Join 3,555 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The War Against Youth
April 1, 2012 2:04 PM   Subscribe

The recession didn't gut the prospects of American young people. The Baby Boomers took care of that.
posted by ClanvidHorse (317 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, this is a stunning statistic:
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.
posted by dialetheia at 2:11 PM on April 1, 2012 [31 favorites]


Get ready for the summer. It's going to be hot.

Youth should be the only issue of the 2012 election, because all the subsidiary issues — inequality, the rising class system in America, the specter of decline, mass unemployment, the growing debt — are all fundamentally about the war against young Americans. But the choice young Americans face is between a party that claims to represent their interests but fails to and a party that explicitly opposes their interests and actively works to disenfranchise them.

The protesters, the occupiers, the kids who screamed themselves hoarse in the parks of New York and Oakland last year have spent the winter nestled underground nurturing their strategies. Has there ever been a movement so full of people who don't want to be there, who would rather be working?


There was this unspoken shift happened some time last summer when the conversation between my friend's parents changed from "why can't they get jobs" to "Holy shit there are no jobs." Time goes on and more and more have unemployed friends and relatives.
posted by The Whelk at 2:13 PM on April 1, 2012 [62 favorites]


Uh, correlation does not equal causation. There seems to be no there there.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:15 PM on April 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Pew Research Center: The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-Being

related:

Why Don't Young Americans Buy Cars? The Atlantic, Marsh 25, 2012
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:17 PM on April 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


Wow, this is a stunning statistic:

Yeah, I'm kind of wondering what exactly that means, because it doesn't seem like you can randomly select a below-35-year-old and an above-65-year-old and if the younger one makes $10,000 a year the older one makes a half a million dollars a year.
posted by XMLicious at 2:19 PM on April 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


Sadly, the author mixes up net income and net worth.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:20 PM on April 1, 2012 [16 favorites]


"The year Obama took office, older Americans made almost forty-seven times as much as the younger generation."

I tried to do the math on that, based on my own experience........ the numbers just didn't work like that.

Like Mark said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics"
posted by HuronBob at 2:21 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Italy has made their "war against youth" amusingly explicit. America has done it by creating debt tariffs along all the routes to prosperity.

There is a strong case that assets people require to live like houses should not appreciate in value, ever. We need the myth of castle to collapse through inflation, house price collapse, or whatever before the world can return to sanity.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:25 PM on April 1, 2012 [13 favorites]


The thinking behind this is basically an awkward and not-necessarily-valid combination of the "top 1% taking all the good stuff" and "we're leaving so much debt to future generations".

It's worth noting that among those worst hurt by the combined economic fubars of the last 30 years are those over the age of 40 who did not spend their first 20 years in the workplace clawing their way to the top and found themselves very replaceable... by younger people who work for less. Desperation at 55 is even worse than desperation at 25.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:25 PM on April 1, 2012 [30 favorites]


I tried to do the math on that, based on my own experience........ the numbers just didn't work like that.

Sweet anecdata, bro. I assume he means net worth, and from his phrasing I'd assume he's comparing the total sums for those populations, not the averages.
posted by dialetheia at 2:25 PM on April 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


My experience certainly isn't showing this. If anything, I'm seeing employers continuing to jettison older workers in favor of either A) Younger, healthier, cheaper workers, or B) Doubling-up the workload on the workers who aren't kicked-out.

I have this funny feeling these stats have a healthy handful of over-paid CEOs skewing the results.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:26 PM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wasn't a young American in 1984 a lot more likely to have a union, and not work in one of those silly "fire-at-will, motherfuckers" state?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 2:26 PM on April 1, 2012 [67 favorites]


I tried to do the math on that, based on my own experience........ the numbers just didn't work like that.
I'm guessing you're not taking income inequality into consideration.

Consider 1000 people between the ages of 25 and 30, with a median salary of $30,000. And consider 1000 people between the ages of 60 and 65, making a median salary of $90k.

So, it seems like the 60+ group makes 3x what the younger group does, right?

Now, let's say one of those people in the 25/30 group is Mark Zuckerburg. Now, Zuckerburg is worth $17 billion, according to Wikipedia, and we can assume most of that money was made over the past 6 years or so? So he makes 2.8 billion a year on average.

Now, see the problem? In our sample, the 25-30 set now makes 93,333 times as much, on average as the 60-65 set. But that's when you count the 'mean', not the median.


Anyway, I'm sure that this is what's going on. The majority of the '1%' and especially the 0.1% make so much of the money that it the wealth of the 99% is just line noise (Okay, not line noise but a small enough factor that you end up with a seriously out of whack ratio)

I I'd bet most of the 1%ers are also over 50, not all, but most.

A more interesting look would be to see what the ratio is between the "99%" of people over 60 and the "99%" of people under 35. That would be a more fair comparison, because really the vast majority of people over 60 do not make 45x what people under 30 do.
posted by delmoi at 2:31 PM on April 1, 2012 [24 favorites]


"Sweet anecdata, bro. I assume he means net worth, and from his phrasing I'd assume he's comparing the total sums for those populations, not the averages."

But, that's not what he said, he said they "Made" 47 times as much. I guess if you're going to use numbers, you should probably use the right words too. When the truth we have to assume from an article is different from what the article says, there is a fundamental problem.
posted by HuronBob at 2:31 PM on April 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


If anything, I'm seeing employers continuing to jettison older workers in favor of either A) Younger, healthier, cheaper workers, or B) Doubling-up the workload on the workers who aren't kicked-out.

Everyone is being screwed over the race to the bottom. Well everyone except the people with the position and money to influence and control policy and legislation.
posted by The Whelk at 2:33 PM on April 1, 2012


This is going to degenerate into data showing that "most A are B" being taken to mean "most B are A", isn't it? (Where A relates to age, and B relates to income.)
posted by benito.strauss at 2:34 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why Don't Young Americans Buy Cars? The Atlantic, Marsh 25, 2012
From the article:
Auto makers are worried about the Millennials. They just don't seem to care about owning a car. Is this a generational shift, or just a lousy economy at work?

Kids these days. They don't get married. They don't buy homes. And, much to the dismay of the world's auto makers, they apparently don't feel a deep and abiding urge to own a car.

This week, the New York Times pulled back the curtain on General Motors' recent, slightly bewildered efforts to connect with the Millennials -- that giant generational cohort born in the 1980s and 1990s whose growing consumer power is reshaping the way corporate America markets its wares. Unfortunately for car companies, today's teens and twenty-somethings don't seem all that interested in buying a set of wheels. They're not even particularly keen on driving.
Duh, of course it's the economy. But people aren't going to say "meh, the economy sucks so why buy a car" they're just going to look at the numbers and think to themselves that they don't really even want a car. They're probably not going to realize that, had they been born 15 years earlier they'd be making twice as much money and have a much more stable job prospect, and thus getting a car would seem like less of a risky investment. Same thing with getting married, having kids, and so on.
posted by delmoi at 2:35 PM on April 1, 2012 [37 favorites]


Youth should be the only issue of the 2012 election...

But since they have no money and don't vote they won't be.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:35 PM on April 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


But, that's not what he said, he said they "Made" 47 times as much. I guess if you're going to use numbers, you should probably use the right words too. When the truth we have to assume from an article is different from what the article says, there is a fundamental problem.
I'm sure he's talking about mean, not median.
posted by delmoi at 2:36 PM on April 1, 2012


There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at table he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilt the broth upon the table-cloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son’s wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears. Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they brought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.

They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. ’What are you doing there?’ asked the father. ’I am making a little trough,’ answered the child, ’for father and mother to eat out of when I am big.’

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Then they took the old grandfather to the table, slaughtered the grandson and fed him to the old man.
posted by R. Schlock at 2:36 PM on April 1, 2012 [140 favorites]


Don't know anything about economics but it seems weird for this to focus more on Social Security than student debt.
posted by steinsaltz at 2:37 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is not about baby boomers, this is about rich assholes. I am a baby boomer, and like many of my fellow boomers, I have very little income. I am not responsible for the insane excesses of the Bush years that left us in this financial hole, and I resent the easy and unfair targeting of an entire generation.
posted by languagehat at 2:39 PM on April 1, 2012 [65 favorites]


Setting younger workers against older workers. Nasty. And useful to many.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 2:40 PM on April 1, 2012 [42 favorites]


Sadly, the author mixes up net income and net worth.

QFT. Didn't anyone else notice that?

And with inflation, I bet that '65 and over' net worth figure for 2009 is less than the one for 1984.
posted by DarkForest at 2:40 PM on April 1, 2012


Here's Rubio: "Americans chose a free-enterprise system designed to provide a quality of opportunity, not compel a quality of results. And that is why this is the only place in the world where you can open up a business in the spare bedroom of your home."

Right. That's why the French don't have a word for "entrepreneur". He forgot to mention that America is also the only country in the world where they have free elections. And clean drinking water. Not to mention politicians spouting the most inane horseshit without ever being called out on it.
posted by sour cream at 2:41 PM on April 1, 2012 [55 favorites]


People also used to retire and make room for advancement within the organization. At my new company everyone I work with is at least twenty years older than I am, and I'm in my mid-thirties. Half of them are thirty to forty years older than I am. I figure it is not at all unlikely that one of them is going to die at his desk in the next year, because he has been working there nearly fifty years and is in visibly terrible health.
posted by winna at 2:42 PM on April 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, we get what we voted for.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:43 PM on April 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


I hasten to add that I understand that retiring isn't an option for many people. So cutting pensions also contributed to this situation of no advancement, because people can't afford to retire.
posted by winna at 2:44 PM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


How many people have read the article as opposed to just infographics?
posted by anigbrowl at 2:44 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wasn't a young American in 1984 a lot more likely to have a union, and not work in one of those silly "fire-at-will, motherfuckers" state?

Good thing the Democratic centrists got rid of all that union baggage, then, isn't it? Because unions were the main force keeping Americans from Shiny Happy Globatopia...

(yes, I realize this is like waving a red cape in front of an angry bull in a Looney Tunes cartoon).

I resent the easy and unfair targeting of an entire generation.

There's been quite a bit of targeting of younger people by older generations, too, over the past few years.
posted by jhandey at 2:44 PM on April 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


There's been quite a bit of targeting of younger people by older generations, too, over the past few years.
posted by jhandey at 10:44 PM on April 1


Ooh, two wrongs. Cool. Let's go back to blaming baby boomers some more, then. Maybe we can blame them for people not being able to spot simple fallacies, too.
posted by Decani at 2:48 PM on April 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


There's a fairly convincing takedown of the Esquire piece's logic, including several points already mentioned in the comments here, on Beat the Press: Esquire Magazine: Writer wanted to help convert class war into generational war. No skills required; pays top dollar. The comment thread also seems to have some merit.
posted by Schismatic at 2:51 PM on April 1, 2012 [40 favorites]


I don't buy into this intergenerational "cold war" for a second, it's blaming the victims all over again.

Retirement and health care costs, unsurprisingly, rise when one becomes old: the basic idea is to save and invest for the future, in an attempt not to be forced into having to work to survive exactly when health is more likely to fail, often catastrophically in a matter of a few months, or to try and learn a new trade exactly when your brain is the least likely to be quick enough to grasp a new job, or quick enough when compared to a youngster.

Yet many elderly or soon-to-be-elder people, this scheme notwithstanding, are stuck in their jobs and in fear of not being able to survive (or to have a reasonably decent life, with respect to their conditions and immediate-future prospect), so unsurprisingly they stick to their jobs; it's fundamental not to conflate extremely powerful gerontocrats with the general elderly population, composed of people who individually command little or nothing.

This is the typical inversion bullshit: they piss on you and they say it's raining, the baby boomers are aging and they say they're stealing your future - sure, because it's their "fault" they are aging, it's their fault their pension schemes (financially connected to wall street) are inadequate fro the _present_ cost of their living...and it's again their fault if they choosed to invest with a bunch of speculators who didn't deliver, it's a woman fault if she's raped, for she was "provocative".

Bullshit! Bullshit!
posted by elpapacito at 2:53 PM on April 1, 2012 [15 favorites]


Setting younger workers against older workers. Nasty. And useful to many.

Refuse to tear down your brothers, it's not old vs. young, it's the super-rich vs. the world.
posted by The Whelk at 2:53 PM on April 1, 2012 [48 favorites]


"the biggest boondoggle of all is Social Security" tells me clearly that this article is a Wall Street stalking horse and something i can ignore.
posted by mwhybark at 2:53 PM on April 1, 2012 [14 favorites]


I suppose it's time I posted this examination of the United States' main demographic problem, again. Smaller families plus exclusionary immigration policies mean higher transfer payments from workers to retirees. Much, much higher. Meanwhile, some 12 million people or 4% of the population, are excluded from full participation in the workforce or the economy because of the popularity of the economic fallacy known as the 'lump of labor' and an accompanying fear of competition.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:55 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only way it seems to me that statistic can be literally true as presented is if it's taking the total incomes for each demographic and comparing them without even breaking them down per capita. If that's the case, all it really means is that with declining birth rates and increasing life spans, all of the baby boomers are now older than 65 and there are many more senior citizens around making income relative to a smaller proportion of below-35-year-olds versus 1984.

If that's what it actually means this is either a remarkably deceptive or a remarkably boneheaded factiod to present in this context.
posted by XMLicious at 2:55 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


And with inflation, I bet that '65 and over' net worth figure for 2009 is less than the one for 1984.

The data are in inflation-adjusted dollars (the man of twists and turns's link, which is the source of the statistic).

The only way it seems to me that statistic can be literally true as presented is if it's taking the total incomes for each demographic and comparing them without even breaking them down per capita.

See the link. It is per-household.
posted by enn at 2:58 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great link Schismatic. Wish I had seen that before posting.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:58 PM on April 1, 2012


I wish you were right, The Whelk, but it's our greed for wonderful stuff vs. the world, I think. In any historical context we are the super-rich
posted by howfar at 2:59 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


"the biggest boondoggle of all is Social Security" tells me clearly that this article is a Wall Street stalking horse and something i can ignore.

Yeah, that's pretty much where I stopped reading.
posted by MikeKD at 3:00 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean, yeah, as a generation, the boomers have been terrible. But I don't think not retiring when you hit 65+ is something boomers are doing just to be mean. A generation isn't judged by the average member, it's judged by it's leaders. Who are assholes.

The shortsightedness that put in place a system that rewards wealth with more wealth (barriers to college, including tuition hikes and cut funding, mortgage interest deductions, tax cuts, etc) benefits those who have been around long enough to build up or inherit assets. Every time a boom happens, it's 'Yay, poor people can feed themselves with some reliability! We're awesome. Tax cuts for everyone!' Each time a recession hits people go 'We have to cut back on those spoiled poor people and young people. Belt tightening! Bootstraps!'

It's a cycle that hits people who don't have power, and makes sure they never will.
posted by Garm at 3:00 PM on April 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


The statistic isn't income, it's net wealth. The text quoted got it wrong (strangely, the graphs in the article are correct).
posted by dirigibleman at 3:01 PM on April 1, 2012


I'm sorry, kids. This is one problem that your overprotective helicopter moms and dads can't fix for you.
posted by crunchland at 3:02 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the statistic can be both true (as Delmoi explains) and misleading (distract the focus on Wall Street, where it belongs). Age is mere correlation, Wall Street is cause.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:03 PM on April 1, 2012


There was a great talk at the RSA a few years ago about the advantages of being born in a historically large generational cohort like the Boomers. Taxes are high when you are young, so your parents' generation can pay for the schooling of a much larger child generation -- but when you are in the prime of your working life, taxes get slashed because (1) your generation's size has fueled economic growth, and (2) there's enough of you to pay for everything the other generations need at a lower rate. But when you get old and retire, then everyone else's taxes have to go up and pay for you again.

Basically, on the intergenerational calculus the Boomers had it easy. What's worse is that even given their cohort advantages they've STILL taken more than their fair share from the collective pot; everything we've seen since the Boomers' generational ascendence has been the systematic slashing of services and support for everyone else, from the total gutting of support for public education, to plans to "balance the budget" by cutting Social Security and Medicare for everyone under 55, to a frankly sociopathic refusal to deal in any meaningful way with the coming ecological catastrophe(s).

There are a lot of people in this thread behaving really defensively about what seems to me to be a set of basically indisputable facts about intergenerational struggle. The Boomers have eaten their children and grandchildren, and they're still hungry. Maybe you behaved and voted virtuously, and for that you have my thanks, but it seems beyond debate that on balance the Boomers' political activities since the "Reagan Revolution" they helped inaugurate have been deeply destructive.
posted by gerryblog at 3:03 PM on April 1, 2012 [137 favorites]


I'm sorry, kids. This is one problem that your overprotective helicopter moms and dads can't fix for you.

Except I'd figure most helicopter parents are from my generation (between Gen X and Millennials, is that Gen Y?), not the boomers.
posted by MikeKD at 3:04 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Besides Boomers, let's go ahead and aim some hate at the GenXers for fucking up the tech bubble. Right? I am sympathetic to generational arguments, but there is a lot of disingenuity here.

I think the actual gist of the article is: older generation has different opportunities and values than newer generation (this is news?), in the midst of a recession. I think that Boomers, and GenXers, and Millennials, all have to take responsibility for how things are turning out today. The blame can be spread all over the place, and no generation has a right to deflect it.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:04 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look, the statistic was mischaracterized as describing annual income, not net worth, but that doesn't make it a useless statistic, and it's not correct to say that it's just a distortion introduced by counting the 1% or whatever. The median 65+ household with a net worth of $170,000—presumably including home equity—is a pretty common thing, it's not some crazy statistical artifact. The news here, to me, is more the incredibly low net worth of the median 35-and-under household, at $3,500. From 1984-2009, the 65+ net worth has gone up 50%, but the 35-and-under net worth has dropped, incredibly, to less than a third of its 1984 value.

That's why all this stuff about how Boomers are losing jobs and getting hit is kind of beside the point. The numbers are not saying that Boomers are are all making tons of money, they're saying that the Boomers are maintaining while the bottom has dropped out for the under-35 set—who don't have the jobs to lose in the first place.
posted by enn at 3:05 PM on April 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


enn: if the statistic is coming from the same source as that link, the article's claim isn't literally true; as others have suggested, the author conflated income with net worth.
posted by XMLicious at 3:06 PM on April 1, 2012


I read this this morning, and I thought it had some good information but the generational war frame maybe wasn't the best angle to take. While reading, it occurred to me that gradually gutting services aimed at younger generations would be a great way to acclimatize people to increasingly lower standards of living without being completely obvious about it.
posted by byanyothername at 3:07 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Boomers, and GenXers, and Millennials

I'm too young to be in Gen X, and too old to be a Millennial, so I'm blameless! That's a relief.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:09 PM on April 1, 2012 [13 favorites]


Faint of Butt, we were born in the same year. I've found we get slotted in with both groups somewhat randomly every few years. Last I checked we were Millennials again.
posted by gerryblog at 3:10 PM on April 1, 2012


Oh, don't worry about it. Here's the key: It's not your generation's fault. Blame all the others.
posted by crunchland at 3:12 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


"presumably including home equity"

Wait... I'll stop rolling on the floor laughing (or in pain, can't tell which), in a minute..

As noted above, as long as we perceive this as a generation vs. generation issue, and not a 1%/99% issue, this isn't going to get solved in a manner that does anything but make the rich richer.
posted by HuronBob at 3:12 PM on April 1, 2012


This is a very important topic. It's no surprise that government favors the old over the young, since the latter are much more likely to vote. It's all too easy to implicitly equate "government" (or at least your favor government policies) with "the public good," when in fact, government is a concrete entity like a corporation, which has its own distinct self-interest and doesn't necessarily act in the public good.

To compare this article to blaming a rape victim for being raped is an empty appeal to emotion that I'm confident won't convince many people. Sorry, but the generational issue is slightly more complex than that.

However, I don't know if this is the best article to make the point. Someone mentioned that it's hard to believe that people over 65 make 47 times as much as people under 35. Of course, there's no source cited for this statistic. (The vague list of "sources" at the end of the article doesn't count, since this totally fails to direct the reader to anything that would allow one to check the facts on one's own.) It sounds like enn is probably right that it was supposed to refer to wealth instead of income, but the article failed to clarify this, and the word "made" is going to make readers assume it refers to income. (By the way, I wish we would focus more on wealth than income. If you looked only at income, you'd think Michael Bloomberg, who earns exactly $1 a year as mayor of New York City, is destitute.)

Also, this is, on its face, an egregious misquote:
Here's Rubio: "Americans chose a free-enterprise system designed to provide a quality of opportunity, not compel a quality of results.
Rubio actually said "equality of opportunity" and "equality of results." Stephen Marche and the Esquire editors don't seem to have understood the words in their own article; "quality of opportunity" doesn't make much sense.
posted by John Cohen at 3:13 PM on April 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


I think that Boomers, and GenXers, and Millennials, all have to take responsibility for how things are turning out today. The blame can be spread all over the place, and no generation has a right to deflect it.

