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My Father, The Parasite
October 8, 2012 10:37 PM   Subscribe

Generational Warfare: The Case Against Baby Boomers
This is the charge I’ve leveled against him on a summer day in our Pacific Northwest vision of paradise. I have asked my favorite attorney to represent a very troublesome client, the entire baby-boom generation, in what should be a slam-dunk trial—for me. On behalf of future generations, I am accusing him and all the other parasites his age of breaking the sacred bargain that every American generation will pass a better country on to its children than the one it inherited.
...
Members of my father’s generation reaped the benefits of dirt-cheap fossil fuels through most of their working lives, when gasoline price increases ran well below inflation, freeing up cash for them to save or spend on things their children now cannot afford. Because gas was so cheap, they burned too much of it (my father has never owned a car that averaged better than 20 miles per gallon), filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide to levels that scientists warn will likely warm the globe by several degrees. Climate change will cost trillions of dollars to avert or adapt to. It’s almost impossible to overstate this level of buck-passing.
...
It is hard for me to see how the gray-mustachioed attorney is going to get his client out of this one.
That’s my first mistake.
Part of National Journal's Restoration Calls series.
posted by the man of twists and turns (70 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Crooked Timber: The Generation Game
At first sight, discussion of this kind can carry with it an air of fresh insight, but most of it stales rapidly. Much of what passes for discussion about the merits or otherwise of particular generations is little more than a repetition of unchanging formulas about different age groups Ð the moral degeneration of the young, the rigidity and hypocrisy of the old, and so on.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:40 PM on October 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


Apparently getting your hate on for baby boomers is a "thing". A thing that I experienced this year while going back to college. And what a load of crap it is - just another excuse for Joe and Jane 6-pack who, instead of trying to make the world better, rather whinge and moan about how awful it all and who is to blame (in between episodes of watching Honey Boo-Boo). There is nothing special about my generation or the one before it or the current one for that matter. Same strengths, same fears, same short-sightedness same lack of insight and need to find blame outside themselves.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 10:46 PM on October 8, 2012 [22 favorites]


Pshaw.

Playing the generational blame game is just the political correct equivalent of blaming the state of the world on the Jews, or the Mexicans stealing your jobs or all those uppity women and queers getting ideas about being more than second class citizens, when of course the real people to blame are the bankers and other capitialists who have profited so very much from making the US into a worse country than they found it.

Also, just because somebody is alive during a specific event or development, does not mean they're responsible for it.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:49 PM on October 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


'Generational warfare' is one of those themes that gets trotted out every once in a while. Current crop really kicked off with Esquire's The War Against Youth, (previously on MetaFilter), which was heavily criticized in the Center For Economic Policy And Research with Esquire Magazine: Writer wanted to help convert class war into generational war. No skills required; pays top dollar and the eXile: Silent Majority Millennials. Connor Kilpatrick (author of the the eXile piece) prefers a different target in Jacobin: Thirty More Years Of Hell
But for this, blame not the Boomer, but his overrated progenitor. It’s the generation that made capitalism work so well for so many–the Band of Brothers–who are the real culprits here. The New Deal electorate and the Great Society coalition. Sure, the ruling class reactionaries hated FDR’s reforms, but as Michael Harrington pointed out, “these same reactionaries benefited from the changes that the New Deal introduced far more than did the workers and the poor who actively struggled for them.”
Race War or Murdering Your Parents: A Left Debate
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:19 PM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Don't trust anyone over thirty."
...including myself.
posted by quazichimp at 11:29 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Boomer bashing as a political argument was trotted out back in the days of Generation X, but I remember noticing that it always ended up with an attack on Social Security. Sure enough, the various "non-partisan" organizations that pushed it were linked to conservative causes (Ross Perot's United We Stand IIRC). One of the "generations theory" guys who wrote 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Fail? ended up working for Heritage Foundation or American Enterprise Institute.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:30 PM on October 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


What we need is a handy insulting catchphrase or nickname with which to belittle the evildoers that are paid to spout this shit.
posted by mwhybark at 11:57 PM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Harvey, other than Neil Howe being a speaker at their conference on Millenials, I can find no "working with" or "for" AEI/Heritage.
posted by dhartung at 12:06 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


On behalf of future generations, I am accusing him and all the other parasites his age of breaking the sacred bargain that every American generation will pass a better country on to its children than the one it inherited.

seriously?
the jury is bemused at best.
posted by philip-random at 12:10 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems a lot of people didn't make it to the end of the article: "Like Father, Like Son".
posted by Houstonian at 12:18 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe there wouldn't be so much hate against the Boomers if they didn't cut education as their first option for austerity. It's not just in America, Europe is just as bad with dismantling social services that primarily benefit the young.

