The American Interest
Essays & Longer Thoughts
Published on November 13, 2011
Listen Up, Boomers: The Backlash Has Begun

“Talkin’ about my generation”: the Who song once expressed the hope and self confidence of the Baby Boomers as they reached biological if not emotional maturity.  It was an attack on the older generation, a defense of the young, but it includes an ominous refrain: “Hope I die before I get old.”  Already, perhaps, the shadow of generational failure hung over the twenty something Boomers.  Those shadows have darkened considerably as the Boomer sun moves past the meridian and an unmistakable air of twilight infiltrates into the declining hours of the long Boomer day.

Talking about our generation is not going to be as much fun for the Boomers as it was in those long distant days of infinite promise.  My generation has some real accomplishments under its belt, especially in the worlds of science and technology.  And we made important progress in making American society a more open place for people and groups who were once excluded.  In every field of American life, there are Boomers who have made and are making important, selfless contributions: in hospitals, in classrooms, in government, in business, in the military.  You name it and we are there.

But at the level of public policy and moral leadership, as a generation we have largely failed.  The Boomer Progressive Establishment in particular has been a huge disappointment to itself and to the country.  The political class slumbered as the entitlement and pension crisis grew to ominous dimensions. Boomer financial leadership was selfish and shortsighted, by and large.  Boomer CEOs accelerated the trend toward unlimited greed among corporate elites, and Boomer members of corporate boards sit by and let it happen.  Boomer academics created a profoundly dysfunctional system that systemically shovels resources upward from students and adjuncts to overpaid administrators and professors who by and large have not, to say the least, done an outstanding job of transmitting the cultural heritage of the past to future generations.  Boomer Hollywood execs created an amoral morass of sludge — and maybe I’m missing something, but nobody spends a lot of time talking about the towering cultural accomplishments of the world historical art geniuses of the Boomer years.  Boomer greens enthusiastically bet their movement on the truly idiotic drive for a global carbon treaty; they are now grieving over their failure to make any measurable progress after decades spent and hundreds of millions of dollars thrown away.  On the Boomer watch the American family and the American middle class entered major crises; by the time the Boomers have finished with it the health system will be an unaffordable and dysfunctional tangle — perhaps the most complicated, expensive and poorly designed such system in the history of the world.

All of this was done by a generation that never lost its confidence that it was smarter, better educated and more idealistic than its Depression-surviving, World War-winning, segregation-ending, prosperity-building parents.  We didn’t need their stinking faith, their stinking morals, or their pathetically conformist codes of moral behavior. We were better than that; after all, we grokked Jefferson Airplane, achieved nirvana on LSD and had a spiritual wealth and sensitivity that our boorish bourgeois forbears could not grasp.  They might be doers, builders and achievers — but we Boomers grooved, man, we had sex in the park, we grew our hair long, and we listened to sexy musical lyrics about drugs that those pathetic old losers could not even understand.

What the Boomers as a generation missed (there were, of course and thankfully, many honorable individual exceptions) was the core set of values that every generation must discover to make a successful transition to real adulthood: maturity.  Collectively the Boomers continued to follow ideals they associated with youth and individualism: fulfillment and “creativity” rather than endurance and commitment.  Boomer spouses dropped families because relationships with spouses or children or mortgage payments no longer “fulfilled” them; Boomer society tolerated the most selfish and immature behavior in its public and cultural leaders out of the classically youthful and immature belief that intolerance and hypocrisy are greater sins than the dereliction of duty.  That the greatest and most effective political leader the Baby Boom produced was William Jefferson Clinton tells you all you need to know.

Too many Boomers high and low clung to the ideology of youth we developed back when we didn’t trust anybody over thirty and believed that simply by virtue of our then-recent vintage we represented a unique step forward in planetary wisdom and human capability; those illusions are pardonable in a twenty year old but contemptible in those whose advancing years should bring wisdom.  Too many of us clung for to that shiny image of youth and potential too long, and blighted our promise because we were hypnotized by it. This is of course narcissism, our greatest and most characteristic failing as a generation, and like Narcissus our generation missed greatness because of our fascination with our glittering selves.

Narcissus, by Caravaggio

What begins in arrogance often ends in shame; there are some ominous signs that the Boomers are headed down that path. Sooner or later, the kids were going to note what a mess we have made of so many things, and now, it seems, the backlash has begun.  From the Washington Post comes this column by 31 year-old Thomas L. Day.  The immediate stimulus for Mr. Day’s piece was the latest sorry tale from Penn State involving despicably selfish and unheeding choices by a 58 year old man, but Day — like many others of his generation — is beginning to draw some broader conclusions.

I’m 31, an Iraq war veteran, a Penn State graduate, a Catholic, a native of State College, acquaintance of Jerry Sandusky’s, and a product of his Second Mile foundation.

And I have fully lost faith in the leadership of my parents’ generation.

Mr. Day continues:

One thing I know for certain: A leader must emerge from Happy Valley to tie our community together again, and it won’t come from our parents’ generation.

They have failed us, over and over and over again.

I speak not specifically of our parents — I have two loving ones — but of the public leaders our parents’ generation has produced. With the demise of my own community’s two most revered leaders, Sandusky and Joe Paterno, I have decided to continue to respect my elders, but to politely tell them, “Out of my way.”

They have had their time to lead. Time’s up. I’m tired of waiting for them to live up to obligations.

Think of the world our parents’ generation inherited. They inherited a country of boundless economic prosperity and the highest admiration overseas, produced by the hands of their mothers and fathers. They were safe. For most, they were endowed opportunities to succeed, to prosper, and build on their parents’ work.

For those of us in our 20s and early 30s, this is not the world we are inheriting…

Our parents’ generation has balked at the tough decisions required to preserve our country’s sacred entitlements, leaving us to clean up the mess. They let the infrastructure built with their fathers’ hands crumble like a stale cookie. They downgraded our nation’s credit rating. They seem content to hand us a debt exceeding the size of our entire economy, rather than brave a fight against the fortunate and entrenched interests on K Street and Wall Street.

The coming generations will argue about what we got wrong.  Was it, as Mr. Day suggests, the reckless policies of the George W. Bush administration?  Or does the rot go deeper?  There is, I fear, plenty of blame to spread around.  The culture of narcissism and entitlement can be found on the left and the right.

Joe Paterno, the former head coach of Penn State’s football team

No generation gets it perfectly right, and every generation has a lot of diversity in it.  But it is hard to avoid the sense, as the Baby Boom generation prepares to transit to overburdened retirement and health care systems, that somehow in our quest for new frontiers, shiny new ideas, and most of all that uncompromising demand for personal fulfillment at all costs — we neglected the most important things.

Jeffrey Skilling, the former head of Enron

We are the generation that accepted the behavior of the multi-millionaire CEO with the trophy wife.  We are the generation that failed to protect its children from a tide of filth and debasing popular entertainment without parallel in the history of the world.  We are a generation that deliberately and cynically passed the cost of its retirement down to its children.  We are a generation that preferred and rewarded financial engineering over business construction.  We lost control of the borders and failed to make provisions for the illegal immigrants our fecklessness allowed into the country.  We embraced a free trade agenda that accelerated the hollowing out of manufacturing and took no thought about what to build in place of the industrial economy we condemned.  We shopped until we dropped, and then we got up and shopped some more.  On a scale unprecedented in American history, we broke the most solemn vows human beings can make in order to pursue something we deemed much more important than honor and fidelity.  We chased chimeras and started at fantasies but failed to take sober measures to prevent a clearly visible and, once upon a time, easily preventable budget crunch.

