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May 10 / Jonathan

Washington Post Victim Blaming

Washington Post Victim Blaming

The Washington Post has an incredibly insightful oped column noting that the spendthrift baby boomers will have almost nothing saved for retirement. This is true as serious economists have tried to point out.

The problem with the column is that the reason the baby boomers didn’t save is because they believed the claims about the bubble economy from the experts cited in the Washington Post and elsewhere. The Post used to have James “Dow 36,000” Glassman as a regular columnist. Its most cited expert on real estate prices was David “Why the Real Estate Boom Will not Bust” Lereah, who worked as the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors for his day jobs. Of course similar views were put forward by people like Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke.

The views of those of us who tried to warn of both the stock and housing bubbles were (and are) almost completely excluded from the Post’s pages. They were far more likely to hear the Post’s endless tirades, in both the news and editorial pages, about how Social Security was going to bankrupt the country.

There is a well-documented wealth effect whereby people consume based on their stock and housing wealth. The excessive consumption of the baby boom cohort was a predictable result of the stock and housing bubbles. This spending would have been entirely rational if this bubble wealth was real as the Post and the rest of the media told the boomers. If the boomers can be blamed in this story it is for listening to the media and the experts that whose views they convey.

—Dean Baker

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