It's easy to poo-poo hating on Boomers as juvenile, but social policy is stacked against the youth. It's one thing to want to keep medicare and low taxes at the same time -- after all, healthcare is a human right, and nobody likes paying taxes. However, it's another thing to want to keep medicare, low taxes, while cutting eductation.
posted by amuseDetachment at 12:21 AM on October 9, 2012 [26 favorites]


It seems a lot of people didn't make it to the end of the article: "Like Father, Like Son".

This one has been making the rounds - I just figured people had already seen and read it.

Because we never simply read a title and some pull-quotes and then comment.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:25 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


My grandparents' generation in the UK paid higher income taxes to fund free universal education, and the setting up of the NHS in the post-war years. My parents' generation, after benefiting from free education and healthcare, generated great wealth, and cut taxes and are now telling us that we can't afford free education or healthcare, because they don't want to pay as much tax as their parents did.
posted by Dysk at 12:48 AM on October 9, 2012 [47 favorites]


I recently proposed a New New Deal: we Millenials will stop blaming the Boomers for everything if the Boomers stop using Comic Sans in professional contexts.

I think it's a win-win.
posted by olinerd at 2:02 AM on October 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm not going to pretend that part of this isn't silly nonsense, but (as in the UK) our grandparents' generation paid taxes to fund land-grant universities and public educational institutions of every kind. It was my parents' generation who elected anyone that promised them tax cuts, and who were happy to see those cuts bite into city public schools, CUNY, SUNY, and everything else that might have helped their own kids get a leg up without losing the other one. Where did everyone think the "extra" money was coming from?

But here we are. I'm forced to consider the question of whether I'm willing to pay higher taxes to set those things right, and my answer is "yes." But for some reason, no one responds to a citizen saying "please raise my taxes" as anything other than madness.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:10 AM on October 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


I've trumpeted this book a few times in the depths of the blue, but UK Conservative MP David "Two Brains" Willetts's book on this is a great read on this topic. Given that he is himself a baby boomer, and operates within a party that is the basically the party of wealthier boomers it is pretty interesting read.* The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - And Why They Should Give it Back

Review from the New Statesman:
This is not, however, any kind of conservative lament for the past. Rather, it is a clear-sighted look at the present. Willetts is interested in how we build altruism and reciprocity, and in the institutions that encourage them in the increasingly atomised and unequal world in which we live.
*And might help explain why the smartest man in UK government is shuffled off into a particularly thankless job lest he doing anything dangerous.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:47 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ultimately, members of my father’s generation—generally defined as those born between 1946 and 1964—are reaping more than they sowed.

Reaping more than they sowed?

Well the baby-boomers sowed Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty "Great Society" program, they expanded Social Security to cover the poor and disabled. They sowed Medicare and Medicaid and vastly expanded Federal support for education.

Compared to what the baby-boomers sowed, I'd say the reapings have been pretty damned meagre.
posted by three blind mice at 3:10 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am also willing to have my taxes raised to set things right, but I will not discount the fact that the Boomers lowered taxes on themselves at a time when they were at their career peak. They took advantage of the system to their own gain and are throwing the next generation under the bus. We should've had higher taxes for the past twenty years.

The problem is that fundamentally, government spending on education is investment. The expectation is that a dollar spent on education will reap rewards for many years down the line (in the form of higher tax revenue and a better civil society). The underlying implication that younger people get from having education cut is that the youth are being told "fuck you, we'll be dead by then anyway."

The fact that education is the first to be cut in the name of austerity and a rejection of tax increases (while preserving elderly services) is the real generational war.
posted by amuseDetachment at 3:15 AM on October 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well the baby-boomers ... vastly expanded Federal support for education.

In the US at least (and from what I read the UK as well) public support for higher education -- much of which comes from the states, not the feds -- has been gutted. Not trimmed, but slashed, burned, and then strewn with salt. That was done in the prime of the baby boomer voting years and with their generation's broad (though far from unanimous) support.
posted by Forktine at 3:20 AM on October 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I will not discount the fact that the Boomers lowered taxes on themselves at a time when they were at their career peak. They took advantage of the system to their own gain and are throwing the next generation under the bus. We should've had higher taxes for the past twenty years.

I'm a little confused here...was Ronald Reagan a baby boomer?

Short-sighted greed has nothing to do with one generation or another.
posted by tommyD at 4:10 AM on October 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


baby-boomers sowed Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty "Great Society" program, they expanded Social Security to cover the poor and disabled. They sowed Medicare and Medicaid and vastly expanded Federal support for education.

I've always had a difficult time understanding how the idealism of their youth did a 180-degree turn. You could also add support of the Civil Rights movement and adoption of the second wave of feminism. (Although the leaders of these movements, like MLK and Friedan, were born in the 1920s, not baby boomers themselves.)

But, the programs you mention are from about 50 years ago. What the hell happened? How did the generation that searched for enlightenment in India turn into the Moral Majority? How did they smoke their dope and then create the DARE program? How did they go from free love to gays can't marry? How did the same people who wanted the War on Poverty elect Reagan and his voodoo economics? How did they protest Vietnam and then re-elect Bush to continue a war that we can't afford and can't win?