Failed parents often do better with their grandchildren.  Perhaps the Boomers can go out on a higher note, learning from our mistakes and spending the rest of our time smoothing the path for new generations rather than endlessly nurturing our narcissism, our selves.  As a generation the hardest lesson for us to learn appears to be that in the end it is what you give rather than what you get that really counts.  It is never too late to learn.

There is still time to do better.  We can, for example, step up to the plate and sacrifice a few benefits, putting the well being of future generations ahead of our own.  We can gracefully step back to give new generations more of a chance — even if many of the mistakes they make remind us painfully of our own younger, more foolish selves.  We can do something to rebuild the religious and community institutions our self-centered, busy lives have left gutted and empty.  We can set an example now, as we sadly failed to do for the last forty years, of forward thinking: saving money so as not to be a burden to the young, bearing the disappointments of age with fortitude and dignity, giving without thought of return and in general acting like the grown ups we tried for so long not to be.

We cannot change our past, but the time that remains is still ours to shape.  It is too late for us to be remembered as a generation of wise statesmen, great leaders, selfless role models, responsible business people, faithful spouses, sacrificial parents, and builders and renewers of great institutions.  We have too much pillaging, wrecking and looting, too much heedless consumption of scarce social capital and too little forethought in our history for that.  But we could still be a generation that learned, that got better before the end, and that gave its final decades to help the next generations succeed where we, alas, did not.

The owl, they say, is the bird of wisdom, and it flies at dusk.  Perhaps as we Boomers go gray, we may finally find ourselves and at long last begin to deliver on some of that promise that blinded us with its splendor so many golden years ago.

  • John Burke

    I think this casting of our economic, social, political and cultural problems and shortcomings as tied to a generation, rather than any other way to segment the nation’s population of which there are many, is a lot of rot.

    There is a simplistic and simpleminded historical narrative that large segments of the media have adopted to the effect that “the generation” that came of age in the 60s tripped on LSD, flocked to Woodstock, dodged or resisted the draft, grew long hair, had sex in parks and generally thumbed their noses at “borgeois morality.” Professor Mead seems to be embracing this obnoxious insult to tens of millions of Americans as a way of conjuring an argument for cutting Medicare benefits. Medicare may need some cutting but one really ought to make persuasive arguments for doing so without resorting to this kind of rubbish.

    Here is one small anecedotal bit of data that belies the media-Mead narrative. Stories about the role played by students at my alma mater, Yale, in the 69s always spotlight the raucous demonstrations against the Vietnam war in support of Black Panthers on trial in
    New Haven. But those activities involved a small slice if the Yale student body. In sharp contrast, a third of my Yale classmates served in the United States armed forces. Many served in Vietnam. Several spent careers in the service, rising to high ranks. And more Yale graduates were killed in Vietnam than in the Korean war.

    But this aspect of my generation’s coming of age has been washed from the historical narrative. One would think that someone like Mead would want to correct that.

  • dearieme

    “Was it, as Mr. Day suggests, the reckless policies of the George W. Bush administration?” The lamentable W was but a part of a longer, grimmer story.

  • Jules Aime

    “And we made important progress in making American society a more open place for people and groups who were once excluded.”

    That is nonsense. All the important victories in civil rights and opening society were the work of the WW2 and members of the Silent Generation. Boomers just went along for the ride and then took credit for it.

  • CPC

    I like how you, Mr. Meade, focus on the progressives of that generation, for unlike the Birch Society members or “Silent Majority” types, they did have the most promise to do the most good. And when Gloria Steinem supported Clinton in the Lewinsky scandal, she clearly chose a seat at the correspondence dinner over dignity and respect women deserve in the workplace. The Civil Rights leaders, too, must move aside, as they have done more to trivialize the gains of A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin more than any reactionary group ever could. Whether it’s the legacy of Black Nationalists, or Socialist groups that seemed to make a B-line towards fascistic tendencies (think the traditional liberal support for Islamist groups), the Boomers have much to answer for. But it’s okay, I’d much rather answer them myself, along with my sisters and brothers, than give them (not you, though) another shot.

  • joe

    Is there anything in the history of the “boomer generation” to indicate they will ever give up their subsidized Cialis and Valtrex scripts willingly, unless both of their ceramic hips break?

  • Steve Smith

    Those over 60, on average, are 45 times wealthier than the average 35 year old.

    Social Security – what a concept. Medicare – what a concept.

  • ms

    This is a bit harsh. The welfare state debacle started, after all, with silly-minded idealist progressives long before boomers saw the light of day. FDR deserves a big share of the blame for setting the nation on that path. In other words, Boomer behavior must be set in an historical context that pushed society in particular directions that ARE negative, but not exactly the fault of a particular generation. Anyway, blame and whining is hardly useful. Let’s just get rid of barely boomer Obama and elect some capable boomer leaders, like Romney and McDonnell for example, then all pitch in and fix the problems.

  • JC

    Although I’m not a Boomer I defend them because recent history tells us that the rot in Western civilisation occurred before the First World War, and simply accelerated between the wars. Hilaire Belloc write compellingly on this in “The Great Heresies”, and DH Lawrence notes it as well.. both note the enormous decline of the Anglican religion as a symbol of the rot.

    I think we underrate the effect of WW1 when the best of the Western world were nearly obliterated in the trenches and left a huge gap in moral leadership, and for the US the Depression probably changed the narrative more profoundly than generally recognised.

    Those born after the Depression and up to about 1960 certainly inherited some great traditions, but also the deep bitterness and contempt of politicians they had that saw their mates slaughtered in war and impoverished in the Depression.. a common refrain being “I dont want you to ever have to go through that”.

    IMO the die was cast for how the Boomers would see the world well before they were born.. how could it be otherwise as they grew up with parents desperate to create a more harmonious world than that they had experienced. And lets not forget that it was the Silent Generation of heroes who shaped the post WW2 world through to the 80s and beyond.
    I think its truer to say that the Boomers are the logical product of at least the two generations before them with a history of two world wars and a world depression; and their parents applauded them for aversion to big wars and their smoothed out recessions.

    Of course it had to end and it has.. but in the US at least, the returned servicemen and women from the last ten years of war are of an age to make their pretense felt.. lets see how they do.

    JC

  • sonofagunforbeer

    What Dr. Mead leaves out is the most fundamental failing of the boomer generation: Their unwillingness to have more children. This is the fundamental issue on which our ability to pay for SS or medicare is based.

    The more scary thought is that the boomer’s are depending for their retirement on someone to buy their homes as they downsize or buy their stock portfolios when they want to sell. As the younger generation struggles to pay back their student loans, struggles to get a job, and struggles to save for their and their children’s future, who do the boomers’ think will prop up their paper wealth when they retire?

  • David Bowman

    Mr. Mead, I generally subscribe to your points here but was it deliberate mischief when you wrote that boomers “didn’t trust anybody under thirty”–I have heard this before only as an inversion of the Berkeley saying, usually in the context of Aaron Sorkin-and-earlier boomers irritated by the portable cameras and glowing screens which so obsess the kids these days.

  • http://www.inthisdimension.com Alex Scipio

    Sorry, Prof. Mead, but you have widely missed the mark.

    When the 18-yr olds, the lead Boomers, were given the vote in 1972 and shortly began their careers in office, the Debt was $400B. For this America had purchased and/or conquered a continent, invented air and space travel, modern manufacturing, fertilizers and pharmaceuticals, invented and commercialized computers and telecommunications, and won every war we had tried to win.

