Will the kids be alright?

The Least We Can Do”, the title of a new article in the the Atlantic Magazine, reflects on the generalized life of America’s Baby Boomer generation. It is an interesting read but it neglects incentives involved in a collective group or generations decisions.  And the emerging criticisms seem to already be missing the point, as well.

Much has already been made about the article throwing around phrases like “self-absorbed, self-indulged, and self-loathing” describing the Baby Boomers.

But if you actually read the article (which the wittyless panel on Morning Joe clearly didn’t) you would know that those were actually comments by self-describing members of the BB generation:

a Wall Street Journal article noted and quoted from a few commencement speeches in which prominent Boomers (Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, etc.) apologized for their generation. Daniels (born 1949, age 61) said Boomers as a generation have been “self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and all too often just plain selfish.” Friedman (born 1953, age 57) said his was “the grasshopper generation, eating through just about everything like hungry locusts.” Filmmaker Ken Burns summarized: the Baby Boomers “squander[ed] the legacy handed to them by the generations from World War II.” Whether fair or not, this will be the Baby Boom generation in a sound bite unless Boomers act to change it.”

Two of the recurring themes are the observations regarding the BB’s fiscal activities and generalized/shared personality traits and the comparison to the previous, Greatest Generation.  Little is made of future generations, at one point referencing Gen X, Y and millennials, only to dismiss them as a generation that won’t remain cogent as a group.

The article will no doubt start an interesting dialog about the responsibilities, achievements, and failures of the Baby Boomers.  But the article also fails to reach any kind of a productive analysis.

The problems: it spends too much time comparing the Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation, rather than analyzing the cyclical effects both socially and fiscally that the one had and bestowed the next with. And consequently, it also does not examine this analysis in terms of how Y,X, and millenials ended up the way they are thanks to the Boomers.

The Greatest Generation were poorer as whole than the next few generations.  They knew nothing but pulling themselves up by the boot straps.  Thanks to them, the Boomers now had a shot at something better. And despite more folks heading to college, they married young, started families, and wanted more for their kids.

During WWI and WWII there was practically no such thing as a draft dodger, legal or otherwise.  This was not something that became a reality until Boomers reached war age.  This is not to diminish Boomers service in anyway, it just wasn’t e a part of reality, prior. Boomers didn’t feel entitled not to fight, but many were beginning to challenge the groupthink mentality that they should be (and the politics of the war likely sped this process along quite a bit…)

This brings us to X, Y, and millennial for whom there is no draft–thanks to the Boomer and Greatest Gens.  Boomers are now divorcing at higher rates and finding they wanted more for their children.  They encourage college, marrying later, and –gasp–graduated school!

In 2010 of upper middle class Joe’s dad is no longer helping him secure a comfy coast guard position or escape to Canada to avoid a draft.  Joe’s dad and mom are on speaker phone in their Volvo arguing with a Comp 101 professor about Joe’s recent grade.

From a recent New York Times article:

The traditional cycle seems to have gone off course, as young people remain un tethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes, going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments, competing ferociously for unpaid internships or temporary (and often grueling) Teach for America jobs, forestalling the beginning of adult life.

One young person interviewed claimed, “It is a double-edged sword, because on the one hand I am so blessed with my experiences and endless options, but on the other hand, I still feel like a child. I feel like my job isn’t real because I am not where my parents were at my age. Walking home, in the shoes my father bought me, I still feel I have yet to grow up.”

I laughed a few years ago when there were whispers of a draft.  Want to see Washington riot?  Tell all the  2010 suburban mothers of 18-20 males that their sons are being drafted–the million mom march would be fast a’coming.

This morning Joe Scarborough made snide remarks about X and Y being the self obsessed Facebook generation.  But they’ve only been the product of what their parents wanted for them.  They’re also volunteering for service and low-paying teaching jobs (see above) at record numbers. And for the record, Joe, the fastest growing Demographic on Facebook is Women over 55.

The Atlantic article continues…

WHETHER THE BOOMERS would have risen to the challenge of World War II is impossible to know

That’s harsh–they are the children of their parents.  And they would have.  But there was no WWII, there was Vietnam, and as the song goes, times were a’changing.  The GG begot the BBs, who in turn begot the X, and Y, etc.

Naval gazing can be fun and perhaps that is where the Boomers are right now. But for a generation that has fought so hard for their children’s future, how X and Y etc collectively end up would seem to be of the most importance.  How will marrying later and the effect of a fully Facebooked society change the way society functions?

I do like the ending:

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not really pushing for Boomers to raise $14 trillion and use it to pay off the national debt and related obligations. I have no idea whether $14 trillion is even close to the right amount. I know that even if the money dropped from heaven, you can’t stroll into the bank with $14,000,000,000,000 in small bills and walk out a debt-free country. Sure, it’s much more complicated than that. But it’s not more complicated than D-Day. And it’s the least we can do.

I’ll agree to that…

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4 Responses

  1. Joe Scarborough is a hack…

  2. Interesting and fairly accurate.

  3. Yeah, Boomers, cough up that $14 Trillion. Your student loans were pennies compared to what this generation’s will be…

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