If you hate Baby Boomers, this is the article for you

Media often imply Baby Boomers are the source of all problems. They're resented in America, feared in Canada, and are better off fleeing to Mexico. It's time they retired and let a new generation be the demographic pinata.

President Obama, golfing on Martha's Vineyard in 2009.

President Obama, golfing on Martha's Vineyard in 2009. Pete Souza/White House

The far far far right accuses Barack Obama of being a Muslim, and Birthers question his citizenship, but it's all fantasy. They'd make more progress if they went after the president's real dirty secret: He's a Baby Boomer.

No one can blame him for trying to fudge the fact. Self-loathing is a Boomer characteristic, and Boomer bashing a sport for all the other generations. Boomers, in fact, are both scapegoat and piñata, the cause of all misery which is relieved only by swarming them with blows using a very big stick.

If you want a snapshot of the scourge of Boomerism, just check the latest headlines.

Boomers, for example, are often criticized for their self-indulgent spending and wasteful consumerism, although the corporate forces driving such behavior predated Boomers (see "Mad Men") and were, in fact, resisted by the '60s counter-culture (albeit a small, loud minority of Boomers). Still, Boomers can't win no matter which path they choose.

A recent column in The Guardian (and linked on Crosscut's Clicker) seemed to suggest that Boomers are living the good life while other generations suffer. A headline framed it this way: "As the postwar baby boomer generation begins to enter comfortable retirement, their children face a future of massive debt and uncertainty."

Well, maybe that's the way it is in the UK, but here the "retirement" is not so comfy. In the USA, older Boomers are going bust at record rates. The Wall Street Journal reports that "baby boomers are disproportionately represented in bankruptcy proceedings." Comfortable retirement? Hah. From 2002 to 2007, the fastest growing percentage of bankruptcy filers (65 percent increase) were Boomers. In other words, call them the Baby Busters. Sixtysomethings are sinking fast.

On the other hand, if the Baby Boomers behave with fiscal prudence, that's also cause for alarm. In response to the Great Recession, profligate Boomers have grown more conservative in their spending. They're paying off debt and heading to the mall less often. A good thing, right? No, the selfish parsimony of Boomers is only making the recession worse. The reason times are tough is that Boomers aren't spending enough. Yes, it's a classic no-win scenario about which Boomers should feel only one thing: guilt.

No one likes Baby Boomers — and why would you with such a stupid name? The name sounds like a generation of spoiled Dr. Spock progeny having a temper tantrum. But part of the problem is the image that extends from that, even if it has no relationship to reality. Again, from The Guardian column, it seems UK Boomers are living a charmed life: "Having enjoyed a life of free love, free school meals, free universities, defined benefit pensions, mainly full employment and a 40-year-long housing boom, they are bequeathing their children sky-high house prices, debts and shrivelled pensions. A 60-year-old in 2010 is a very privileged and lucky human being — an object of resentment as much as admiration."

Perhaps UK socialism benefited Boomers more than here, but the description hardly fits Baby Boomers I know. Sure, some hit the Amazon or Microsoft lottery (so did a lot of Gen Xers), but I can tell you U.S. Boomers didn't get free lunches, pensions, free universities, or even full employment. And I can't speak for others, but during the sexual revolution, I was largely a non-combatant. Again, in this country, Boomers today are less privileged than they are hard-pressed. If not going bankrupt, they still have their kids living at home, are caring for aging parents, and if not laid off likely holding on to a problematic job in order to get health care coverage for a growing list of chronic diseases.

Up in Canada, the latter is of great concern. If Boomers in the U.S. and UK are either getting more than their share or crashing and burning at record rates, in Canada, they're worried about what they call the "Silver tsunami" of aging Boomers who are going to overwhelm, and maybe break, the public health-care system. Something Canadian baby Boomers need to worry about: They still have ice floes in the Arctic, and elderly, uppity Boomers might just find themselves being ushered onto one soon.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 4:21 a.m. Inappropriate

The problem is most of them are dumber than dirt.

tonyg

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 8:02 a.m. Inappropriate

Tony, you are incorrect here. Boomers represent about 25% of the population. Approximately 90% have a high school eduction, and about 25% have a BA dgree or higher. That certainly doesn't confer dumbness.

Bella

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 9:02 a.m. Inappropriate

I, for one, am looking forward to the Baby Boomers losing their market power. When that happens, there will be no more self-indulgent nostalgia about the Beattles. The rest of us will recognize the Beattles for what they were: another low-talent boy band.

My mother is a member of the Baby Boomer generation and my father of the Silent Generation. The what generation? That's right; if the Greatest Generation fought World War II and the Baby Boomers were born after the war, there must be something in between. And they're more than a little tired of always being ignored. And then there's Generation X, of which I consider myself a part even though I am in the fuzzy boundary between X and Y. After all the hype in the 1990s, most of it negative, we too are facing the cruel reality of being deemed unimportant by demographers. I refuse to go quietly into the demographic night. Who's with me?

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 9:12 a.m. Inappropriate

Baby boomers brought an end to racial segregation, brought about equal rights for women and changed the world for gays and lesbians, ended the war in Vietnam -- and created music that will be remembered for generations.

