Note: This is a guest post written by Tim Adams
Tom Brokaw and others have called the generation of Americans that fought and won World War 2 the “Greatest Generation.” And sprung forth from their loins is a huge demographic we can call the “Worst Generation.”
Baby Boomers outnumber all other age groups in America by 3 to 1, partially because of their parents coming home from war but also because of the wide availability of birth control that came about in the 60s. When the average Baby Boomer came of voting age in America the national debt was somewhere between $600 and $800 million. When Social Security was created during their early years there were 18 people paying into the system for every 1 person collecting a check. Now that they’re collecting our national debt is over $27 trillion, rising fast and only 3 people are paying into the system for each person collecting.
Most generations typically want their children and grandchildren to do better so they don’t have to work as hard as their parents and grandparents. Baby Boomers might be the opposite.
During their work years they expanded the government and its spending by literally trillions of dollars, created millions of government regulations for future generations to try and sift through, and somehow went from being drafted into Vietnam to continuing forever wars in foreign lands, allowing spying on Americans in almost every facet of their lives, and seem to have zero problem with the current society’s sexualization of children and complete lack of any coherent social structure.
As Boomers enter their twilight years they will continue their drain on our future with more debt spending via Social Security, Medicare, social programs etc. and we will get to live like Japan since we continue to put everything on 20 year notes that will outlive the people who voted for them.
Look at the Missoulian. You have Gwen Florio pushing 70. George Ochenski is in his 70s, so old the Missoulian can’t find a color photo of him to run with his columns. Bob Brown is in his 70s. George Will is 79 and was run until last year. Gary and Joan Carlson are in their 70s. Evan Barrett is in his 70s and Don “K” is almost 70.
No matter who wins the presidential race it will be a white guy in his 70s, the oldest in history. Amazing that in the 80s Reagan was constantly called senile and hit on his age and Democrats will be putting a 78-year-old in office if Biden wins.
Montana is the oldest average state in the West. The combination of an aging population and a lack of influx of any younger people, including immigrants has made this state an aging old monolith. You can feel it if you go anywhere in town.
My main job most days is driving around town either shopping for old peoples’ groceries or bringing them their groceries from Walmart. I spend hours a day in my car in town and it’s one of the slowest, grinding, most frustrating things.
It is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Old people get giant rigs they can’t drive well because it makes them feel safer, yet they feel mostly unsafe because they drive huge rigs that they can’t drive or park well because of their size. If you’re not familiar check out Costco some day.
It is not a coincidence that the opening salvos of the Senate race this year were about hospital funding and medical spending. In 2014 I had to listen to Ryan Zinke say “Social Security is a promise” about 200 times and it wasn’t because he didn’t know who was going to be determining if he won or not. The biggest demographic in this state is old and wants their free healthcare!
In some ways these protests are of the Baby Boomers’ doing. You can’t let people who envision the destruction of the planet on a daily basis raise, teach and feed your kids and then NOT explain to them how all of the horrible problems facing the planet have not been dealt with yet.
Most of the major Civil Rights legislation was actually passed in the 60s, so why do we still have all these racial problems? 30 years ago, Boomers like Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, George HW Bush, and others came together in a bipartisan way to butcher American manufacturing through NAFTA and subsequent trade deals and decisions, gutting the middle class.
In 1965 Democrats completely overhauled the immigration system into the mess we see today so they could spend 2 generations importing new voters from the 3rd world. Montana lost their 2nd Congressional seat in 1990 along with many Northern states as states closer to Mexico or those with super liberal immigration policies like New York grew and grew. The list of things the Boomers brought to our current world is long and vast. They had the power to make changes for almost two generations now and we’re all getting to see the results of that action and inaction.
- Who cares about Affordable housing when boomers need their 2nd homes for summer/winter?
- Who cares about the coming debt or currency crises when boomers need their 2nd or 3rd helpings of government care?
- Who cares about reading, writing and arithmetic when we can teach them about climate change, racism and feed them garbage from the junk food corporations who control the FDA and what goes into our kids’ food?
While there are obviously systemic problems that continue to get worse, Boomers had the chance to either solve these problems and follow them through to their solutions, or continue kicking the can down the road and letting their backbones turn to jelly while sucking hard on the teat of future generations via government transfers and policies.
I remember being a small child on one of our many Seeley Lake outdoor field trips and being told to always leave a place in the same or better condition than what you found it. Apparently Baby Boomers never learned that lesson since the decline of America can be laid in many ways right at their feet.
The saddest thing is they won’t be around to bear the consequences of their greedy and poor decisions. That cost will be born by you and I and our children and our children’s children, if not every American when this country becomes just a page in a history book from the Boomers’ lifetime of mismanagement and greed of the gifts they were given. Sad.
Since writing this I found not one but two recent books detailing what they term "generational theft" by Boomers from future generations. Here's a few of the hits from these articles:
- While the oldest millennial is now 40 years old, Filipovic notes that this generation remains underrepresented in our government. “Nearly 80 percent of senators and two-thirds of the US House of Representatives are 55 or older. Just 7 percent of representatives in Congress are millennials. There is not a single millennial in the US Senate."
- “Millennials make up close to a quarter of the US population, but hold just 3 percent of the wealth,” she writes. “When boomers were our age, they held 21 percent...One cause of this is the cost of higher education: Millennials face private education costs 300 percent higher than boomers did, and around 1 in 10 millennials carries student loan debt in the six-figure range. By comparison, she writes that “when the average boomer was a young thirty-something, their educational debts amounted to just $2,300 in today’s dollars.”
- She notes that Ronald Reagan, “the first boomer-elected president,” helped cause this crisis by slashing the Higher Education Act, which had made it easier for students to qualify for and receive need-based aid. As a result, most students became dependent on loans — and this, combined with greater tuition costs, helped spur the financial crisis they’re in today. “Boomer households today are worth 12 times as much as millennial ones,” Filipovic writes. “The average millennial is worth just $8,000 — less than adults of any generation in three decades.”
- “Boomers were the last generation to enter a job market offering living-wage blue-collar work. In Rust Belt towns, even in the mid-1960s, you could graduate high school straight into a factory job that would keep a nuclear family afloat,” Filipovic writes, citing the nationwide closures of factories and mines, the source of “America’s last well-paying blue-collar jobs,” as one cause for these job losses.
- As a result, millennial earnings have plunged compared to previous generations. Adjusted to 2016 dollars, boomer households led by a male breadwinner averaged $56,100 in annual income in 1978, while comparable millennial households, at the same age, made just $49,500 in 2014. Overall, boomer households in this demographic were just $10,000 behind the national average, while millennial households in the same cohort were closer to $25,000 behind the average.
- The 2008 recession further compounded the problem. “The shock of unemployment translated into a 7 percent loss of earnings for baby boomers. Millennials lost nearly double that amount,” she writes. “And boomers saw significant recovery afterward. By 2010, their losses had already shrunk by 65 percent. Millennials didn’t see a comparable bounce back … [due to] limited employment histories, little to no savings, and a vanishing social safety net.”
- On top of all this, millennials also lack the wealth-building benefits boomers came to expect, especially since companies began slashing employee perks after the 2008 recession. A Pew Research Center analysis found that “while nearly 70 percent of working boomers had access to employer-sponsored retirement plans in 2012, more than 40 percent of working millennials aren’t eligible to participate in retirement plans — because their company doesn’t offer one, because they work too few hours to qualify, or because they haven’t been employed long enough.”
- At the same time, owning a home has become increasingly out of reach for most millennials. “The cost to build homes has increased so much since the [2008 financial] crisis, it’s more difficult for millennials to find affordable homes,” Jung Hyun Choi, a research associate with the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, says in the book. As builders began focusing on more expensive projects, there were “simply fewer affordable starter homes to go around, making all of them more expensive,” Filipovic writes.
- When coupled with deflated incomes, fledgling millennial homeowners have paid “almost 40 percent more for their first homes than boomers did.” Rents, too, have climbed: “In 1970, the median monthly rent in the United States was a little more than $600 a month, in 2019 dollars,” Filipovic writes. “By 2019, it had doubled, to more than $1,300 a month.” When boomers were 34 years old, close to half of them owned homes, according to Filipovic, but for millennials at the same age, that figure is only 37 percent.