Here’s the cry of a Reserve Banker, or rather, a Gen X Reserve Banker feeling hemmed in by the fading phalanx of Baby Boomers and the advancing hordes of GenYers.
The scene: an economic policy seminar on Getting To Grips with the Economy at the Whitlam Institute at Parramatta, in Sydney’s west on Thursday night with professor John Quiggin and Professor Steve Keen.
The theme: lessons from the crunch and slump, with the main paper from Professor John Quiggin and with responses from Professor Steve Keen and Guy Debelle, the RBA’s assistant Governor, Financial Markets.
The previous day Dr Debelle was in Melbourne at a session on housing. Tomorrow his boss, RBA Governor, Glenn Stevens speaks in Sydney.
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It’s a regular yearly booker for the Governor. It will come as the bank finalises updated forecasts for its latest Statement on Monetary Policy due out on August 7 and his appearance before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics.
But from the papers and audio of Thursday night, here was a rarity in current Australia; a civil discussion on economic policy, without the ideologues having a look in.
Around half way through his summary, Debelle gave us the Gen X lament: he said he was “in the generation being screwed” by the baby boomers and Gen Y wouldn’t be much better off in coming years. (Around 12.45 on the audio). Some of the earlier sessions are on YouTube.
Debelle made his comments in his response to the question of the role of government in the economy which he said reflected ideas and “to some extent reflects the preference of the median voter.”
Debelle said that there are more Boomers and GenYers than Xers and that GenXers had spent most of their working life so far paying down the debt of the Baby Boomers. Debelle predicted that GenYers would start cutting GenXers pensions in future years to pay down debt.
“Now I can sit here all my life, I will never be the median voter. I am in that generation which is unfortunately screwed by people sitting at this table who are throughout their lives the median voter.”
“So the Baby Boomers are the median voter for pretty much all of their life … but I’m unfortunately a member of Generation X who throughout the first part of my working life, we paid down the public debt in the country,” Dr Debelle explained.
“By the time I get to the end of my working life, I will be paying off the pensions of the Baby Boomers.
“By the time I get to the pension (assuming I’ll ever be allowed to retire) Generation Y, actually there are more of them than me, will be coming along and reducing my pension,” Dr Debelle said.
It’s a plaintive cry from the wilderness of the “lost generation” (many of whom are Crikey readers). So do we boomers care? And what do you Xers think?