    The Boomers? Have invented nothing. Have discovered nothing.Have generated wealth only in bubbles based on intenet (also invented by their parents as ARPANet) fantasy.

    Sure – Boomers are in everywhere pretending that they have anything good to say or any worthwhile thoughts. But take a look around. The world of the past 50 years is a steady decline of cultural and societal courtesy, manner, education, volunteering, education, exploration, education (did I say education?).

    The accelerating decline that we see in Blue America is a race to see if the Boomer Libs can destroy America – their goal since coming of age in 1968 – before they die. The violence will increase as they get closer to the grave not having accomplished their goal. And the Boomer Conservatives, deciding the abortion and homosexuality trump eduaction, defense, the economy and America’s future, are the proximate cause of the Boomer Left catastrophe by abdicating their role as adults – and forcing millions of intelligent, young parents and voters to the Left, where they have voted for cultural and ecuational destruction.

    Sorry – the only real question about the Boomers is this: Are THEY the “Worst Generation,” or does that title belong to the parents who raised them?

  • john lynch

    I’m Gen X, and I’ve been stuck listening to Boomer [folderol] my whole life.

    Now the Boomers are all doom and gloom. That’s not because the world is really all that much worse off than it’s ever been. It’s just the impending death of the Boomer generation. They’ve mistaken their own decline for that of the nation and the world.

    The Boomer generation has always thought that nothing happened until they arrived (see that beautiful piece of propaganda, Mad Men) and are equally convinced that nothing will happen once they are gone. All the environmental millennialism has its origin in the Boomers. From The Population Bomb to Global Warming they’ve persistently believed that not only are they a social force but a cosmic one as well.

    The world will survive their passing. I’m already enjoying the lack of 60s music on the radio and the blessed silence about Woodstock and the Vietnam War. My generation has accomplished far more, with less noise, and we won our war.

    History will not be kind.

  • http://www.babytrollblog.com Mark Alger

    If you’re going to incite a thread bashing millions of people based on a factor over which they had NO control — the date of their birth — it might behoove you to illustrate the thing with individuals who are actually members of the group. Roger Daltrey was born in 1944, Townshend in ’45. Both war babies and not boomers.

    M

  • Chris

    Count me out as one of what you decry as a failed “boomer”! I reject the collective accusation and I don’t think I am alone.

    I went to college and came out with not one dime of debt. I married at 22 and had two kids and STAYED married to their father.

    We saved money, paid taxes, lived below our means and raised our children well, We never cheated anyone, never “worked the system” and gave to charity. We knew our neighbors and they knew us.

    As we earned, we set aside for college for the kids and they have graduated debt-free and responsible and yes, idealistic. They voted for that SCOAMF and deeply regret it today.

    Now as we approach retirement, our savings are compromised, the dollar is weak, the future is bleak and it’s ALL OUR FAULT?????

    Tell me, where did WE fail your generation? We are not all like the invisible 1% that this current younger generation points fingers at!

    Holllywood, New York TV and ragazines have been promoting this cultural decline as POPULAR for 60 years and now even the youth hate what we have become!

    Every society need a bogeyman; someone faceless to fear, loath and hate. Guess what? It’s us.

    Well, to you X generation out there….. you’re moving up the rungs of the Ladder of Mortality…. wait til YOUR kids are your age…. They’re going to say the same thing about YOU!

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Chris: Actually, I’m a Boomer. Obviously I don’t think ALL of us fit this generalization. But enough of it covers enough of our generation that the future is going to have a pretty clear and negative view of what we have and haven’t done.

  • Eurydice

    You know, the Boomer Generation developed some nice pills for this kind of angst.

    I suppose it makes sense that narcissists would exaggerate their decline as much as they have their ascent, but the fact is that humans can’t foresee everything – it’s been a constant lament ever since Hesiod. They do some things right and they do some things wrong and the next generation has to deal with it.

    And Boomers didn’t come from another planet to suddenly colonize the earth. There’s a reason why they distrusted the previous generation – Boomers inherited an opaque authority structure that served a select group. And that older and wiser generation didn’t have the legitimacy or the interest or the ability to provide leadership in a rapidly changing world, even if they did hold on to leadership for at least 20 of those 40 years you give the Boomer generation.

    For example, in the early Wild West days of Wall Street financial engineering, it wasn’t the Boomers heading up the banks or the brokerage firms or the SEC or the Fed. The older, more moral generation threw up its hands – they didn’t understand what was going on, they didn’t want to understand, but they sure understood the profits. And the older generation didn’t have a problem marketing to a huge new group of buyers, whether for consumer products or homes or cars or education or entertainment or politics. Boomers have always been a commodity – it’s no wonder they think in those terms.

    I’m not trying to let Boomers off the hook (well, maybe just a little), but without some perspective to lift the deadening gloom one can’t get to the point of your last paragraph, which is that life isn’t over and people can still do good if they want.

  • ms

    Let’s not get carried away here. Steve Jobs was a boomer, along with many people responsible for a great deal of technological and medical progress. Mad Men, which is supposed to be happening between 1960-64, is mostly not populated by boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964. Finally, the entire boomer generation did not and does not live on the coast. I am a boomer from flyover country and most of my friends are religiously faithful, have four or more children, educated those children with great sacrifice, are still married to their original spouse and are currently caring for aging parents and giving additional support to grown children when needed. My husband and I have never expected to get much from social security and we sure don’t expect anything from Obamacare and the notorious IPAB. I hardly think we deserve this level of censure.

  • Mark J

    All generalizations are vulnerable to the charge of over-generalization but I don’t, like some of my contemporaries reject them outright for that very reason. I do reject the bulk of Dr. Meade’s portrait here. I will cite one key statistic as a pinprick to his balloon: Rchard Nixon won the youth vote in 1972.

    You need to deal with damning fact, Dr. Meade. In the height of the protest era, when John Kerry was throwing his medals back at the government, the majority of those under 30 cast votes for Nixon.

    What your portrait gets right is a sunset of the Boomers. But it’s just a subset just as McCarthyism was a subset of the o-called Greatest Generation.

  • http://creativetension.net Kathy from Kansas

    Alex Scipio –

    I’m stunned by your self-contradictions.
    Boomer conservatives are the villains who pushed those dear, well-meaning Boomer lefties to the left?

    Give me a break.

    You talk about cultural destruction. But it doesn’t destroy a culture when that culture kills one third of its children before they even get to take a breath? It’s not cultural destruction when people attempt to invent new definitions out of thin air for the most basic things (such as marriage) just to suit themselves?

    We might as well start saying 2+2=5 because 4 just isn’t enough anymore. Or we can jump off a 30-story building without fatal consequences because we’ve decided that the law of gravity is just old-fashioned. Or water can flow uphill unassisted just because we wish it to. Up is down, male is female, and a baby is not really a baby. And you say the Boomers are deluded?

    If the problem of the Boomers is a refusal to grow up and deal with reality, not just their own delusions, I think you’ve provided a perfect example.

  • Jeff77450

    Except that I didn’t stay married to my evil, bi-polar ex-wife Chris’ answer could be my answer.

    I will add that it’s always the worst-behaved members of *any* group that makes the news, e.g. “dead-beat dads,” white-supremacists, Islamic-terrorists, pedophile clergy members, the Enron/Bernie Madoff types, etc. Dishonest, immoral President William Jefferson Clinton is indeed the poster-child of my generation.