"Please! This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let's not bicker and argue over who killed who."
posted by enn at 3:15 PM on April 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Maybe we can blame them for people not being able to spot simple fallacies, too.

I didn't initially think the article was all that great, but seeing Metafilter's response makes me think the author has hit a nerve. In country after country, younger people are getting the short end of the stick, but the response seems to be "stop whining", "don't blame me" and/or "you're on your own".

As noted above, as long as we perceive this as a generation vs. generation issue, and not a 1%/99% issue, this isn't going to get solved in a manner that does anything but make the rich richer.


Just FYI - a lot of the posters who are pooh-poohing this article have been extremely antagonistic in the recent past to the very idea of a 1%/99% dynamic.
posted by jhandey at 3:15 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Naively] Is there a place in our current world for another "universal" measurement of wealth?

Goes back to work...
posted by mrgroweler at 3:17 PM on April 1, 2012


FTA: The prescription-drug benefit was the "compassion" in compassionate conservatism.

You mean the one where medicare was forced to pay MSRP for the drugs it bought? It was compassionate for big pharma. So you have states wanting to buy drugs from Canada.

"the biggest boondoggle of all is Social Security" tells me clearly that this article is a Wall Street stalking horse and something i can ignore.

Social Security is fucked because one political party has been hellbent on ending it since FDR suggested the idea. Social Security is something I've paid into my working life but I'm not sure I'm going to see a dime of. Rather than being all fighty about it, like to think that the money I put in is being paid to my parents (just like I like to think my taxes are spent on things like education and healthcare research rather than the bombs and corporate welfare programs it really is).

Because things like Medicare and Social Security are considered evil socialist programs dragging America down, instead of actually being something the would be helpful it fulfills the prophesy of dragging America down.

As it is set up now, these programs are bound to fail.

I read this this morning, and I thought it had some good information but the generational war frame maybe wasn't the best angle to take. While reading, it occurred to me that gradually gutting services aimed at younger generations would be a great way to acclimatize people to increasingly lower standards of living without being completely obvious about it.

That is my take as well. My parents are just a little too old to be Boomers. I'm an old Gen X. The Boomers that are vilified in this article aren't the problem. It is the well-off boomers (And older people) that have set us up to fail. The really rich ones will be dead by the time the shit hits the fan and will have money to leave for their kids. The somewhat well-off will also be dead but have less for their heirs. And the middle class ones that are doing OK now, they'll be dead too and their kids will be fucked. And the poor people will be fucked like they always have.

This really isn't about the olds fucking things up for the kids. It is about the increasing disparity of wealth. It is about the poorer cohorts making the minimum payments on our national debt. That younger people today don't have the opportunities their parents and grandparents had is all about the disparity of wealth and the raping of our country's wealth. It isn't like Boomers are are sitting around the country club wondering how they can screw over the kids. It is they're out to get all they can before everything goes tits up.
posted by birdherder at 3:18 PM on April 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


Who would have thought "the Me Generation" would act so selfishly?
posted by Afroblanco at 3:18 PM on April 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


How can you possibly blame someone who began their career in 2008-2012 for a recession they had literally nothing to do with, and the generational voting patterns of their parents and grandparents had EVERYTHING to do with? In what sense are Millennials even minimally responsible for the socio-political-economic-ecological disasters they inherited? Honestly.
posted by gerryblog at 3:18 PM on April 1, 2012 [36 favorites]


enn, that Pew report you link to doesn't seem to support your interpretation. If you look at the section that's actually on income it says
In households headed by adults younger than 35, the median adjusted annual income in 1967 was $38,555, compared with $49,145 in 2010, an increase of 27% (all figures are expressed in 2010 dollars and standardized to a household size of three). By contrast, in households headed by adults ages 65 and older, the median adjusted annual income in 1967 was $20,804, compared with $43,401 in 2010, an increase of 109%.
So half a century ago the older households were making half as much as the younger households were; and older households have only in the last few years reached the point where they're making as much as the younger households made in 1967.

Additionally, the younger households are making more now in adjusted dollars than they were in 1967, which is also more than the older households are now. So these statistics alone don't seem to say that the bottom has dropped out for the younger households, just that their rate of savings is lower even with higher adjusted income for some reason.
posted by XMLicious at 3:23 PM on April 1, 2012


Oh crap, not this again. I'm going to respond at length after dinner, but for now, I will just leave you with the voice of the Boomers:

Well a young man ain't got nothing in the world these days.
I said a young man ain't got nothing in the world these days.

You know in the old days
When a young man was a strong man
All the people
They'd step back when a young man walked by.

But you know nowadays
It's the old man, he's got all the money.
And a young man ain't got nothing in the world these days.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:24 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


>In what sense are Millennials even minimally responsible for the socio-political-economic-ecological disasters they inherited? Honestly.

In the same sense that you're never really at fault for a rear-ending, really. There's always extenuating circumstances that justify your lack of attentiveness.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 3:27 PM on April 1, 2012


While this article may not get all the details right, I think the basic argument that "I've got mine, fuck you" as the guiding principle of the Baby Boomers is not far off.* I mean, when they were going to college, higher education was heavily subsidized by the state -- states were routinely paying 2-5-30% of the state school's budgets. In that climate, tuition can be kept under control, and the government supports keeps pace with inflation. Over the last 30 years or so, that spending had dropped to under 10% of the budget in many states, and the only possible result is higher tuition. As far as I can tell, the same thing goes on in K-12 -- weaker funding leads to worse education, but the Baby Boom is past that, so why would they care?

*I am talking about the Boomers as a whole; obviously, you can find plenty of individual Boomers who have been as screwed by the last 30 years as the later generations, but, really, someone had to vote for those policies....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:31 PM on April 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm not even sure what you're trying to say there. How did the Millennials "rear-end" the Boomers (or the recession, or whoever you're imagining they've rear-ended)? What are they to have done when their parents' generation was sowing disaster for them while they were still just kids? The idea that Millennials had any agency with respect to the financial crisis -- that they were metaphorically behind the wheel of anything -- strikes me as a very strange one. Keeping in mind that they're already literally in the streets, in what sense can they be said to have been inattentive? What should they have done?
posted by gerryblog at 3:33 PM on April 1, 2012


It takes two to make an accident. Unless one of you gave birth to the other.
posted by polymodus at 3:35 PM on April 1, 2012


The news here, to me, is more the incredibly low net worth of the median 35-and-under household, at $3,500.

Even under normal circumstances, under-35's would have generally low net worth -- not a lot of time to build up retirement savings, not a lot of equity in a home, maybe a good chunk of student loans. For under-35's now, where the housing crash has meant that a whole bunch of under-35's have huge negative equity in their homes instead of a little positive equity, I'm actually kind of surprised the median isn't negative.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:35 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not as much worried about the Boomers doing well as I am about the younger generation doing poorly. The drop in education spending -- that's the thing I'm worried about. Also, the rise of internships is a little worrisome. An internship should be something you do while you're in college. I feel like a lot of companies have replaced entry-level jobs with internships.

I am a little curious, though, about all the kids moving back home after college. Granted, that option wasn't available to me, so I can't really relate. But isn't even a shitty apartment in a bad part of town preferable to moving back in with your parents? 85% of recent grads. Damn. That's gotta be intolerably depressing.

I would say that among people I've known, those who majored in something specific and practical are doing a lot better than liberal arts majors. Yeah, I know that's a touchy subject around here.

The way I see it :

My grandparents' generation went through the great depression, and so they told their kids, "do the practical thing". My parents' generation did the practical thing, but wanted to give their kids the opportunities they never had. So they told their kids, "follow your hopes and dreams!" Lots of people in my generation followed their hopes and dreams, pursuing a course of study that did not bestow upon them any useful job skills. What do you wanna bet my generation will tell our children, "do the practical thing"?
posted by Afroblanco at 3:36 PM on April 1, 2012 [15 favorites]


no need to reinvent the wheel here, the problems at hand are still just a case of follow-the-money, ESPECIALLY IN THE CASE OF EDUCATIONAL "FINANCE"
posted by Fupped Duck at 3:40 PM on April 1, 2012


Jesus, another article that shits on a generation.

Jesus fuck, people. We all fucked up. Civilization sucks because we are so shitty at organizing large groups of people for /any/ reason. Blaming it on some previous cultural generation is just lazy as fuck.
posted by clvrmnky at 3:46 PM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Look, I agree that young people are getting screwed, I'm young myself and I damn sure know it. But as soon as I visited the Mefi homepage and saw this at the top my immediate reaction was "ugh". This boomer-hate is just so passé. It's totally missing the point, which is that the system is broken for just about everyone.
posted by MattMangels at 3:46 PM on April 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


>I'm not even sure what you're trying to say there. How did the Millennials "rear-end" the Boomers (or the recession, or whoever you're imagining they've rear-ended)? What are they to have done when their parents' generation was sowing disaster for them while they were still just kids? The idea that Millennials had any agency with respect to the financial crisis -- that they were metaphorically behind the wheel of anything -- strikes me as a very strange one. Keeping in mind that they're already literally in the streets, in what sense can they be said to have been inattentive? What should they have done?

I meant the Boomers were rear-ending the Millennials. I have almost never seen a driver accept responsibility for a rear-ending, no matter what: it's always that the other guy stopped short, or something.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 3:48 PM on April 1, 2012


*I am talking about the Boomers as a whole; obviously, you can find plenty of individual Boomers who have been as screwed by the last 30 years as the later generations, but, really, someone had to vote for those policies....

Surely, the ones that were elected. But it may have come to your attention that, surprisingly, many of elected representatives seldom keep their promises to the letter, or that the letter of their promises is vauge or general enough to allow for "multiple interpretation of what I meant"; add to this some "emergency" occourring during the mandate that sets back a policy or two, and suddendly the topic/policy never seems to be addressed, or addressed in the way it was proposed.

Rest assurted that millions of people, the majorty, only formally had agency, as voters, for the actual implementation of many policies; yet it's extremely convenient to blame an entire generation for not being "prescient" enough to predict the next 30 years down to a financial crisis, to convince them that it's actually your fault, conveniently enough to cut down on anything they have left, supposedly to make ends meet.

And the complement to this is to rally youngsters against the "glutton generation" of have-it-alls parents, in hope they will clash with the elders over arguments such as "what the hell, you expected me to predict the future? what did you predict exactly, grasshopper?".

That's politics, dirty politics, but that's part of politics nonetheless. It's part of "divide et impera".
posted by elpapacito at 3:50 PM on April 1, 2012


But isn't even a shitty apartment in a bad part of town preferable to moving back in with your parents? 85% of recent grads. Damn.

I haven't moved back in with my parents yet, but I'm about to graduate and I anticipate that I will for at least a year. I like my parents and get along with them quite well. Actually, I look forward to seeing them.

I would rather move back into my childhood bedroom than pay $600 a month (about 70% of my monthly income) to share a shitty, run-down apartment with a slob of a roommate and wake up to sound of real life telemundo every morning.
posted by WhitenoisE at 3:51 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Late baby boomer here ('62).

This title is missing a qualifying adjective because we weren't all responsible for this. The right-wing baby boomers, the Republican baby boomers, the fascist baby boomers - they did it.

There are a large number of us who have completely and consistently deplored all of this; worked for and spoken out for progressive candidates; donated time and money to good causes.

I recycle everything, I compost, I have never owned a car or a television, I've stopped eating meat and most fish, and I have moved more and more in this direction as I got older (I stopped eating meat in 2001, but fish in 2009...)

The "same" people who beat me up when I was a kid with an English accent in school have glorified greed, have lied, cheated, stolen, deliberately misled the public, fouled our air and water, criminalized hundreds of millions of people for their personal choices in sexuality, drugs or reproduction. I didn't like them then, and I hate them even more now as they destroy everything I've ever cared about.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:52 PM on April 1, 2012 [60 favorites]


Retirement and health care costs, unsurprisingly, rise when one becomes old: the basic idea is to save and invest for the future, in an attempt not to be forced into having to work to survive exactly when health is more likely to fail, often catastrophically in a matter of a few months, or to try and learn a new trade exactly when your brain is the least likely to be quick enough to grasp a new job, or quick enough when compared to a youngster.
Yes, health care costs do rise with old age, but health care technology is also extending age. Medicine can now keep the elderly alive longer, for a great deal of money, with diminishing returns, all to buy a few years of ill health, which will have to be paid for by the state through Medicare, because nobody has a pension anymore. Older Americans aren't going to simply shut up and die for the sake of keeping Medicare solvent, a point on which we can hardly blame them, but everybody knows that Medicare will become insolvent under the current system.

Health is not a zero-sum game, which seems to be the point the author of this article is making when comparing Medicare/Medicaid funding to prenatal care. Surely we should want to take care of the elderly and young, pregnant women. To cast the debate in these terms is grossly irresponsible and, well, pretty dumb.

As always, if they can keep you looking the wrong direction, if they can keep you fighting some phantasmic enemy among your ranks, be it "the Boomers" or "the blacks" or "illegal immigrants", anything to stop you from paying attention to the man behind the curtain, they win. There is a bipartisan effort to reduce the quality of life of all Americans by convincing us our social security programs are necessarily insolvent, that we're all spoiled babies who want Big Government to wipe our bums for us, not that said programs might be failing because they are not sufficiently funded. I don't see how a generational conflict is going to help reverse that poisonous idea, though it makes for good journalism.
posted by deathpanels at 3:55 PM on April 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


There is a bipartisan effort to reduce the quality of life of all Americans by convincing us our social security programs are necessarily insolvent, that we're all spoiled babies who want Big Government to wipe our bums for us, not that said programs might be failing because they are not sufficiently funded.

Sufficiently funded with what? the earnings of the working population, which is shrinking relative to that of retirees. This is a demographic problem, it's not unique to the US and it doesn't require a 'man behind the curtain.' It's not exclusively the fault of right or left. Rent control and rent seeking have as much to do with this as an aversion to taxation or hostility to immigration. Talking about this issue without addressing the shift in demographics is just pointless.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:10 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rest assurted that millions of people, the majorty, only formally had agency, as voters, for the actual implementation of many policies; yet it's extremely convenient to blame an entire generation for not being "prescient" enough to predict the next 30 years down to a financial crisis, to convince them that it's actually your fault, conveniently enough to cut down on anything they have left, supposedly to make ends meet.

I am not sure it takes much prescience to realize that services cost money, and that cutting taxes would lead to things that used to be paid for collectively (with collective benefit) being paid for individually. The end result of "you can't raise taxes" is not exactly an enigma....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:10 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Okay.. I saw this thread erupt as I was watching a movie, Narayama Bushiko, a kabuki style movie about the ancient Japanese custom of obasute, taking the elderly (especially old women) up onto a mountain to freeze to death when they were no longer productive members of society. But I'll get back to that in a minute.

This article hits the two major points and gets them completely wrong. First it mentions the Industrial Revolution as the start of a New Golden Age when human potential started expanding forever. Well bullshit. That was when things started to go badly wrong. It was the era of the rise of Capital. The products that everyone needed could no longer be made without capital investment. This started the inevitable concentration of power into the hands of the people who dealt in capital.

Then it invokes Occupy Wall Street and gets that totally wrong too. No, we didn't miss it, it's not a generational battle. In my OWS group, there are equal numbers of young and old, they're distributed pretty evenly. But the point is, it's not about generational war, it's about class war. I used to see college age children of wealthy capitalists come through our camp at night and cause mayhem, screaming that they were the 1%, their parents run a factory and nobody gave them a handout (yeah right) so get a job you dirty hippies. And these are kids who never worked a day in their life, everything was handed to them on a silver platter. No, it's not generational. It's about the 1%. The poor and working class young have not yet had any chance to accumulate any money of their own. They're totally dependent on the 1% determining how much money they will let the 99% have. And that's true of all people of the working class.

So let's get back to Narayama Bushiko. I'll warn you of spoilers, but you're unlikely to ever see this movie, so let's proceed. In the remote mountain village, everyone is poor, and there are not enough resources to feed the elderly. But that's not all. There were also quite a few instances of children (especially girls) being abandoned on the mountain too, the movie deals with that. But there is one major subplot about an old man who refuses to go die on the mountain. His family cuts him off, no more food. So he steals from the villagers. When he is caught, the whole family's food supply is taken and redistributed to the villagers. Then a few days later, in the middle of the night, a group of village elders silently kidnaps the whole family, including the many children, and whisks them off in the night when nobody is around to see. They are being carried to their death on the mountain. The family who pushed out the old man is destroyed because of his selfishness. And the family's name is Amaya, a deliberate pun on amae, a state of "dependent indulgence," like a child that is totally dependent on its mother. And this is the way the family lives, and why it was destroyed. In a situation of scarcity, they were unable to "lift themselves up by their own bootstraps," they were dependent on the community (both by secret donations from friends and by theft) for their survival. But at a certain point, they got cut off, and the only way to truly cut them off is to kill them. And the rest of the villagers say to each other, "it would be best for everyone if we never speak of the Amaya family again."

So that's what this is about. Everyone in the working class is completely dependent on the indulgences of the 1%. Even the middle class got conned into putting their capital back into the hands of the 1%, in the hopes that they could ride the coattails of the rich. Seemed like a good idea at the time, as the rich got richer, so did the middle class. But then it all came tumbling down, and the rich kept their money and everyone else could go suck an egg. A lot of people (including me) went down the drain, but the few people who manage to keep afloat see those people going down and say to each other, "it would be best for everyone if we never speak about those amae people again."

But we are ALL amae, we are all dependent on each other. Well, everyone except the 1%, who aren't dependent on anyone or anything, not even governments, they live in a society of their own. And there is the problem with articles like this. Whenever you see someone making a distinction *other than* the 1% vs the 99%, you are seeing the tools the 1% uses to keep you down. When you see someone talking about young vs. old, men vs. women, black vs. white, etc. those are all tools the 1% uses to divide you and get you working against each other, instead of against them. And you fall for it every time. And the rich keep getting richer. Get this through your head: the young and the old are in the same boat. And it's sinking. Everyone will go down together. So quit squabbling over who gets into the lifeboats first. There aren't any lifeboats for anyone except the First Class passengers. Throw them overboard.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:17 PM on April 1, 2012 [69 favorites]


This article hits the two major points and gets them completely wrong. First it mentions the Industrial Revolution as the start of a New Golden Age when human potential started expanding forever. Well bullshit. That was when things started to go badly wrong. It was the era of the rise of Capital. The products that everyone needed could no longer be made without capital investment. This started the inevitable concentration of power into the hands of the people who dealt in capital.

Yes, everything was peachy in the days of pre-industrial agrarian society.

So that's what this is about. Everyone in the working class is completely dependent on the indulgences of the 1% [...] But we are ALL amae, we are all dependent on each other.

Which is it?

Get this through your head: the young and the old are in the same boat. And it's sinking. Everyone will go down together. So quit squabbling over who gets into the lifeboats first. There aren't any lifeboats for anyone except the First Class passengers. Throw them overboard.

And after you've done that, there still won't be enough lifeboat space for everyone else, which is what I've been trying to point out when I mention the scope of the demographic problem. Marxist theorists are so in love with the class issue that they seem to forget the existence of any other economic factors. If this were viable, then places like Cuba and Venezuela would be roaring economic successes by now, but they're not. Yawning and growing disparities in income inequality within generational cohorts is a serious problem, but it's not the only problem.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:34 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I blame the unborn.
posted by philip-random at 4:34 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the clarification on who was rear-ending whom. Got it.
posted by gerryblog at 4:38 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the article can bring greater awareness to how policy is so strongly skewed in favor of the Boomer generation and established interests at the expense of younger earners, then hopefully it might do some good.

Unfortunately, the whole thing stands on a far weaker argument than it could have. A better basis for the article's thesis might have been based around something like:

* The growing bias in tax policy in favor of the currently wealthy at the expense of high earners (lowering of cap gains taxes, estate taxes, and a consistent refusal to consider wealth -- rather than income -- taxation)
* Boomers' willing acceptance of personal-debt-financed education (after having a comparatively cheap education themselves)
* Frequent trading of public debt for large tax giveaways to the already rich
* Boomers' refusal to let go or limit the mortgage interest deduction
* Boomers' happy embrace of tax revolts as soon as they turned thirty
* How much Boomers have ignored the large barriers they've erected to self-employment and entrepreneurship, pushing people to join existing companies for want of health insurance (etc.)

The author could have also combined the above with a more conceptual argument, contrasting the mindsets of the "Greatest Generation" with Boomers' comparative generational-centrism -- e.g., WWII was fought for the freedom of a whole country, while the 60s protests were more based in don't-send-me-to-war or don't-dirty-my-air kind of selfishness.

Perhaps the better thesis might have been that Boomers' self-interest was exploited for class warfare, and they're the ones best equipped to fix the problem.
posted by myvines at 4:39 PM on April 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


There you go. What was I just saying? First world vs. Third world. Agrarian vs. Industrial. The 1% don't have to divide and conquer when you will do it for them.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:41 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whenever you see someone making a distinction *other than* the 1% vs the 99%, you are seeing the tools the 1% uses to keep you down.

