generational Theft Act of 2009
By Michelle Malkin • January 7, 2009 09:28 AM
My syndicated column today takes on Obama’s stimulus Trojan Horse. It’s for the children. Mitch McConnell, are you there?
And just in: 2009 budget deficit is estimated at $1.2 trillion.
The Generational Theft Act of 2009
by Michelle Malkin
Barack Obama has dubbed his behemoth fiscal stimulus proposal the “American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” But if truth in advertising were required of White House plans, only one title would fit the trillion-dollar-plus-and-growing bill: The Generational Theft Act of 2009.
President-elect Obama was at his most candid when he told the country Tuesday that we face massive deficits for the foreseeable future. “Potentially we’ve got trillion-dollar deficits for years to come,” he said, “even with the economic recovery that we are working on.” But one word is glaringly out of place in that warning. It’s the word “even.” Washington will saddle future generations with unprecedented debt because of the economic recovery interventions Obama is planning, not despite them.
Think this through. We are now thirteen months into the current recession. Since World War II, none of the recessions that have hit the U.S. economy have lasted more than two years. Most have lasted 12 months. The new mega-injections of government “investments” championed by Obama are intended to “break the momentum” of a recession we’re probably more than half-way through suffering.
This is not to suggest that the economic picture is all sunshine and roses. Quite the opposite. Our fundamental ill is too much spending and borrowing and too little saving. It’s going to take years to recover from the housing mess. Washington continues to encourage ever more ill-considered lending in a misguided attempt to stave off needed market corrections. The currently proposed combination of a nationwide infrastructure spending orgy plus tax-cut bribes does nothing to remedy that.
New York (NY) Times - Floyd Norris Blog
January 20, 2009, 4:54 pm
17. January 21, 2009
Debt and pensions, by way, the result of similar self-dealing by other members of Generation Greed, will also bankrupt state and local governments, perhaps even ours.
In 1982, the U.S. was the world’s largest creditor, the national debt was lower, and none of this executive (and public employee union/politician) self dealing had taken place. Even so, the U.S. faced a difficult economic adjustment. Now we face another one from a position of weakness.
Let’s see how the adjustment works out, and what the damage is, before getting giddy about stocks. It may be that the best way to invest in stocks is to invest in bonds in anticipation of debt to equity swaps in bankruptcy.
— Larry Littlefield
CBS News - Political Hotsheet
February 8, 2009 10:35 AM
McCain: Stimulus Bill Is “Generational Theft”
Posted by Michelle Levi
In his sixty-eighth appearance on Face The Nation, Senator John McCain called the stimulus bill heading towards a Senate vote this week “generational theft,” and said he could not support the package as-is because of the debt it would create for America.
When asked by host Bob Schieffer if he would support the stimulus plan, the senator replied, “I can’t Bob. I can’t because I think it is the greatest transfer of not only spending but authority and responsibility to government.”
He added, “I think it has policy changes in it which are fundamentally bad for America. For example, their ‘Buy America’ provision: that’s protectionism, and that did not work in any time in our history.
“But most of all because I think this can only be described as generational theft.”
McCain said that the Senate version of the package (which, even after some pruning by Republicans and Democrats, currently stands at $827 billion) would lead to a $1.2 trillion budget deficit, which he said marks only the beginning of a greater downward spiral. “We are going to amass the largest debt in the history of this country and we are going to ask our kids and grandkids to pay for it,” he said.
“I know America needs a stimulus,” McCain admitted, “but this is not it.”
McCain: Stimulus is ‘generational theft’
By Kevin Bogardus
Posted: 02/08/09 01:38 PM [ET]
President Barack Obama’s Republican rival for the White House last year hardened his opposition to the administration’s planned economic recovery package Sunday.
“I think this can only be described as generational theft. What we are doing is amassing multi-trillions of dollars,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), speaking on CBS’s “Face The Nation” with Bob Schieffer.
Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster
Doomsday Not Deferred
March 23rd, 2009
“I don’t think the agency should delay any action,” said Gov. David Paterson this morning, thereby admitting that the three men in a room will not be able to reach an agreement on a deal to bail out the Metropolitan Transit Authority before the MTA’s March 25 deadline.
One Response to “Doomsday Not Deferred”
Larry Littlefield Says:
March 24th, 2009 at 7:48 am
This isn’t doomsday.
What Generation Greed wants is deferred maintenance and an end to reinvestment in the system. They won’t be satisfied they have taken all they can take until they can leave the city in ruins.
Stop whining, suck it up and pay. Meanwhile, doomday is coming because too many people care only about right now and not about the future. Today’s doomsday was once the future.
The Consequences Arrive, and Generation Greed Politicians Look At Social Security, Pensions, Taxes and the MTA
posted by Larry Littlefield
Sat, 04/04/2009 - 1:11pm
For those of you who missed it, there was a rare matter of fact statement of fact in the Washington Post last week. As a result of the recession Social Security payroll tax revenue is falling, and “the trust fund’s annual surplus is forecast to all but vanish next year—nearly a decade ahead of schedule—and deprive the government of billions of dollars it had been counting on to help balance the nation’s books.” To balance the nation’s books? You mean there aren’t trillions being saved in the Social Security “trust fund?” “The Treasury Department has for decades borrowed money from the Social Security trust fund to finance government operations.
Manhattan Young Democrats
Our Parents: Generation Greed?
April 6, 2009 by Emmy
Cultural norms state we should be grateful to the generations who came before us; that our lives are built on the foundations they leave behind. A thought-provoking post on Room Eight argues otherwise–that our parents’ generation has, in effect, been stealing from younger Americans to fund massive pensions, Social Security, and healthcare costs. Is their greed the reason why so many institutions–both private and public–are on the brink of fiscal collapse?
George Pataki, Man of (Some of the) People and Exemplar of Generation Greed
posted by Larry Littlefield
Sun, 05/03/2009 - 11:17am
The most telling chart in the Mayor’s budget presentation does not concern public policy or government finance. It is the chart on page nine that shows the U.S. personal savings rate. And it shows that the generations recently retired and now in their peak earning years, unlike the “Greatest Generation” that went before them, have been unwilling to save for their own personal futures. The majority wanted what they wanted when they wanted it, and didn’t concern themselves with the consequences.
New York City • Government/Law/Military/Religion /Health • Monday, May 04, 2009 • Permalink