    The silent majority labors in obscurity, living lives of quiet desperation, just trying to get through one more day and make ends meet. –Jeff York, age 52

  • John

    Nice narrative you have going here – so the Roman Coliseum with the Christians being fed to the lions was not quite the equal of Hollywood’s current entertainment offerings? Trust me, the kiddies were watching those daily matinees.

    However, the boomers (a generation I regrettably belong to) have been rather lackluster. Not to worry, we’ll always have Hendrix. Need a new hearing aid…

  • DaveyNC

    The Boomer population cohort has moved through American history like a swarm of locusts, snatching up everything it could. First it took the best jobs, then it drove up the cost of everything and now as it passes on, it is pulling its assets out and crashing everything.

    The Boomers broke up families, ramped up drug use, destroyed faith in our institutions and patted themselves on the back the whole way, telling themselves they were a force for good, changing the world to suit their vision. Now the rest of us will be expected to pay for them in their dotage. I’m with Mr. Day. Enough. Go away and let the rest of us fix the mess you have left behind.

  • JDW

    The Boomer Generation is precisely why “The Greatest Generation” tag is woefully inaccurate. How could the be the Greatest Generation when they failed so thoroughly to raise their kids? Did the man who stormed Normandy to defeat the Nazis really do it for…for this? Today? What we have today?

  • Mike

    Born in 1955 I’ve been behind the Boomer peak my entire life. From my own observations I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Mead’s analysis.

    The Boomer’s parents were the self-less generation and the Boomers became the self-ish generation. Their only defense is that they were enabled by doting and overly kind parents who aspired to spare their children the horrors they’d experienced.

    Proof once again that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

    -Mike Tanis, age 56

  • Teacher in Tejas

    I first had this thought in the 90s and Professer M touched on it here. I’ve always viewed it this way…

    Every single generation in human history has said the folliwing to itself as it aged,” I will never become MY PARENTS!” And every single generation pretty much grew up, accepted responsibiity and became THEIR parents, except one……Ta da: The Boomers.

    Here’s the generation that stoood naked in the rain at Woodstock and said, “I’m gonna be cool with my kids. I’ll smoke dope with my teenage son and let my daughter bring her boyfriends home….etc.”

    and you know what kiddies, they actually went ahead and did just that!

  • Multitude

    Let’s call them what they really are: the Cash-Out Generation. Over a century of prior generations invested forward, only to have this single generation cash it all in (and take highly leveraged loans for future generations to pay, when the cash wasn’t enough).

    Excess wages ($85K/year for a Packard auto plant employee to shuttle parts around on a cart). Early retirement. Guaranteed pension payouts that no private investor could match. Public sector perks like nice parks, roads and environmental “feel good” rules that were funded by loans, not their own tax payments. Social security demands unmatched by their payments. Even their children’s education was something they shortchanged, demanding loans pay what they wouldn’t.

    They’re the narcissistic parasites who cashed it all in. The hell with this Boomer mandate that social security be treated as an untouchable third rail. Given the demographic data on boomer wealth, it’s time to match social security payments to actuarial models based on actual payments in, without interest (remember Boomers, you’ve rejected the opportunity to have such funds invested and earning interest).

    It’s either that or we’re going to cut the funding to the senior centers and let the Boomers experience accountability in their last years.

  • Holdfast

    @Chris Sounds like you did everything right, except to help police the “leaders” of your generation.

  • Mrs. Davis

    Paterno, a boomer? At 85? Who knew?

    Surprised you and Mr. Day missed poor, innocent millenial Mike McQuery.

    They were closest to the incident and when the test of moral leadership came were happy to turn their heads and pass responsibility to others who equally failed.

    But who, not in the least undeservedly, is going to the slammer? Boomers Sandusky, Curley and Schultz.

    This sort of generational warfare is risible and inescapable. So, make the case for the X’ers and millenials to walk out on their duty to their parents after the boomers fulfilled theirs. You can afford it.

  • Scott

    Boomers were set up to be the spoiled children of American history. Our parents had to struggle through Depression and war, and they were absolutely determined to make sure that we did not have to suffer what they did. Behold the result. This is not anybody’s fault; it is just the way things shook out. Fault-finding and blaming is not going to get the screendoor patched nor the beefsteak pounded. DaveyNC: I am declining as fast as I can. Perhaps I should shoot myself and move things along. In the meantime, please know that you sound exactly like I did, forty years ago, railing about the old man and his generation. Don’t fret, son. You’ll outgrow it. Maybe.

  • derek

    BOOMERS = America’s WORST GENERATION

  • Derek from Brighton

    They voted for nixon because he was going to get us out of viet nam. Pure self-interest. the man ended the draft. i think meade nailed it.

    and the reference to the who is perfect. the fact that townshend and daltrey were born prior to the official beginning of the baby boom does not disqualify the use of My Generation at the opener. The song epitomized the sense of youthful superiority that boomers embraced and continue to embrace as they head for the exit.

    as a gen-xer, i feel like i have been cleaning up boomer messes all my life. believe me, meade has nailed it.

    just nailed.

  • Larry J

    Social Security was passed in the 1930s before any Boomers were born. The two other giant entitlement programs, Medicare and Medicaid, were passed in the mid 1960s when the oldest Boomers were in their early 20s. Not a single Boomer was in Congress at that time. Admittedly, way too many Boomer politicians who came along later made matters worse but the blame for those programs lies with previous generations.

    Like millions of Boomers, I spent years in the military. I paid my taxes, have zero debt, and have saved for my retirement so I won’t be a burden on my children and grandchildren. Since I have no pension, those savings will have to last the rest of my life. My kids can have what’s left over when I die.

    The Boomer generation has about 70 million members. In any group that size, you’re going to find good people and bad people. To characterize an entire generation by the excesses of some is absurd. It’d be like condemning all of today’s young people based on the Occupy movement while ignoring the incredible sacriface of a couple million of them who voluntarily joined the military in time of war, knowing they’ll be sent in harm’s way.

  • hitnrun

    Perhaps. Or perhaps they’ll go kicking and screaming, using their franchise to appropriate every penny of wealth that the Gen Xers and Millenials and most of the following generation will ever produce to fill just one more shopping bag, remodel just one more childless room, and grasp at just a few more months more of life (the latter a vain attempt born of ignorance of the medical marketplace).

    I know which I’m betting on.

  • http://PostmodernConservative Carl Eric Scott

    So many of us are suckers for this slant… …and Lord knows Gen-X hipster-become-conservative me has been chewin’ upon it for some time.

    The first thing one has to say is that not all or not even a clear majority of Boomers were Liberal-Boomers, and that WE OWE JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING to the many Boomers who were either a) conservatives or, b) old-fashioned Git-R-Done raise-good-kids types.

    Here’s http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/postmodernconservative/2011/09/25/carls-rock-songbook-22-joe-pug-i-do-my-fathers-drugs/ my two cents on the issue, as voiced in a blog-post on postmodern conservative, about a recent folk song, titled “I Do My Father’s Drugs”:

    “To simply direct one’s frustration against the liberal-boomers (and especially if one also brings against them those bitter economic complaints we increasingly hear these days) is a temptation that “I Do My Father’s Drugs” suggests is fruitless and deluding. For there clearly was something about one’s own self that drew one into the (circular) paths they had blazed, into assuming the cultural world and political pattern they built was and would remain the norm. Into taking their “drugs.” After all, they could not really see what we X-ers and Millenials had begun to discern by the 80s, 90s, and 00s, and so how can we, with eyes so many of us deliberately made only half-opened, now demand to punish the hands that fed us the “drugs” we asked for? I suppose lifelong conservatives who never fell for the dream, who never wanted to be like Bono, Dylan, or a 60s protest leader, won’t entirely grasp what I’m talking about here. I salute your good sense if you’re among these, and thank you for your patience, but folks like Joe Pug and I have some Issues rooted in all this, in the “60s” and the whole rock kaboodle, that I suppose we’re going to be trying to untangle our whole lives.”

