A backlash against baby boomers?

I’ve noticed several articles in recent weeks that are very negative about ‘baby boomers‘. Since I fall into that generation myself, albeit born far outside the USA and therefore never having considered myself one of them, I’ve been reading up on the subject.

My ‘exposure’ began with an article by Thomas L. Day in the Washington Post.

I’m 31, an Iraq war veteran, a Penn State graduate, a Catholic, a native of State College, acquaintance of Jerry Sandusky’s, and a product of his Second Mile foundation.

And I have fully lost faith in the leadership of my parents’ generation.

. . .

They have failed us, over and over and over again.

I speak not specifically of our parents — I have two loving ones — but of the public leaders our parents’ generation has produced.

. . .

Think of the world our parents’ generation inherited. They inherited a country of boundless economic prosperity and the highest admiration overseas, produced by the hands of their mothers and fathers. They were safe. For most, they were endowed opportunities to succeed, to prosper, and build on their parents’ work.

For those of us in our 20s and early 30s, this is not the world we are inheriting.

. . .

Our parents’ generation has balked at the tough decisions required to preserve our country’s sacred entitlements, leaving us to clean up the mess. They let the infrastructure built with their fathers’ hands crumble like a stale cookie. They downgraded our nation’s credit rating. They seem content to hand us a debt exceeding the size of our entire economy, rather than brave a fight against the fortunate and entrenched interests on K Street and Wall Street.

There’s more at the link.

Donald Sensing (a pastor whose blog I only recently discovered, but who’s already earned my respect for his views and forthright approach to life) put it like this:

What we boomers have done is left an incredibly bollixed up legacy to our children, and we captain the ship of state happily off the falls because, hey, we’ll be dead by the time it crashes onto the rocks, so what’s it matter? But our kids and grandkids will be crushed by what we have done.

Again, more at the link. I like the way Rev. Sensing thinks. I’ll have to make a plan to meet him sometime – he’s not far from me.

Walter Russell Mead summed up the Baby Boomer generation in his own inimitable way.

… at the level of public policy and moral leadership, as a generation we have largely failed. The Boomer Progressive Establishment in particular has been a huge disappointment to itself and to the country. The political class slumbered as the entitlement and pension crisis grew to ominous dimensions. Boomer financial leadership was selfish and shortsighted, by and large. Boomer CEOs accelerated the trend toward unlimited greed among corporate elites, and Boomer members of corporate boards sit by and let it happen. Boomer academics created a profoundly dysfunctional system that systemically shovels resources upward from students and adjuncts to overpaid administrators and professors who by and large have not, to say the least, done an outstanding job of transmitting the cultural heritage of the past to future generations. Boomer Hollywood execs created an amoral morass of sludge — and maybe I’m missing something, but nobody spends a lot of time talking about the towering cultural accomplishments of the world historical art geniuses of the Boomer years. Boomer greens enthusiastically bet their movement on the truly idiotic drive for a global carbon treaty; they are now grieving over their failure to make any measurable progress after decades spent and hundreds of millions of dollars thrown away. On the Boomer watch the American family and the American middle class entered major crises; by the time the Boomers have finished with it the health system will be an unaffordable and dysfunctional tangle — perhaps the most complicated, expensive and poorly designed such system in the history of the world.

All of this was done by a generation that never lost its confidence that it was smarter, better educated and more idealistic than its Depression-surviving, World War-winning, segregation-ending, prosperity-building parents. We didn’t need their stinking faith, their stinking morals, or their pathetically conformist codes of moral behavior. We were better than that; after all, we grokked Jefferson Airplane, achieved nirvana on LSD and had a spiritual wealth and sensitivity that our boorish bourgeois forbears could not grasp. They might be doers, builders and achievers — but we Boomers grooved, man, we had sex in the park, we grew our hair long, and we listened to sexy musical lyrics about drugs that those pathetic old losers could not even understand.