To me, it's like they are two completely different groups: The boomers in their 20s, and the boomers post-20s. They did some good things in their 20s, but that doesn't blot out the mistakes they've made and supported since then.

But I think the author's article is really a challenge to Gen-X and beyond: Regardless of how this started, we can fix it. Do we want to?
posted by Houstonian at 4:14 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


The boomer generation was born into a civilization with an infrastructure: roads, housing, electric, plumbing, telephone, radio, TV, etc. It was a thing that was, and is now still, running nearly seamlessly like the sun rising and setting.

My generation and I were born into a civilization with an infrastructure: I could repeat the same list, with some additions such as the Internet. I will repeat that it was a thing that was, and is now still, running nearly seamlessly like the moon running through its phases.

Not much difference, including the fact in each generation you had/have a minority that knows that this will not last forever and can point to appropriate sources, whether it would be followers of Hubbert or finance geeks looking at debt and inflation and all the variables that have the potential to screw us all over.

However, it would be worth noting the difference in the proportional sizes of each generation's minority, and whether or not it has grown, and whether or not it has more opportunities for growth. If in the affirmative, we have some hope, and a possibility of evading damning one generation or another for their perceived sins.

For a majority of people, this situation was arrived to innocently, as we humans just did what we do, and that is live off the resources presented to us.

What won't be so innocent, is to knowingly not do anything about it. Try till death, and then we would know if best efforts were put forward.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 4:26 AM on October 9, 2012


I'd understood that federal funding of education has remained fairly flat as a percentage of GDP since 1970, although that data shows a 1% drop under Reagan that recovered under Clinton and Bush.

There was a dramatic almost monotonic increase in educational spending between 1945 and 1970, suggesting that virtually all major increases in federal educational spending stemmed from (1) the cold war, both (1a) scientific aspects like atomic weapons and cryptography as well as (1b) cultural aspects, and (2) federal obligations under the G.I. Bill.

We cannot blame one particular generation for Reagan's assault upon education, the arts, etc., mostly his administration simply halted the cultural progress required to win the cold war because communism no longer scared them. We cannot really laud anyone for Clinton or Bush's tepid correction either, well spending cuts never hold too long, also state governments were well addicted to cutting educational spending by then. We could surely blame old people for cutting state level education funding though.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:29 AM on October 9, 2012


Maybe there wouldn't be so much hate against the Boomers if they didn't cut education as their first option for austerity.

Again - was Reagan a Baby Boomer? Even before he was President, as Governor of California, he eliminated free college tuition for residents. That was more of a punishment inflicted ON Boomers than something done BY them. I would also point out the huge discrepancies between the GI Bill that WW2 and Korean War vets enjoyed and the GI Bill that Vietnam vets got.

The fact that many of the people who've been screwing up society belong to one generation absolutely cannot be used to tar that whole generation. Also, they've had a ton of support from generations before and after.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:59 AM on October 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Simplistic rants against baby boomers ignore that there are two species of the animal: those of us who were inspired by the civil rights movement and were grateful for their opportunities and those who hated the movement and took their good fortune to be born in a golden age as their due. Regrettably, the good boomers lost--the 1980 election was the death knell for a progressive society in the USA.

Remember that George W. Bush and Mitt Romney are quintessential representatives of the second cohort: born on third base, etc. Do not tar all of us with their sins. A great number of us have always attempted to swim against the dominant tide of greed and self-aggrandizement. It has been a difficult trip. It is sad-making, to say the least, to hear one's generation called out in toto because our democracy has been subverted by the forces that do not care about a just society.
posted by rdone at 5:03 AM on October 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


It was Boomers who, by and large, put Reagan into office and re-elected him.

The truth is that yes, you should not blame an entire generation for the state of the world we're in. To do so would be ridiculous, inaccurate, and unfair, but there is enough blame to go around, and the Boomer generation should have its share cast its way.

They comprise the largest age cohort in our nation, they still have the political influence to shift the vote in a direction that looks to the future and tries to patch things up for their children and grandchildren. They should be instructing Gen-X on how to take the responsibilities that go with citizenship and adulthood to become good stewards of the remaining blessings that yes, have been bestowed on us.

The reason for so much of this is that there is a sense of a brand betrayed, of responsibilities shirked. Unfair, yes it is, however, they *do* have the influence, especially now, to advance policy by sheer force of size.

Will we Gen-Xers do any better though, taking full responsibility? Or will we blame our smaller numbers and fractured institutions for our failures?
posted by kmartino at 5:24 AM on October 9, 2012


Well the baby-boomers sowed Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty "Great Society" program, they expanded Social Security to cover the poor and disabled. They sowed Medicare and Medicaid and vastly expanded Federal support for education.

None of these things were done by boomers. None.

The Social Security Act of 1965 created Medicare and Medicaid. The oldest boomer was 20.

Social Security, of course, was created before any of them were born.