    Mercy, folks. We gotta approach this with mercy.

  • http://countryoftheblind.com WildWillyC

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, although I’ll probably try (in my own blog) after letting this excellent rant settle into my drug-damaged, oversexed, hyper-narcissistic synapses. Problem with kids these days: they can’t find or afford any decent drugs to get safely high on.

    Seriously, some of the worst damage we Boomers have done, by and large, is those 1+ million “elective” abortions going back 35 years. Savor the irony, my brothers: the generation that took to the streets chanting “Freedom!” (without any clue what that word actually means) by and large decided not to acknowledge the humanity or civil rights of its own children if that meant sacrificing more of our time or money — we were too busy trying to find ourselves.

    I read about a speaker at a high-school assembly a few years back had all the kids spread out across the auditorium, in pairs, leaving one empty seat between the next 2 kids. The speaker then said, “Look around. Almost 1 in 3 of your classmates never got to be born.” The byproduct of our total, all-consuming selfishness.

    Like Prof. Mead said, we still have time to make amends, but that journey must begin with one very difficult step: admitting to ourselves and everyone else that, on many of the fundamentals, WE WERE WRONG.

    Dig that, brothers and sisters.

  • Leigh

    @Mike Actually, Mike, you were AHEAD of the demographic boom, which was the late 50′s and early 60′s. These later boomers (or Gen Jones) are often lumped with the Silent Generation and the leading edge Boomers but they were too young for Woodstock and Vietnam. Outside of government workers, few of them will be receiving pensions or early retirement.

  • robtr

    Mr. Meade,

    You quote Mr. Day in saying that the boomer generation was handed a situation where we were well respected in the World. Really?

    I turned 19 fighting in Vietnam, a war that was handed to us by the greatest generation. I have news for you and Mr. Day. The rest of the world hated us for that war. Our closest allies refused to join us and protests against the war and the US were world wide.

    While I was in grade school and high school we has assasinations of our President and other public leaders, race riots, hippy riots and student riots against the war. After I got back from Vietnam we had a President resign in disgrace, after that 18% interest rates to buy a home, Iran hostages and as always the threat of nuclear anhilation.

    When social security and medicare looked iffy in the 80′s the leaders we elected doubled the tax. We didn’t whine about it, we just paid it.

    Most of us put our kids through school and paid for it ourselves.

    If you are feeling some sort of guilt about your life deal with it buttercup. Most of us did the best we could that resulted in over 3 decades of unmatched economic expansion and opportunities.

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: All
    RE: It’s Not Just Higher Education

    Boomer academics created a profoundly dysfunctional system that systemically shovels resources upward from students and adjuncts to overpaid administrators and professors who by and large have not, to say the least, done an outstanding job of transmitting the cultural heritage of the past to future generations. — Walter Russell Mead

    I sit on a citizens oversight commission for my city-county.

    Last Fall—2010—the two local institutions of higher education—one state university branch and one community college—both reported that 38% of the new enrollees required remedial English before they could participate in their curriculums.

    The point being that the K-12 range teaching institutions have failed US utterly. Thanks to bloating of the teaching payrolls and ‘programs’ without any improvement in the quality of education the students receive.

    As a result, the students entering college are unprepared for the tasks ahead of them. And yet they have ‘high self-esteem’. Therefore, when they meet with challenges beyond their capability of surmounting, they RIOT!

    Then again, on a more sinister level, the young men and women going into the Armed Forces, especially the Army and Marines, have difficulty coping with a world where people really ARE trying to ‘get them’. Hence the sky-rocketing suicide rates.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; Easy to govern, but impossible to enslave. - Lord Henry Brougham]

    P.S. And therein may be the reason for the lousy education we have.

    And, as Mr. Mead points out….we sat by and let it happen…..

  • RKV

    “Their unwillingness to have more children. ”
    Ponzi scheme to keep socialism security alive. As noted above it wasn’t the boomers who sold their children into slavery, it was the “greatest” generation. Now we have to undo the damage by taking our retirement cash flow out of the government and returning it to private hands where it always belonged. I’ve paid in since I was 14, and now there is nothing left because politicians I never voted for (vast majority of the ones I voted for lost) and a tyranical majority stole my future to buy other people’s votes.

  • Dkline

    No over-arching portrait of a generation can ever be completely accurate. For all the inanity of left-wing drug-fueled rebellion in the 1960s, a good deal of personal courage and sacrifice was evident in the many who stood up for what they believed in.

    But man, this essay gets it absolutely right about one thing:

    “Boomer spouses dropped families because relationships with spouses or children or mortgage payments no longer ‘fulfilled’ them; Boomer society tolerated the most selfish and immature behavior in its public and cultural leaders out of the classically youthful and immature belief that intolerance and hypocrisy are greater sins than the dereliction of duty.”

    That was us for sure, I’m sorry to say. I lived through the 1980s while in my 30s. I saw it all around me. I raised a boy at a time when nearly half of his 2nd grade classmates had divorced parents. Half!”

    Because personal fulfillment and self-actualization were more important than anything — even their children, or the pouses with whom they had built a family.

    Today I am blessed to be raising a second set of kids. I love it, always have. And I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that in my son’s 5th grade class, and my daughter’s 2nd grade class, not more than 3 or 4 out of 30 classmates have divorced parents.

    That’s progress, right?

  • David

    Well-said. If the WW2 generation failed anywhere, they failed most grievously in their good intentions. They saved and sacrificed so their children, the Boomers, would have it better. But they unwittingly told us, in multifarious ways, that we were the chosen ones. We must have it better, and we mostly took that to imply that we *were* better.

    They told us we were *entitled* to better lives than they had. And we thus became the entitlement generation.

  • stonedome

    “meet the new boss…same as the old boss” i, for one, am ashamed of my boomer generation for their selfish failure in the way they have raised their children all the way to be being the new deservers of everything consumable…those of us that have tried to emulate our parents way will have a much happier time in retirement than those who have not…

  • JohnMc

    Mead,

    Speak for yourself, but not for me. Much of the Boomers –

    * Fought in an unpopular war, won every battle, but lost the war by treachery. They asked no favors in return.

    * We completed the Cold War (many call it WWIII) and saw to the destruction of the Soviet Union. If you count it as a war it was the longest one in history. That lone is no small feat.

    * We overcame 21% interest rates, an economy worse than this one and ditched a worthless President and righted this ship rather than see it sink.

    * While that was going on we got married, had families and generally got on with life as good as we could.

    * If we failed at anything it was passing on certain values. It might have pulled that off too if the educational institutions had not been co-opted by radicals.

    So take you sanctimonious `we are lazy` attitude and stick it in your ear.