That's sweet, but it misses how all those crappy ballot initiatives that defunded schools and higher education won massive support from baby boomers and their parents, all of whom wanted to pay lower property taxes and conveniently forgot about all the subsidies they had relied on. I mean, sure, there's also been a massive regressive wealth grab by the 1%, no doubt about it. But there has also been, during my lifetime, an incredible "fuck you, I've got mine" grab by the boomers and their parents.

The two things aren't contradictory, at all; both have happened, and both are real. It doesn't mean that every single individual boomer is rich (for example, we expect to eventually need to support both my own and my partner's parents in their old age -- they seem to have failed in the generational land grab, sadly, and all those tax cuts mean that social programs that helped my grandparents mostly won't be there for my parents). And it doesn't mean that everyone who voted for tax cuts was old, either.

I recycle everything, I compost, I have never owned a car or a television, I've stopped eating meat and most fish, and I have moved more and more in this direction as I got older (I stopped eating meat in 2001, but fish in 2009...)

I'm sorry, but well-intentioned as all of that is, it's a great example of missing the boat. One successful ballot initiative or one congressional tax bill carries vastly more weight than a bunch of people making lifestyle consumption choices; the decision by the left a few decades ago to head down this path was a fuck up of colossal proportions; I sympathize with it, but I'm been hearing variations of "but I've been protesting the military-industrial complex by wearing organic cotton" for all of my life, and it fails to convince.
posted by Forktine at 4:41 PM on April 1, 2012 [32 favorites]


Here is what seems to be the relevant section from the latest Government census (pdf). I suggest looking at table 721 (towards the bottom).
posted by yoink at 4:42 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nails it.. Shit started really falling apart when the first wave Boomers came of political and financial age. The promised social contracts were tossed out the window.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:45 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The author of this article threw a lot out there, some of which is nonsensical – explicitly comparing Medicare spending to education spending seems particularly misguided – but the sentiment is definitely felt.

I graduated from undergrad in 2007 and there were scant employment prospects for a twenty-two year old then. I had a paid internship one summer, and otherwise worked part-time retail and administrative office jobs between semesters.

After graduating, I had to take a medical exam to apply for an overseas job. I was uninsured and got an enormous bill back. It quickly became apparent the type of world I was entering. A world where you can't go to the doctor unless you already have a stable, full-time, long-term position. Intellectually, I knew this all along, but it wasn't until I saw that bill that I realized the real, personal impact it would have.

I moved between towns and had to live on a credit card for a short time to buy gas and cover daily expenses. I lived with my parents, then on a friend's futon. I worked a few short-term jobs that didn't pay well and fizzled out after a while. I was not prepared for the workplace. I did not suffer fools lightly and had no context for negotiating pay or measuring a benefits package to tell if I would be insured. I had valuable skills, though, and eventually got hired to a decent full-time position with benefits, no less than a month before the recession hit.

Then I learned to sit and wait. Because there were no jobs. Which meant I could not jump to another company for more pay. Which meant I could not negotiate pay raises or extra time off. Which meant I was at the whim of my employer. I stayed in a job I was supremely unhappy with for a long time, simply because it was too risky to do otherwise. And I'm working in an industry that has a rather sunny outlook now, technology, but at the depths of the recession, all of our wages stagnated, because the companies knew we were stuck.

Landing my first "real" job weeks before the recession taught me to value having an extremely low overhead. I don't own much of anything. The most expensive purchase I have ever made is my macbook. Someone my age, with my type of job, 40-50 years ago would have bought a car and put a down payment on a house as soon as they landed a job as a reflexive act to demonstrate one's ascent to adulthood. Today I am 27 and I only have one friend who has gotten married and bought a house, out of the hundreds of peers I can check in on via Facebook.

It isn't that older Americans aren't affected by the recession. It's that young people bear the brunt of the damage done to "the American way of life" and are then blamed for it. It is a matter of unemployment, certainly, but it is more than that.

The way I think about work and my relationship to it is forever scarred. I received a concentrated injection of bullshit neoliberal economic policy at a tender age, which has jolted me into a hypervigilant anti-spending catatonia that I don't think I will ever recover from. I assume this is a cultural trend and not merely my own anecdotal experience. For a society predicated on the purchasing of consumer goods and an attendant trust in governmental economic policy, this spells doom. Every politician is saying we should be tightening our belts, but American policy has been pushing us to spend more for decades, on the principle that we would tax those purchases to pay for social programs. But somehow we're going to fix this by lowering taxes? No, no. The problem is that nobody my age trusts a single goddamn thing that comes out of the mouth of anyone in government. That's bad. Really bad. Bad for civic discourse and bad for the nation, because now the only people talking about government are the crazies that want to take away our birth control.
posted by deathpanels at 4:52 PM on April 1, 2012 [35 favorites]


Its funny really, the one group of citizens least invested in the country and the most capable of causing widespread damage (riots, rebellion, random acts of violence) is being ignored, demeaned, and told to buck up... while looking at an older generation still using government crutches to get around financially.

It might not look funny from a 'I'm here now and this blows' point of view but look at it as if you're past all this and in the future. The attitudes of power holders are hysterically short sighted.
posted by Slackermagee at 4:52 PM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dear angry young people,

Please take the money from the rich before you start taking it from the old.

Sincerely,
The middle-aged.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:04 PM on April 1, 2012 [24 favorites]


I never thought I would be recommending a Margaret Wente column, but the other day she did a pretty nice summing-up of the tremendous advantages boomers enjoyed before deciding that the solution to society's troubles would be austerity programs for everyone coming up after them. It's here: Boomers' generation had everything it wanted - and it still does.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:07 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cute, Benito, but nobody wants your precious money. We just want you to start caring about us almost as much as you care about it.
posted by Mooseli at 5:08 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Benito! Come on, didn't you read the article? If you cared even a little bit about Mooseli, you wouldn't be making 47 times her salary!! Stop counting all of your money and show some compassion!!!
posted by Wordwoman at 5:12 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


> One successful ballot initiative or one congressional tax bill carries vastly more weight than a bunch of people making lifestyle consumption choices;

You edited out the section of my post where I mentioned "worked for and spoken out for progressive candidates" - in fact, it was the first thing I mentioned, at least in part because I expected a comment like yours.

> the decision by the left a few decades ago to head down this path was a fuck up of colossal proportions;

The imaginary decision, you mean. Who do you think elected Mr. Clinton or Mr. Obama, eh?

What you really mean is, "The complete subversion of America's media by ultra-right wing causes, portraying the left as ineffectual, effete and corrupt, and the right as efficient, manly and effective."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:15 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Someone my age, with my type of job, 40-50 years ago would have bought a car and put a down payment on a house as soon as they landed a job as a reflexive act to demonstrate one's ascent to adulthood.

I don't doubt you and many of your peers have had it tough, but I think there's also some wild romanticizing about how great everything was at some (usually nonspecific) time in America's past that badly distorts most of these kinds of discussions. Homeownerships rates in the 60s and 70s actually weren't all that high. Despite the effects of the recession, they're still higher now than they were then. Unemployment has certainly been very bad in this last recession, but it has actually been worse in other post-war periods (it was higher in the mid-70s and in the early 80s than it is currently--although, of course, the recovery was faster in both cases). And, of course, these all pale by comparison with the Great Depression.

Who knows where things will be in ten year's time (predicting the economic future is a mug's game and no one has ever shown any consistent ability to do it), but I do think it's possible we'll look back at a lot of the "verily it is the end of days" talk that one hears now with some bemusement.
posted by yoink at 5:17 PM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Someone my age, with my type of job, 40-50 years ago would have bought a car and put a down payment on a house as soon as they landed a job as a reflexive act to demonstrate one's ascent to adulthood.

I think you are radically overestimating consumption back in the day. I don't mean to be all "kids these days don't know how good they got it," but a "starter house" fifty years ago meant something that was 800 square feet with one bathroom, and people weren't buying those in the first five minutes of their first job, either.

"The complete subversion of America's media by ultra-right wing causes, portraying the left as ineffectual, effete and corrupt, and the right as efficient, manly and effective."

To be fair (speaking as an effete lefty), who seems to be doing better? Sure, I voted for Obama... but the regressive project of the past few decades appears to be proceeding apace. I'll stand by my critique of the left's move towards consumer and lifestyle options and away from pragmatic electoral politics.
posted by Forktine at 5:19 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


More "divide & conquer" politics at work. This schtick never gets old.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:47 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


My point is that there's more than a financial cost for young people. There is a cost to society in broken social contracts that isn't so easy to quantify.
posted by deathpanels at 5:48 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everything that's wrong everywhere is somebody else's fault, that's for damn sure.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:49 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would rather move back into my childhood bedroom than pay $600 a month (about 70% of my monthly income) to share a shitty, run-down apartment with a slob of a roommate and wake up to sound of real life telemundo every morning.

See, that's the problem. The fact that this is even possible means you are better off than a lot of your peers, and for sure your parents' or grandparents' generation. Both my parents are alive, and are both good for a couch to sleep on should I need it, but if I have a job, there is no way I would be invited back. Same with them and their parents.

For sure, it would be nice to live in a world where that wasn't a reality, but I assure, that awful apartment with the slovenly roommate is a fact of life for most people, for most times in the past in some form or another.
posted by gjc at 5:56 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Baby Boomer here. Lots of things wrong with my generation but I want to say this: it was not people my age I saw voting in great numbers for Ronald Reagan. I saw endless streams of younger voters, entranced by electing Grandpa to the White House, cheering him on for busting unions and blaming absolutely everything wrong with the world on Jimmy Carter. Once the draft ended, this age was free to support every war and scream about patriotism. When that group just a few years younger than I am tilted Republican, I couldn't believe it, any more than I can understand why blacks or gays vote Republican or women support Romney and Santorum.
posted by etaoin at 5:57 PM on April 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


The social systems which organize and rationalize contemporary life have always been ingeniously armed for the day when youth would rebel against the essentially pastoral status assigned to it. Despite pamperings until recently unimaginable, despite economic briberies and various psychological coercions, the rebellion has broken out. Predictably, the response to it is a gradual escalation involving a more naked use of the tactics that were supposed to prevent, but which also helped to provoke, the crisis in the first place: patronizations, put-downs, and tongue-lashings, along with offers of a place in the governing system if only the system is left intact[...]
The War Against the Young [October 1968]
posted by akgerber at 5:59 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


And for the record, I bought a house later in life, as my parents did, still believing in the American dream. Then I lost my job and was unemployed. When I finally got re-employed, it was at $30,000 less and I am in what is so quaintly called pre-foreclosure. The only good news about this is that my daughter was able to get a little extra financial aid for her overpriced college, which we can just barely afford because the college gets the money that would have gone to the lying bastards at Citimortgage.
posted by etaoin at 5:59 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


it was not people my age I saw voting in great numbers for Ronald Reagan. I saw endless streams of younger voters, entranced by electing Grandpa to the White House, cheering him on for busting unions and blaming absolutely everything wrong with the world on Jimmy Carter.

That's not quite true--at least in 1980. Carter would have won if the vote had been restricted to 29 and below (i.e., "don't trust anyone over 30"). In '84, I think everyone and their dog voted for Reagan (other than blacks and Jews).
posted by yoink at 6:04 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Constantly stepping into post-Boom desertscapes and suffering because of it, Thirteeners see Boomers as a generation that was given everything -- from a Happy Days present to a Tomorrowland future -- and then threw it all away.
The New Generation Gap [October 1992]
posted by akgerber at 6:04 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never heard the word "thirteener" before. Am I missing a joke or something?
posted by gjc at 6:16 PM on April 1, 2012


Oh joy. Yet another poorly researched article blaming every single one of the 70-plus million baby boomers for everything that is wrong with the world, as if we were a completely heterogeneous, undifferentiated, interchangeable blob of inhumanity. This is going to go on even after we're dead, isn't it?

I see the straw-boomer described in these diatribes against an entire generation and not only am I nothing like that, I don't know anyone my age who is like that. Maybe because I would find a person like that reprehensible and avoid them; maybe because that person does not really exist. It's just a stereotype. The only good thing about it is that it's taught me to never make sweeping generalizations like this about ANY generation.

And could we please have just one or two articles praising (major parts of) my generation now and then? We made some pretty good contributions to society. It wasn't the "Greatest Generation" that came back from fighting WWII and started in on the draft, racism, sexism, homophobia, worker exploitation, conformism, pollution, sexual repression, and boring music, to name just a few social ills here at home. It was their children.

charlie don't surf is right. This isn't about Boomers vs Youth. This is about the rich vs the rest of us.

(You damn kids get off my lawn.)
posted by caryatid at 6:17 PM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is not about baby boomers, this is about rich assholes. I am a baby boomer, and like many of my fellow boomers, I have very little income. I am not responsible for the insane excesses of the Bush years that left us in this financial hole, and I resent the easy and unfair targeting of an entire generation.

This is bullshit.

You may not have much income, but you're about to be eligible for Medicare, if you aren't already, making your health care expenses almost entirely paid for. I pay for my own health insurance, and it's chewing up well over 15% of my total compensation.

You're also about to be eligible for Social Security, if you aren't already. There's a guaranteed source of income. Will it make you rich? No. Will it prevent you from becoming homeless? Yes. I have no such fallback option or supplementary source of income simply because I had a magical birthday.

And then there's the home mortgage interest deduction, which, if you're like most Boomers, you've been benefiting from most of your adult life. I have no idea when I'll ever be able to buy a home, because I still owe the bank $120k for my education, which all other things being equal I'll still be paying off when I'm forty-five.

So don't you fucking tell me that this isn't about the Boomers. We're in the middle of the single most massive transfer of wealth from one generation to another in all of human history, and you are most absolutely benefiting from it.
posted by valkyryn at 6:19 PM on April 1, 2012 [27 favorites]


More "divide & conquer" politics at work. --- I understand the part about dividing, but where does the conquer part come in? Who are the conquered, and who are the conquerors?
posted by crunchland at 6:20 PM on April 1, 2012


I never heard the word "thirteener" before. Am I missing a joke or something?
That's what some random Atlantic author called Generation X before that term solidified.
posted by akgerber at 6:27 PM on April 1, 2012


jeffburdges writes "There is a strong case that assets people require to live like houses should not appreciate in value, ever. "

Part of the wealth transfer valkyryn talked about.
posted by Mitheral at 6:27 PM on April 1, 2012


Yet another poorly researched article blaming every single one of the 70-plus million baby boomers for everything that is wrong with the world, as if we were a completely heterogeneous, undifferentiated, interchangeable blob of inhumanity. This is going to go on even after we're dead, isn't it?

The people of the future are definitely going to have a lot to say about all of us once we are dead.
posted by gerryblog at 6:28 PM on April 1, 2012


I never heard the word "thirteener" before. Am I missing a joke or something?

Before Douglas Coupland popularized Generation X as the label for my generation, Strauss referred to it as the 13th Generation.
In the 1991 book Generations, William Strauss and Neil Howe call this generation the "13th Generation" and define the birth years as 1961 to 1981. 1970, the approximate mid-point of the "13th Generation", had the lowest birth rate of this period.

According to the authors, Generation X is "the 13th generation" to be familiar with the flag of the United States (counting back to the peers of Benjamin Franklin). The label was also chosen because, according to their generational theory, it is considered a "Reactive" or "Nomad" generation, composed of those who were children during a spiritual awakening.

Older generations—whose members tend to be pragmatic and perceptive, savvy but amoral, more focused on money than on art—generally have negative perceptions of Reactive generations. The use of 13 is also intended to associate this perception with the negative connotations of that number.

The authors highlight this negative perception by noting the popularity of "devil-child" movies, wherein children are portrayed as malevolent protagonists (e.g. Rosemary's Baby), released soon after the generation's first members were born.
posted by birdherder at 6:31 PM on April 1, 2012 [18 favorites]


Thank you birdherder!
posted by gjc at 6:35 PM on April 1, 2012


it was not people my age I saw voting in great numbers for Ronald Reagan. I saw endless streams of younger voters, entranced by electing Grandpa to the White House, cheering him on for busting unions and blaming absolutely everything wrong with the world on Jimmy Carter.

Someone else just gave a link, but here's another, from Wikipedia. Though in 1984 all ages went for Reagan, so that blame can be shared broadly.
posted by Forktine at 6:37 PM on April 1, 2012



The people of the future are definitely going to have a lot to say about all of us once we are dead.
posted by gerryblog


The point is that you cannot logically force any generation, let alone one this huge, into a single sweeping generalization. We experienced the same formative events over a period of 18 years. Our reactions to those events will always be widely divergent.
posted by caryatid at 6:38 PM on April 1, 2012


That "The Atlantic" article is fascinating. But I wonder what the analysis would look like if it was done from an every-other-generation perspective. After all, most of us are born into worlds that aren't aren't the result of our parents' activities (they being too young to have any real power in society), but into worlds of our grandparents' making. I mean, who are the kids now? The boomers' grandchildren. Just something to think about.
posted by gjc at 6:44 PM on April 1, 2012


Sadly, the author mixes up net income and net worth.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:20 PM on April 1

the man of twists and turns has it exactly right. Just look at the infographic showing "Average net worth". In 1984, the 65-and-overs had a NET WORTH of a little more than 10x what the 35-and-unders had.

The next panel shows: In 2009, the 65-and-overs had a NET WORTH of $170,494 vs $3,662 for the young. $170,494 divided by $3,662 is 46.5

The author is a statistical incompetent, as is the editor. If they make a mistake this fundamental, read the rest of the article with a boulder of salt.
posted by etherist at 6:48 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


The point of this article seems to be to shift a resentment of the 1% to a resentment of the elderly. Basically trying to drive a wedge between two groups who should be on the same side.

The over-65 crowd doesn't have it spectacularly good - $170k? That's less than the value of a house. The under-35 crowd is likely weighted down by people 21 to 28 - people with a lot of college debt and no assets.

How about we see similar numbers for the top 1% versus the bottom 99%?

Top 1% has 34.6% of the net worth in this country. Add in the next 19% and you get 85% of the net worth. The bottom 80% has 15%.

In pure dollar terms, the entry point for the top 1% is about $9 million in net worth.

Hmm. That seems like a more fortuitous situation than $170k in net worth, doesn't it? And go figure - the top 1% continue to spend money to change our laws to enable them to get and keep even more money.

That's the issue. Not the elderly.
posted by RalphSlate at 6:49 PM on April 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think it's possible to recognize that social and economic policy have massively privileged a generation without it being about stereotypes. That individual people have chosen to do different things with that privilege--that Boomers didn't all use their powers for evil--doesn't change the fact that the privilege was there.

I don't get all the defensiveness, to be honest. I think that when Boomers have the privileges that those policies afforded them pointed out, they think people are saying they didn't have to work hard. My parents are among the earliest boomers and they worked a ton. My father worked a job in a steel plant for 35 years and he for sure hated the last 10 of them. I don't deny his hard work.

What's at issue is that the rewards for the hard work of the Boomer generation have been (unfairly) multiplied by public policy decisions. Public services were fed generously while they were using them (K-12, post secondary), and slashed while they were paying for them. The benefited from the infrastructure built by the previous generation, and now that it is crumbling, they are moving out of the earning and taxable years.

My father's hard work reaped rewards that are proportionally greater than the rewards I reap for the same hard work.

It's like any privileged group, really.

Majority of people vote to serve their own interests. News at 11.
posted by looli at 6:49 PM on April 1, 2012 [26 favorites]


The point is that you cannot logically force any generation, let alone one this huge, into a single sweeping generalization. We experienced the same formative events over a period of 18 years. Our reactions to those events will always be widely divergent.

That's true, of course, but there do seem to be generalizations that can be made. The other thing is that a Boomer born 9 months after V-J Day will have had an ENTIRELY different upbringing than his youngest generational sibling born 15 years later.

(Just for example, my uncle is a boomer, but he is only 13 years older than me.)
posted by gjc at 6:51 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're also about to be eligible for Social Security, if you aren't already. There's a guaranteed source of income. Will it make you rich? No. Will it prevent you from becoming homeless? Yes. I have no such fallback option or supplementary source of income simply because I had a magical birthday.

yeah, like we didn't have to work for a living, too, when we were younger, or else - imagine that
posted by pyramid termite at 6:55 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Snark:
If history tells us that the Boom-Thirteenth quarrel will worsen over the coming decade, it also suggests when and how this new generation gap could resolve itself. The experience of their like-minded ancestors suggests that once Boomers start entering old age, they will ease their attacks on Thirteeners. Once they see their values focus taking firm root in American institutions -- and once their hopes are fixed on a new and more optimistic (post-Thirteenth) generation -- Boomers will lose interest in the quarrel. As they enter midlife, Thirteeners will likewise tire of goading Boomers. As they change their life tack from risk to caution they will quit trying to argue about Boomer goals and will focus their attention on how to achieve their own goals practically, with no more hurt than is absolutely necessary.
As Daffy Duck might say, it is to laugh.
posted by gjc at 6:57 PM on April 1, 2012


One other point to consider. 25 years ago, a lot of people had pensions. That meant they didn't have many assets, but had a modest retirement income for life.

