They both wanted to exchange bodies, exchange faces. There was in both of them the dark strain of wanting to become the other, to deny what they were, to transcend their actual selves

October 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Because people hate to think they are receiving welfare handouts, we’ve all decided to pretend that Social Security is some kind of savings program. That way it can really be about you paying in and getting out. Hooray personal responsibility and individualism! But in reality, Social Security is really just a straightforward welfare handout. You tax the currently-working and then take the revenue and give it to the currently-old. It is a transfer program or, if you’d like, a “redistribution” program.

This aspect of old-age security programs is completely unavoidable. As I wrote earlier this year, if you can get currency out of your head for a moment, you should be able to see that — in real resource and real production terms — all retired people live off the production of the currently-working. This is vacuously and stupidly true. Retired people don’t produce anything. So where is the stuff they are consuming coming from? That’s right: the currently-working.

In non-money terms, our ability to support retired people is a function of how much stuff the currently-working are producing. It has nothing to do with how much money is in the Social Security Trust Fund. It has nothing to do with how much payroll tax the people who are moving into retirement paid over the last few decades. That’s all meaningless outside of the world of accounting.

For instance, suppose we had jacked payroll taxes 30 years ago such that the Social Security Trust Fund was much bigger at the present moment than it actually is. Would that change anything outside of the accounting world? No. Recall once again: the iron rule here is that the currently-retired are necessarily living solely off the production of the currently-working. Piling up a bunch of cash and then disgorging doesn’t change the mechanics of what is going on. The currently-retired would still be snatching up the exact same fraction of the currently-working’s production for their consumption. The real outcome would be exactly the same in this more “fiscally responsible” scenario.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Margaret Durow

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“Are there pictures of you in magazines when you put on weight?” “No.” “Oh, so you’re not that famous.”

June 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

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WASHINGTON—According to a new report released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2043, the majority of the American population will be composed of those people. “Based on future projections of childbearing, mortality rates, and net international migration, we can safely say that the number of those types in this country will double, if not triple, within the next 30 years,” said report co-author and Census statistical analyst Ken Shefner, adding that as the baby boomer generation begins to die off, Americans can expect to see “more and more of those kinds hanging around every day.”  read more

ART: Henri Matisse

Not every music so far has required a literature: one ought to look for a sufficient reason here

April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Here are a few Generation X facts: it was originally going to be called 52 Daffodils after a story contained within the book. I wonder what life would be like now if I’d done that. My Canadian publisher also declined to publish the book, which forever gave American publishers right of first refusal on new books, which began the myth within the Canadian writing world that I was trying to be American not Canadian. But it took years for me to figure out that that was what was actually happening – there was no internet to crystallise trends on a dime – trends took place across the span of years, not days. Trends had backlashes and then counter-backlashes that also went on for years. These days a meme is good for a few days or a few weeks, max.

So, back to March of 1991, and waiting for the book to arrive. It finally did, but not by FedEx, rather, it arrived via a subcontracted delivery agency that was several weeks late and dropped two books off at the door with a big gash along their right sides. The covers of the books also had folded edge flaps, except the machine that did the edge flapping goofed and the pages of the book stuck out a half inch and looked ridiculous. All in all you couldn’t have asked for a more depressing book birth. I phoned my editor in New York and he knew exactly how bad the binding and printing was, and he did that thing people do when they know they’ve done something wrong, which is to say, he turned it around and got mad at me for being so picky.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Ryan Pfluger

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