  • http://www.justbarkingmad.com Marcus

    I wrote a little something on the Baby Boomer issue in August–some folks here might be interested in reading it. It was a full-scale, alcohol-fueled rant. You can read it here: http://justbarkingmad.com/?p=9876

  • jfhdsiu

    It is an inescapable fact of the the “human condition” that when one is young, ALL that one has to look forward to is getting older…..And older…..And older…… Until the young become the old! then they have to listen to their own guttersnipe offspring whining about THEY aren’t dying off fast enough. What are they going to think about their own youthful indiscretions, then? Perhaps when one reaches such an age, one will have earned the right to cast stones! But I doubt it. How can one blame another for suffering the “human condition”?

  • Tim

    the most selfish generation ever!

  • David

    Wow. I’m impressed by Mr Day’s grasp of how, symbolized by Joe Paterno, the Baby Boomers, Mr Day’s parents (not them, the other parents) have let him down. They inherited blah blah blah from… Hey, since Paterno was born on December 21, 1926, how does he really count as a Baby Boomer who disappointed Mr Day? He’s not your parents–he’s your great grandfather. He missed the baby boom by twenty-plus years.

    And if you’re looking for who punted, well, it’s a party, not a generation, and the party includes as its recent leaders such crypt-keepers as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reed–not baby boomers either.

  • http://organizingentropy.typepad.com/blog/ Andy

    As a member of Gen-X I’ve grown up in the shadow of the boomers my whole life and I generally agree with Mr. Meade’s comments here. I don’t think any generation in the history of our nation grew up with so many advantages only to squander them once they began to run things. The national social compact is broken with this generation – young people today are likely to be worse off than the boomers. The cycle where each generation did better than the previous one is no more. Our economic fortunes are not nearly as bright and this begins right at adulthood where a college education can cost as much as a house. If you were a boomer in California in the 1960′s you didn’t pay tuition at all. It only gets worse as we post-boomers grow older the boomers retire.

    Many people here are focusing on left vs right with the boomers, but both sides have an underlying common ideology, described here in research done by the AARP:

    Boomers of all orientations are now and will continue to engage in politics on their terms, and with clear self-interest in mind….The best illustration of this is the manner in which Boomers regard entitlements and obligations. In the survey, Boomers are more likely to name more “definite responsibilities” of government, yet they are less likely to believe that they owe the country certain obligations, including military service, paying taxes, and paying attention to political issues. The sense of obligation increases among the Silents and is highest among the GIs.

    In short the boomers, as a cohort, want to get more for less and the only difference between right and left is the means. The inability to pay for government services, the inability to control the growth of costs of government services, the financialization of the economy, the increasing economic stratification and decreasing social mobility are problems the boomers largely created through their political choices and future generations will be paying for those choices for decades to come.

  • Charles

    Sorry, Professor Mead, but this hybrid of pop sociology and pop history doesn’t persuade. All of the phenomena to which you allude had determinants far more complex than your analysis provides. Back to the drawing board, please!

  • Claude Hopper

    I am slightly older than the boomers and have disliked much of what they have accomplished. But as a kid I remember people of the depression and war years saying something like “I’m going to give my kid everything I never had” Oops, bad choice. Brokaw’s Greatest Generation sired an inept generation. But no generation is a complete failure; they can always be used as a bad example.

  • Kate

    Liberal, conservative, or any other option, the Boomers are the first – and may well be the last – generation where the world bent around them. Look at when widespread advertising aimed at kids started. Look at which demographic the bulk of entertainment targets. It has been the Boomers ever since the Boomers were capable of making the choices.

    Whether they grew up and became responsible adults or chose to spend the rest of their lives trying to stay teenagers, the entire US culture has shaped itself around the Boomers, and continues to shape itself around them.

    To those of us who lived outside that magic bubble, there’s not much sympathy for any Boomers, but for the irresponsible mongrels who are even now doing their best to bring everything down with them rather than admit that maybe they weren’t all that after all, there’s nothing but contempt.

    And my generation – which sits between the Boomers and GenX – there are no words to describe the intensity of our hatred of those immature prats who lecture us about being “selfish”, “materialist” or any other “-ish” or “-ist” one cares to name. We know we’re not going to get anything. Those Boomers will hold on long enough to pass the flag to their kids, or take the whole mess down the S-bend with them – and those Boomers, by and large, are the ones making the decisions. Us? We’re beneath contempt because we saw through all of that.

  • DocinPA

    Professor Mead is as usual spot on. The worst legacy of this generation is that of dependency on others, whether directly through welfare and early retirements or through massive borrowing to cover future expenses (second mortgages, maxed out credit cards, etc.). The cultural changes I think are an inevitable byproduct of information technology. For instance, porn has been around for millenia. Broadband wifi was going to make that a LOT more accessible regardless. (It’s really creating havoc in conservative Muslim countries.) The willful financial and economic stupidity of this generation will be it’s enduring legacy. (P.S. Buy gold, the Euro’s toast.)

  • Unattorney

    We boomers will do great. We spent our parents savings and sent the bill for the rest to the grandchildren. We brainwashed our young to defend our juicy pensions at all costs. F the young; they’re mostly lazy fools.

  • David OHara

    I was born in ’56 and I think I learned my values well from my parents (both still alive)who raised 9 kids on a limited income. Consequently, me and my wife graduated with advanced degrees (education and physics) with no debt, saved to put down 20% for our house 22 yrs ago and it is almost paid off, never had credit card debt, never had a second mortgage, been married 33 yrs, have 3 kids (wish I had more), a substantial 401K (not relying on SS), first daughter thru college (degree in a science) with no debt> Along the way I started a hi tek business with several employees, export far more than I have ever imported, 9 patents.
    For a boomer who is now 55, I think I need 3 more lifetimes to do all I think needs doing. The future truly is bright for those who think for themselves. Am not sure I will ever really retire because there is so much interesting stuff (that makes jobs) left to do and I see nobody doing it.

  • http://blogs.the-american-interest.com suz

    One huge mess of Parents failed their children by entitlement thinking, zero scrunity of what their children were doing, of allowing trash music to propaganda children, trash movies, celebrities promoting sex without responsiblity, allowing “children to have right” without responsibility, producing rude & demanding group with little respect for any institution or laws, paying for stupid “stuff” i.e. vacations for high school graduates, not teaching respect or manners, breaking traditional family with “live-in’s, (try before you make a committement), allowing screaming children to win with out any control, free run of children w/o any responsibility, promoting a selfish “I come first” childhood, no sense of self or responsibility within the community. Supporting purchases of their children, w/o though i.e. auto’s, screaming trash music, not teaching responsibility to the family or community, not screening children’s music, college courses, not screening out the trash dressing, music, & not giving these children any honor code. etc.

  • Michael K

    What do you expect from a generation whose motto while growing up was “we don’t trust anybody over 30.” Besides the narcissism it showed they had no sense of time and space and they would in a few years be themselves over 30. Boomers will go down in history along with the French Revolution generation and the Edwardians as some of the greatest wreckers in Western Civilization.

  • Shane

    This sort of generational warfare is risible and inescapable. So, make the case for the X’ers and millenials to walk out on their duty to their parents after the boomers fulfilled theirs. You can afford it.

    Generational warfare was started by the Boomers. Maybe they had some legitimate beefs, maybe not.

    BUT

    Even if you have terrible parents, it is still not wise to trash them, rhetorically, culturally, or any other kind of -ly. Because how you treat your parents is going to be, 99% of the time, how your kids treat you.

    Guess what. The generational war that boomers started against those older than them is, surprise surprise, being continued by those younger than them.

    Karma and the Fifth Commandment.

  • brian

    “There’s nothing more pathetic than an aging hipster.”

  • Koblog

    Sorry. Beg to differ. It’s not the boomers.