What the Boomers as a generation missed (there were, of course and thankfully, many honorable individual exceptions) was the core set of values that every generation must discover to make a successful transition to real adulthood: maturity. Collectively the Boomers continued to follow ideals they associated with youth and individualism: fulfillment and “creativity” rather than endurance and commitment. Boomer spouses dropped families because relationships with spouses or children or mortgage payments no longer “fulfilled” them; Boomer society tolerated the most selfish and immature behavior in its public and cultural leaders out of the classically youthful and immature belief that intolerance and hypocrisy are greater sins than the dereliction of duty. That the greatest and most effective political leader the Baby Boom produced was William Jefferson Clinton tells you all you need to know.

More at the link.

It looks like the Boomers may also be partly to blame for the current lack of jobs for new entrants into the workforce. According to Yahoo! News, they’re planning to work much longer than their parents and grandparents – because they can’t afford to retire.

When it comes to retirement, many middle class Americans said 80 is the new 65 and plan to delay retirement because of worries over money, according to a new survey.

Wells Fargo bank asked 1,500 Americans who earned between $25,000 and $99,999 and ranged in age from 20 into their 70s questions about retirement, savings and Social Security for its seventh annual retirement survey.

Three-fourths of those surveyed said they expect to work in their retirement years. One quarter said they will “need to work until at least age 80” to live comfortably in retirement.

Of Americans who will work in retirement, “47 percent said that they are going to continue in the same job or a similar job of similar responsibility,” Joe Ready, Well Fargo’s director of Institutional Retirement and Trust, told Reuters Insider.

“That raises a lot of social and economic implications. Will they have the physical ability to work, the mental capacity? What does that mean for the younger work force in terms of coming through and looking to get ahead?”

. . .

On average, Americans have saved only seven percent of their desired retirement nest egg, with a median of $25,000 saved versus a median retirement goal of $350,000.

More at the link.

All in all, those are some pretty sobering facts and statistics. I don’t know what to say, except that chickens inevitably come home to roost, sooner or later . . . and it looks like many Baby Boomers, having had it all their own way for so long, are finally realizing that their turn is coming. Unfortunately, those of them who lived responsibly may well end up being sucked into the whirlpool along with the feckless majority.



  1. I have long been embarrassed and ashamed of my generation, who gave birth to the losers currently believing the universe owes them something. Losers begat losers, and I want to hide my head in shame each time the term "baby boomer" is mentioned. My daughters were raised differently, but the world is what it is.

    The kids of the '60s and '70s were, by and large, disgraceful. They learned nothing from their parents, and hence had nothing useful to pass on to their children.

    Such a waste.

  2. I saw the difference when I was still young. I was born is '64 and my parents were 5-10 years older than most of my peers' parents. WWII parents vs. hippie parents. It was like living among kids from another planet.

  3. "The kids of the '60s and '70s were, by and large, disgraceful. They learned nothing from their parents, and hence had nothing useful to pass on to their children."

    Okay – here goes… /rant mode = on.

    I heartily disagree.

    The boomers learned *everything* from their parents – just like every other generation that ever existed.

    That 60’s counter-culture? Okay, let’s take a look at that. Yeah, it was mostly made up of college kids at that time who were overwhelmingly older boomers. But most of the kids and young-adults of that era did not even go to college. Most, like me, were in high school at the time. And after graduation, we went out and got jobs, or entered the military. The hippies, the war protestors, and the Woodstock people were a small minority of our generation. But who were the *leaders* of this “counter-culture”? Well, mostly it was college professors and high-profile celebrities of the day. And let’s look at some of those high-profile examples: Abbe Hoffman, born 1936. Jane Fonda, born 1937. Gloria Steinem, born 1934. Jimi Hendricks and Paul McCartney, both born in 1942. George McGovern, born 1922! Gee – none of them seem to be boomers.