In 1980, the 401k was born. What did that do? It shifted the liability away from the employer and onto the employee. Now, to retire, you have to accumulate a pile of money and live off it, and hope it doesn't run out before you die.

That could explain why the wealth of those 65 and over has risen. It needed to because of the elimination of pensions.
posted by RalphSlate at 6:57 PM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


A part of me wonders what a bigger estate tax funneled towards education would do to fix this. After all, the Founding Folks didn't like dynasties.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:59 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


DOES NOT UNDERSTAND TAXES AT ALL AND DIDN'T MEAN TO POST
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:59 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


It occurs to me that a statistic that would be more interesting and useful is at what age did people, on average, pass from a net worth of nothing to a net worth of [comfortable]. Or when did they cross from red to black, even. Comparing the net worth of a 30 year old and a 65 year old is ludicrous. Presumably the boomers' parents had more at 65 than the boomers themselves did at 35, too. A more accurate picture is drawn looking at the net worth of a 30 year in 1975 and a 30 year old today.

Student loans ensured that my net worth wasn't out of the red until my late 30s. My folks were nearly done paying off their house by then.
posted by looli at 7:00 PM on April 1, 2012


A more accurate picture is drawn looking at the net worth of a 30 year in 1975 and a 30 year old today.

That's what the Pew chart does: it compares (in constant 1984 dollars) net worth then and now for those cohorts, and it's not a pretty picture.
posted by Forktine at 7:03 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Though many people despise them on a gut level, wealth taxes are perhaps the most equitable and fair way of figuring out how much everyone should pay. They'd also correct for the inefficient bias in favor of already established concerns.

One of the nicest features of wealth taxes is if they're used in lieu of all other taxes on capital (capital gains, dividends, interest, corporate income taxes). Then people can grow their wealth more quickly (because they're not taxed on it up front), and are most incentivized to invest aggressively rather than hoarding their assets.
posted by myvines at 7:06 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's what the Pew chart does

Oh, well, see, I said it would be interesting.

Thank you.
posted by looli at 7:08 PM on April 1, 2012


myvines, the only problem with that is that a wealth tax would punish people for saving. People save for the times when there is less income than they need. Taking chunks out of that every year wouldn't be a good thing.

However, jumping off your theory, an income tax that is moderated by net worth might be something to consider. (It would never fly, of course.) But that would be as close to fair as you can get: if you have no or negative net worth, your income has more utility than the same income would have for someone with lots of liquid assets. Or, you could reduce the current rates and change the AMT into something that takes into account one's increase in net worth.
posted by gjc at 7:16 PM on April 1, 2012


That's what the Pew chart does: it compares (in constant 1984 dollars) net worth then and now for those cohorts, and it's not a pretty picture.

Though note that when the Pew report actually looks at income rather than net worth it finds the 2010 median income of below-35 households to be higher than that of above-65 households and that also in adjusted 2010 dollars the median below-35 income is 27% higher today than it was in 1967.
posted by XMLicious at 7:18 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Before Douglas Coupland popularized Generation X as the label for my generation, Strauss referred to it as the 13th Generation.

I would note that there was also a book titled 13th Gen. I read it years ago -- I think I still have it -- and for what it's worth it made what I can only call a delible impression on me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:27 PM on April 1, 2012


This article hits the two major points and gets them completely wrong. First it mentions the Industrial Revolution as the start of a New Golden Age when human potential started expanding forever. Well bullshit. That was when things started to go badly wrong.
Yeah, it was a time when the poorest peasant and the richest kind could look forward to dieing at an early age due to a complete lack of modern medicine, and many children died before making it to adulthood. By modern standards, everyone was dirt poor, and thus equal!
posted by delmoi at 7:28 PM on April 1, 2012


Froth.
posted by chance at 7:30 PM on April 1, 2012


Yeah, it was a time when the poorest peasant and the richest kind could look forward to dieing at an early age due to a complete lack of modern medicine, and many children died before making it to adulthood.

Did you not even read my description of feudal Japan, infanticide, and senicide? These people were servants of the shogun. The reason these farmers were shit poor was because they had to give all their crops to the 1%. Do you not understand the purpose of an analogy?
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:32 PM on April 1, 2012


gjc: if it were coupled with eliminating all taxes on cap gains, dividends, and corporations, then it would encourage, not discourage, people to save (especially because there is minimal paperwork involved when you don't have to report every single transaction and when you're reporting the same information yearly).

This issue isn't about whether you can save up to buy a modest place to live -- this initial saving is generally classified as being entirely tax-free (both in cap gains and on total net wealth side). What it does do, though, is penalize you for having a house that's kept largely empty -- it helps to ensure that assets are being deployed productively. Were you to rent out one of the house's rooms, the asset would easily pay for any taxes on itself.

Really, what it does is tax the acquisition of property for its own sake.
posted by myvines at 7:34 PM on April 1, 2012


gjc: That's true, of course, but there do seem to be generalizations that can be made. The other thing is that a Boomer born 9 months after V-J Day will have had an ENTIRELY different upbringing than his youngest generational sibling born 15 years later.

I believe you just scuttled your own argument and proved my point, which is that it is entirely ridiculous to make generalizations about a generation so huge and diverse in terms of numbers AND age span.

Also, valkyryn: You may not have much income, but you're about to be eligible for Medicare, if you aren't already, making your health care expenses almost entirely paid for. I pay for my own health insurance, and it's chewing up well over 15% of my total compensation.

I pay for my own health insurance too. It's the first time I've had that luxury in 20 years, during which time I was uninsurable (pre-existing conditions, self-employed). I don't plan to give up my expensive employer-provided insurance for Medicare, which is inferior in comparison. Most doctors won't even take new Medicare patients.

You're also about to be eligible for Social Security, if you aren't already. There's a guaranteed source of income. Will it make you rich? No. Will it prevent you from becoming homeless? Yes. I have no such fallback option or supplementary source of income simply because I had a magical birthday.

I will be eligible in four years, but I won't be able to retire. I will have to work until no one will employ me (not complaining, I like to work). I am still in better shape than many in my generation, who can't get hired at all, much less to jobs that offer decent medical benefits. They are hoping they can hang on that long. Things are bad all over.

And then there's the home mortgage interest deduction, which, if you're like most Boomers, you've been benefiting from most of your adult life. I have no idea when I'll ever be able to buy a home, because I still owe the bank $120k for my education, which all other things being equal I'll still be paying off when I'm forty-five.

I don't think your assessment of "most boomers" is entirely accurate. I bought my first house at 50. In the intervening years, I have put myself through my last two years of college, paying in cash from (and depleting) my former retirement savings.

I know I'm just one person, but your argument doesn't seem to acknowledge that I can exist, as a person with a "magical birthday." I am not alone. I'm actually better off than many of my peers.

You seem to assume that I and all others in my age group had it easy all our lives and now wish to deprive you and everyone younger than us of Social Security, Medicare, home ownership, and mortgage interest deductions. I don't know where you get that idea. It's baffling.
posted by caryatid at 7:49 PM on April 1, 2012 [6 favorites]



Someone else just gave a link, but here's another, from Wikipedia. Though in 1984 all ages went for Reagan, so that blame can be shared broadly.
posted by Forktine at 9:37 PM on April 1 [+] [!]


I can only speak of the people I know personally. And I found the shift to Reagan by people younger than me just horrifying. Perhaps I traveled in narrow circles but not a soul I knew well thought Reagan was a good choice over any Democrat.

As far as the cursing poster above, blaming the Baby Boomers: Read some history. My generation supported the previous one, through paying Social Security and other taxes. Having a reliable Society Security income AND a decent pension from a job meant they could retire, clearing the way for younger workers to climb the ladder. My parents' generation bought houses, and told us we should do the same. So we did. And then we, many of us, lost them, lost pensions, lost income. So we are in this downturn together. Even the Baby Boomers knew that social issues didn't begin and end with one generation. The social contract is broken but it's foolish to blame only mine. Do you vote? Do you protest? Do you campaign for better political leadership? Where have you been and what have you been doing since the ship began sinking in the last couple of decades? I went to an OWS protest and, among the many young, college-aged people, found tons and tons of Baby Boomers, outraged on behalf of others. If you've been doing all those things, congratulations. But you're not winning.
posted by etaoin at 7:49 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I still owe the bank $120k for my education -- Maybe this is the key to the whole problem. You graduated college and had enough debt comparable to the cost of a house. People my age graduated college, and had debt comparable to the cost of a car. (When I left school, my total student loan payment ended up costing me about $50 a month, and I paid it off when I was in my early 30's.)
posted by crunchland at 8:01 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


not a soul I knew well thought Reagan was a good choice over any Democrat. -- I remember that the idea of 4 more years of Carter seemed like a pretty bleak choice, and Reagan was very grandfatherly, and promised that the bad old Iranians wouldn't be jerking us around any more. I don't recall the polarization of Washington being as stark then as it is now. Hindsight is 20/20, but Reagan really did seem like an improvement over namby-pamby Carter.
posted by crunchland at 8:06 PM on April 1, 2012


Colleges Withhold Transcripts From Grads In Loan Default, The Nation, 30 March 2012
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:11 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I usually charge old people between $200 to $400 to set up their Facebook account. Can't figure out how to get rid of those popup ads? That's gonna cost you around $150. Don't know how to retrieve your voicemails? Pay me $50 and I'll take care of that.

I love old people. And their money.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:18 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


(When I left school, my total student loan payment ended up costing me about $50 a month, and I paid it off when I was in my early 30's.) -- And just to be sure, I checked with an historical currency converter. My $50 in 1986 money is still only about $100 today, and my total debt was only about $20k in today's money, though I may not have had to get as many loans as others might have. I do remember having a hard time paying my annual tuition of $8000 after transferring into a private art school ($16.5k today), especially after spending only $800 for a year at a state school in the early 80's. ($1900 in today's money.) I wouldn't be surprised if some kids now pay that much for a single credit.

So don't blame the whole baby boomer generation. Just blame the ones that come up with the fees for college.
posted by crunchland at 8:21 PM on April 1, 2012


The college fee thing is an example of market failure.

Kids are told all their lives they need to go to college, and the government subsidizes loans so they can go. Since they're not paying for school themselves, there's no economic 'break' on tuition increases. If kids had to pay for school themselves, there would be a limit on how much they could cost. But since it's all loans, and the kids think they'll get great jobs out of school and be able to pay them, the costs spin up out of control.

Then the economy collapses right before they graduate, and find out they actually won't get any money. Kind of a shitty situation.
posted by delmoi at 8:33 PM on April 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


"I usually charge old people between $200 to $400 to set up their Facebook account. Can't figure out how to get rid of those popup ads? That's gonna cost you around $150. Don't know how to retrieve your voicemails? Pay me $50 and I'll take care of that."

Back in the early days of the net, I did all the Mac tech support for our local ISP, dial up, that's all there was.

My paid job was to get them online and show them what a browser was. Everything else, for the old folks, the printer connections, how to scan photos for the kids, all that other stuff that baffled anyone over 30 back then, that stuff I usually did for the fun of it.

I ended up with a lot of home baked cookies, bottles of wine, and a wonderful book on Tibetan art done by a disabled and retired prof at the U of M who had spent much time with the Dalai Lama, and would sit and tell that experience about it as I worked on her computer. I attended a few funerals as time went on...

I'm hoping the Karma works as I imagine...
posted by HuronBob at 8:41 PM on April 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


"tell that experience about " =, of course "tell me about that experience"
posted by HuronBob at 8:42 PM on April 1, 2012


Welp, back in the early days of the net, one of my responsibilities as an academic librarian was to teach grad students (many of whom had never used a computer) about things like Gopher and Usenet and a cool thing called email. We didn't have "browsers" back then. So off my lawn, internet geniuses.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:52 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ten years ago when I got into my line of work (librarianship), they told me there would be tons of full-time jobs opening up soon...ish...when the older workers started retiring. Well, they've started retiring, but they're being replaced by a) machines, or b) part-time employees with lower wages and fewer (or no) benefits. It's a common tale, these days, across many professions.

> What do you wanna bet my generation will tell our children, "do the practical thing"?

1850: "Go West, young man."
1967: "Plastics."
2018: "People are always going to need plumbers."
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:58 PM on April 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


you win, Wordwoman... you're older than I am, for sure! (thanks!)
posted by HuronBob at 9:00 PM on April 1, 2012


I usually charge old people between $200 to $400 to set up their Facebook account. Can't figure out how to get rid of those popup ads? That's gonna cost you around $150. Don't know how to retrieve your voicemails? Pay me $50 and I'll take care of that.

I love old people. And their money.


Nothing like an honest days work.

Anyway, maybe you could get them to sign a retainer to bill against for telephone consults? Bill them in six minute increments and once you burn through the retainer send them an invoice for services rendered.

When they inevitably balk at paying, use an aggressive collections strategy and file small claims actions. Sure to get some default judgments.
posted by mlis at 9:01 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's my lawn.
posted by flabdablet at 9:15 PM on April 1, 2012


I feel about the boomers the same way I feel about Yankees fans. I know individual ones whom I respect and even love. But in aggregate I dislike them. Languagehat and lupus_yonderboy, please try not to take the shit people are saying about boomers too personally. But recognize that when a lot of people in your generation got benefits not available to newer ones (eg cheap college tuition), it's going to cause resentment.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:15 PM on April 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


As far as the cursing poster above, blaming the Baby Boomers: Read some history. My generation supported the previous one, through paying Social Security and other taxes.

And they supported you back instead of cutting education.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:23 PM on April 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


recognize that when a lot of people in your generation got benefits not available to newer ones (eg cheap college tuition), it's going to cause resentment.

sigh... I'm not sure what y'all are picturing as the life we had "back in the day", or the life we'll have as we enter the winter of our years, but it's not the wine and roses existence that the movies you've seen depict, and we're not going to spend this next ten or fifteen years cruising the tropics or sitting on the beach.

I was born in 1948, my dad, who owned a small grocery store in a small town, died 6 months later. My mother started working when I was 5 years old, she took a job as a clerk at the local bank. She worked there for 30 years, when she finally retired she was the head of the accounting department. Had she been a man, she would have been a VP, but women didn't get that title in those days, when she passed away, she left enough to my two sisters and I to bury her, the few thousand $$$'s that came from the sale of her small house went to her grandchildren.

I attended the local community college, on loans, and went on to a state college, on loans. It took me nearly 15 years to pay the loans off.

Oh yeah, one class short of graduation I was drafted, and spent the next few years in the Army, remember Viet Nam?

After the army, I lived in low income housing for a few years. I finished school and got a job, then went back to school, on loans. We didn't own a home until I was nearly 35 years old, and bought a "starter" house that we stayed in for the next 23 years.

Retirement, no, not really, i spent the next 30 years working for a non-profit... we sort of planned on my wife's retirement getting us through... but, our new governor, Rick Snyder, is starting to trim her retirement... we're hoping to get by, but it's shaky, we're hoping to hang onto the house.

Since about 1966 I've put a lot of energy into trying to facilitate change, end wars, protect the weak, encourage the arts, help my kids (and, a lot of other young people as well).

I can't imagine that I'll ever break even on the money I've put into Social Security, and the health care I'll get may or may not keep me alive...

I'm not sure what you resent.
posted by HuronBob at 9:50 PM on April 1, 2012 [14 favorites]


You can't deny the cohort. Which is, y'know, 99% of the point. Individual outliers aren't really relevant.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:57 PM on April 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Between the time of the Baby Boomers and the Millenials, there were huge shifts in the economy. The shipping container, the Internet, faster computers, lowered tariffs, millions on people in developing countries working their way out of poverty, fewer wars, the Communist block falling, education levels rising, etc, etc.

These factors of course changed the kinds of jobs available, worldwide. Blaming one particular generation in one particular country for these changes is simpleminded. But I guess it makes for many page views on your web site.
posted by Triplanetary at 9:59 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


you win, Wordwoman... you're older than I am, for sure! (thanks!)

Nah, just got my MLS young
posted by Wordwoman at 10:11 PM on April 1, 2012


Faint of Butt, we were born in the same year. I've found we get slotted in with both groups somewhat randomly every few years. Last I checked we were Millennials again.

ah, the late 70s. No one ever seems to know what to do with us. I say we stage a coup and take over.
posted by jb at 10:12 PM on April 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Between the time of the Baby Boomers and the Millenials, there were huge shifts in the economy. The shipping container, the Internet, faster computers, lowered tariffs, millions on people in developing countries working their way out of poverty, fewer wars, the Communist block falling, education levels rising, etc, etc.

And none of those things explain the attempts from the right to gut the social safety net, take away funding for education and thereby leave graduates saddled with loans they don't have a hope of paying back, and rearrange the tax code to funnel wealth to those who already have it.

Except lowering tariffs without simultaneously ensuring that overseas manufacturers abide by roughly the same labor and environmental laws that the developed world does, which is another one of the things that didn't just happen, but was just another way for the people with lots of assets to get even more.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:16 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is there any group of people who did less with more than the boomer?
posted by karmiolz at 10:51 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


And none of those things explain the attempts from the right to gut the social safety net, take away funding for education and thereby leave graduates saddled with loans they don't have a hope of paying back, and rearrange the tax code to funnel wealth to those who already have it.

"The right" is not the same thing as "the baby boomers."

Which I think is an important thing to note, since so many seem unable or unwilling to recognize this fact.
posted by caryatid at 10:57 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


If your generation is the pig in the python, and this all took place when you were of voting age, and you cashed in every single time...yeah we are blaming your generation.
posted by karmiolz at 11:07 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


"The right" is not the same thing as "the baby boomers."

Never said it was. I just don't like to see baby boomers (collectively) pretending that their kids (collectively) have anything resembling their massive advantages in life.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:09 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


If your generation is the pig in the python, and this all took place when you were of voting age, and you cashed in every single time...yeah we are blaming your generation.

Who cares? You're morons with no power and no money. Blame away -- we're living off the fat of the land on our Medicare and Social Security benefits.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:10 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't have [Boomer, white, male, straight, etc.] privilege. I'm not actively oppressing people. My life wasn't amazingly easy, I hard hard times too! You people are just too sensitive. You just look for any excuse to whine and blame other people for your own misfortune.
posted by Garm at 11:12 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes Garm, your anecdata disproves the overwhelming statistics.
posted by karmiolz at 11:15 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


PeterMcDermott I take it you are speaking for others, as you are in the UK and in no way collecting. Either that or you are making some pithy comment which completely ignores the arguments made in the article.
posted by karmiolz at 11:18 PM on April 1, 2012


Making the recession about generational warfare rather than class warfare is playing into the hands of those who profit from making the US a poor country. Meanwhile any article that talks about social security running out as a big scary problem is ignorant at best, deliberately misleading at worst.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:19 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would agree that it is still far more about class than generation, but boomer bashing just feels so good damnit!
posted by karmiolz at 11:26 PM on April 1, 2012


Haven't read the whole thread but I did do a search on "Vietnam". Not a single mention.

Fiscal and other breaks falling your way all your life due to your demographics -- that's nice. Having to go fight in a godawful war that took almost 60,000 of your compatriots lives (not to mention the more than 60,000 of Vietnam vets who committed suicide) -- not so nice.

What? Only poor people and Afro-Americans had to go fight in Vietnam. Guess that means it's not all just generational after all.
posted by philip-random at 11:28 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


You seem to assume that I and all others in my age group had it easy all our lives and now wish to deprive you and everyone younger than us of Social Security, Medicare, home ownership, and mortgage interest deductions. I don't know where you get that idea. It's baffling.

As the author points out, intent has nothing to do with it. There is no conspiracy. And I never actually said that you "had it easy all [your] life."

What I'm saying is that, individual experiences aside, you and the rest of the Boomers are benefiting from a massive transfer of wealth to your generation, for which my generation is largely having to foot the bill. Doesn't mean you "have it easy," but it does mean that you're getting some pretty significant benefits that my generation won't. On the contrary, you're getting benefits that I have to pay for and that you didn't, because they were financed almost entirely on debt.
posted by valkyryn at 11:30 PM on April 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


More "divide & conquer" politics at work. This schtick never gets old.

Yup. Every generation has its own historical hand it was dealt, and fucked up in the playing in its own special ways, boomers no less than any other.

But, as others have said in this thread, better than I might: it is corporate interests and the politicians who have become their handmaidens that are to blame. It is the wealthy (but by no means all of them, nor for that matter are all of them old) who buy those politicians. It is the failure of the fourth estate to inform and expose corruption and malfeasance. It's the failure of our educational systems to produce enough citizens who are informed, engaged, or literate for that matter. It's the bread and circuses of our entertained-to-death culture, and the shortening of our attention spans for anything that doesn't include tits, tweets, or explosions. It's the disappearance of serious discussions about what is right and what is good and how to make our societies better for everyone who lives in them in favour of Paid-off Pundits Shouting At Each Other, brought to you by Cialis and Taco Bell.

