Somebody buy the President some watercolors

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 11.10 am


Of all the things I ever imagined happening after George W. Bush left office, this is not it — and I love it.

I love it partly because these paintings really are oddly earnest; and they are not very good; and for reasons totally unknown, Bush has decided to exhibit them in public places while his wife talks about his work with just a hint of condescension.

But I mainly love it because this whole painting project is so very un-presidential. While many post-presidency activities try to perpetuate the glory of the ex-President’s time in office, this does not. Presidential libraries, speaking tours, charitable activities — all of these things are designed to bolster the former Presidents’ prestige (and sometimes their bank accounts), adding to the personality cult that surrounds the White House.

And while I understand a desire for our head of state to have some degree of pomp and circumstance, a healthy cut-back in the celebrity that the Oval Office brings is much overdue. The President is not our national dad or the “boss of the country,” as some have bizarrely suggested, and his job ought to be one of public service. Yet America too often maintains an obsession with the presidency which isn’t conducive to reasoned critiques of any administration’s policies.

And that brings me back to Bush and his paintings (especially the bath and shower self portraits). He signs them “43” — as in 43rd President — and they are not exactly commanding of respect. But where Bush’s paintings may indeed excel is in diminishing the cultural power of the presidency.

I only wish he’d starting sharing them a few years earlier…and I wish someone would buy Barack Obama a set of watercolors.

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Thanks to Rare for publishing my latest:

My generation is poor.

Half of new college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. Student loan debt is soaring as it becomes increasingly impossible to work your way through college. We can’t afford to make big purchases like houses and cars at the same age our parents could. And when you look at the wealth gap between young and old, the picture grows even more striking:

  • Between 1984 and 2009, median net worth of Americans 35 and younger shrunk by 68%, while Americans 65 and older saw a 45% gain. Young people now average just $3,600, while their grandparents average $170,000.
  • Every generation did better than their children in that time period. The oldest group now has forty-seven times the net worth of the youngest.
  • From 1967 to 2010, the poverty rate among young people doubled, while the elderly saw their poverty rate decline by two thirds.
  • During the same time period, all generations saw some increase in median income, but those 65+ saw their earnings grow by 109% compared to under-35-year-olds’ 27%.
  • Indeed, “In 1984, American breadwinners who were sixty-five and over made ten times as much as those under thirty-five. The year Obama took office, older Americans made almost forty-seven times as much as the younger generation.”

In short, the “differences in wealth between the young and older Americans [are] the greatest on record.”

The effect of Millennials’ comparative poverty is already rearing its ugly head, delaying our ability to move out of mom and dad’s house, get married, and have kids. However, it’s also seeding long-term troubles. Years of unemployment and financial dependence can have exponential results over a lifetime.

So, given all this data, you’d think our government wouldn’t make a bad situation worse by forcefully redistributing massive amounts of money from young people to old people, right?


This is where the problem gets serious. While we’d expect (and want!) older people to generally be better off than their younger counterparts, what’s not ok is a government-mandated transfer of wealth from a relatively poor generation to a relatively wealthy one.

And yet, that’s exactly what is happening.

Read the whole thing here.

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Thanks to Rare for publishing my latest:

Apparently my generation is a real handwringer. We’re the “cheapest generation.” We’re the “self[ie] generation.” We’re the “me me me generation.”

Basically, we’re the worst.

But what, specifically, are we doing that’s so terrible? Well, for starters, many of us aren’t joining either major party: A full 50% of Millennials consider themselves political independents.

And we’re not going into debt for big purchases like cars and houses. (Something tells me the youth unemployment crisis and college costs which have inflated way past summer job earnings could have something to do with this—just a guess.)

We refuse to believe we aren’t the victims of the greatest Ponzi scheme ever—by which I mean, of course, that more than 50% of Millennials know we won’t get any Social Security benefits.

And—horror of horrors—we have ever-diminishing faith in establishment politics.

Now, to me, this all sounds like great news. I’m happy to see my generation thinking outside of the two-party box, trying to manage their money sensibly and taking a realistic view of our future and our government. After decades of mismanagement by our elders, which has produced a state of constant warfare and a $17 trillion-plus national debt, this kind of reevaluation of what it means to be a responsible (young) adult in America strikes me as a good thing.

But my optimism isn’t shared by everyone.

Read the whole thing here.

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