The Clash of Generations: Saving Ourselves, Our Kids, and Our Economy

Overview

The United States is bankrupt, flat broke. Thanks to accounting that would make Enron blush, America's insolvency goes far beyond what our leaders are disclosing. The United States is a fiscal basket case, in worse shape than the notoriously bailed-out countries of Greece, Ireland, and others. How did this happen? In The Clash of Generations, experts Laurence Kotlikoff and Scott Burns document our six-decade, off-balance-sheet, unsustainable financing scheme. They explain how we...

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The Clash of Generations: Saving Ourselves, Our Kids, and Our Economy

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Overview

The United States is bankrupt, flat broke. Thanks to accounting that would make Enron blush, America's insolvency goes far beyond what our leaders are disclosing. The United States is a fiscal basket case, in worse shape than the notoriously bailed-out countries of Greece, Ireland, and others. How did this happen? In The Clash of Generations, experts Laurence Kotlikoff and Scott Burns document our six-decade, off-balance-sheet, unsustainable financing scheme. They explain how we have balanced our longer lives on the backs of our
(relatively few) children. At the same time, we've been on a consumption spree,
saving and investing less than nothing. And that's not to mention the evisceration of the middle class and a financial system that has proven it can't be trusted.
Kotlikoff and Burns outline grassroots strategies for saving ourselves--and especially our children--from what could be a truly catastrophic financial collapse.
Kotlikoff and Burns sounded the alarm in their widely acclaimed The Coming Generational Storm, but politicians didn't listen. Now the need for action is even more urgent. It's up to us to demand radical reform of our tax system, our healthcare system, and our Social Security system, and to insist on better paths to investment return than those provided by Wall Street (mis)managers. Kotlikoff and Burns's "Purple Plans" (so called because they will appeal to both Republicans and Democrats) have been endorsed by a who's who of economists and offer a new way forward; and their revolutionary investment strategy for individuals replaces the idea of financial capital with "life decision capital." Of course, we won't be doing all this just for ourselves. We need to fix America's fiscal mess before our kids inherit it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Blame Grandpa for the coming economic collapse? That’s not what Boston University economist Kotlikoff and investment strategist Burns do in this compelling and well-documented follow-up to The Coming Generational Storm. Instead, as politicians legislate more goodies while leaving the bill to future generations, they see us creating “a generational time bomb.” Demographic trends indicate that within half a century, the number of elderly in the industrialized world will for the first time outweigh the number of children. Moreover, these young people will likely pay more in taxes during their lifetimes than they will ever receive in benefits. Kotlikoff and Burns provide chilling examples of the almost inexorable growth in spending: Medicare Part D, which covers prescription drugs, began paying benefits in 2006, but its unfunded liabilities today are trillion, nearly equal to the trillion unfunded liabilities of Social Security. Meanwhile, our national profligancy—“saving nothing and investing next to nothing”—exacerbates the dismal outlook. The authors conclude by suggesting reforms to the banking system and offering investment advice, but their dour first section is what lingers in the mind. As they note, in 1983 the Greenspan Commission “fixed” Social Security, but nearly 20 years later, it’s in worse long-term fiscal shape today. The issues they raise provide timely intellectual fodder for this election year. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

"This is a truly important book, and I hope that it will be so widely read as to inspire a meaningful widespread dialog among individuals, families, and policymakers."--Geoff Considine, The Portfolioist

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262016728
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/23/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,414,305
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurence J. Kotlikoff, one of the nation's leading experts on fiscal policy, national saving, and personal finance and a columnist for Bloomberg, is Professor of Economics at Boston University. Scott Burns's personal finance column has been nationally syndicated since 1981. He is Chief Investment Strategist for AssetBuilder, an Internet-based registered investment advisory firm. Kotlikoff and Burns are the coauthors of The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know about America's Economic Future (MIT Press).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Prologue xi

1 The United States Is Bankrupt 1

2 Catastrophic Success 9

3 Living beyond Our Children's Means 23

4 Economic Fallout 45

5 Beatings without Bruises 69

6 Does It Pay to Grow Up? 81

7 The War on Our Children 99

8 Unsafe at Any Speed 109

9 Getting to Yes 123

10 There Must Be Some Way Out of Here 139

11 Time to Retire 153

12 Becoming Our Own Solution 167

13 The Power of Ordinary Living 201

14 The Coming Generational Storm 229

Notes 235

Index 253

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 25, 2012

    Highly recommended

    Even though I have not finished this book I rated it very high because of all the research and details the authors went to in showing how all this
    problem came about and I am looking forward to their solutions to the
    problem we and and the younger generation are facing. Our kids need to
    be taught from this book because informed minds are our only way out of
    this financial predicament we are in. Austerity is not a bad word. If we all practiced it a little more and stop the "instant gratification"
    behavior the USA would be a much stronger country.

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  • Posted May 23, 2012

    Highly recommended

    This book should be required reading for everyone, especially senior citizens and members of Congress. The only qualifier I would add is that the statistics, while instructive, tend to overwhelm the middle few chapters. Except for that, I would have given the book a 5 raqting. Having said all that, the opening premise and the willingness to offer real solutions is worth wading through the data. Read it then do something to help make things better.

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