The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Friday, February 8, 2013
Economics/Business ... Public Policy ... Society ...

A recent study indicates that Baby Boomers on average have worse health than their parents’ generation did. Being an aging Boomer, this really disappoints me. My generation sold itself on being so hip and enlightened, so ready to change the world and set it free. I thought that we were earthy and close to nature and body conscious, that we exercised and ate healthy (organic even), and thus were going to age gracefully. We despised big-business manipulation and thus would avoid all the salivatory temptations laid before us by Pepsi and Burger King and Kraft foods, i.e. high calorie fast foods and microwave-heated processed meals and high-fat munchies from big plastic bags. But no, on average we are more overweight and sicker and have higher blood pressure than our parents had at this point in life. We might be living longer than they did, but only because of medical science; we will be depending greatly on its expensive nostrums to delay the inevitable end of our confused, contradictory, self-absorbed lives.

And in the process of using so much expensive medical care at the government’s expense (Medicare isn’t going to be touched despite GOP lectures about fiscal responsibility), we are dragging down the nation’s economic growth and making a much more difficult future for today’s kids and young adults. Various Baby Boomer commentators including economist Robert Samuelson
(“There’s a huge redistribution from young to old — a redistribution that will be made worse if retiree programs are largely excluded from deficit reduction . . . taxes will rise steeply or other federal programs will be cut sharply. The young will pay more and get less. . . “) and pundit David Brooks (e.g., “entitlement spending is crowding out spending on investments in our children and on infrastructure . . . the real entitlement problem is Medicare”, and “Seniors vote. . . as a result, seniors are being protected while children are getting pummeled. If you look across the country, you see education financing getting sliced. . .”) repeatedly explain how the federal budget deficits that are being caused by entitlement commitment to the aging Baby Boom generation will suck vitality out of the US economy for the next 25 years or so. Young people just entering the working world today will still be paying off our bills in 2040, through high taxes and reduced economic growth. Their standard of living and opportunities for betterment will clearly be impacted by “my generation”.

I’m really disappointed to hear that we Baby Boomers are acting so irresponsibly. We’re still politically powerful and conscious (remember all of our “organizing” skills from the 60s and 70s), so we will get out and vote. Thus, as Mr. Brooks admits, we will be able to fight off most attempts by younger politicians like Congressman Paul Ryan to get our entitlement costs “under control”. That’s nice; making good on long-term promises is the right thing to do. But we Boomers are not being grateful and careful about this; we’re indulging in bad habits and getting fat and sick without thinking what this will do to the world we will leave behind, and about the people who will struggle to get by in it. We were the generation of love, but we don’t seem to be translating that love into foresight to help our children (I’m using the not-so-royal “our” here, as I don’t have any kids).

So, to all you 20 and 30-something people out there, I can only offer apologies for “my generation” and its hypocrisy and ultimate lack of character. I can understand why you might want to turn a certain line from our own anthem, “My Generation” by the Who, against us. I.e, “why don’t you all fade away . . . “

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:15 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, I have mixed feelings about your comments here – well, maybe not so mixed; perhaps more like 80/20. On the one hand I often feel that the baby boomers (of which, I should say, I am not one – I am even older than the baby boomers! Gasp!) once believed wholly their one-time mantra, “never trust anyone over 30”, that is, until they themselves were suddenly over 30. Then it seems they became somehow confused. Since then, their attitude seems to have shifted to a never-ending worry that they may die at some point. (This part is the 20 of the 80/20 above.)

    Now to the 80 of the 80/20: On the other hand, I find myself disagreeing entirely with your point about what awful things the baby boomers are doing to the world and future generations.

    I find myself wondering just why it is there is no respect for old age these days, why it is that there is so little respect for the wisdom that older people have which is something that should be mined and considered as gold by the younger generation. Perhaps the reason is that the baby boomer group itself does not respect its own older age.

    I say (and I have to say I simply don’t care who disagrees with me) that older people have a wisdom that younger people do not. Further, I say, that the baby boomers need to start seeing the positive aspects of what is good about being older. (And here I should explain that “old” is a relative thing. For instance, a 40 year old has more wisdom than a 20 year old, a 60 year old has more wisdom than a 40 year old, an 80 year old has more wisdom than a 60 year old, a 90 or 100 year old has more wisdom than an 80 year old, etc.)

    Perhaps a serious problem with all the apologies for being who and what they are, what they “cost” society, etc., arises from the fact that the baby boomers themselves are still in the “don’t trust anybody over 30” mode. I say they need to look at themselves from a different standpoint – from the standpoint that they have acquired a wisdom that the “young ones” do not have. Surely, that wisdom is a great contribution to society, and society should respect and be grateful for what the baby boomers have to offer. (And here I must add, not only what the baby boomers have to offer but those older than baby boomers.)

    Instead of looking at “ ‘my generation’ “ from the standpoint of the “hypocrisy and ultimate lack of character” one has to offer, I say a new attitude needs to be developed among the baby boomers. Surely, they have learned *something* positive (if only what *not* to do in life – a value in itself) to pass on to future generations in wisdom.

    No, I do not agree that baby boomers should be apologizing. I think that baby boomers should be considering the wisdom they have to offer to the younger generations and celebrate that. Once again, I say: I am a generation older than the baby boomers; I say the baby boomers are not taking hold of the wisdom that “elders” have to offer society and doing just that gladly and with joy. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — February 9, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

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