    And the 55000 lives wasted in Vietnam? Who were they? And the politicians of the 60's and 70's that first, got us into that war, and then surrendered at the end causing one of the worst genocides of the late 20th century? Who were they? I'll give you a hint. JFK, LBJ, tricky Dick, and the 40-year-long Democrat congress were *NOT* boomers. They were by and large, members of…

    Wait for it…

    The "Greatest Generation!"

    Personally, I’m getting heartily tired of this anti-boomer bullshit and those who would lump together an entire generation of diverse individuals and judge them all based on a few of their more spectacular failures.

    I’m 57 years old. I was born in 1954, right in the middle of that much maligned generation. But for my entire life, I have honored my side of the social contract – always and in many ways. And now I’m defined as a horrible person for expecting at least some reciprocity of that contract.


    Maybe you will see why I am a little sensitive to the whole boomers-as-the-bad-guys thing.

    /rant mode = off

  4. "I was born is '64 and my parents were 5-10 years older than most of my peers' parents. WWII parents vs. hippie parents."

    Born in 64? Try again Suz. Almost all of the hippies of that era were born way too late to be birthing kids in 64. 74, yes, but not 64. Those parents you refer to would be the "between" generation, born in the late 30's or early 40's.

    It's certainly not impossible for a baby born in 64 to be born of boomer parents. But with the most common definition of the post-war baby boom to be those kids born between 1946 and 1966, a kid born to boomer parents in 1964 would be one of the rare cases of a teen-birth. Certainly not unheard of in 1964, but not common.

    (Besides which, a "hippie" back in 64 was called a "beatnik". Think Manard G. Krebs on the old Dobie Gillis show – none of whom were boomers, by the way.)

  5. As someone born in 1952, I agree with Roy. Boomers get blamed for a lot of bullshit that happened while they were young, but was being done by our parents generation. And not all of us were hippies; most of the people I knew were in the military, studying to be engineers, and/or working a job.

  6. Roy, BobG, thanks for your views. As I said, I'm of the 'baby boomer' generation, but because I was born outside the USA, I'd never used the term to describe myself or my peers until I came here. As one outside that cultural meme, it's very interesting to me to see the different perspectives being brought up here.

  7. I'm a boomer – born in '52 – and IMO there's enough blame to go around. Yes, most of the people who started us down this road were preboomers (JFK, LBJ, etc.) but our generation didn't do much to fix things. Yes, many of us are hard-working, conscientious folks, but we as a generation did little to prevent the current untenable financial situation our country is in. We as a generation did little to preserve and pass on the cultural values and norms that made America exceptional. We may have managed our personal finances prudently, and we may have individually raised our kids to be civilized and respectful, but as a whole we haven't done a very good job.

    To paraphrase, are we better off as a country now than we were 20 years ago? Will our children's generation be better off 20 years from now than they are today?

    IMO the answer to both questions is, sadly, "no."

  8. Roy, RobG, well said.

    I'm 54, born in '57. My parents were Depression survivors born in 1917 and 1927 respectively.

    As far as our cratered economy goes, I place the blame on the deficit spending of the last 40 years or so, starting with Lyndon Johnson's spending to finance the Vietnam war, Nixon taking us off the gold standard, and all subsequent politicians who were afraid of what serious austerity efforts would do to their re-election chances.

    The boomers made the mistakes of trusting their political leaders and falling wholesale into a "debt is okay" mindset. They certainly passed this on to their kids, whose college loan debt exceeds the country's cumulative credit card debt.

    As far as our continuing losses of civil liberties and privacy, I think all of us who have stood by and let it happen have to share the blame.

  9. Far as I can tell the boomers were born too late to be useful in the war or learn the lessons of the depression and early enough to get a free ride – that puts them between about 1935 to 1965 – bunch of annoying old selfish people ranging now from ages 47-77. While there are always some good people from even the most worthless generation, I don't think there has ever been a generation that was so saturated with selfish scammers as this one – and just to be clear, I'm only talking about the Americans here. So for definition:

    78+ Elders
    47-77 Baby Boomers
    32-46 Gen X
    20-31 Gen Y
    <note Gen XY 20-46)
    0 -19 Gen Z

    No more after that because the boomers screwed up the world so badly that it can no longer support further generations.

