A Modest Economic Proposal: Sell Your Parents

Author's note: In honor of St. Patrick's Day and the great Irishman, Jonathan Swift, who wrote A Modest Proposal in 1729, in which he suggested that the surest way to solve the problems of over-population and hunger in Ireland was to let parents sell their babies to be eaten for dinner.

It is a melancholy state of affairs to behold parents in our nation so plagued by debt and worries as they walk the streets and byways. Their bowed heads and tortured expressions betray the burdens they carry. They constantly remind their children of their worries about money. They have forgotten the joys of their youth, when they knew what true happiness and true wealth were.

Statistics from the Federal Reserve's 2001 and 2004 Surveys of Consumer Finances explain how recent changes in family income and net worth affect parents today. In the most recently measured three-year period, average family income fell 2.3%. This compares with the previous period (1998-2001) when average family income rose 17.3%. The report's authors say that during 2001-04, families shifted out of equities into home ownership, and the amount of debt relative to their total assets increased markedly. "As debt rose over the period, families devoted more of their incomes to servicing their debts, despite a general decline in interest rates."

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Such evidence supports my argument that parents cannot stumble along on the self-same path to wrack and ruin. Hence it seems that there is but one way to stop the burden of debt from increasing, to wit: adult children should sell their baby-boomer parents to the meat market. Once their parents are gone, the credit-card purchases will cease, the unremitting refinancing of homes will end, the constant spending will stop, the fretting about no retirement to live on and no savings to fall back on will be finished.

This modest proposal could profit the remaining generations who will receive a fair price for their parents while inheriting what is left of their parents' property and assets. My hope is that they will have learned not to encumber themselves with more debt, because they shall have seen that too much consumption with too little cash can cause terrible worries that devour a person's later years.

One of my acquaintances, Bob Prechter, a delineator of modern affairs, discusses the painful result of too much debt in his business bestseller, Conquer the Crash:

When the burden becomes too great for the economy to support, reductions in lending, spending and production cause debtors to earn less money with which to pay off their debts, so defaults rise. Default and fear of default exacerbate the new trend in psychology, which in turn causes creditors to reduce lending further. A downward "spiral" begins, feeding on pessimism just as the previous boom fed on optimism. The resulting cascade of debt liquidations is a deflationary crash. In desperately trying to raise cash to pay off loans, borrowers bring all kinds of assets to market, including stocks, bonds, commodities and real estate, causing their prices to plummet.

Why let your parents be consumed by these worries? Let some other wealthy personage roast them or grill them or sauté or fricassee them. Just be sure to make their end swift and painless – either find a skillful butcher or deliver them to the tonsorial parlour of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street.

Then rejoice that you have found a way to relieve them of their debt and to preserve what wealth they amassed to pass onto your own children to enjoy. The world will likewise be a healthier place, because purchasers will have a ready supply of victuals that has not been touched by mad-cow disease or avian flu.

Besides this health benefit, other benefits would ensue: no more having to listen to baby boomers go on and on about lessons of the Vietnam War; no more having to listen to oldies-but-goldies radio stations constantly playing Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Led Zeppelin; no more having to listen to their free love, sex, drugs and rock 'n roll mantras.

I beg you not to let your finer sensibility dismiss my proposal out of hand. It will work if we let it.

Nor do I want to hear of other expedients, such as (1) living within one's means, (2) paying down credit card debt (3) saving and investing for retirement rather than spending now and planning to work until age 75, (4) increasing taxes and decreasing government spending so that deficits can be turned back into surpluses, (5) sacrificing now by delaying Social Security payments until age 75 and indexing Medicare benefits according to income.

These are all too difficult for living generations either to contemplate or to carry out. The simplest plan is to diminish the magnitude of elderly souls who need to be cared for and who shall inevitably be a drag on the U.S. economy.

Also, do not argue that, for many decades, people like me have warned that the burden of debt must bring down our economy and yet it has never happened. Neither speak to me of those who have lived beyond their means from the moment they could get credit to the day they died. Did they suffer? No. Did they have more toys, bigger houses, fancier cars? Yes, nor did they ever pay them off. They may have learned how to play the game better than the rest of us, but I cannot accept that their motto of "Live long and frolic" made this world a better place.

I am certain that all you of like minds will see the efficacy of my proposal, and I profess sincerely that I have no personal financial interest in this plan, since my parents and in-laws are either long gone or have provided well for their later years. Nor do I plan to live beyond my own means any longer. I seek only to provide for the younger generations of this great nation at little or no risk to their own comfort.

Susan C. Walker writes for Elliott Wave International, a market forecasting and technical analysis company. She has been an associate editor with Inc. magazine, a newspaper writer and editor, an investor relations executive and a speechwriter for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's president. She is a graduate of Stanford University. For more information on Bob Prechter's book, Conquer the Crash, please click here.