Thursday, July 08, 2010

Generations of the Future

The irony is inescapable--the generation that didn't trust anyone over 30 and trademarked the Generation Gap, is now the dread enemy of the young. But how real--or contrived--is this conflict, and for what sinister purpose? See the post below.
Now that jobs are scarily scarce, the fortunes of one generation is pitted against that of another: the young, whose plight is described in the New York Times, and the older (which apparently in Silicon Valley--let alone Hollywood--means 40), in this Daily Kos post, and the hundreds of comments.

This situation, plus the ongoing attention to the future of Social Security, again resurrects baby boomers as generational villains. Just look at the comments to this pedestrian Talking Points Memo story.

But there was this interesting exchange there, in response to the usual diatribe: "Raise payroll taxes or cut benefits for anyone who was of voting age during the Reagan Administration. Why do we have to pay for the excess of the Baby Boomers?"

The response in part:

They raised taxes for everyone of voting age DURING the Reagan Administration. Which is why there is a $2.5 trillion Trust Fund largely extracted from that 'Me Generation'. We got stuck with higher FICA AND an increase in Full Retirement Age.

Boomers currently range in age from 46 to 64 years old. In 1980 we ranged in age from 16 to 34. Anyone who thinks that political policy in the 1980s was shaped by people under the age of 35 needs to think again. Hell Boomers are not even in control of Congress NOW, most of the power positions still be in the hands of the Depression/War babies.

The whole 'Blame the Boomers' narrative was a cynical construct and a central part of the 'Leninist Strategy' to undermine Social Security put forth in a Cato sponsored paper of that same name published in 1983 and authored by Stuart Butler and Peter Germanis"

The centerpiece of the Leninist Strategy was to convince younger workers that Social Security was doomed, that the Trust Fund was a fraud, and that Boomers were at fault. The strategy on the whole worked to perfection with the results seen here."

This refers to the Cato Institute, a right wing so-called think tank. It makes perfect sense that this is a deliberate campaign, and that it seeks to foster generational war.

Other comments repeat the cliches: the Boomers were all radical dopers in their youth, and Me Generation conservatives ever after. The truth is less dramatic. Most of the boomer generation was always relatively conservative, or apolitical. It was just a very large generation, and even a minority could look impressive. And while statistically speaking, people tend to become more conservative in their political views as they age, there are still a significant number of Boomers who remain basically progressive, or at least open-minded on significant issues.

But it is to the interests of the very few who have most of the money and power to divide the many who don't. Boomers may be better off in some ways, but they are also victims of age discrimination (the most prevalent form of discrimination statistically), retirement funds destroyed by Wall Street and corporations cruelly ditching their retirement obligations, soon to be joined by state governments.

Feeding resentment is a time-tested way of creating conflict among those whose common interests are better served by recognizing who is pulling the strings, and who benefits from generations blaming each other.

But as for what is happening to the young and old alike, it is also evident that the American Dream, at least as fostered by commercials, is over. The energy-wasting, waste-creating, slaving for expensive symbols--that American Dream--is done. It is already a nightmare for millions of the formerly middle class. The future does not include a return to that Dream, but at best to a conscious participation in the creation of a better one. That minority of Boomers may find this a familiar future, though on the horizon a lot later than we thought.