Hell, there's a awful lot of blame to be thrown around, and once you get started, it's hard to stop. The generation that is now marching into senescence makes a convenient target -- I remember what an attractive, easy target FUCKING OLD PEOPLE were, very clearly I do.

But you have to make some kind of effort to strike at the roots, and unless it's revolution -- where the next gang of criminals that emerges from the blood and smoke is almost inevitably as bad as the last -- it comes down to getting ethical people into positions of power and keeping them in line. Somehow. It's what I recall suggesting in the strongest of terms a few years back to our American friends here when everybody was celebrating Obama's election win -- that the hard work wasn't over, that it was just beginning, and that having elected a man who at least appeared to be thoughtful and ethical didn't mean it was time to dust off hands and have a beer: the most important thing was to hold his feet to the fire, and not lose the drive to change things or that Hope that Mr Obama talked about so eloquently and manipulatively. Sadly, the follow through there hasn't gone as well as we might have hoped.

Don't know if it's too late for all that. Suspect it might be. Damn, my arms get tired beating the drum, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:45 PM on April 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


karmiolz: Knew I should have added a snark tag.
posted by Garm at 11:57 PM on April 1, 2012


All this article proves is that the one percenters' propaganda machine can generate much subtler stuff than the crap you usually hear from a Limbaugh or a Krauthammer. The author's so persuasive in fact, I nearly high-fived myself for living so high on the hog after attaching myself, leech-like, to the younger generation's pocket book-- until I remembered I was pressured to retire early because of the economic downturn, saw my income sliced by more than half (with no prospect of cost-of-living increases unless boom times return, and we all know how likely that is) and, with no benefits (too young for Medicare), am now just one illness away from losing house, car, everything.

Basically the entire middle class, young or old, is in the same boat thanks to one simple, stark truth that's been attacking the shriveling heart of the American Dream for the last 30 years: a tiny fraction of the population has amassed an absurdly disproportionate share of the nation's wealth. It's not age warfare, friends, it's class warfare.

Yes, globalization played its part--no question, raising the boats in the east lowered the boats in the west--but there's also no question improving the third world's lot will benefit us all in the long run. On the other hand, if we don't do something soon to right the fundamental wrong of income inequality in the US, now at near-record levels and only getting worse, we might as well face the fact that 99% of us are sunk.
posted by Olden_Bittermann at 12:39 AM on April 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is a crappy article. Author's conclusions might be right, but I can't tell because it's So Crappy.

We need a Better Article.
posted by polymodus at 1:06 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


polymodus why are you randomly capitalizing things
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:51 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


We spoke about this very subject last evening at dinner, with a variety of people around the table. Some Americans living in America, some Americans living abroad, and several Europeans from different countries. Some ideas were raised…

1) This is what happens when labour is constrained by geographic boundaries but capital is not. Raised by a banker, the point is that an individual can invest in a multinational organisation, and secure the profits from a labourer in another part of the world. Yet, workers are only free to work in their home country/union. Point being that as jobs moved to Asia, capital was free to go to Asia, however workers were not.

The point was made about an American who recently went to India on holiday; his application refused initially for he wrote "freelance consultant". The Indian consultate denied him, "you are not coming here to work are you?". There are many layers of interestingness to that, however the key is that capital is free to go to India and invest, however labour is not.

This is the de facto imbalance within modern society, that capital exists in a different class than labour.

2) There was a film someone watched in undergraduate university.

They interviewed four men in the Southern United States, two black and two white, two rich, two poor. One rich white, one rich black, one poor white, one poor black. They began by showing the men the pictures of the other three and asking which they most identified with. The poor identified along racial lines (the poor white man chose the rich white man), the rich identified along class lines (The rich white man chose the rich black man). The researchers then proceeded to ask each a set of questions, about work, about live, about money, etc.

At this point, the recounter says it was some of the most awakening footage he had seen to that point in his life.

The lives of the poor were the lives of the poor -- paycheck to paycheck, struggling, sports, etc. The lives of the rich were the lives of the rich -- dinners with clients, weekends away. The film closes by asking each why he chose to identify with the person he did at the outset.

'He's black and I'm black.' 'He's white and I'm white'
'He's like I am, well-groomed, I like his tie.' 'He looks like a friend of mine that I admire.'


It was then explained that the point of this film is that race is a construct that distracts from class. Class is the true definer -- whether or not you have food on the table and whether or not you pulled it out of the ground or not. The film was about race as a distraction. The professor of this class (a mulato -- how's that for awesome) engrained in this friend:

As long as you can keep people fighting over differences that don't truly matter, they will not get together and realise the differences that do truly matter.

The banker mentioned previously then says It's amazing to watch the manipulation of poor Republican men. You have these men whipped into a fury about an issue that will never personally affect them -- abortion. And they are so concerned about abortion, they continue to elect people that are literally enslaving them.

3) We talked about the baby boomer problem. An older chap of 50 had the following to say: The problem with two-party democracy is that 51% of people can enslave the other 49%. They didn't have to convince the best and the brightest to go to war in Iraq. They had to convince the 51% that were scared. And it's going to be the same with my generation and your generation. You don't vote. You don't care. Well, you care if you can click a button on Facebook. We vote, we get out there. And in a globalised world were the American slice of the pie is going to get significantly smaller, there's more of us. And we may very well enslave you. Not because we want to, but because we were already raided by Regan, Buch, Clinton, and Bush. If you are still processing the world in political parties, you are missing the point that both parties will always remain in favour of their wealthy backers.

It's marketing. Some people want it red and at church. Some people want it blue and smelling like socialism. They'll paint it whatever colour you want. But make no mistake, there's more baby boomers than you. And if they have to choose whether it's them or you? They're old and scared and getting weaker. They see you as strong, and young with life ahead of you. What do you think will happen? And they'll be sorry about it. But what choice do we have, they'll say.

And thus he continued:

American youth are really fucked in a way they don't understand. The rich always get their chairs when the music stops. They promise the Boomers their chairs -- Medicare, Social Security, pension bail-outs -- and to make those promises, they've offered your future. And guess who's not getting a chair. You're fucked.

posted by nickrussell at 2:52 AM on April 2, 2012 [32 favorites]


nickrussel can you dig up the name of that film?
posted by kmartino at 3:47 AM on April 2, 2012


Sadly not… my mate has been looking for both the professor and the film on and off for twenty years.
posted by nickrussell at 3:52 AM on April 2, 2012


Meanwhile, Dean Baker takes apart the misinformation in the original article.
posted by gimonca at 5:11 AM on April 2, 2012


When we talk about boomers, are we talking about people born c1945-50 (when there was a mini-baby boom in the US and the UK, but not so much in Canada), or those born in the late 50s and early 60s (the peak of the demographic boom - in Canada, the highest number of births was in about 1960).

I always get confused - when we talk about Vietnam, 1968, Woodstock, etc - we're talking about things that all happened when the bulk of the people born in that period were still children. If you are thinking demographically, the peak of the boom came of age in 1978, not 1968, and were into the job market in the 1980s and having children in the 1980s and 1990s. That's why we talk about "Millennials" (often described as being born 1982 and later) - they were the baby-boom echo. The 1970s - the years that people born in 1945-1950 were having their children - were a very low birthrate period; in Canada, we hit a nadir on births in the late 70s (77, I thought, but I might be wrong).

Anyways - I think we would understand the generational culture better if we thought about where the demographic bulge really is. Baby Boomers outvote those born immediately earlier and later not only because they are more likely to vote, but because there are simply more of them.
posted by jb at 5:46 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, "Generation X" as a cultural phenomenon (what Coupland wrote about) are not the nadir generation but rather those on the downswing of the population boom - born c1962-1972. (19-29 in 1991, when Generation X was published).

Then again, my demographics numbers - and Coupland's novel - are all Canadian. US and other demographics will have different patterns. (Wikipedia mentions 1970 as the nadir year in the US).
posted by jb at 5:53 AM on April 2, 2012


The point was made about an American who recently went to India on holiday; his application refused initially for he wrote "freelance consultant". The Indian consultate denied him, "you are not coming here to work are you?". There are many layers of interestingness to that, however the key is that capital is free to go to India and invest, however labour is not.

In the wake of the David Headley saga - where an American citizen of mixed Pakistani-Caucasian extraction entered India legally as a businessman trying to setup a business in India, but instead allegedly provided ground-level information that led to the Mumbai 26/11 attacks - Indian embassies worldwide, but moreso in the US and UK, have become totally unhinged from reality. They're now rejecting visas left, right and center for every wily-nilly reason.

On the one hand, this gives me a bit of schadenfreude; finally Westerners can get a taste of how difficult it sometimes gets for us Indians to get even non-immigrant visas for US and Europe. On the other, it makes me real sad; Indian tourism can and will lose dollars from people like the American you mention, just because some bureaucrat decided he wanted to show who's boss.

For another, it affects me directly as well; my non-Indian-citizen wife now routinely lists her profession as a generic "executive" when she applies for Indian tourist visas and not "journalist" for fear of rejection. It's sad and frustrating to keep fighting these bureaucratic battles over and over again; it also puts us in the august company of Myanmar, Syria, Laos and North Korea, which are the other countries where my wife obscured her profession for fearing of getting her tourist visa rejected.

Having said that, there are many Americans who do work in India these days; the general approach is to work in India for a short-term engagement and then return, just as lots of Indians go to the US or UK on intra-company transfer visas. I know of at least ten who regularly do this in Bangalore, for instance; they work three weeks on-location with the team, and one week from home in US. (Amusingly enough for me, while they're completely at home in Bangalore, they have a massive cultural shock when they step out of the Whitefield - Marthanahalli bubble in Bangalore and venture to the North or the west of the country) Apparently, it's all difficult to estimate actual numbers; Wikipedia says anything between 9000 in Mumbai alone to 60,000 for the entire nation. Note though, that these are pre-Headley/ pre-downturn statistics; the numbers could have changed in the last two years.
posted by the cydonian at 6:05 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


But, as others have said in this thread, better than I might: it is corporate interests and the politicians who have become their handmaidens that are to blame.

Maybe. But I think what's important to recognize here is that "corporate interests" and more generally "the rich" have a suspiciously large overlap with "people currently over 55". At some point it becomes a distinction without a difference. Remember, the median net worth of people over 65 has grown over the last fifty years, while the median net worth of people under 30 has fallen.

Is each and every single Boomer better off than each and every single Gen-Xer or Millennial? No. Of course not. But on average, have the Boomers received far, far more in government benefits over the course of their lifetime than Gen-Xers of Millennials will? Absolutely, starting with education and ending with Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid.
posted by valkyryn at 6:30 AM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


> I feel about the boomers the same way I feel about Yankees fans. I know individual ones whom I respect and even love. But in aggregate I dislike them.

"Some of my best friends are black."
posted by languagehat at 6:35 AM on April 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


"Some of my best friends are black."

This is a really, really inflammatory bit of rhetoric. Is it your position that the the demographic cohort popularly identified as the boomers is the sort of thing about which nothing can be said? If not, then what sorts of observations are you saying are off-limits?

In a moment of pique a few months ago, I made a short list of things that my parents' generation had that my kids' generation won't have. I don't, frankly, think that sort of observation is unfair, but I'm willing to be persuaded that it was.
posted by gauche at 7:13 AM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


oomers received far, far more in government benefits over the course of their lifetime than Gen-Xers of Millennials will? Absolutely, starting with education and ending with Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid.

Got any hard data to back that claim up? I suspect that the Feds spend quite a lot more on higher education now than they did at the time the boomers were attending college. The rise in the total cost of US higher education is not the result of the withdrawal of government subsidies. I find it politically and economically highly improbable that Gen X, for example, won't receive pretty much the same payouts from Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid as the boomers will (yes, there's reeasonable likelihood that they will start receiving those payments a couple of years later in life, but also that they will live longer while receiving the payments.

By the way, the widespread lie that Social Security is "running out of money" (a lie this article buys into heavily) is one of the chief weapons in the propaganda war against continuing to fund it. If you think it is important to protect Social Security, you'd be wise not to talk of it as a foolishly extravagant program that will obviously have to be dismantled in order to save us from financial ruin.
posted by yoink at 7:23 AM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suspect that the Feds spend quite a lot more on higher education now than they did at the time the boomers were attending college. The rise in the total cost of US higher education is not the result of the withdrawal of government subsidies.

Umm... wrong. A big chunk of defense spending from 1945 to 1980 went to universities. That money dried up. Further, contributions from state governments have been declining for decades--just as state contributions to Medicaid and pension plans have gone up.

If you think it is important to protect Social Security, you'd be wise not to talk of it as a foolishly extravagant program that will obviously have to be dismantled in order to save us from financial ruin.

Yeah, but I don't think that. I think it obviously needs to be dismantled. I assume I'll never get any appreciable benefits out of it, I'm just pissed that I have to pay for it in the meantime. 12.4% of my bloody income, and me up to my eyeballs in debt, going to a population the majority of which have way more money than me. Fuck that noise.
posted by valkyryn at 7:36 AM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


> This is a really, really inflammatory bit of rhetoric.

This thread is full of really, really inflammatory bigotry. There's no essential difference between complaining about "boomers" (as a general, undifferentiated mass) having made things worse for "the rest of us" and complaining that black people commit crimes disproportionately and use up a disproportionate amount of social services, or that Jews (or Asians, mileage differs according to the society and bigot) "run the economy" and "get all the good stuff," leaving less for "the rest of us." There's always statistics to support whatever case the bigot needs to make. If that comparison makes you (the general "you," not "you, gauche") uncomfortable and gets you to think about your assumptions and how easily you have been conned into directing your (perfectly justified) unhappiness at inappropriate targets, good: you are on the road to recovery. If you are still mad at me for my really, really inflammatory rhetoric, there may be no help for you.
posted by languagehat at 7:45 AM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I tried to do the math on that, based on my own experience........ the numbers just didn't work like that.

Sweet anecdata, bro. I assume he means net worth, and from his phrasing I'd assume he's comparing the total sums for those populations, not the averages.


You'd think he'd actually say that in the article if that was the case. Not to mention that a per-capita measurement would be far more enlightening, seeing as there are more baby boomers than anyone else. Saying that a larger proportion of the population has more money than a smaller part of the population isn't exactly rocket science.

A poorly written article, a few smattering of stats, but really just a "gotta get this outrage piece out asap" thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:56 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The mantra is simple - Tax the rich.

Tax the rich and pay for education
Tax the rich and pay for universal healthcare
Tax the rich

So many others have said it better - every other issue is a distraction. Yes there is generational inequality, but it is a red herring. Tax the rich

Tax the rich
Tax the rich
Tax the rich

Seriously, there are no Americans, and there are no Europeans, and there are no Indians. Nationalism is a distraction, race is a distraction. Rich people are waging a shadow war against us, trying to divide us into groups along 'special interest' lines. All of this is an illusion.

There are we, the workers, and there are the people who own us, the rich. The workers needs to keep repeating 'Tax the rich' until our entire class shakes off its materialistically induced stupor and rises. We will only rise as a class, not as individuals, and not as fractured divided citizens of various 'nation-states' which only exist on paper. They have their slice of the pie AND OURS.

Tax the rich
posted by satori_movement at 8:06 AM on April 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Lots of blame going around, but none of it points to the long dead generation who actually caused this shit (or rather, enabled it)... that would be Woodrow Wilson and the banking gangsters who managed to force the Federal Reserve down our throats.

The last time we actually had a chance at keeping things balanced and maintaining the value of the dollar (1/35th of a troy ounce of gold) was in the Eisenhower administration. Things went to hell under Kennedy, and LBJ shoved things further along with the creation of the "Johnson Sandwich" and completion of the debasement of our coinage. Nixon nailed the coffin in shut in 1971, saying he was doing so to "protect the working man".

Now we have generations of people who do not know the difference between money and currency, who treat real money as an interesting antique to be "sold" at the "we buy gold" place.

We have given more rights to corporations that to our fellow citizens. They in turn shipped our manufacturing base overseas, along with most of the jobs actually making things people need.

Geometric growth can't be sustained forever in a finite environment, gearing everything towards that unsustainable goal is what really is crushing everything.
posted by MikeWarot at 8:08 AM on April 2, 2012


Lots of blame going around, but none of it points to the long dead generation who actually caused this shit (or rather, enabled it)... that would be Woodrow Wilson and the banking gangsters who managed to force the Federal Reserve down our throats.

The last time we actually had a chance at keeping things balanced and maintaining the value of the dollar (1/35th of a troy ounce of gold) was in the Eisenhower administration. Things went to hell under Kennedy, and LBJ shoved things further along with the creation of the "Johnson Sandwich" and completion of the debasement of our coinage. Nixon nailed the coffin in shut in 1971, saying he was doing so to "protect the working man".


I'm just going to point how you don't even understand your own ramblings by one little factoid:

In 1913 the price of gold was $20.67 not $35.

Which means:

a) You want to go back to a post-fed price of gold in which case you see the massive devaluation in 1933 as a necessity to help the American economy in which case why are you so against devaluation of currency through mild inflation?

b) You really don't know what you're talking about and just want to rant on about a conspiracy.

Either way please stop derailing the thread.
posted by Talez at 8:40 AM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The gold standard was a failure in the sixteenth century, contributing to massive inflation at the same time as growing inequality.

Now that I think about it, the last 30 years have had some eerie similarities with the period from c1575 to 1600 in England: upper middle class doing better and better, even as lower class were slipping farther behind.

There are a lot of problems with economies based on impossible limitless growth; not basing our currency on a shiny element is not one of them.
posted by jb at 8:42 AM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not mad at you at all, languagehat, and I don't have the sense that anyone in this conversation is saying that every single boomer voted for every single policy that has made things worse for future generations.

I can talk about a culture of police brutality, fostered by the War on Drugs, without committing to the proposition that every single police officer is a monster who likes nothing better than to kick down the wrong door and shoot someone's puppy. I can say that there were riots in South London without saying that every Brixtonian threw a rock through a shop window. I can talk about children abused by priests without saying that all Catholics are child-abusers.

And we can talk about demographic, economic, and structural trends, without implying that you, personally, drive a Winnebago with a bumper-sticker that reads "I'm spending my grandchildren's inheritance."

I disagree that this is analogous to racial prejudice. There is not, in the West, a generations-long and shameful tradition of treating the prior generation like second-class citizens. Consider the following sentences:

A) Graduates of Choate, Exeter, Horace Mann, and Deerfield Academy now control 75% of banks and major financial institutions.
B) The Jews now control 75% of banks and major financial institutions.

It is my suggestion that, despite similarities in both form and sentiment, sentence B is offensive in a way that sentence A is not. It is not at all evident to me that the argument being advanced in this thread about the Boomers more closely resembles B than it does A.
posted by gauche at 8:44 AM on April 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


Not all prejudices are racial.
posted by crunchland at 9:06 AM on April 2, 2012


They didn't have to convince the best and the brightest to go to war in Iraq. They had to convince the 51% that were scared.

Support for the war in Iraq was way over 51%. In the Congress the support for the war was very close to 100%.
posted by bukvich at 9:13 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Umm... wrong. A big chunk of defense spending from 1945 to 1980 went to universities. That money dried up. Further, contributions from state governments have been declining for decades--just as state contributions to Medicaid and pension plans have gone up.

I asked if you had "hard data" to back your claim up--not if you could simply repeat your claim.

As it happens, I've been having a look at the data. Here's a graph charting federal spending on higher education since 1962 (i.e., from well before the baby boomers started going to college). If you look at it, you'll see that federal spending on higher education is considerably higher in inflation-adjusted dollars today than it was throughout the years the boomers were going to college.

But what about state spending? Certainly these last few years have seen perilous cuts in many states. But then, looking at the data from the years of a specific economic crisis is hardly indicative of the long term trend. There were plenty of "crisis" years during the boomer generation's time at university. What year do you think is being described here:
Not only are many young people kept from attending college because of a lack of funds, but those who do make it frequently are forced to put up with grave overcrowding due to lack of facilities. Most important of all, it is the student who bears more and more of the cost of getting a college education. As the costs of higher education keep rising as part of the general inflationary trend, the price charged to students and their families for getting a higher education also goes up.
That's from the Grapevine report for 1970-71 (the gold standard for tracking state spending on higher education). Yeah, wasn't it wonderful to be a student back in the 70s, when everything was just handed to you on a silver platter?

But maybe they were just so used to having everything easy that they were complaining about nothing? Let's see. Let's look at California--with what is seen as unarguably one of the greatest state university systems in the country. How has their total spending for higher education evolved over time?

1960-1: 221 million
1970-1: 817 million
1980-1: 3.1 billion
1990-1: 6.1 billion
2000-1: 9 billion
2010-1: 10.9 billion

Now, what is that in constant 2010 dollars?