  10. I've got a better idea, Murdoch. How about we just call everyone who has ever been alive anytime in the history of man a "Baby Boomer". That way you can blame the boomers for everything that ever happened anywhere at any time. Does that work for you?

    The term "Baby Boom" is short for "Post War Baby Boom" – the war, of course, being WWII. What happened was that a lot of young folks who served in the war and on the home front, put off starting families for the duration. When the war was finally over in 1945, they got together and got to work. Thus, the most common definition for the "Post War Baby Boom" is those folks born in the 20 years between 1946 and 1966. It in no way encompasses those born in the 30's and early 40's. That is what is known as the "between" generation – those people too young to have served in the war, but too old to be part of the baby boom.

    And don't you just love how all of us born during those 20 years got a "free ride".

    Yeah, I got a free ride all right. Neither I nor my parents could afford college, (and I didn't want to go anyway because colleges, even then, were ate-up with dumb-ass), So I joined the military, served during the Vietnam war, and ever since then I have worked for everything I have. I've paid taxes all my working life. And since I was old enough to vote, I've supported only those politicians who were against the socialism that is now prevalent. Some of them have won and some of them have lost, but I have stayed true to my principles ever since I became politically aware. But it's all been a free ride, don't you know.

    (And I did my part in 2008. Both of my senators and my one representative are all conservatives. And the Obambi did *not* get my states electoral votes. How about you Murdock? How do you compare?)

    …to be continued.

  11. I'm 52, born in '59. This makes me, technically, a boomer, but I have never felt the slightest cultural, economic, or ethical kinship with either the leaders of my generation or with the drug-addled primates who anointed them. Why should I? Those people employed an impressive array of epithets in dismissing my entire tribe; now they can ride what's left of their Great Society straight to hell.

    And the whole pile of crap is partly my fault, so I don't know whether to feel guilty or relieved at having produced no blood heirs. Nevertheless, I can try to play some part in helping preserve tools and knowledge that might allow this generation's grandchildren or great-grandchildren to begin rebuilding a world worth inhabiting. On days like this, that thought is very nearly the only thing that keeps me going.

    Living in the declining days of an empire is not a total loss, though. Cold War-era military skills are neither contemporary, nor prestigious, nor even generally marketable, but I see an ever-increasing probability that they will prove relevant again within my likely lifespan.

    For the moment, though, screw it. I need a drink.

  12. …Continued

    Until Obama came along, Jimmy Carter was judged by many to be the worst president in our history. Jimmy Carter was born in 1924. Should I judge everyone born in 1924 by Jimmy Carter's performance in office? Of course not! I should judge only Jimmy Carter by what he did (or didn't) do while in office.

    But you mark my words: What this anti-boomerism – the judging an entire generation of people by the actions of a few – really means, is the beginning of a movement to disinherit an entire group of people from the things they have earned. Can you say "death panels". Yeah, which group of people do you think Murdoch and his ilk are going to be aiming *that* at.

    Here are a few more fun facts for you to mull over:

    The Ponzi scheme known as Social Security was enacted in 1935, long before any of the boomers were even born, much less had reached voting age.

    Medicaid, that other massive budget killer, was enacted in 1965. At that time, the oldest boomers were still teenagers and unable to vote while the youngest were still in diapers or as yet unborn. The voters at that time were all of their parents or grandparents generation.

    The accounting tricks that looted the social security “trust fund” and turned it into just another revenue source for government free-spending started in 1968. At that time the very oldest boomers, those that were 21 and 22, had just started voting. The vast majority of the people that went for this scheme were – you guessed it – their parents and grandparents. And by the way; need I point out which political party had control of the Federal government from 1933 to 1953 and from 1961 to 1969? And who controlled that party? It certainly wasn’t the boomers.