    It’s taken eighty years, but FDR’s New Deal and all its subsequent Ponzi schemes have come home to roost.

    Once a bad federal program or a “Department of Such-And-Such” is spawned, never to be disbanded but only to grow exponentially, or a bond for future indebtedness is sold, the handwriting is on the wall.

    You can’t get something for nothing. Ponzi schemes fail. Every. Time.

  • Xiaoding

    So…who raised these guys?

    Yeah, that’s right, the “Greatest Generation”, a bunch of self-praising fools if ever there was one.

    From winning a war (WWII) that never needed to be fought, to losing the Vietnam war (the war that they TRULY ran), is it no wonder, they were lousy parents?

    All the criticism’s of the Boomers are spot on, but lets not forget what tree they fell off of.

  • http://www.ilike.com/artist/Ritchie+the+Riveter Ritchie The Riveter

    All you need to do is show up for work or go to school; we have experts who have the answers to your housing needs, your health care needs, your financial needs … no need to plan for your future or actively manage your career, since we can do a better job than you can; just trust us to solve those problems FOR you.

    Belief in this lie … encouraged by our social/cultural/political elites … is a fundamental basis for the dysfunctions of the Boomers; both they and their parents bought into it, in large numbers … substituting it for the self-reliance, personal initiative and “neighborly” interdependence that is the hallmark of the American experience.

    As I have said previously, the facade of that Lie is now disintegrating before our eyes, as more and more people find that they have been left high and dry by the promises of these “experts”.

    Those who didn’t buy the Lie and instead kept control of their destiny, are the ones better off today … yet too many across all generations work to perpetuate that lie … often, because it feathers their own nest to do so.

    The light at the end of this tunnel is that more and more of us that bought into the Lie before, are seeing it now for the Lie it is.

    More and more of us are coming to, and acting upon, the understanding that, while experts are good for advice, it is best to leave the decision-making (except for the few one-size-fits-all areas our government is designed to deal with) to we 300 million problem-solvers who are closest to the problems …

    … not to a few Best and Brightest in DC to make our choices FOR us on the basis of the socio-economic morality of that select few.

    We won’t get fooled again …

  • jfhdsiu

    Isn’t it odd that all of the younger than fifty people are most likely the child or grandchild of a so called ‘baby boomer’? (Yes… I know…. ;-}….). It seems very narrow minded of one to attribute the accumulated, collective ills of society on a narrow band of chronology! The technological comforts and conveniences of today were largely science fiction until the sudden onset of technological advancement……Under the Boomers’ watch. What have the ensuing generations done with the largesse accumulated by the older generations, but squander it to no purpose. Should one who lives in a glass house dare to throw stones at another?

    Remember….. The voting age is 18 now, isn’t it? Each year a new crop of voters, (who are exponentially greater in number than the last crop!), have a huge impact on political fortunes. I submit that the newer generations should make sure they aren’t as guilty to the next generations as they believe the older generations are to them!

  • Astro

    There is no ‘we’. Yes, I fall within the age bracket of the ‘Boomer’ generation. But I am not them. They are not me. It is illogical to castigate millions of individuals because of the foibles of a few.

    At the same time I find it annoying how the tremendous advances in technology accomplished by the ‘boomers’, advances that have had a world-changing affect across the globe, are so easily dismissed (‘some accomplishments under its belt’!?). “Some”? Really? Just “some”? How about every damn second of every day you interact with the world — or the world interacts with you — through technology that was developed by boomers in one form or another.
    My guess: the last bit of entirely new pre-boomer technology was color TV. Every technology since 1965 will have had some boomer inventing it or advancing its development.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com Mike T

    Here is one small anecedotal bit of data that belies the media-Mead narrative. Stories about the role played by students at my alma mater, Yale, in the 69s always spotlight the raucous demonstrations against the Vietnam war in support of Black Panthers on trial in
    New Haven. But those activities involved a small slice if the Yale student body. In sharp contrast, a third of my Yale classmates served in the United States armed forces. Many served in Vietnam. Several spent careers in the service, rising to high ranks. And more Yale graduates were killed in Vietnam than in the Korean war.

    But this aspect of my generation’s coming of age has been washed from the historical narrative. One would think that someone like Mead would want to correct that.

    Do you think military service has anything to do with how one marries, raises a family, conducts business, etc.? No. Plenty of people who were utter failures at being decent human beings have made great sacrifices while wearing the uniform.

  • Pashley1411

    I just note with approval JC, way up at the top, “I think we underrate the effect of WW1 when the best of the Western world were nearly obliterated in the trenches and left a huge gap in moral leadership, and for the US the Depression probably changed the narrative more profoundly than generally recognised.”

    I’ll stick with the first. WWI was a 4-year act of suicide by Western Civilization, which left the public body too weak to overcome the false promises of fascism, communism, and socialism.

    One comparison; some historian pointed out that one reason the Roman Republic went under with Julius was that the Social War a generation before so stripped the talent pool of the Republic. The headless chickens currently ruining Europe are of the same harvest.

  • http://poliwogg.wordpress.com Puck

    It has been interesting to see the reaction of baby boomers to the younger generation’s protests in the Occupy Movement. The Establishment, mayors like Bloomberg, Quan and Adams, and national leaders like Obama and Reid, can’t quite accept their role as “the man.” It’s a lot easer to march and chant (or just “occupy”) than lead. It’s a lot easier to be a wild child than be a responsible adult.

  • LRH

    Mr. Day writes, “They let the infrastructure built with their fathers’ hands crumble like a stale cookie.”

    I know this is a often cited “truth” but has anyone (using real data) done the math?

    What does “crumble like a stale cookie” mean in engineering terms? Where specifically are these crumbled infrastructures? What is the future economic value anticipated for each one in dollars & cents? Does that expected economic value exceed the cost of the repairs sufficiently? Which projects rank above or below that line?

    I’m not saying it isn’t true, I just would like to see the spreadsheet.

  • Fred

    Great article.

    I remember suffering in silence as a naval officer, respecting the chain of command, and loyal to the Office of the President, while loathing the man.

    I wondered how many generations would be affected by the example of the chief law-maker lying to the public “I did not have sex with that woman”.

    College test cheating stats doubling, LIAR and NINJA loans, Enron, Journolist, Solyndra, Fast and Furious…

    We have acted like a nation of alcoholics…

    I hope we are close to hitting bottom, and soon, it will be as hard to find someone admitting to the term “progressive” as it is to find an “O” bumper sticker in the parking lot these days…

  • Mrs. Davis

    Generational warfare was started by the Boomers.

    Risibility writ large. The boomers are neither the beginning nor the end of everything. Generational warfare has always been with us. Read all about it.

  • Richard

    I was born in 1948 but I was never much of a boomer in my thinking. Oh, I shared the over crowded schools, the tract house suburban upbringing. But, my parents were almost a generation older than my friend’s parents. My mother worked full time and went to college in her 40′s and 50′s.
    I grew up with the music and fads of my youth but the lyrics of the songs never said anything to me the way they did to, say, Ann Althouse. I went to the anti Vietnam War demonstrations but concluded that most of the people at them were dunces. By the time I went for my Army Induction medical exam, I got the impression that the Army was so overwhelmed (like my elementary school) that they were looking for ways NOT to accept people, and I was among those who were rejected.

    Although my parents made mistakes, because they were older and wiser and basically good hearted, I loved them and respected them.