The baby boom did not land on the moon. They did not create the Great Society. They were not the Summer of Love -- if anything, the boom destroyed the Summer of Love. They did not pass the Civil Rights act of 1964. They did not sit at a lunch counter, or in the front of the bus. They did not land on the moon, and do those other things. Not because it was easy, not because it was hard, but because they were children at the time.

Now, I ask you. Now that you understand all these things were done by the Baby Boomer's *parents*, who lived through the Great Depression, who lived through WWII, and who decided they didn't want their children to live through that, I ask you this.

What *have* the baby boomers done?
posted by eriko at 5:49 AM on October 9, 2012 [44 favorites]


This entire discussion is moot, for a simple reason of demographics.

The Boomers are many. Their elder-care needs will also be numerous.

But the personnel to provide them? Not so much. Baby dearths in decades following the Boom have taken care of that.

So we can run up large deficits to provide the Boomers with their nominal benefits, and inflation will still make it hard for them to get by.

Or we can cut those benefits. And they will have a hard time getting by.

But argue about economics and politics all you want. None of that can trump demographics.
The Japanese have the right idea with their elder care robots.
posted by ocschwar at 5:55 AM on October 9, 2012


The Japanese have the right idea with their elder care robots.

Because that never goes wrong....

In some ways, yes, it's unfair to criticize an entire generation for that generation's failures, just like it's unfair to criticize a movement by the acts of its worst members or a religion by the fanatics. But the group does play a role, and it's not unfair to remind them that they let this happen, that they chose allegiance to the group over the right thing, that they went along to get along. And you can't leave your generation the way you can resign from a movement or abandon a religion.

However, someone has to pay to clean up the mess (and the ongoing mess-creation) of the Baby Boom years. Why shouldn't the Baby Boom do that?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:03 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was Boomers who, by and large, put Reagan into office and re-elected him.

In 1980, the vote by age was pretty evenly split until you get to the 30-44 years old group (those born before 1950). People older than that voted more for Reagan.

By '84, the democrats offers us the lacklustre Mondale who ran on a Higher Taxes platform. Bold, but hardly a vote getter. Surprising he did as well as he did.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:03 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does anyone remember the 1970's recession? I had just graduated college and couldn't find a teaching job for six years. I filled in the years by working as a secretary on wall street and then uptown for universal. I learned a lot about those industries and had a great time. Because the government changed the laws in education (under Carter) many jobs opened up in special education. Thirty years into my career (which I loved) I was excesses due to budget cuts in special ed. I think the government knows exactly what its doing. The demographics of the baby boom generation is such that jobs had to be created or this country would have gone downhill. Now the boomers are being pushed into retirement. Times up. In 30 more years they (boomers) will be dead and buried and this country will be downsized and running fine. Its all part of the plan. Both candidates know this. So they are just playing the waiting game..,..and the beat goes on.
posted by robbyrobs at 6:06 AM on October 9, 2012


This entire discussion is moot, for a simple reason of demographics.

The Boomers are many. Their elder-care needs will also be numerous.

But the personnel to provide them? Not so much. Baby dearths in decades following the Boom have taken care of that.

So we can run up large deficits to provide the Boomers with their nominal benefits, and inflation will still make it hard for them to get by.

Or we can cut those benefits. And they will have a hard time getting by.


Or we could have taxed the boomers at the same rate as their parents, and then we would've had a massive surplus to pay for those benefits, rather than a deficit and no benefits...
posted by Dysk at 6:07 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or we could have taxed the boomers at the same rate as their parents, and then we would've had a massive surplus to pay for those benefits, rather than a deficit and no benefits...


And the market rate for hiring elder care personnel would skyrocket and devour that surplus.
posted by ocschwar at 6:14 AM on October 9, 2012


The richest boomers among us must be having a chuckle at this. Don't blame us, and our parents, and our kids for using our wealth and influence to screw over the rest of you, regardless of how old or young we are. Go ahead and blame it on everyone in our age group, rich and poor alike. Blame Michael Moore and Obama! Blame that ex-factory-worker! They're boomers. Must be their fault.

There are links that connect the people who have made, and are making, our world a worse place. But it's not having been born in the 18 years between 1946 and 1964.
posted by tyllwin at 6:15 AM on October 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


The article was actually a good bit more balanced than you would think from reading the comments. I did smile at this, though:

The Greatest Generation, his parents’ cohort, paid a lot less into Social Security and Medicare than it took out of it, he says. (This is true.) It did nothing to reduce pollution, conserve natural resources, or halt the nation’s growing and dangerous addiction to fossil fuels. “Previous generations did not have a Clean Air Act or a Clean Water Act,” he says. His enacted both. (Also true.)


Gen x points the finger at the baby boomers, who respond by blaming their parents!