    And now fast-forward to today. It just so happens that 1946 was just 65 years ago. So what that means is that the very oldest boomers are just now starting to retire with full benefits. It also means that, in aggregate, the boomer generation is the one that has been *paying* all of these years, not collecting.

    As I said before, I have honored my side of the social contract my entire life. But make no mistake about it. The boomer generation, when they start collecting on that social contract are going to be very expensive.

    But the taxes to pay for this Ponzi scheme – created long before I was born – have been involuntarily looted from my paycheck since I was 16 years old. So to demand at least some return on this forced investment might be unrealistic, given the state of today’s economy, but it is *not* unreasonable. And all of the boomers I know have also saved for their retirement outside of SS, utilizing 401K’s, IRA’s, or other investments. The problem, as Peter has so painfully been pointing out, is that the coming collapse is going to render all of it worthless.

    The fact of the matter is that it is the boomer generation that has, up to this point, been looted the most.

    And the profligate government spending spree? Well, that’s a multi-generational thing that started way back in the 30's and spans all the way from the Great Depression and the parents and grandparents of the “greatest generation”, right down through the boomers, and on into generation X, Y, Z, and everyone born before about 1992. And everyone alive when the collapse finally comes – boomer or not – is going to end up paying the price.

  13. The anti-Boomer movement has taken hold as a way to not only side-line this group, but all older Americans. It is a way to divert attention and focus from those in office – put there by us – the Seniors. We listened to those sweet, seductive words offered by velvet tongued politicians, and we believed. Oh, did we believe. It was easier to believe than to do some serious political homework.
    Although not born here, I am guilty of voting liberal until '68, then stupidly helping to elect Feinstein and Boxer in CA. Having seen the light since, I still apologize to all present and ex-Californians. I am tired of the failure of State and Federal govts., and am switching my vote to Independent. It won't matter because both parties will do what they will do, with no apologies.
    The only way to fight this is to vote in 2012, no matter how vile the rhetoric!

  14. OK, Roy, I'll try again. Doesn't matter to me if their parents were aging beatniks or young hippies. The Boom "ended" in '64, which gave me a view in both directions. Naturally I was an adult before I understood what I'd been seeing, but there were stark differences between parents who lived through the Depression and WWII, and those who didn't. What I noticed was that many of the younger parents were permissive, acted more like friends than parents, and bought their kids just about anything they wanted. Back then I was a little jealous. Not now.

  15. "What I noticed was that many of the younger parents were permissive, acted more like friends than parents, and bought their kids just about anything they wanted."

    Suz, I'm not trying to crack your knuckles over this. Indeed, in the statement I quoted above, I agree with you. That's been my observation as well. But when has it not been that way? What did the generation that fought the Civil War, or the American Revolution, think about the generations that followed? It seems to me that every generation has a certain amount of contempt for the one that follows. My parents, who lived through both the depression and WWII, thought the kids of the fifties were a bunch of spoiled brats – including their own. (…especially their own.) And a lot of folks in my generation think the same of generation X, who think the same of generation Y – and so on right down the line. And it will probably continue until another world catastrophe comes along to reset it all again.

    This is obviously a hot-button issue for me, and I've said too much already. My point is that we should not judge an entire generation of people based on the actions of a small subset of that generation.

    I refuse to judge a Marine standing a post in Afghanistan by the actions of his peers in the OWS crowd.

  16. Roy – I'm with you in spirit, bro. But…

    While you as an individual may very well "have honored my side of the social contract my entire life…" that doesn't change the fact that our generation has stood aside and watched/allowed things to go down the drain on our watch.

    This is not an indictment of the Marine standing a post in Afghanistan. It is, however, a commentary on what might be termed a lost generation.

  17. Again, you miss the point, Tim. "Our generation", as you call it, cannot and does not *do* anything. It is a non-entity. Only individuals can act. And only individually should we be judged on the actions we take.

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