1960-1: 1.6 billion
1970-1: 4.3 billion
1980-1: 7.4 billion
1990-1: 9.7 billion
2000-1: 11.1 billion
2010-1: 10.9 billion

That isn't a series that paints a clear portrait of the Boomer generation lavishing vast gifts upon themselves and then withholding them from the ensuing generation. In fact, the generation that did best here is the one that went to college in 2000-1--which is well after any Boomers had graduated.

What has happened is that higher education has become enormously more expensive--so that even though the state is paying near its historic highs in terms of total financial support, that covers a lower total percentage of the costs per student. But that dynamic (the rising cost of educated labor--which is the main driving force behind the increased cost of higher education) has nothing to do with the Boomer generation raiding the coffers.
posted by yoink at 9:15 AM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not all prejudices are racial.

I'm responding to a set of analogies to specifically racial prejudice that have been drawn to the argument being advanced in the article.
posted by gauche at 9:18 AM on April 2, 2012


Oh, and an addendum to my last post. In case you think that population growth radically alters the implications of those budget numbers, here's a link to a chart from the California Legislative Analyst's office tracking per-student spending (in constant dollars) on higher education in California from 1970 to the present. You'll see in that the same basic pattern of a steady rise up to 2000-1 and then a steady decline--but all within a pretty narrow range.

Here's the Analyst's summary of the implications of the chart:
Despite recent declines, total funding per full–time equivalent student has generally kept pace with inflation for most of the last several decades at the California Community Colleges and California State University. Funding has been more volatile at the University of California, rising faster during periods of budget growth and declining more sharply during periods of contraction.
Once again, I think we're seeing that the recent downturn is rather badly skewing people's sense of the overall historical trajectory of the last several decades.
posted by yoink at 9:28 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a personal story that may explain a little:

My spouse is retired and receives Social Security, Medicare, and a pension. I still work since I am too young for Social Security and too old for a paper route. We have more net worth than the kids for a variety of reasons:

1. Our house is paid off.
2. We aren't supporting kids, buying braces, or sending anyone to college. (Did I mention that the youngest offspring is 31 years old? Did I mention that in our younger years we did all of the aforementioned?)
3. We put money away (except during the lean years--which were most of them when the kids were dependents. And during the strikes--which were lengthy and left the household beyond lean--when the unionized workers stood together to fight for a better future for themselves and future generations.)
4. PENSION.

My spouse worked at a plant for 37 years. When he retired, he received a pension that is greater than his social security. The current union members caved last year when Management wanted a contract with no further pensions; just a 401k. Needless to say, the retirees from my spouse's generation were shocked that the younger workers let it go without a fight. (Some of them claim that those young workers are pussies but that's an argument for another time.)

I need to work fewer hours now because the spouse's SS is taxed at an exhorbitant rate if I make a living wage in addition to his SS and pension.

What, exactly, in that brief bio should I feel guilty about?
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:56 AM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yoink -- I think valkryn's argument is that in previous decades the Dept. of Defense invested a lot of money in academia in the form of R&D grants. I don't think these would show up as spending on higher education but were nonetheless a substantial source of income for schools.

Here in Canada the federal conservative government just announced their budget, which features an increase in the age at which Canadians are eligible for old age security, basically resetting 'retirement age' from 65 to 67. Anyone currently age 54 or older won't be affected. Someone my age (39) effectively loses out on about $20K of retirement income. Kids in their 20s will be out even more (see calculator here.

Boomers in this thread keep complaining that they're being made to feel guilty. A similar refrain is often heard from straight white guys when discussion turns to racial privilege, or sexism, or heterosexism. You don't need to feel guilty that you've benefited from systemic privilege, but it would be nice if you recognized it for what it is.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:09 AM on April 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


Baby boomers are today's welfare queens. I really, really hope that the vitriol here does not represent the feelings of the majority of post baby boomers -- not because you're hurting my feelings, but because you as a generation are truly fucked if you don't see how you have been misdirected and manipulated by those who really do control the wealth. Once again: the top 20% of Americans own 85% of the country's wealth -- and yet your vitriol is directed not at the banks, not at the corporations, not at the politicians who work at their behest -- but at your older neighbor, whose average monthly social security payment is $1,230. You've been had.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:24 AM on April 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yoink -- I think valkryn's argument is that in previous decades the Dept. of Defense invested a lot of money in academia in the form of R&D grants. I don't think these would show up as spending on higher education but were nonetheless a substantial source of income for schools.

I have no idea if Valkyryn is thinking of Defense Dept. R&D money (the effect of which on overall education costs per student is a rather complex and non-obvious issue) or if s/he is thinking of the National Defense Education Act of 1958. If the latter--the more obvious and relevant source of funding, because it did directly subsidize students--then that is included in the data I've given above. Total federal spending on higher education has, in fact, risen since the Boomer generation completed college.

Of course, if Valkyryn would actually post some data rather than just make claims maybe we could get somewhere.

You don't need to feel guilty that you've benefited from systemic privilege, but it would be nice if you recognized it for what it is.

It would be nice if you, too, could provide some actual data demonstrating and quantifying this "systemic privilege" rather than simply asserting it. Starting with the risibly poorly researched article that is the subject of this thread, I'm amazed at how much angry vitriol is being floated on so little actual analysis in this thread.
posted by yoink at 10:29 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who voted for the politicians who made the policies that we are suffering under?

Who didn't use their vote early on or even in the middle to stop this madness?

Who had the dominant voting population for the past 40 years?

...I think my questions reveal that my feeling is that the issue is one of of lack of involvement by a huge number of people who didn't realise the impact this would have and selfish involvement by another huge number who didn't have anyone to counter them.

I don't think the Esquire article makes a good case for his position and is mostly just a lot of whiney blame without solid data and does every generation under the Boomers a disservice by trying to speak for them.
posted by batmonkey at 10:36 AM on April 2, 2012


Before Douglas Coupland popularized Generation X as the label for my generation, Strauss referred to it as the 13th Generation.

In the 1991 book Generations, William Strauss and Neil Howe call this generation the "13th Generation" and define the birth years as 1961 to 1981. 1970, the approximate mid-point of the "13th Generation", had the lowest birth rate of this period.


A thought on all that (and a point I'm sure I've made here before). I was born in 1959, which in my neck of North America, was the absolute peak of the baby boom in terms of sheer number of babies born. Add this stat to the fact that for the preceding decade plus, birth numbers had been spiking higher than "normal" and it adds up to a shitty year to have been born, demographically speaking. The infrastructure of the culture just wasn't up to it, and never has been really.

For instance, this meant maximum class sizes all the way through the grade school (I had to share a locker in Grade Eight as I recall), same thing by the time I hit university. And then the highest unemployment numbers since the depression when I finally hit University leaving age (1982-3). In fact, I've seen these numbers quoted as being higher than now (when various details are adjusted), but I've also heard that the definition of "unemployed" was a little more liberal in the early 80s. Either way, I'm technically a boomer and, currently 52 years old, pretty much every bit as demographically screwed as anybody under age 30 today, and for the record, probably worse off than someone born ten or twelve years later than I.

Not that I'm complaining (shit happens, as they say). Just adding (I hope) to the side of the discussion here that sees the wisdom in NOT allowing this to be a generationally divisive issue. Because when generations divide, so do cultures.

Here in Canada the federal conservative government just announced their budget, which features an increase in the age at which Canadians are eligible for old age security, basically resetting 'retirement age' from 65 to 67. Anyone currently age 54 or older won't be affected.

Hooped again.
posted by philip-random at 10:46 AM on April 2, 2012


Government support for higher education in Canada, as of 2010: "Thirty years ago, tuition fees accounted for less than a seventh of university operating revenue. Now, it's more than a third, as governments increasingly download the cost to the students (and their parents)." (source)

also from the same article

Where universities get their money (as % of total operating revenue)
Year Gov't funding Tuition fees
1977 84.0% 13.7%
1987 81.4% 16.3%
1997 67.1% 29.0%
2007 57.1% 34.2%
Sources: Statistics Canada and CAUBO
posted by jb at 10:51 AM on April 2, 2012


It would be nice if you, too, could provide some actual data demonstrating and quantifying this "systemic privilege" rather than simply asserting it.

Tuition fees alone put new graduates today tens of thousands of dollars behind where they would have been as a boomer. Never mind that a college degree was much more valuable back then -- you didn't even need one to get a good job.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:53 AM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Who voted for the politicians who made the policies that we are suffering under?

If we say that the general rightward trend in US politics dates back to the Reagan 80s, then I'd say that it was mostly the pre-Boomer generation that voted for those politicans. The very oldest Boomers were young 30s in the first Reagan election--as a voting bloc they'd have been vastly outweighed by pre-Boomers; and, in any case, they did, in fact, vote against Reagan in that election.

Who had the dominant voting population for the past 40 years?

Not the Boomers. Only the very first of the Boomers were voting 40 years ago. They probably only became a determinative voting bloc in the last two or three elections. Which, yeah, means they're responsible for electing Bush, which is definitely a screw up. But it would be ridiculous either to claim that everything wrong with America today is Bush's fault or to claim that he wrought such appalling damage that to repair it would require a fundamental transformation of the US way of life.
posted by yoink at 10:57 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tuition fees alone put new graduates today tens of thousands of dollars behind where they would have been as a boomer.

Yes--I already said that above. But that's not because the Boomers spent like drunken sailors on themselves and are refusing to spend equivalently on their grandchildren. It's because higher education costs a great deal more today than it did then (in constant dollars). To fund higher ed at the same level (per student) today as we did in the 70s would mean a radical alteration in overall government spending priorities.

If you want a thread about "geez it sucks that Higher Education costs so much these days" that would be an interesting discussion. But it's not a relevant fact in a "boomers raided the coffers of their descendents to lavish goodies upon themselves" thread.
posted by yoink at 11:01 AM on April 2, 2012


I would say it's the parents of the Boomer generation, my grandparents' generation, that's holding things back.

My grandfather passed away last year. His wife got everything. Me and my fiancee's car catastrophically self-destructed, but the wife needed two cars because she liked to drive one car, and her dog liked riding in the other one.

My grandparents' generation cares more about their fucking dogs than they do their grandchildren.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:09 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


We go from your (step?) grandmother to her entire generation?
posted by IndigoJones at 11:14 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look, I'm sorry you have a bad relationship with your grandparents, but you can't make a generalization like that, any more than I can say that your generation are nothing but entitled crybabies.
posted by crunchland at 11:14 AM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is an interesting graph of tuition fees at a private US, public US and a Canadian university. The unadjusted tuition rate has, of course, increased substantially since 1940.

Adjusted for inflation, both American universities had higher tuition in 2000 than they did in 1940 (note that the graph is itself on - what do they call it - a logarithmic scale? going up by a factor of 10, not arithmetically). Though there was an increase in tuition in the 1950s at the public American university, the two public institutions went down in cost through the 1960s and 70s - you can see that it wasn't so much that tuition was reduced, as it was that inflation reduced the costs. This graph does not include the most recent and dramatic increases in tuition at US public universities.

and now to add some context: fewer people went to university in previous generations, and fewer entry level jobs required university credentials. The premium on incomes from having a degree is lower than it was before.
posted by jb at 11:16 AM on April 2, 2012


My friends have similar problems with their parents. What's going on is that getting by in life is a lot fucking harder than it was previously, but the previous, established generations are basically saying "Fuck you, I've got mine" and dragging their feet at paying it forward.

When I have kids, if I have kids, I am going to be as fucking generous and supportive as possible.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:25 AM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Though there was an increase in tuition in the 1950s at the public American university, the two public institutions went down in cost through the 1960s and 70s - you can see that it wasn't so much that tuition was reduced, as it was that inflation reduced the costs. This graph does not include the most recent and dramatic increases in tuition at US public universities.

and now to add some context: fewer people went to university in previous generations, and fewer entry level jobs required university credentials.


Yes, but what you're missing, jb, is that none of this can be plausibly blamed on the Boomer generation. The claim that is made in this thread is that the boomers spent so lavishly on themselves that there was nothing left in the bank to spend on later generations. But what your statistics are showing is a completely different picture: public money committed to higher education kept rising even in per-student and inflation adjusted figures long after the Boomers left college. The fact that the cost of higher education rose faster than inflation and that more and more people started going to college (meaning that a smaller and smaller proportion of the total college population could receive full subsidies) has nothing at all to do with Boomer selfishness or Boomer voting patterns.
posted by yoink at 11:55 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


And really, the way all my grandparents are is a symptom of the problem, not the root cause. The powers that be want the anger on the streets to turn exclusively into generational warfare, not class warfare.

It's time the bankers bought the farm.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:59 AM on April 2, 2012


You don't need to feel guilty that you've benefited from systemic privilege, but it would be nice if you recognized it for what it is.

I have yet to see proof of this alleged systemic privilege (the article we are discussing certainly doesn't provide it), so forgive me if I neither take your word for it or feel guilty about it. Of course not being a white male might also have something to do with it.

Dunkadunc, I have a former friend, six months older than I, who also owns two cars that she inherited from her husband. When my car was totaled a couple of years ago, she refused to lend me the one she wasn't driving even once. That does not make her a typical baby boomer. It makes her a jerk.
posted by caryatid at 12:00 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see your greedy selfish boomer parent/grandparent story and raise you one selfish, ungrateful nightmare son or daughter story. If we're going to play generational demonization, I could match anecdote for anecdote. In fact, just by virtue of having more years to pull anecdata from, we boomers could probably win that game hands down.

But I am not playing. I have only one wish for young finger pointers and generational blamers and it is this. May you live long and well enough to have younger generations do the same "othering" to you and may you remember my gentle little nudge: what goes around comes around.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:08 PM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Won't happen. Their grandchildren will be living in a post-apocalyptic cave and they won't have an internet to kvetch on.
posted by crunchland at 12:24 PM on April 2, 2012


It was also way harder for baby boomers to get porn ... until it was too late to make much difference anyway.
posted by philip-random at 12:35 PM on April 2, 2012


Yes, but what you're missing, jb, is that none of this can be plausibly blamed on the Boomer generation.

I didn't say that it was. You asked for evidence of decreasing government spending on tertiary education, and I provided some for Canada. I also looked at the cost of tuition adjusted for inflation.

I would never argue that baby boomers have consciously sought to undermine tertiary education -- well, I would in the case of the UK, where baby boomer aged-MPs benefited from no tuition and living grants, and then went on to vote in tuition fees and vote away living grants. That just felt like a spit in the face.

But my point in the case of Canada and the US is that baby boomers did benefit from a certain economic and social moment where society as a whole supported low cost higher education. Over the last 30 years, voters of all ages have consistently supported low tax regimes, thus beggaring public services - and younger people have suffered as a result of this. High levels of student debt compound on the difficulties already faced in a very bad job market - high unemployment and 30 years of stagnant median wages - and (in the Canadian context) an urban housing bubble that currently shows no sign of abating. The average house price in Toronto is now 10 times what I make per year as a 34-year old with a masters degree.

I rarely agree with Margaret Wente, but her recent column expresses quite succinctly the benefits that she had as a (white, middle class) baby boomer in Canada.

As noted above, this isn't really a generational issue: the stagnant wages and increasing house prices have everything to do with the growing inequality in the developed world and the political and social policies supported by all ages which have done nothing to ameliorate this trend.

But younger people are angry when they find that they have been excluded from pensions, while older workers retain them; that they will never own a home, while older workers earn fortunes when they sell theirs; that they have to pay back larger and larger student loans that older workers didn't have to bear. If older workers don't want younger workers to be angry at them, maybe they should be working to improve things for younger workers who are, after all, their children and grandchildren.

Finally, to answer the question (the subject of a recent badly researched book in Canada): are currently university students the most entitled ever? Absolutely not – in that, any entitlement felt by 21st or 20th century students is utterly dwarfed by English university students in the 18th century, many of whom actually had titles.
posted by jb at 2:25 PM on April 2, 2012


One major way to improve the situation for younger workers and reduce inequality: organizations need to pay their entry level people more, and their top earners less. Not the same, but not as big a gap as we have in North America.

Non-profit organizations should just do this as a matter of principle. But for profit organizations should be even more motivated to flatten their pay scales. After all, if you don't pay your lowest paid enough, you will have no market in which to sell your products.
posted by jb at 2:32 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why should inexperienced people get paid more, and experienced people get paid less?
posted by crunchland at 2:36 PM on April 2, 2012


She didn't say "experienced people" should be paid less, she said "top earners" should be paid less.
posted by XMLicious at 2:43 PM on April 2, 2012


And I didn't say that experienced people should be paid less than inexperienced -- just that they shouldn't be paid AS MUCH more as they currently are.

Also, I don't think that the real inequalities in pay scales come with experience - they come with prestige of position. Inexperienced managers, for example, are paid much more than highly experienced and competent assistants.

But I'm really talking about top earners, the 90th percentile - which does include many professions. Think of someone who makes $200k a year, versus someone who makes 20k in the same organization. You could reduce the 200k one to 180k, and it really would not make a real difference in their lifestyle - there would be no hardship. But with that money, you could double the 20k to 40k and pay a somewhat decent wage. There really isn't even the difference between 80 and 60k that that there is between 20 and 40k.

And we used to pay more like this. With half-remembered numbers, I heard somewhere that CEOs in North America used to be paid something like 30-times the average worker in their firm - in other words, a lot of money. In Japan, it's reportedly about that ratio today. But in North America, it's more like 200-times in many organizations.

This is just really inefficient, and undermines your potential market to sell stuff to.
posted by jb at 2:57 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I read that as more than they do now and less than they do now, not paying the intern like the CEO and the CEO like the intern.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:57 PM on April 2, 2012


May you live long and well enough to have younger generations do the same "othering" to you and may you remember my gentle little nudge: what goes around comes around.

You mean like "Don't trust anyone over 30?"
posted by entropicamericana at 3:12 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


You mean like "Don't trust anyone over 30?"

Do you know the origin of that phrase? Do you know anything about the Generation Gap?
posted by caryatid at 3:28 PM on April 2, 2012


Yes?
posted by entropicamericana at 3:34 PM on April 2, 2012


You don't sound too sure.
posted by caryatid at 3:36 PM on April 2, 2012


never trust anyone that wears rubber (excepting footwear) -- this I can get behind.
posted by philip-random at 3:40 PM on April 2, 2012


You mean like "Don't trust anyone over 30?"

Speaking of which, I'm surprised that no one seems to have mentioned Logan's Run yet.

p.s. I seem to be represented by all three sides of the coin here — I'm (almost) as old as HuronBob, have very little income like Languagehat, and I've got a teenage son headed for college in the fall.
posted by LeLiLo at 3:43 PM on April 2, 2012


Generation X and Y realizes that the only way to pay for Medicare and Social Security will be to raise taxes. Taxes that were historic lows for the people that will consume these benefits when they were of working age.

Every generation has had its rich, but the boomers' 1% did not pay their fair share with complicity of their voting population. Raising taxes will only hurt the Generation X and Generation Y's 1%ers.

Boomers didn't pay their fair share for the services they are consuming. It's that simple.
posted by amuseDetachment at 3:49 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Taxes that were historic lows for the people that will consume these benefits when they were of working age.

Taxes are at historic lows right now.
posted by caryatid at 3:52 PM on April 2, 2012


caryatid: Yes, but we're facing a dilemma now of cutting services or raising taxes, both will impact the young greater than the old. It's true we have the lowest taxes, but you're off your rocker if we won't be raising taxes when all the boomers' stop working. Gen X / Y are already paying more if you include education.

When social security and medicare is "off the table", by definition the young are the ones that will pay for it.

I'm a strong supporter of government run services such as socialized medicine, but if we're running a society where the boomers will have socialized medicine and Gen Y / Gen X will not, this is some bullshit.

I'd like to see a youth campaign bloc that says "social security and medicare will be negotiable when boomers' retire, unless you fix your shit right now" (environment/socialized medicine/capital gains tax).
posted by amuseDetachment at 3:58 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


If taxes are at historic lows right now, that means they were higher in the past, and Boomers have been paying those higher taxes longer than younger generations have. And are you seriously contending that cutting services won't affect the old? Seriously?

If we raise taxes on the richest 1%, fine. I don't care if they're 80 or 20. I don't care if they're working or not - I believe we should eliminate the cap on SS contributions and tax investment income at a much higher rate. This isn't some grand conspiracy to raise taxes just when Boomers are getting out of the workforce - we aren't that cunning. Besides, poorer Boomers are staying IN the workforce.

And again, I don't understand where you get this image of some nefarious generic Boomer who wants to take Social Security and Medicare with them when they go. If anything, the Boomers are the ones who will finally bring universal health care to this country, just because there's going to be no other way to manage our health care in our old age. If we get it and you lose it, well, whose fault will that be? Where do you get this absurd idea that we would get it and then make sure you don't?

