Every generation decries the next, proclaiming how it will bring down what they knew as “the greatest country in the world.” But I’m going to lament the past generation, and how their selfishness will be the end of that America we all know and love. How, unless a philosophical shift comes soon, the “Baby Boomers” are going to drive us off an economic cliff.
Sacrifice. It’s what has made this country great, but it’s something the offspring of the “Greatest Generation” have never had to go through. Sure, individually, members of my parents’ generation have made a sacrifice here or there, maybe for the betterment of their children or other meaningful entities and causes. But as a generation, they never experienced something as challenging as World War II or the Great Depression. The Baby Boomers have always had what they wanted, when they wanted it, and often times, they’ve had more.
My grandparents’ generation, the folks who endured a world war and a depression, created the freedom of which their children’s generation took advantage. The GI’s came home from Europe and the Pacific and they built modest, cookie-cutter homes. Those homes, such as the popular ranch homes, had small closets, one car garages, and they were “just enough” for a family to live comfortably.
The following generation built… McMansions. Two and three car garages. Walk-in closets bigger than their childhood bedrooms. The more junk a Boomer bought, the more space they had to acquire to hold that clutter. Vacuum packs to store extra clothes? Sure. Personal storage units and warehouses for extra “stuff”… Why not?
And today, to quote Yogi Berra, we wonder why “a nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
Our economy is in shambles, not because of one president, not because of one party, not because of one Fed chief, but because of the Baby Boomers. We hear a lot of talk about how great America used to be, and how sound our economy once was. But in all of that longing for yesterday, we never break down what happened.
Boomers made the credit card popular. They did the same to 30-year, million dollar mortgages. They complain about government debt, when most American adults now live in debt. Folks talk about the “American way.” It no longer involves Victory Gardens or personal sacrifice, instead it involves maxed out credit cards, home foreclosures and screaming about the government spending money in the same reckless manner in which we spend our own. It’s not the government’s fault—well not entirely—but it’s the fault of a Baby Boomer generation who has never felt any pain. So what’s next?
Boomers have gotten old. They have kids. Many of them have grandchildren. So not only has our population exploded in the last half century, but the cost to keep Americans safe, healthy and educated has also gone up. Over the next decade, most of the Boomers will become eligible for Social Security. At the same time, they will enroll in the world’s largest social program: Medicare. This will continue to increase government spending, as a cut to either Social Security or Medicare would cause a political uproar from the Boomer voters (the largest segment of the American electorate).
So now, instead of making sacrifices like their parents made, Boomers are now wanting to cut the programs that they have long enjoyed (education, transportation, environmental services), so they can be sure to have the services (Social Security and Medicare) that they will need until they die. We’ve seen how serious they are about this, as they were the ones on the front lines of the Tea Party movement. A movement that reminded us all, that this is a generation that has always used complaining and protests to make their voices heard.
It’s time for the Baby Boomer generation to remember the simple instructions of one of America’s greatest presidents: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” If they can muster up the courage to do just that, then they can leave this world a better place for my generation to inherit. Otherwise, those of us under 40 are doomed.
H. Boyd Brown (D) is the outgoing state representative for District 41, which covers Chester and Fairfield counties.