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Boomergeddon How Runaway Deficits and the Age Wave Will Bankrupt the Federal Government and Devastate Retirement for Baby Boomers Unless We Act Now Paperback – August 1, 2010
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About the Author
An award-winning business journalist, the author worked 16 years at Virginia Business magazine as editor and then publisher. He subsequently launched Bacon's Rebellion, a public policy newsletter and blog, and then joined the Boomer Project, a market research firm specializing in marketing to Baby Boomers. Now he contributes to Generational Advisor, a publication that provides generational perspectives to financial advisors.
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Top customer reviews
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This is not a book to enjoy. But it is an extremely valuable read and resource for anyone who wants to have an informed conversation about viable economic and socio-economic policy. For example, if the reader is passionate about making health care available to all Americans, he or she must understand that there is cost, that it must be paid and have a credible strategy to do so. Or, if we consider ourselves rational and think that increased taxes is the answer or some form of austerity is the answer, we need to know what it is we are answering and the basis of that conviction. This book provides the data and resources to formulate or defend those positions.
Jim writes in a chatty, bloglike easy-to-read manner. The pain in reading the book is the enormity and complexity of the topic and the myriad issues to be incorporated into one's analysis but, like chemo-therapy must be endured to combat cancer, understanding the patterns of this informational quilt is essential to tackling the issues. Read it. It's worth it.
Boomergeddon's analysis of what's gone haywire is lucid, appropriately gloomy, but leavened with humor and good sense. That's a rare gift for readers -- it makes what could be a numbing diatribe an easy and highly informative read. Check out the section titled "Sex, drugs and rocky road ice cream."
As for the author's proposed remedies...that's the beginning of an excellent conversation! One especially insightful chapter offers advice at the individual level, including the revolutionary but inarguable: stop buying so much stuff.
For fixes at the macro level -- government policy -- my long-time friend Jim has pulled together a truckload of solid research, and interpreted it compellingly. Buy this book, read it, take it seriously. Listen well to its critics. Then "give yourself a slap on your big, fat Boomer booty," as the author advises, and make some careful plans.
Boomergeddon argues convincingly that our country is in trouble, and having just been published the book is up to date. It is also easy to read and seems reasonably balanced. The chapter on the problems with the U.S. healthcare system - and why the recently enacted healthcare bill will probably not fix them despite including some good ideas - is particularly well done.
Bad as the projected deficits seem, they are almost surely understated. Projected economic growth is too optimistic; interest rates will increase more than assumed; healthcare and other spending will run higher than projected.
And the country will not wake up in time, says Bacon, so "Boomergeddon" (a catastrophic fiscal meltdown) will happen. "The special interest constituencies are too entrenched, the partisan politics too gridlocked, the public's sense of entitlement too pervasive and the law of compounding interest too remorseless for the political system to right itself." (p. 266) If so, look for the collapse long before his guesstimate of 2027.
Curiously, next to nothing is said about proponents of corrective action - other than Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his "Roadmap for America's Future." That's not to take anything away from Ryan, who has shown real leadership, but others deserve mention as well, e.g., David Walker et al. who spearheaded the Fiscal Wakeup Tour over the period 2006-2008.
And there should definitely have been some consideration of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (created by executive order in February 2010, 18 commissioners including Ryan and 11 other members of Congress), which is charged with recommending solutions to the fiscal problem (spending, entitlements, taxes, and budget procedures) in December 2010. Maybe this is just a ploy to propose tax increases, time will tell, but the existence of the Commission should not have been ignored.
What would it take to avert Boomergeddon? "To cut enough spending to ensure that surpluses and deficits balance over the course of a business cycle," suggests Bacon (p. 267), "we need to carve at least $1 trillion out of a budget that is $3.5 trillion and growing." A lesser goal of reducing the deficit to 3% of GDP by 2014 is rejected (without mentioning that the president asked the Fiscal Commission to shoot for this).
There is a chapter on actions that individual Americans can take to avoid being left high and dry when Boomergeddon happens and entitlement programs for seniors are sharply cut back. Save for your retirement, work longer, live in a smaller house, spend less, etc. Good advice, but most of us have heard it before.
Finally, there is a series of ideas for meeting the deficit reduction target or at least coming close. This chapter seems sketchy and unsatisfactory. For example: (1) I am not convinced that the FairTax could increase tax revenues by $350 billion a year without adverse effects on the U.S. economy, let alone that the 16th Amendment could be repealed (as advocates propose) to ensure against the imposition of a national sales tax and income taxes. (2) Just how is it proposed to create "a tidal wave of creative destruction powered by entrepreneurs" in the healthcare sector?
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