But hey, silly me, I don't think this is a generational conflict. I think it's class-based. My smouldering resentment is reserved for the ones who truly deserve it, not you damn kids who won't get get off my lawn.
posted by caryatid at 4:30 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


tell you what guys - i'll trade my so-called systemic privilege, whatever that might be, for the proven systemic privilege YOU have of having decades more of life ahead of you

don't like what we did with the world that was given us?

hey, it's YOUR turn - maybe some of us didn't do the right thing or enough of the right thing

but you can bet your ass the ones who did make a difference didn't waste their time whining about how their elders had wrecked everything for them

you've got more time than i do

what are you going to do with it?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:52 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


If taxes are at historic lows right now, that means they were higher in the past, and Boomers have been paying those higher taxes longer than younger generations have.

Oh dear.

Where do you get this absurd idea that we would get it and then make sure you don't?

Pension schemes. Seniority system. DROPs.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:58 PM on April 2, 2012


And are you seriously contending that cutting services won't affect the old? Seriously?
We've already got a situation where cutting services favor the old. Education is a stellar example. K-12 education is a complete mess.

Medicare and Social Security is sacrosanct, while education has been gutted.

If your generation is willing to cut education for Generation X and Y, then it's fair play to cut Medicare and Social Security.
But hey, silly me, I don't think this is a generational conflict. I think it's class-based.
It's completely reasonable to believe that Generation Y's 1%ers will not have it as easy as the Boomer's 1%ers. It's more than just a class conflict. Generation Y's 1% will pay a "fairer" share than the Boomers' with higher income taxes and capital gains taxes. Collectively, the boomers have not paid for their fair share in Social Security and Medicare, it will be paid by Generation Y. You're just arguing that a greater percentage should be paid for by Generation X and Y's 1%.
posted by amuseDetachment at 5:01 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


One major way to improve the situation for younger workers and reduce inequality: organizations need to pay their entry level people more, and their top earners less. Not the same, but not as big a gap as we have in North America.

The difference in salary between the entry level worker and the experienced worker is utterly negligible in the face of the $9 million dollar annual salaries collected by the average Fortune 500 CEO. But yeah, keep firmly focused on the gray-haired working dude in the cubicle down the hall. Your corporate masters will continue to laugh and thank you for doing your part!
posted by Wordwoman at 5:17 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The old "gray-haired working dudes" are the ones keeping tax rates low for themselves while they are still working. If the top-tier marginal rates for the ones making $9million/year are low, then anyone making less than that will be low as well.

They shouldn't have been consistently voting in people that ensured that they wouldn't be paying their fair share. Generation X and Y didn't vote for Reagan. $9million/year CEOs are the product of Boomers' voting habits. Just because you claim collective ignorance shouldn't give you a free pass when your generation cuts education as collateral damage to keep your taxes low.

If you look at the voting patterns and important voter issues for Generation Y, it's highly responsible. The Boomers' are the unreasonable voter bloc that want everything to cater to them like a petulant child.
posted by amuseDetachment at 5:25 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


yoink's Boomer denialism is starting to tilt me more towards those putting more blame in the laps of the Boomers. interesting!

So many points to make, but I think the most important is that Boomers were not barely at voting age during Reagan's first run - many were actually around 30.
posted by batmonkey at 5:26 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Quite frankly, if you're a boomer and still want Medicare and Social Security cuts "off the table", it should be you guys comprising of the majority of the 99%, instead of Generation X and Y with a small minority of Boomers. The ratio should be reversed. I doubt this will ever happen though, because your generation is one of the most selfish in American history.

Because if you don't fix your shit right now (and this means long-term capital gains taxes at 25%+ immediately -- long-term capital gains and property taxes are the best way to tax people of Boomer age), those of us in Generation X and Y will be happy to cut Medicare and Social Security. Don't think Generation X forgot about how hard it is to get promoted in the corporate environment and Generation Y forgot about how fucked the education system due to the Boomers' selfishness.
posted by amuseDetachment at 5:34 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


... comprising of the 99% protestors.
posted by amuseDetachment at 5:37 PM on April 2, 2012


it should be you guys comprising of the majority of the 99%, instead of Generation X and Y with a small minority of Boomers

What does this even mean? Most Boomers are in the 99%. This is true of every single age group. There are more Boomers in the 1%, but its still a very, very, very small % of all Boomers.

Generation X and Y didn't vote for Reagan.

This is simply wrong. Gen X'ers did. As others have pointed out, every age group went for Reagan in 1984, and Gen X starts around 1960. In fact, the 18-24 demo in that table (all Gen Xers) went more heavily for Reagan than the Boomers did.

because your generation is one of the most selfish in American history

As a Gen Xer, I am offended. We are easily as selfish as them! There are fewer of us so we have to be extra selfish to make up for it.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:52 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


(ah missed your update on the 99% thing obviously)
posted by wildcrdj at 5:52 PM on April 2, 2012


Your corporate masters will continue to laugh and thank you for doing your part!

This is not actually a counterargument. Stop pretending it is.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:52 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The difference in salary between the entry level worker and the experienced worker is utterly negligible in the face of the $9 million dollar annual salaries collected by the average Fortune 500 CEO.

No it isn't. Because while the incomes of CEOs are absurdly and unsustainably high, the number of extremely high earners is small while the demographic mismatch involves tens of millions of workers. The ratio of retirees to workers keeps shrinking.

As I said above, you could remove the 1% from the economy entirely and there would still be a large demographic problem because the boomers had a relatively small number of children.
There are about 75 million baby boomers headed for retirement or senior benefits over the next two decades. All 500 of those CEOs put together collect $4.5 billion per year, which $60 a year split 75 million ways. Think about it.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:55 PM on April 2, 2012


which is $60 a year, when you split it 75 million ways. Sorry.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:56 PM on April 2, 2012


Also, speaking of elections... Boomers voted for Obama over McCain, as well.

(Boomers would have been 48-62 in 2008)

And of course Obama campaigned on raising those top 2 brackets (not that he followed through...)
posted by wildcrdj at 5:57 PM on April 2, 2012


wildcrdj: Being born in 1960 (24 years old in 1984) is pretty close to being at the peak of your earnings, meaning that age is around maximizing the low taxes / high benefits.

When people think of Generation X, people usually aren't thinking of those born in the 1960s. It's usually being born in the 1970s.
Also, speaking of elections... Boomers voted for Obama over McCain, as well.
It's sounds like less than a 50/50 split if you include some over 65 and some under 65.
50% to Obama and 49% to McCain for 45-64
45% to Obama and 53% to McCain for 65+

It's a bit disingenuous to not include some over 65+ and only include those aged 48-62, from this chart.

I am defining Boomers as those that took advantage of a better education system with lower taxes and easy job prospects, who are now demanding that their Social Security and Medicare not be cut. Being born in the mid 1970s and later is clearly not in this category.
posted by amuseDetachment at 6:04 PM on April 2, 2012


It's a bit disingenuous to not include some over 65+

Well Boomers are almost universally defined as post-WWII babies, so it is pretty odd to include people who were 65 in 2008. I mean you can make up a new name if you want but Boomer is a well-established term and I've never once heard it include people born before 1945.


When people think of Generation X, people usually aren't thinking of those born in the 1960s. It's usually being born in the 1970s.

That can't be true. The book Generation X was about people born in the 1960's. Douglas Coupland was born in 1961 and the book was about people his age.

I mean, I guess I shouldn't say "can't" as people can think whatever they want, but Gen X definitely originally, and to me and a lot of people I know still means, people born after 1960.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:09 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Being born in the mid 1970s and later is clearly not in this category.

This I also take exception to -- those of us born in the mid to late 70's graduated college in the mid to late 90's, which was a great time to start your career. Those born in the 80's or later are the ones who have had an increasingly bad labor market to enter. Mid to late 70's is probably better off than early 70's who had to deal with the early 90's recession.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:11 PM on April 2, 2012


I really don't want to get into a definition war, replace "Boomers" with those that are taking advantage of education when they were young, low taxes when they were working, and those that are demanding high social services for themselves while cutting services for the young. That solidly includes those in the lower half of the 1960s.

Boomers is just an easy shorthand, but does include the older Gen X.
This I also take exception to -- those of us born in the mid to late 70's graduated college in the mid to late 90's, which was a great time to start your career.
The contention isn't with job prospects, the contention is with paying your fair share as a generation. The Boomers have been focused on lowering taxes and cutting services that don't benefit themselves. Those born in the mid to late 70s had K-12 education drastically cut while they were in school and research grants cut to Universities. They will face higher taxes towards the end of their careers to pay for the Boomers.
posted by amuseDetachment at 6:15 PM on April 2, 2012


Okay, where is this "low taxes when they were working" thing coming from? The characterization I've heard is that taxes right now are the lowest since the 50's - which means that the intervening period, when the Boomers were working, contains the high tide marks for taxes. I mean they did finance the Cold War with the biggest military in history, proxy wars all over the globe, and a nuclear arsenal big enough to destroy the world ten times over.

Also, definition-wise, this page at the U.S. Census Bureau defines the baby boom as the births from 1946 to 1964. (Found via Wikipedia.)
posted by XMLicious at 6:32 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The old "gray-haired working dudes" are the ones keeping tax rates low for themselves while they are still working.

Tax rates are not low for old gray-haired working dudes. They are low for rich dudes, who can afford to influence politicians to keep tax rates low for themselves. They don't care about your old gray-haired working dude.

They shouldn't have been consistently voting in people that ensured that they wouldn't be paying their fair share.

They didn't. Look at the data; Boomers and GenY are far more likely to identify as Democratic and liberal and in favor of the safety net and educational funding than GenX, who tend to lean right. Even the Tea Party Boomers don't want to end SS and Medicare. Not even for you.

it should be you guys comprising ... of the 99% protestors.

We are. Actually, at local OWS protests (you must be SHOCKED that I partake regularly - have you ever been to one?) Boomers (along with GenY) are VERY well represented. GenXers, not so much. I support OWS but I can't camp out with them, sorry. There aren't enough portapotties.

Because if you don't fix your shit right now

Oooooh, scawy. Your threats do nothing to convince me and even less to win me over. Your tactics are not helping you achieve whatever it is that you want. Furthermore, you don't know Boomers. You are attacking a strawman.
posted by caryatid at 6:38 PM on April 2, 2012


XMLicious: Tax rates have been continuously been lowered for the past 20+ years, and the Bush years are a time when Boomers are at their lifetime income peak. They made more money and had low taxes during Bush. Taxes in their 20s isn't relevant because they weren't making much money.

Generation X and Y will be facing the inverse, low taxes when it doesn't really matter (right now) and high taxes to pay for the Boomers at their peak. The early end of Generation X may face some higher taxes, but it will be not as substantial compared to those in Generation X born in the 1970s and later.
posted by amuseDetachment at 6:38 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really don't want to get into a definition war, replace "Boomers" with those that are taking advantage of education when they were young, low taxes when they were working, and those that are demanding high social services for themselves while cutting services for the young.

You really need to provide some data to back up these contentions, because I do not recognize these people you are imagining.
posted by caryatid at 6:44 PM on April 2, 2012


Tax rates are not low for old gray-haired working dudes. They are low for rich dudes, who can afford to influence politicians to keep tax rates low for themselves. They don't care about your old gray-haired working dude.
It doesn't matter who it's for. It's relevant because when the pollster calls and wants to know what that age demographics values, they value lower taxes and cutting services like education ("cut government waste").

I'm not attacking you individually, I'm sure you're doing a lot to make things fairer among class lines, however, it's probably too late amongst generational lines. Any effort for economic fairness will be paid for by Generation X and Generation Y. Of course we need economic fairness w.r.t to the 1%. However, I'm saying that even the Boomer middle class and especially upper-middle class has had an economic free pass compared to those in the mid-Generation X and Generation Y.

Raising taxes on the 1% will not cover Social Security and Medicare, we're going to have to do something else due to continuously lowering tax rates for the past twenty years. What do we do after we raise taxes on the 1%?
posted by amuseDetachment at 6:48 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It doesn't matter who it's for. It's relevant because when the pollster calls and wants to know what that age demographics values, they value lower taxes and cutting services like education ("cut government waste").

No, they do not. Not as a group. You are talking about Republicans/conservatives, not Boomers.
posted by caryatid at 6:51 PM on April 2, 2012


I am defining Boomers as those that took advantage of a better education system with lower taxes and easy job prospects, who are now demanding that their Social Security and Medicare not be cut.

cutting social security and medicare is not a progressive idea - some of those recipients would be alright, but others would be out on the street

it doesn't sound like much of the argument in this thread has been fact-based anyway - many of you are just making shit up
posted by pyramid termite at 6:53 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would be a double standard to say "well it's the Republicans who screwed you over" and insisting that Generation X and Y should foot the bill.

If Generation X and Generation Y cuts Social Security and Medicare, you should also blame your fellow Republicans instead of us.
posted by amuseDetachment at 6:54 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is simply wrong. Gen X'ers did. As others have pointed out, every age group went for Reagan in 1984, and Gen X starts around 1960. In fact, the 18-24 demo in that table (all Gen Xers) went more heavily for Reagan than the Boomers did.

Even in the link you gave (to the wikipedia gen x definition), the start date for gen x is early to mid 1960s, not 1960 itself. In other words, only the very, very earliest gen x cohort could have possibly voted for Reagan in 1980; even in '84, only maybe half of that 18-24 cohort was actually gen x.

There are things (such as lowering the "death tax") that are purely a wealth grab by the ultra rich. But there are other things, such as the ballot initiatives and state legislative moves to lower property taxes at the expense of education, that are generational wealth grabs. Both have happened, both are shitty, and both make our country a worse place to live for almost everyone. It's not an either/or situation, and it's disingenuous to claim it is.
posted by Forktine at 6:58 PM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


So let me see if I have this right.... someone has worked in a job for 40 years, has received adequate compensation, a modest raise every year for loyal work and service to a company. They should take a pay cut so some kid right out of college, who has shown no experience, has shown no loyalty, has shown nothing except a nice smile and a large amount of debt, so they can earn more money because... just because.
posted by crunchland at 6:59 PM on April 2, 2012


someone has worked in a job for 40 years, has received adequate compensation, a modest raise every year for loyal work and service to a company

That right there is something generally unavailable to Generations X and especially Y.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:01 PM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Take me, stavros, you eloquent chicken!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:06 PM on April 2, 2012


crunchland: If by pay cut, you mean higher taxes, then yes.

Also those on the tail end of Boomers and very early Gen X are too selfish to retire (because their fellow generational peers are too stupid to give socialized medicine to those that are working below 65). Many in Generation X would've received a promotion into the top-rung of management had socialized medicine been extended to lower ages as many executives/middle-management aged 55-65 are only working for their health insurance. If you only let those 18-35 vote on socialized medicine, we would pass it today to get you people to finally retire.
posted by amuseDetachment at 7:06 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Generation X and Generation Y cuts Social Security and Medicare, you should also blame your fellow Republicans instead of us.

Thanks. I will. Which is more than I can say for you.

(My fellow Republicans? I am not a Republican.)

I thought this whole brouhaha was over whether SS and Medicare would be there for GenX and GenY. You're admitting that Boomers won't allow them to be touched (true that), but you're saying GenX and GenY will? How are Boomers to blame for what GenX and GenY will do to SS and Medicare?
posted by caryatid at 7:07 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


That right there is something generally unavailable to Generations X and especially Y.

That's the fundamental disconnect at the heart of this. Older folks don't understand that their status quo expectations of the rewards for a normal working life are now signs of wealth and luxury.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:08 PM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


someone has worked in a job for 40 years, has received adequate compensation, a modest raise every year for loyal work and service to a company

That right there is something generally unavailable to Generations X and especially Y.

News flash, it wasn't available to Boomers either. You're thinking of our parents.
posted by caryatid at 7:11 PM on April 2, 2012


How are Boomers to blame for what GenX and GenY will do to SS and Medicare?

Because they've spent the cash and racked up the debt and those younger are going to be stuck with the bill?

The BLS will give you a neat graph of unemployment over the decades (I can't get it to link directly to the long timeline, so you need to change the start date to, say, 1965, which would be year the very first boomers turned 20. You'll note that the first boomers would have started their working careers in a great labor market, but later boomers got pretty well fucked -- the ones born in about 1962 were graduating from college into a terrible unemployment rate, for example.

The tl;dr is pretty much that there's plenty of fucking to go around.
posted by Forktine at 7:14 PM on April 2, 2012


Older folks don't understand that their status quo expectations of the rewards for a normal working life are now signs of wealth and luxury.

OMG. My status quo expectation to not be homeless when I have to stop working is a sign of wealth and luxury?

Kill me now.
posted by caryatid at 7:15 PM on April 2, 2012


If by pay cut, you mean higher taxes, then yes. -- Higher taxes means inexperienced kids get paid more?
posted by crunchland at 7:17 PM on April 2, 2012


Because they've spent the cash and racked up the debt and those younger are going to be stuck with the bill?

This does not follow; not at all.
posted by caryatid at 7:18 PM on April 2, 2012


caryatid: I meant boomer-aged Republicans.

Medicare and Social Security will only be able to be funded if you raise taxes. Boomers are to blame because they didn't invest in infrastructure and social goods (i.e. investment in education) so the next generation will be able to pay for those higher costs. Instead we've had massive cuts in infrastructure and social goods.

The dirty secret of social services like Medicare and Social Security is you can't technically "save" for it via traditional means, higher taxes to pay for future Medicare and Social Security is paid via infrastructure investment today, so costs will be lower in the future. Why? Because if you sock away cash in a Federal Vault it does little-to-nothing for savings. If you sock away taxes into savings to be paid out in the future for SS/Medicare, all it does is just decrease the money supply today and increase it in the future (relatively similar to increasing savings wealth today and decreasing it in the future, this is somewhat similar to lowering taxes today and raising it in the future). This is, of course, even more relevant when you have a budget surplus, but the boomers haven't even been able to balance their budgets. The reason this understanding is important because it isn't the case where we have $X to spend and after the Boomers spend it all nothing will be left for Generation X and Y.

So passing on previous tax cuts via budget deficits, added onto lower infrastructure investment, means zero savings for future Medicare and Social Security. Generation X and Y can pay for our Social Security and Medicare by cutting services for the Boomers and instead focusing on increasing infrastructure investment, such as education and energy.

The balance isn't that we have so many dollars to spend in the SS/Medicare fund, it's that if we gave the boomers all the money, we wouldn't have enough for infrastructure investment for our own retirement.
posted by amuseDetachment at 7:19 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


If by pay cut, you mean higher taxes, then yes. -- Higher taxes means inexperienced kids get paid more?
On a relative basis in a progressively taxed system, yes, because they are paid a lower wage. Simply raising long-term capital gains would achieve a lot of it, as it's generally those of Boomer age that have any capital at all.
posted by amuseDetachment at 7:21 PM on April 2, 2012


You mean that it's not so much that kids get more money that's important here, but that the older generations get less? So it's not all about redistribution of wealth, but simple revenge?
posted by crunchland at 7:27 PM on April 2, 2012


Amusedetachment; bullshit. Read these:

Esquire Magazine: Writer Wanted to Help Convert Class War Into Generational War. No Skills Required; Pays Top Dollar.

War Against Youth?
posted by caryatid at 7:29 PM on April 2, 2012


crunchland: It's that they should at least give an effort to pay for themselves today as a sign of generational good faith, even though it's too late to pay for themselves 100%.
posted by amuseDetachment at 7:29 PM on April 2, 2012


caryatid: Even if you think this is some kind of 1%-funded hit-piece, I can agree with the conclusions for my own reasons. I can agree with some of PETA's ideals but hate their methods.

The simple fact is that even if we raised taxes on the 1%, which will be paid for by the Generation X and Y's 1%, it will be insufficient to fund projected Boomers' Medicare and Social Security.
posted by amuseDetachment at 7:34 PM on April 2, 2012


crunchland: It's that they should at least give an effort to pay for themselves today as a sign of generational good faith, even though it's too late to pay for themselves 100%.

Pretty much, yeah. Nobody wants to make seniors homeless, but it may be time to cancel the cruise.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:47 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Social equality through guilt tripping.
posted by crunchland at 8:03 PM on April 2, 2012


The simple fact is that even if we raised taxes on the 1%, which will be paid for by the Generation X and Y's 1%, it will be insufficient to fund projected Boomers' Medicare and Social Security.

It would at least be a good start.

Do we start cancelling the fucking firetrucks because they won't be enough to put out a really big fire straight away?
posted by Talez at 8:04 PM on April 2, 2012


GenXer here. Stop this bullshit generational fingerpointing.

Is this really where it starts? Where the liberal Millennials stop aiming for the real targets -- the 1%, Wall Street and big Corporations -- and start pointing their fingers at an entire diverse generation of people just because they have these "entitlements" that you think they don't deserve?

Congratulations, you just became your worst enemy.
posted by jabberjaw at 8:11 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Social equality through guilt tripping.

We should pay for our national necessities before our national luxuries, it's common sense not guilt tripping.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:26 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, I'm not saying that we shouldn't raise taxes on the 1%. We raise taxes on the 1% and remove loopholes on corporations, etc. That will cover a small part of our Social Security and Medicare obligations. Now what?