The problem I have with articles about baby boomers/the me generation/generation X or any other arbitrarily labeled chronological cohort is that the members of the group are far too diverse to make generalizations about. Like most articles in this vein the writer seems to assume that the baby boomers are all white men, like me. even with that constraint I am someone who still has a good 20 years (give or take a little) to retirement and who is still paying into the system. If we ever take a rational view of taxes I would happily pay even more into the system to fund a better social safety net as well as education and environmental benefits such as mass transit. If a politician ever had the balls to say he would raise taxes to pay for these things he would not only have my vote but the biggest check I could afford to write him.

And what about women and minorities born during and after the baby boom.? Many of the obstacles to their participation in society have been removed, but others remain. Taking steps to make them productive members of society could go a long way toward relieving some of the economic concerns that the author and others worry about. We would all be a lot better off if the school to prison pipeline were shut off; it would be a lot cheaper and much more just to put the effort we expend in incarcerating inner city youth into sending them to college instead.
posted by TedW at 6:16 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


And the market rate for hiring elder care personnel would skyrocket and devour that surplus.

Or, alternatively, we would have a lot more minimum-wage jobs, and unemployment would not be as unreasonably high as it is.
posted by Dysk at 6:17 AM on October 9, 2012


Yes, my dad was totes in the legislature, and my mom never had to work a day in her life...she was just a medical transcriptionist for kicks. Heck, bell hooks and Allan Berube and Sylvia Rivera are also to blame.

And of course, it makes total sense to blame large groups of people - inasmuch as a large, disparate group of citizens can actually be blamed for anything - for wanting decent jobs and benefits and public works and some social freedom. If only everyone had just knuckled down and accepted that misery is man's lot, we'd all be....better off, surely!

Subsuming class and race under "generation" - that's totally a fascist move. Particularly because it lets "our" generation's racists and elites off the hook, because they are not "responsible" for the benefits that they enjoy.

It really depresses me that this article has gotten a lot of traction in the radical/social justice tumblr-verse. Sometimes I think, as we plunge into what is clearly going to be a long miserable roll-back of civil rights and worker rights, that Americans are as a group too intellectually lazy and too driven by their emotions to ever fix things. I find it consoling, in a tiny way, that the radicals/left are apparently as susceptible to the enjoyment of blame and hate as anyone else, because at least then I don't have to hope - I don't have to think "if only we had some power, we could fix this mess" - because obviously if we had some power we'd just do dumb shit like everyone else.
posted by Frowner at 6:18 AM on October 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


The current young 'uns complain about the economic mess that the boomers have left. The boomers griped about the war and pollution that their parents left. The parents were the ones who had to fight a world war because the elders of the 1930s failed to stop fascism. I'm trying to recall a generation that looked to its parents in dewey-eyed gratitude for the world it inherited. I'm coming up blank.

Mitt Romney is a boomer. Barack Obama is a boomer. Steve Jobs was a boomer. The CEO of Goldman Sachs is a boomer. Every generation produces heroes and villains. Tankersley would have done better to skip straight to the last section where he admits he's as big a leach as dear old dad.
posted by Longtime Listener at 6:23 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe there wouldn't be so much hate against the Boomers if they didn't cut education as their first option for austerity.

Maybe you should be more politically active ?
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 6:29 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always had a difficult time understanding how the idealism of their youth did a 180-degree turn. You could also add support of the Civil Rights movement and adoption of the second wave of feminism. (Although the leaders of these movements, like MLK and Friedan, were born in the 1920s, not baby boomers themselves.)

But, the programs you mention are from about 50 years ago. What the hell happened? How did the generation that searched for enlightenment in India turn into the Moral Majority? How did they smoke their dope and then create the DARE program? How did they go from free love to gays can't marry? How did the same people who wanted the War on Poverty elect Reagan and his voodoo economics? How did they protest Vietnam and then re-elect Bush to continue a war that we can't afford and can't win?


I lived through that period. There were not that many idealists even at that time. Some joined the movement for the pot, some joined for the sex, some joined to irritate or shock their parents, some needed help to evade the draft: there were as many reasons as there were hippies. The idealists I personally know from that time are still idealists, still fighting injustice but on a smaller private scale. You find them serving in soup kitchens, you find them tutoring, you find them active in local charities, you find them mentoring. It seems as if we have all given up expecting politics and politicians to be the answer.
posted by francesca too at 6:36 AM on October 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


But the problem is that it wasn't the "elites" and "bankers/rich" or whatever the hell, that made cutting education acceptable social policy.

It was deemed not acceptable to cut services that benefit the elderly, nor raising taxes. The solution that was acceptable to a large amount of boomers was achieved through high deficits and cutting social services that help in the long run (whether it be education or infrastructure).

You can blame a small amount of politicians, but they work within the framework of what is acceptable within their society. The fact of the matter is the government has cut future investment in favor of expenditures that favor boomers.

This discussion wouldn't be happening if medicare AND education were being cut at the same time, then we can have a nice long discussion about social class economics. There would be an understanding of shared responsibility to pay for those stupid tax cuts, but we don't have that -- we cut future investment in education and infrastructure.

I'm not saying that all boomers are terrible people, but collectively, they're selfish fucking assholes compared to their elders.
Maybe you should be more politically active ?
Maybe a lot of these decisions were made before many in Generation X had a voice in voting and before many Millennials were born? The onus was on the boomers to be more politically active to work for the greater good, the onus is NOT on GenX/Millennials to be politically active for their own selfish interests to pay for their own education and infrastructure (rail, electric power network upgrade, etc.).
posted by amuseDetachment at 6:37 AM on October 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I find it consoling, in a tiny way, that the radicals/left are apparently as susceptible to the enjoyment of blame and hate as anyone else, because at least then I don't have to hope - I don't have to think "if only we had some power, we could fix this mess" - because obviously if we had some power we'd just do dumb shit like everyone else.
welcome to the machine
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:40 AM on October 9, 2012


I've always had a difficult time understanding how the idealism of their youth did a 180-degree turn.

Note: The National Guard soldiers at Kent State were generally the same age range as the students who were shot.

It may seem that an entire generation did a 180. However, "idealistic youth" was always a minority within their own generation. I'm on the tail-end of the "boomer" range, and I can assure you that the conservatives always outnumbered the "idealistic youth". The idealists just made for better headlines.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:48 AM on October 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Boomers are many. Their elder-care needs will also be numerous.

Sorry Dad. Austerity and all.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:51 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well the baby-boomers sowed Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty "Great Society" program, they expanded Social Security to cover the poor and disabled. They sowed Medicare and Medicaid and vastly expanded Federal support for education.

LBJ was a boomer? I have to admit, he's much more impressive now that I know he was 17 upon his succession to the presidency.
posted by spaltavian at 6:57 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't really hate the baby boomers, but I'm a little tired of hearing about woodstock all the fuckin time.
posted by hellojed at 6:59 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always had a difficult time understanding how the idealism of their youth did a 180-degree turn. You could also add support of the Civil Rights movement and adoption of the second wave of feminism. (Although the leaders of these movements, like MLK and Friedan, were born in the 1920s, not baby boomers themselves.)

Maybe it's because of television specials, or because most USians aren't very familiar with activist or bohemian social circles, but many, many of the people who were radical in the sixties - committed radicals who did real organizing - are still radical today. I've been an activist since my mid-teens, and I know tons of old hippies who are still doing stuff. Women Against Military Madness? Mostly white-haired fiercely peacenik people who are still out there getting arrested. Radical Quakers. Ricardo Levins-Morales, a local radical artist and amazing person (who might be just a smidge young to be a true boomer. L. Timmel Duchamp, a great radical writer. Samuel Delany.

I'll also say that many, many of my my-age-and-younger radical friends are the children of activists.

In American history, we normally say "young people rebel against their parents and become radical idealists, then they sell out/burn out and turn into their parents, this is the way of the world". But that IS NOT TRUE!!!! I have lost count of the times that I've heard from a friend or an acquaintance about their radical parents, uncles, grandparents - about their hippie parents, or their union parents, or their dad who was in SNCC. That stuff persists. There is a steady radical genealogy in this country. We persistently confuse "young people who are in avante-garde fashion culture" with "activists" (even activists do this) because at certain historical moments it is fashionable to go to protests or wear certain slogans. Those people aren't bad people - I'd rather have someone be for immigrants' rights because it's fashionable than not at all - but there's no real commitment there. Being surprised that young people abandon the fashions of their youth - well, I've abandoned a number of the fashions of my youth, both ideological and artistic, and that hasn't changed my political commitments.
posted by Frowner at 7:02 AM on October 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Note: The National Guard soldiers at Kent State were generally the same age range as the students who were shot.

Really? All I can find are photos of them with their gas masks on, but my impression of that era is that National Guard troops were generally older, often Korean War vets, more career civilian/soldiers rather than a bunch of 18 year olds like you might find being drafted for Vietnam.
posted by Forktine at 7:02 AM on October 9, 2012


I'm a little tired of hearing about woodstock all the fuckin time.

You? I was 10. I've had to hear about it since then, PLUS catch all the shit for being an evil boomer, and all without the chance to get in on any of it.
posted by tyllwin at 7:03 AM on October 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


rather than a bunch of 18 year olds like you might find being drafted for Vietnam.

Lots of people got into the guard just to avoid the draft. Ask George Bush.
posted by tyllwin at 7:05 AM on October 9, 2012


In American history, we normally say "young people rebel against their parents and become radical idealists, then they sell out/burn out and turn into their parents, this is the way of the world". But that IS NOT TRUE!!!!

cite?
posted by clavdivs at 7:30 AM on October 9, 2012


cite?

Cite which? I mean, I allege two things, although this isn't a very cite-heavy thread.

I'd say that in this thread, the narrative about sixties radicals is very much "they all rebelled and then sold out and are therefore hypocrites", and if you really want I can dig around on the internet and find some of the many, many times that people say that shit. But it seems like a truism to me.

What I'd "cite" in support of radical genealogies? That's both easy and difficult - there's some material by 'famous' radicals which details their political heritage (Angela Davis, Rosa Parks, Barbara Ehrenreich) but a lot of it is pretty informal - either because the radical heritage itself is informal (mom was in the union, grandmother ran informal social services via the church, queer aunt stopped by to visit a lot....this kind of thing seems to me to appear in working class autobiographies a lot - people attribute their politics to the lived politics of their childhoods, but it's not a middle class/elite politics) or else it's just stuff that I know about people I've met. I know the child of two people who were heavily involved in radical Native organizing in the seventies, for example; I know the legal rights and GLBTQ organizer whose dad was in SNCC and whose grandparents were union; I know a girl who's on scholarship at Princeton and whose mom was an activist hippie; I know a guy whose parents were Puerto Rican radicals....come to think of it, probably half the activists I know have activist families. And of course I know tons and tons of people informally from around the West Bank of Minneapolis.

The thing is, it's like working class histories - nobody writes this shit down, or if we do it's strictly amateur fanzine/website stuff that doesn't count. Oh, and speaking of working class - you might find some more of this stuff in Studs Terkel's interview books and in any people's history of mining communities - the generations of radical struggle.

What happens a lot, IME, is that middle class people unconsciously assume that working class struggles don't count or don't exist. So even if someone "comes up" through the classes, like a lot of radical white male historians do, their radical working class antecedents get overlooked. And it's very hard for middle class people to see working class lives and struggles. (I say this as a middle class person.) Language, assumptions, social structures - that stuff is so class marked. And of course, there is so very, very little documentation of working class lives.

So yeah, in part I am alleging that radical genealogies exist based on a fairly wide personal experience of about 20 years' duration. Anecdote isn't data, etc etc.
posted by Frowner at 8:02 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm a little tired of hearing about woodstock all the fuckin time.

You? I was 10. I've had to hear about it since then, PLUS catch all the shit for being an evil boomer, and all without the chance to get in on any of it.


I too was ten when Woodstock happened. Born in 1959, which makes me not just technically a boomer, but (up here in Canada at least) born at the absolute peak of the boom (more kids born my year than any other). Which is not something you want. Which is no way to have demographics work for you. It just means you'll always be in the most crowded classrooms, graduating high school into Universities that are amping up admission requirements and tuition fees (though that wouldn't really kick in until a few years later), graduating University into the worst economic downtown since the Great Depression (1981 or thereabouts), and likely to hit old age at precisely the time when all the early boomers have effectively sucked the social safety network dry (he said mixing his metaphors). I must say, I'm really looking forward to that. Soylent Green anyone?

Not complaining. Just pointing out that demographics are always a double-edged sword ... and using them as a basis to provoke argument is likely to cause bad smells.
posted by philip-random at 9:10 AM on October 9, 2012


One of the biggest travesties of oversight during the boomers cultural dominance is the abandonment of infrastructure. I don't truly blame them for this, as someone stated up-thread they were born into a working infrastructure, and it seemed to be humming along perfectly. In reality the American Society for Civil Engineers, ASCE, has rated it a D, requiring an estimated 2.2 trillion over 5 years to fix. It's hard to focus on something that simply appears to be a fact of life, and don't we always see construction? This is going to bite us, and bad.

Further economic realities.
posted by karmiolz at 9:23 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


tl;dr

...but when did "boomer" get equated with the political establishment?

The progressive people this boomer votes for, who would have made the necessary changes way back when rarely if ever get elected, yet you kids are holding me responsible?

STFU and get off my lawn.
posted by Rash at 9:47 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


*rolls eyes*

Yes, all Americans through history have made it their "sacred" duty not to kill all the animals, cut down all the trees, pave the earth, war on any nation they see fit and poison the air and water.

It was only boomer pathology, and not the coincidental massive increase in population and industrialization along with deregulation and resource liberalization that led to this whiny punk-ass journo writing this irrational screed.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:51 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Soylent Green anyone?

Thinking of which, it's definitely time for a remake.

If we can get a big budget remake of Parts:The Clonus Horror (1979), our 21st c. Vulture-Cannibalism should be able to render such a creature in prosthetic make-up.

(And no, don't look to Will Smith and I Am Legend for a solution. The Hedge Fund Managers and Mortgage Bankers were doing well back in 2007, and no one questioned their practices. That horse has already left the stable.)
posted by vhsiv at 9:59 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not saying I completely agree with the article clvrmnky, but the, "deregulation and resource liberalization" is something that happened under the boomer's watch. We can talk about what exactly they could have done to stop it, but they benefited financially from it to future generation's detriment. That's exactly the point of the article.
posted by karmiolz at 10:24 AM on October 9, 2012


I'm a little tired of hearing about woodstock all the fuckin time.

So yeah, all the people in this thread who were talking about Woodstock before you wrote that should just STFU.

Wait a minute ...
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:44 AM on October 9, 2012


It was Boomers who, by and large, put Reagan into office and re-elected him.

Step up and take the blame for the Bush years, then. Apparently it's when you were born that counts, not what you believe or did.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:49 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


What the hell happened? How did the generation that searched for enlightenment in India turn into the Moral Majority? How did they smoke their dope and then create the DARE program? How did they go from free love to gays can't marry? How did the same people who wanted the War on Poverty elect Reagan and his voodoo economics? How did they protest Vietnam and then re-elect Bush to continue a war that we can't afford and can't win?

Yeah, several people have commented on this now, but the thing is that most of them didn't go to India (or San Francisco, or Woodstock). Support for the Vietnam War remained high even among young people until 1968 or so (cite). There wasn't an epic turnaround; rather, the majority of people have always been squares.
posted by naoko at 1:49 PM on October 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not saying that all boomers are terrible people, but collectively, they're selfish fucking assholes compared to their elders.

Yeah ? If only you were around when the Greatest Generation held forth on race back in the day, and caught what was socially acceptable discourse on said topic, your hair would catch fire. But we blamed them for every thing that was wrong about the world, too -- after all, it's always mom and dad's fault for not taking the benefit of our inexperience.
posted by y2karl at 4:51 PM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fair enough. On behalf of the boomers I accept the blame for all that shit. But I don't take the rap for Disco. That wasn't our fault. Even so, I'm sorry.

Now give us back all them digital toys, you ingrates. Now we're even.

You turn. Have at it.

Good luck.
posted by mule98J at 4:55 PM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


What *have* the baby boomers done?

Okay: All those who want to analyze the political situation as it now stands and come to reasoned and workable responses -- over here with me.

All those who want to blame the political situation on witches, hunt them down, drown them and burn them -- carry on right here.

By comforting yourselves like you do with these inane antics, you achieve nothing but contribute to the entertainment of the relative handful of people who run the show. And just as that class is dominated by baby boomers now, it will be dominated by members of later generations in the future.

It is the system that must be changed, not the generations that run it.
posted by dmayhood at 6:54 PM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Durn Bronzefist - I do take a share of the the blame for the Bush Jr. years. I think Gen-X hasn't done a good job of taking responsibility yet.

I hope that the 'government as platform' concept starts to take hold among us and our children so that we can regain some rationality around what government can do, and how it can come about for all of us.
posted by kmartino at 4:48 AM on October 10, 2012


Old Economy Steven has it better than his parents... and his kids.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 10:57 AM on October 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Old Economy Steven has it better than his parents... and his kids.

Those are pretty distasteful. They basically boil down to "this person got TOO MUCH because he had a job that paid a living wage, was able to own a home and could retire - what a greedy asshole".

Look, one reason that this whole "let's blame the Boomers" thing is wrong is that it accepts as normal the idea that jobs must be shitty, circumstances must be precarious and retirement must be virtually impossible - that everything will and should proceed as it does in these late days of neoliberalism, and the Boomers were terrible and stupid for daring to live otherwise. It's like seeing that your neighbor has health insurance at work, being upset that you don't, and then demanding that your neighbor loose his health insurance so that you'll be equal....and meanwhile your boss and your neighbor's boss do a little happy dance because now no one has to offer insurance because the people have spoken and they'd rather knife each other over crumbs than demand social reform.
posted by Frowner at 1:56 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]



So yeah, in part I am alleging that radical genealogies exist based on a fairly wide personal experience of about 20 years' duration. Anecdote isn't data, etc etc.
posted by Frowner at 11:02 AM


And howdy. On the other hand my grandmother was a republican, liberal in the social arena, conservitive on defense and money. She called the IWW the "I won't work" yet gave 100,000 PLUS hours of community service, service which went back to world war one. She was avid about civil and gay rights.
tats right anecodote is not data but it is important.
posted by clavdivs at 2:46 PM on October 10, 2012


I was at a classical concert at Tanglewood 50 miles away during Woodstock, and the friends I had who went to Woodstock had a MISERABLE time in the mud. I'm always baffled by the generic description of "boomers" as if they were all the same. As someone else commented, apparently you're referring to white males above a certain income level. Perhaps like my husband, who worked in commercial laundries most of his life in conditions of appalling discomfort?
posted by Peach at 7:04 PM on October 10, 2012


Frowner: Look, one reason that this whole "let's blame the Boomers" thing is wrong is that it accepts as normal the idea that jobs must be shitty, circumstances must be precarious and retirement must be virtually impossible - that everything will and should proceed as it does in these late days of neoliberalism, and the Boomers were terrible and stupid for daring to live otherwise.

I don't think that's what anyone is saying. It's certainly not what I'm saying. I'm saying that things could still be like they were for the Boomers growing up for the generation coming up now, if we hadn't lowered taxes for the last several decades and made the benefits they enjoyed unaffordable.
posted by Dysk at 7:07 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


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