Tell me, Generation X, Y and Z: What have you contributed to our society?

bigyaz

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 10:36 a.m. Inappropriate

" It will have more spending power than any other generation, giving its members the ability to make or break brands simply by paying attention to them."

This places an awful lot of faith in "reset" getting us right back to where we left off. Very unlike you Mossback.

The topic of cohorts already born shaping the future of a lot of things is, however, not as fishing around for something to write about as it appears at first look. Keep looking, do more thinking.

afreeman

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 11:16 a.m. Inappropriate

bigyaz -

Gen X and Y: these are the people revolutionizing the world every six months. Wikipedia, Wikileaks, YouTube, Facebook. We're changing the world in a different way than the Boomers did.

And while the Boomers may have allowed gays the right to be open about who they are, it will be Gen Y that gives them the chance to marry.

We haven't stopped any wars, but the boomers wouldn't have cared about 'Nam either if the threat of the draft hadn't been hanging over their heads.

You haven't experienced our music because the recording industry has decided that only pop and crap rap are worthy of promotion, but if you know where to look the 90s and 00s were a fruitful time for music.

Gen Z: they're still babies. I think you are expecting too much of them.

Jon Sayer

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 11:33 a.m. Inappropriate

Every generation is worthy. The baby boomer generation, as is gen x and y, are creations of corporations that use it as a tool of consumerism. The baby boomers parents endured World War II. The baby boomers grandparents lived in the Great Depression ( far worse than the current economic slump) and World War I. Their parents and grandparents settled the entire United States. Let's not forget, we're all in this together.

fgruben

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 11:41 a.m. Inappropriate

Bigyaz-

Gen y & z now have almost no prospect of upward mobility or being able to achieve anything without getting into at least double the debt that previous generations had to accrue...whether education, health care, housing. We also will be paying for others social security, medicare/caid, without the guarantee of having those benefits for ourselves in the future.

Currently we are trying to create a agricultural system that doesn't destroy the soil/water quality and preserves the family farm, create a landuse policy that protects the environment as well as individual freedoms, and give real equal right to gays and lesbians. On top of having to pay for multiple wars that we do not support while a growing population of the world hates us. There are plenty other things that we want to achieve for the greater good, but we have a political system that preserves the status quo that we have to fight tooth-and-nail against to get anywhere. Change shouldn't come in a day but if we can't adapt we're doomed to fail.

BTW, we do have some great music, influenced by the music you speak of...you won't hear it on the radio or MTV though...you may not like it, but I'm willing to bet that not all of the boomer parents liked the music that you speak of either.

I have no problem working for all of these things with every once of energy I have, and not asking for anything in return. Just don't act like we aren't contributing anything...

dblarsen

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 12:04 p.m. Inappropriate


What a strange, fragmented world we are living in, one which places so much value on the power to consume.

I'm 57, and I recognize that my generation is one of the first truly spoiled post-war generations. Our lives have been so easy because somehow we had the great fortune to be born in this country at the apex of its power and wealth. Note to younger generations: you are also spoiled, and a lot of the wealth we are sharing right now is based on the labor and innovations of my generation and that of my parents. That's how it works, we all need to turn around and thank the generations that preceded us for their toil.

I also recognize that all generations that follow will find it progressively harder to expand on what we've got right now. In many ways they will have to accept contracting their lives and sharing the spoils of the planet with other people in other parts of the world.

I think whether or not subsequent generations accept that idea and adapt to it will determine whether or not they make their own strong marks in history. A lot of us baby boomers are now entering ages where we understand how our happiness is based more on how we think and how we interact with others than on what we consume. That idea is a byproduct of growing older and wiser. We must also recognize that during our peak years we were voraciously consuming with the best of them.

I hope subsequent generations can get a taste of that insight a lot sooner than most of my generation did. I also hope that you all get the opportunity to travel to places like Cambodia or Mali or Brazil, mixing in the back roads with the relatively wealthy cities. Then come back here and contemplate your great fortune.

Lindy

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 12:20 p.m. Inappropriate

Yes, I'm a boomer...Want me to "come to the mall...", car dealer, Furniture Store, etc and spend my bucks to stimulate the economy? Then start marketing to me.

Ad agencies all go after the 18 to 24 year old demographic. Well, "Mad-Men", let me ask: "How's that workin' out for ya?".

Ummm, let's see...radio stations ad-dollars way off, network TV on the skids and newspapers can't get advertisers. Wonder why...follow the money, dummy!

Stop your whining and start pitching to the people with the money...I've raised three sons and am proud of them all. I'm pleased to see them poised to become the next generation of business and political leaders.

But until then...

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 1:08 p.m. Inappropriate

The problem for marketers is that most baby boomers are already loyal to certain brands and products. The advertisers focus on the 18 year olds because their identities aren't fully formed, and they are easier to manipulate. Sorry seattleguy782, but you're too old to be bamboozled by marketing, and therefore you are now irrelevant to what passes for our culture.

sdstarr

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 4:06 p.m. Inappropriate

Sorry I'm not brand loyal anymore. I'm a late boomer but the brands have treated my loyalty like dirt.