The question isn't whether to raise taxes on the rich and to make the rich pay their fair share with a real progressive taxation system. We'll do that when the older Boomers die off or realize that we have to raise taxes to pay for their Medicare, Gen Y is solidly in favor of a fair taxation system to the point where it's no question.

The real question is: Do we further forgo investment in Education and Energy? For every increase in $1 billion in tax revenue, how much of that should go to Medicare and Social Security instead of infrastructure investment? Should we drastically raise taxes on the lower-middle class to pay for Medicare if service cuts are non-negotiable?
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:45 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you don't want to read the text, at least look at chart 3, in the middle.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:55 PM on April 2, 2012


Is this really where it starts? Where the liberal Millennials stop aiming for the real targets -- the 1%, Wall Street and big Corporations -- and start pointing their fingers at an entire diverse generation of people just because they have these "entitlements" that you think they don't deserve?

How supportive were the Boomers of the OWS movement?
posted by Apocryphon at 12:36 AM on April 3, 2012


Now what?

First, stop coddling the corporate medical insurance industry that's currently leeching roughly half of what it costs your country to provide healthcare, and expand Medicare so it covers everybody; cover the cost of that with an income-dependent levy. Because a non-profit, single-payer, taxation-funded health insurance scheme is vastly more efficient than the pseudo-competitive privatized shitpile you have at present, the difference between current premiums and the necessary taxation increases will save most people a heap of money.

Next, institute a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to cut the cost of medication for those least able to pay for it themselves.

Finally, stop worrying about the fact that a pay-in, pay-out scheme like Social Security is bound to run at a deficit in some decades and a surplus in others by the very nature of demographic change, and just let it do that.
posted by flabdablet at 5:38 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


How supportive were the Boomers of the OWS movement? -- Wiki : On March 3rd, a group of business leaders including Ben Cohen [b. 1951], Jerry Greenfield [b. 1951], Danny Goldberg [b. 1950], Norman Lear [b. 1922], and Terri Gardner [b. 1956] have created a new working group, the Movement Resource Group, and with it have pledged $300,000 with plans to add $1,500,000 more.
posted by crunchland at 5:45 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok, so to summarize:
- boomers had it tough, really. Why begrudge us the meager comforts of realised property gains, medicare and social security.
- millenials don't look like having any of those meager benefits, and are pretty angry about it.
- X and Y are probably too small demographically to matter
posted by bystander at 6:43 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


And to follow up, I thought yoink's posts on education (particularly) were great, but they didn't address the core complaint of recent grads (millenials, right?).
This latest lot have lots of student debt, a housing debacle, poor employment opportunities, restricted retirement opportunities, costly healthcare and a range of resource and environmental problems.
To argue that government funding for education has risen during the time these problems have emerged is to argue that "Sure, I was driving the boat all good, but it was the propeller that shredded the manatee." In other words, the youth of today are arguing that it was poor helmsmanship that led to a lot of these problems, the result of boomers falling asleep at the wheel of society, that resulted in increasing income disparities, lots of student debt, a housing debacle, poor employment opportunities, restricted retirement opportunities, costly healthcare and a range of resource and environmental problems, even if taxpayer contributions to discrete items like tertiary education were increasing.

And all this could be swept under the carpet for a decade or so because there was an illusion of growth. Now the pie is shrunk, and the boomers are saying that medicare and social security can't be touched, so the shrinking pie will be felt disproportionately by those yet to qualify. Hence the anger visible in this thread.

Hey - pies and manatees. I can do similes all day (not english grad)
posted by bystander at 6:55 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you don't want to read the text, at least look at chart 3, in the middle.

interesting, isn't it, that after the boomers will all be gone, the rate of seniors in the country will continue to increase?

gens x and y - what goes around comes around - what you propose for us will be done to you even more

---

In other words, the youth of today are arguing that it was poor helmsmanship that led to a lot of these problems, the result of boomers falling asleep at the wheel of society

wrong - it's the result of a right wing resurgence that's dedicated to undermining the social fabric of our country, partially through government, and even more so through cutthroat business practices

Now the pie is shrunk, and the boomers are saying that medicare and social security can't be touched, so the shrinking pie will be felt disproportionately by those yet to qualify. Hence the anger visible in this thread.

hey, you know that boomer there? - he wants your cookie - (said by the people who have a whole dozen of them)

but what it all boils down to is what kind of society you want to live in - if you want good health care and good retirement for the old, care for the widows and orphans, in short, a socially equitable and compassionate country to live in, guess what? - you WILL have to pay for it, you WILL have to sacrifice something

or if you want an every person for himself, dog eat dog kind of world, you'll have to pay for that, too - and you'll probably end up paying a LOT more than you would have sacrificed for the first choice

you can choose a decent and fair society or you can take your chances at the crooked casino that the 1% want to run for us and cross your fingers that you'll be one of the winners

do you want a society or a lottery?

if a society, vote for progressives who will not be cutting social security, medicare and everything else and don't cry about what it costs you

if a lottery, vote republican, because they're the people who'll use your anger against you while they implement what you want - and much, much more

and quit blaming the boomers - i don't care what age you are, a lot of your cohorts are voting for destructive assholes
posted by pyramid termite at 5:06 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


gens x and y - what goes around comes around - what you propose for us will be done to you even more

The proposal that what your generation gets back during your retirement is proportional to what it paid in during its working years leaves Baby Boomers with a hell of a lot more to worry about than Generations X and Y.

And raising taxes only on the 1% will not do anything to change that.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:24 PM on April 3, 2012


The proposal that what your generation gets back during your retirement is proportional to what it paid in during its working years

i'm not talking about money - i'm talking about social policy
posted by pyramid termite at 6:00 PM on April 3, 2012


I can tell you that even when I started working full time, back in the 80's, all my friends and I pretty much assumed that we'd never see a dime of social security. So you guys aren't the first generation to realize that what the old folks were getting wasn't gonna be what we got.
posted by crunchland at 6:01 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Same thing with my friends and I when we started working in the 90's.

Big hint: the ones who used these tactics to play on peoples' fears back then are the same ones doing it now; leveraging fears and divisiveness is how they achieved political power and engineered the 13%-and-less tax rates for the Mitt Romneys of the world, which over the course of decades and hand in hand with things like laws preventing any regulation of credit default swaps are a big reason we're in such a financial and budgetary mess.

I am inclined to wait and see if my generation and younger ones do spectacularly better with this stuff before having too much contempt for the baby boomers for not solving all of the problems.
posted by XMLicious at 6:38 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


i'm not talking about money - i'm talking about social policy
They are inextricably linked, though. No one is talking about doing away completely with Social Security and Medicare, this is about a severe reduction in obligations. If you have any savings at all (including your primary residence), you should not receive 100% of your Social Security and Medicare obligations. If you don't have any money, then yes, you should have enough to live on.

I'd rather dump taxpayer money on free University education than to give it to those that have been actively working against my future, sorry. I'd rather pay it forward and ensure that the children of today will look highly upon us by ensuring that they have a better shot in this world and will be able to pay their taxes when the time comes for us to take in Social Security and Medicare. I want it to look like we tried. If it comes at the cost of shitting on the Boomers, then so be it. Blame the Republicans.
Big hint: the ones who used these tactics to play on peoples' fears back then are the same ones doing it now; leveraging fears and divisiveness is how they achieved political power and engineered the 13%-and-less tax rates for the Mitt Romneys of the world
This isn't about tax rates on the 1%, XMLicious, when tax rates go up for the 1%, I'd rather the extra money be spent on energy research, infrastructure such as transportation, and education -- rather than to Medicare and Social Security, full stop.

The real balance isn't about progressive taxation. The balance is whether to have high expenses for the elderly that don't deserve it, or to invest in the future.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:04 PM on April 3, 2012


The Mitt Romneys of the world arranging to pay 13%-and-less tax rates isn't an issue of progressive taxation: they aren't even paying the same rate as everyone else. Are you sure you're really that focused on who deserves what? How about the younger, disabled people who depend upon Social Security and Medicare, do they not deserve it?

If you want to talk about being progressive and are ready to start severing the relationship between what someone has paid in and what they receive, let's talk about levying the Social Security tax against more that the first $110,000 in wages. That would tidy up a large part of the budgetary worries right there. If indeed this is a titanic crisis as some make it out to be it's a purely artificial one created by people accepting that they must play within the lines drawn by the wealthiest for their own benefit.

There is no need to choose between the alternatives you depict. You are presenting a false dichotomy and at this point you seem more intent on shitting on the Boomers, to use your own words, because you imagine they deserve it.
posted by XMLicious at 8:36 PM on April 3, 2012


If you want to talk about being progressive and are ready to start severing the relationship between what someone has paid in and what they receive, let's talk about levying the Social Security tax against more that the first $110,000 in wages. That would tidy up a large part of the budgetary worries right there.

How much, exactly?
posted by anigbrowl at 9:02 PM on April 3, 2012


It isn't a false dichotomy. I'm all for raising taxes on the 1%. Raising capital gains to 25%+ would be the best thing for increasing tax revenue. If we severely raise taxes on the rich we won't have enough to cover Social Security, let alone Medicare. We're not in disagreement with raising taxes on the rich. I see it as a foregone conclusion. After we've done that, then what?

Unless there is forced cost control for Medicare, the overwhelming majority of the Federal budget will go towards the Boomers. They have no right to receive more services than they have paid in, when they have systemically lowered their own taxes and maximized their services. This isn't about shitting on the Boomers, this is about fairness.

This is absolutely a choice and not a false dichotomy. If current obligations are kept, it will result in dumping nearly all of the Federal budget (less interest payments) into Medicare and Social Security, which is idiotic from a social policy perspective. I'm assuming a drastic increase in taxation of the wealthy, which will all go to Social Security and Medicare. If it's a false dichotomy, where is all this money for education and energy going to come from?

The fact of the matter is that the ratio of working adults will decrease in the long run. Either we start paying for it now with infrastructure investment or we lose in the long run. I'd rather give up on some of the Boomers' entitlements than give up our own. The Boomers had their chance.
posted by amuseDetachment at 9:12 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


How much, exactly?

If I'm reading this table on the Social Security Administration web site correctly, the estimate is that with no changes the year that benefits will have to be paid entirely from taxes is 2037. If all earnings had become taxable in 2011, and the wealthy paid the same SS tax that everyone else does on their full income, this would have moved the aforementioned date out to 2084 when people born this year are 72. (And note - we aren't talking about the end of Social Security there, just the point where it will actually be necessary to cut benefits and pay them entirely from incoming taxes, if nothing else can be changed in the next three quarters of a century like increasing the age of retirement.) Of course, that doesn't even get into wealth or dynastic inheritance being taxed instead of just income.

In that light - amuseDetachment, you are saying that with taxation rates being made more equitable across the board or even with a "drastic increase in taxation of the wealthy" we will still reach a point where nearly the entire federal budget will go entirely to Medicare and SS. What year are you expecting this to happen in?

Somehow we spend twice the percentage of our GDP on health care compared to other countries that make care far more available to all citizens. There are major problems but freaking out and dismembering Medicare - which is more efficient, administrative-costs-wise, than the private health insurance in the country - out of a propagandized belief that its existence is threatening the future of education, energy, and infrastructure really isn't going to do any generation any good.
posted by XMLicious at 10:27 PM on April 3, 2012


Blame the Republicans.

you can't blame the republicans AND advocate things they're pushing for - your refusal to recognize that it's a political group and not a generational group that's screwing things up is playing right into their hands

however, some kind of means testing and an end to the cap on income being taxed for social security would be reasonable
posted by pyramid termite at 2:45 AM on April 4, 2012


XMLicious: the proposed table change you're linking to is a 2.4% increase in payroll taxes. This is inherently regressive. It increases labor costs across the board. I'm not disagreeing that we can pay for Social Security and Medicare if we raise taxes on all workers, this is obvious.

Anyway, the big expenditure isn't Social Security, it's Medicare. If you're running it purely as regressive payroll taxes, recent college graduates would probably be paying several percentages more for Social Security when they retire in the 2050s, whereas the payroll tax for Medicare would be over 1/3 of income. This isn't viable. I can concede that solving Social Security is possible, but solving Medicare by raising taxes on the wealthy is insufficient.

The only possible solution is a severe reduction in services. I think the reason everyone lumps Social Security and Medicare together as nonviable even though it's really Medicare, is that cutting medical services is incredibly uncomfortable. There is literally no other solution than to severely reduce the cost of medical care. Unfortunately, that becomes synonymous with "Death Panels".
There are major problems but freaking out and dismembering Medicare - which is more efficient, administrative-costs-wise, than the private health insurance in the country - out of a propagandized belief that its existence is threatening the future of education, energy, and infrastructure really isn't going to do any generation any good.
I suspect we agree on this point more than we disagree. I like Medicare and the way it's run. I'd be happy if we extended medicare to all ages and had younger people pay-in to Medicare to subsidize the elderly. That's impossible in today's political climate, it's the elderly shutting down socialized medicine when you check polling.

However, I think the math simply isn't there when it comes to the projected costs for Medicare. If it makes you feel better I'd agree with advocating spending money on research for reducing medical costs today, I'm just a bit pessimistic on it actually happening.
posted by amuseDetachment at 5:13 AM on April 4, 2012


> The balance is whether to have high expenses for the elderly that don't deserve it, or to invest in the future.

Ah yes, those stupid, undeserving, counterproductive elderly! Put 'em on ice floes!

This is why age bigotry is even stupider than race/religion bigotry: you're not going to change races, and you don't have to change religion if you don't want to, but unless you die young you're going to get old, and when you do I guarantee you're going to feel very differently about this. And if you and your fellow thoughtless bigots managed to remove those inefficient subsidies for the elderly in the interim, boy are you going to be pissed at yourself!
posted by languagehat at 8:51 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


“The error of youth is to believe that intelligence is a substitute for experience, while the error of age is to believe experience is a substitute for intelligence.”
posted by crunchland at 9:36 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


the proposed table change you're linking to is a 2.4% increase in payroll taxes.

Where are you getting that? At the top of the table I linked to it says,
Description of Proposed Provision:
Beginning in 2011, make all earnings subject to the payroll tax and credit them for benefit purposes.
It doesn't say anything about increasing the payroll tax rate. There are other solvency provisions that involve increasing the payroll tax rate but this isn't one of them. (This is "E2.2" in that list.)

To reiterate my question: What year are you expecting the entire federal budget to go to Medicare and Social Security? Which presumably is the event that will be forcing us to choose between those things and education, energy, infrastructure, and everything else. You talk about "the math" without presenting numbers to be examined so we can see what is backing up your claims.
posted by XMLicious at 3:21 PM on April 4, 2012


Sorry, I assumed you were using a 2.4% figure that I heard elsewhere as a realistic solution for completely solving the problem.

It's a bit unreasonable for me to project a firm year on when a large portion of the budget will go to SS/Medicare, after all, the projections on emptying the trust fund have changed drastically worse from one year to the next (from 2029 to 2024 in just one year). However, Chart C gives a good understanding of the difference for general tax revenue between prior years paid to projected payments. All that money from the General Revenue could be going towards actual investment instead of benefits expenses.

However, this is all really a farce. The notion of a Social Security and Medicare trust fund is just accounting games anyway. There is no such thing as a Federal retirement trust fund, it's all accounting. There is no functional difference between increasing the balance of the trust funds and with reducing the money supply every year where SS/Medicare payments are greater than expenses. You're just decreasing the amount of available money that year for the economy, that's it. From a systemic perspective, much less than 100% will be invested in infrastructure when you decrease the money supply. When you "spend" the trust fund, it's functionally printing money. This isn't as big of a deal when the ratio of working to non-working is 5:1, but when it's 2:1, this is the defining influencing factor in an economy. The only way to save is by reducing costs -- the reason why I'm focused more on infrastructure investment.

The moment trust fund outflows increase the inflows is the moment that actually matters (because that's when it starts to be a actual drain on the economy -- the money "saved" isn't relevant at all), not when the supposed trust fund runs out, and that'll happen within 5 years.
posted by amuseDetachment at 6:03 PM on April 4, 2012


The moment trust fund outflows are greater than the inflows...
posted by amuseDetachment at 6:04 PM on April 4, 2012


What's the opposite of eponysterical?
posted by flabdablet at 7:15 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The text accompanying the chart you link to says Chart C shows current-law scheduled cost and current-law non-interest revenue sources for HI and SMI combined as a percentage of GDP.

So that's the revenue sources for HI and SMI (I believe HI ≅ Medicare Part A and SMI ≅ the other parts) as established by current law, not the entire federal budget by far, and it appears to be saying that even under the unmodified current policy there's only a small funding gap all the way out to 2085: the projected drawdown of HI Trust Fund assets is accelerated until the trust fund is exhausted in 2024 (five years earlier compared to last year’s report), after which tax income would be sufficient to pay 90 percent of HI costs, declining to 76 percent in 2050, and then increasing to 88 percent by 2085.

And that's all under the current tax regime which is the lowest since the 1950s and with this perplexing problem we have of our medical system costing twice as much or more than the rest of the developed world's does.

To put things in perspective, the "general revenue" chunk of that Medicare funding chart is shown to be a little bit more than 3% of GDP even in 2085 but,
In 2008 U.S. taxes at all levels of government claimed 26 percent of GDP, compared with an average of 35 percent of GDP for the 33 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
— so the proportion of the GDP from general revenue you're worried about that would be devoted to Medicare even in 2085 could fit in to the current gap in tax rates between the U.S. and other first-world countries more than twice over.

So yeah, sorry, you are presenting a completely false dichotomy and you are the victim of austerity propaganda if you believe in inevitable doom unless Social Security and Medicare benefits are slashed, even with a "drastic increase in taxation of the wealthy".

This is the same "the sky is falling!" stuff that people would crow about when I was a school kid in the 1980s and in college and entering the corporate world in the 1990s. The various forces at work have managed to make the budgetary problems much more present and substantial with decades of stuff like simultaneously giving out massive tax cuts and starting decade-long wars but it's still just as much a manufactured dilemma. This attempt to create some kind of inter-generational strife and blame game is just more of the same.
posted by XMLicious at 8:10 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perhaps that is the case and I am completely wrong, if the real impact is actually minimal. I'd be very happy to be wrong.

If it turns out to be just a couple percentages higher taxation without cutting other areas of government expenditure such as education, then yes, I don't think it's a big deal at all. I don't think we'd ever be in disagreement about this if that were the case.

I'm incredibly pessimistic because fundamentally, we're looking at 2 taxpayers paying for 1 retired person. There's no way to get around that, no matter how one screws around with actuarial tables with proposed changes. This understanding coupled with the fact that the entire entitlement trust funds is a sham means that these obligations will be borne by the youth.

Again, I'd like to emphasize that I'm not saying that we should get rid of Social Security and Medicare wholesale. Nor am I saying we need to do drastic cuts in service for those that truly need it. What I am saying is that there is no moral justification to increase taxes for younger generations to pay for the older who have the ability to pay for themselves. I am all for higher taxes, I just don't want it going 100% to Social Security and Medicare. I'd much rather Medicare funding be achieved by giving paid-in Medicare insurance to those below their 60s.

If it's merely a couple percentage points increase in taxation, then any society can bear that. We don't have any disagreement, we can increase funding for education/infrastructure today and see what happens. I don't advocate substantially cutting services today. I'm saying in the event (from your perspective unlikely) that entitlement costs balloon out of control, I'm firmly against raising taxes and cutting infrastructure spending at the same time as a solution.
posted by amuseDetachment at 10:05 PM on April 4, 2012


Look, you are even accepting the notion that only income need be taxed. If you don't want the tax burden to fall too heavily on younger people (if indeed that's actually what would happen were these problems to be solved, I see no reason to think that would be the case) then advocate for taxation of wealth and inheritance instead of just income.

We have an economy generating trillions of dollars supporting a population in the millions. (And that's just annual output, not including wealth... before the financial crash for example the total value of outstanding CDSs - just one subsection of the financial derivatives markets alone - was 63 trillion.) It isn't even a remotely tight fit to imagine our current society supplying Medicare coverage (which isn't necessarily free, by the way, note the "Premiums" section of the aforementioned Chart C, currently at about a half percent of GDP) and a small part of the living expenses of senior citizens, at our current 3-to-1 worker/beneficiary ratio. In fact, actuarial and accounting tricks are what's necessary to make it look like this is some unbearable breaking strain on the economy.

So a half-century from now if and when it's a 2-to-1 ratio there's no reason for it to be a cataclysm at that point either even if there's a few trillion less 2012-dollar-equivalents in GDP to support everything (which may not even be the case.) Generation X and the Millennials and our further descendants may manage to fuck it up, sure, indeed that's a distinct possibility; but that doesn't justify "shitting on the Boomers" in my book and the way that you're talking about this - even now apparently trying to undermine the fact that keeping tax rates the same and just requiring everyone to pay them could go quite far in addressing the problem - seems rather more harmful to me than helpful.
posted by XMLicious at 11:48 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older “Kipper und Wipper”: Rogue Traders, Rogue Princes,...  |  Maintaining a culture where pe... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments