Pity the baby boomers, blamed in their youth for every ill and excess of American society and now, in their dotage, for threatening to sink the economy and perhaps Western civilization itself. […]Now that they are reaching retirement age, they are a ripe target for demonization in the interest of “entitlement reform” as their grandparents never were. There are legitimate arguments about the financing and extent of Social Security and the level of contributions by wealthier people; I don’t mean to dismiss such concerns. But Boomerphobia—with no counterpart in Fitzgerald’s time—appears to have filled the media niche left by the political incorrectness of older stereotypes. If this collective scapegoat didn’t exist, it would have to be invented.
Tenner’s narritive is familiar. The younger generations are just so ungrateful.But what should they be grateful for? In city after city, their services are being cut and taxes raised to pay for overpromised, underfunded public pensions. On the national level, the boomers leveraged their vast numbers to vote for unprecedented entitlement reforms with utter disregard to their impact on succeeding generations. These entitlement programs now account for 38 percent of total federal spending, and many are running out of money: Medicare’s trust will be exhausted in 13 years, and Social Security’s in 20. These programs will probably be cut back dramatically by the time the millennials are old enough to retire, but not before they have paid in to keep the lavish benefits of older generations in tact.And to hear boomers complain about the ingratitude of the young is rich; no generation hated its predecessor or held it in contempt as much as the boomers did. The old folks were hopeless squares at best, racist Nazis at worst. “Don’t trust anybody over 30” was a popular slogan back when the boomers evidently thought they would never grow old. As the Narcissus Generation moves inexorably closer to the Great Woodstock in the Sky, it thinks that any form of generational stereotyping or complaint is a form of hate speech. If some of the boomers had their way, the only time you would see a kid on a lawn is when the kid is pushing a lawnmower — and not getting paid for it.[Older man and explosion images courtesy of Shutterstock]