#1 They cut the quality and didn't think I'd notice. (Levis etc.)

#2 They off shored the manufacturing to some poor third worlder instead of keeping the jobs here. Sometimes at a fraction of percent savings, and worse they don't even pay a living wage to those folks. (see Nike)

#3 They dodge the tax laws here, or get them re-written so that they don't have to pay. (See Boeing)

So since I can afford to vote with my dollars I am... I'm buying local when ever it's available, or direct if I can find an in USA manufacturer, and living without when it's not. Same question to the Mad Men.. "hows that working for you?"

GaryP

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 7:01 p.m. Inappropriate

@Pepper2000,

Most people, no matter how young, have seen the word "Beatles" many times in print, and know how to spell it.

But your generation doesn't think spelling and grammar matters ... I honestly hope that works out well for you, because my generation needs you to all be very successful so we can feed off your earnings and diligent ways.

Posted Tue, Sep 14, 7:55 a.m. Inappropriate

What a marvelous piece by Mossback! Just what the world needed, another discussion on those fathered by the G.I.s returning from WW II. Hot diggety, no wonder that anyone or a site so bereft of interesting ideas then seeks to enlist its readers to provide it with ideas, to do your work for you: "The headlines bring together some of the best, most thought-provoking stories from the region and beyond, so we are very interested to see what readers will suggest from elsewhere for other Crosscut visitors." Alas.

mikerol

Posted Tue, Sep 14, 8:33 a.m. Inappropriate

All right, you got me, common1sense. But no matter now many t's there might be in Beatles, that doesn't change the fact that their music isn't very good.

Posted Tue, Sep 14, 8:54 a.m. Inappropriate

Those of us who are boomers have treasure chests of memories of how bad things were. They are very similar to our nightmares of how things are today. That is the failure of the boomer cohort. The question now is whether we can learn from our mistakes.

Of course, it hasn't all been "our mistakes". American policy at all levels for 50 years spent several trillion dollars building freeways, dominating world oil supplies, and attacking unions and minorities. For example, the black American farmer wasn't totally destroyed until the Reagan administration focussed openly racist policies to that end. Even today the knee-jerk proposals for 'stimulating' the economy are to build more roads.

But, face it, the problems are largely the failure of the "greatest generation", as can be seen from the advanced ages of the oligarchy running the country now- and the wedge issues this oligarchy has used to split us apart over the past half century.

Why are we still defending ourselves against the 'next' Pearl Harbor? Because the greatest generation could "never forget". Why is racism still the rallying point for Republicans? Because the greatest generation grew up in a segregated nation. Who voted for Nixon and Reagan and Bush? Well, duh. Which alcoholic takes great pride in not being a "drug addict"? Well, duh again.

Now the wheels are falling off the greatest generation's dream and we're left in a nightmare. Policies that are used by every other industrialized nation to stay prosperous and plan for the future, such as health care, transportation planning, and peaceful international relations,, are characterized in the US as "communist", just as though Joe McCarthy himself were still at the lectern delivering the sermon.

The boomers still have 20 years in which they can work to fix this. The question is, will they?

Posted Fri, Sep 17, 1:45 p.m. Inappropriate

A small point, but during the 1980s, when the term "baby boomer" really gained its currency, people born in 1953 were barely considered part of the tail end of the "baby boom." Anyone born in 1963, such as Barack Obama, would have been considered Gen X. What seems to have happened is that gradually "baby boomer" has come to mean people who are even younger than Barack Obama; so basically, the whole generational dichotomy thing is somewhat silly and imprecise anyway. It seems to have been created by journalists and not necessarily by demographers.

Like any term that takes one characteristic (age, sex, national origin) and tries to create a generalization about a group of people, it tends to simplify individual backgrounds, personal history, goals, aspirations and attitudes. It winds up being incredibly superficial. That said, I was somewhat amused by Mossback's discussion.

Kamille

Posted Sat, Sep 18, 9:22 a.m. Inappropriate

@ Pepper, I'm neither a Beatle lover nor a Beatle hater.

@ Kamille, I hate to tell you, but "baby boomer" was coined, and used far before the 1980s (when you were likely born).

I've noticed that for many born in the eighties or later that the 60's seems to have counted for 'something', but the 70's don't appear to have existed. What's up with that?

Posted Sat, Sep 18, 11:29 p.m. Inappropriate

but the 70's don't appear to have existed. What's up with that?

Disco. The Earth was so shamed that those born then were shunned.

Djinn

Posted Tue, Jan 8, 8:09 p.m. Inappropriate

Common Sense, This reply comes many years late. I was born in the 1950s, not the 1980s, but I guess I should thank you for making me younger.The reason that I question the cutoff on the "baby boomer" definition is a 1980s interview with Bill Gates, born in 1954. The interviewer described him as a "baby boomer," and he protested that he did not quite fall into the "baby boomer" demographic. Perhaps we were all very mistaken, but that was an attitude that others of roughly the same age, born in 1953 or 1954, seemed to share at least during the 1980s. Anyone born in 1963 would not have fallen into the "baby boomer" category. And yes, I remember the 1960s and the 1970s, as well.

Kamille

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