    So, from my point of view, Thomas Day is making the same mistake the boomers made. The boomers blamed their parent’s generation for all the ills of the world, so now Mr. Day wants to blame all boomers for the actions of some boomers. There may be some emotional comfort found in such blame but it makes no difference in the end.

    To me, suggesting that a whole population of people born in the same year have the same characteristics is as stupid as, say, astrology. We are transfixed by this generation business by an off hand comment made by Gertrude Stein to Ernest Hemingway in French. It got translated as the “lost generation” but Hemingway was no more typical of his generation Berkeley students were of mine.

  • Elizabeth L. Crain

    Those of you who weren’t around in those days before the outspokenness and relative transparency of the Internet have no idea the of the power of the Monoculture of CBS, NBC, ABC, and NYT and their fellow-travelers. If Uncle Walter Cronkite said it was so, it was so. And as far as I’m concerned, he’s got the blood of millions on his hands after his “coverage” of the Tet Offensive.

    Those of you who weren’t there cannot know how dismaying it was to see and hear and watch my Boomer classmates jeering and flouting the religious, cultural, and artistic traditions that geeks like me valued and wished to emulate.

    My entire life as a Boomer has had, playing in the background like music in a film, an emotional track of hopelessness, anger, and above all grief for all that was not valued, and all that has been lost.

    But by all means go ahead and hate us all.

  • http://jocon307.worpress.com jocon307

    While I have thought these things myself (and I’m a boomer, although maybe a late-boomer, born in 1958) as many posters have pointed out this piece paints with not only a broad brush but to a large extent a misdirected one.

    The boomers did not create the welfare state, that entire concept was in place by 1965. It was indeed only with Bill Clinton’s election that the boomer generation could be said to be ‘in charge’ of things. Insofar as I know all the systems and situations that are causing us so much grief now were in place by that time.

    As for the destruction of the culture, the family, religion, values, etc. etc. it is not the Boomers per se who are to blame for this, and everyone KNOWS it. It’s the LEFT.

    Millions of Boomers have fought long and hard to preserve American life and values but time and again we’ve been undermined by the media and the courts. No-fault divorce, a philosophy of relativism, nonsense and vile “art”, these haven’t been hoisted up by the “boomers” but by the Left.

    As one who has worked hard my entire life and has very little to show for it (I’m sure the fault is mine but there it is) but who has tried to resist these stupid and destructive impulses I resent very much being told this is my fault. Just as I’ve resented being told I’m stupid or backward during my years of resistance to both my generation and my “betters”.

    And I’m not someone from fly-over country either. I was there in the 1970s, in New York City, I know who is to blame.

    Based on the OWS crowd it seems like many of the later generation wish to re-live the 60s and do it all again, sans the peace and love, of course. Skip Woodstock and go right to the Weathermen.

    Based on the way the media has treated the Tea Party vs. this bunch of hooligans nothing is going to change any time soon in terms of who gets blamed regardless of who deserves it.

  • Fred Baumann

    The disgusting Mr. Sandusky is precisely my age. However, Joe Paterno was born threee years before my now-15-years-deceased father. So I’m not sure the math here holds up too well.

  • ErisGuy

    “perhaps the most complicated, expensive and poorly designed such system in the history of the world.”

    The idea that the health care system should be designed is the failure. It should not be.

  • epobirs

    I’ll never understand the worship of sports. Perhaps Mr. Day should question instead his choice to look up to a football coach as a source of leadership. We’re talking about a glorified gym teacher. As another very flawed individual said, “Those who cannot do, teach. Those who cannot teach, teach gym.”

  • Sgt. York

    Note to JohnMc (RESPONSES ARE IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE FONT CHANGES ARE NOT AVAILABLE IN COMMENTS. I’M NOT YELLING):

    You claim your generation:

    “* Fought in an unpopular war, won every battle, but lost the war by treachery. They asked no favors in return.”

    YOU, OF COURSE ARE REFERRING TO THOSE WHO WERE UNFORTUNATE ENOUGH TO BE DRAFTED. THOSE WHO DID NOT RUN OFF TO CANADA OR GET A COLLEGE DEFERMENT DID INDEED GO AND FIGHT AN UNPOPULAR WAR. OF COURSE, SOME OF THOSE WHO WENT AND “FOUGHT” WERE PEOPLE LIKE JOHN KERRY. THEY ALSO RETURNED TO NO FANFARE OR HERO’S WELCOME. MY GENERATION KNOWS THIS BECAUSE THAT’S ALL WE HEARD POST-VIET NAM; HOW THE SOLDIERS WERE SO UNFAIRLY TREATED WHEN THEY GOT BACK. INDEED, MANY TO THIS DAY STILL SPOUT THE “YOU DON’T KNOW, MAN, YOU WEREN’T THERE” MANTRA BECAUSE FIFTY YEARS IS APPARENTLY STILL NOT ENOUGH TIME TO HEAL, DESPITE REPEATED ACKNOWLEDGMENTS OF UNFAIR TREATMENT, ETC.

    * We completed the Cold War (many call it WWIII) and saw to the destruction of the Soviet Union. If you count it as a war it was the longest one in history. That lone is no small feat.

    “COMPLETED THE COLD WAR”? THIS IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF MEAD’S CLAIM THAT BOOMERS ATTEMPT TO CLAIM CREDIT WHERE NONIE IS DUE THEM. “COMPLETED THE COLD WAR”. CONGRATULATIONS ON LIVING YOUR LIFE WHILE MILITARY AND POLITICAL LEADERS KEPT YOU SAFE. TRULY AN ASTONISHING ACCOMPLISHMENT. NO SMALL FEAT? INDEED, IT WAS NO FEAT AT ALL.

    * We overcame 21% interest rates, an economy worse than this one and ditched a worthless President and righted this ship rather than see it sink.

    I FAIL TO SEE HOW THE ECONOMY WAS WORSE THAN THIS SINCE THE CURRENT RECESSION IS BEING RIGHTLY CALLED ‘THE WORST SINCE THE DEPRESSION’. I WOULD RATHER HAVE HIGH INTEREST RATES AND GAS SHORTAGES INSTEAD OF SHARPLY DEVALUED REAL ESTATE, HIGH GAS PRICES, WAGES THAT HAVE BARELY MOVED UPWARD IN THE LAST TEN YEARS, A RIDICULOUSLY OVERPRICED HEALTHCARE SYSTEM, A NATIONAL DEBT THAT CANNOT POSSIBLY BE PAID OFF IN MY LIFETIME, A DOWNGRADED NATIONAL CREDIT RATING, ALL-TIME LOW INTEREST RATES MATCHED BY AN ALL-TIME LOW AVAILABILITY OF CREDIT, A PRESIDENT FAR WORSE THAN CARTER, AND PENSION PLANS I AM EXPECTED TO MONETARILY SUPPORT WHILE I WILL NOT ONLY SEE NON OF IT, BUT HAVE TO FIGURE OUT MY OWN RETIREMENT (REALITY: NO ONE UNDER THE AGE OF 45 WILL BE ABLE TO RETIRE, WHILE THE BOOMERS ARE RETIRING AT UNPRECEDENTED EARLY AGES)

    * While that was going on we got married, had families and generally got on with life as good as we could.

    DIVORCE RATE, TEEN PREGNANCY RATE, ABORTION RATE, SINGLE MOTHERHOOD RATE, AND THE RATES OF BLENDED/BROKEN FAMILIES ALL SKYROCKETED UNDER YOUR GENERATION’S WATCH.

    * If we failed at anything it was passing on certain values. It might have pulled that off too if the educational institutions had not been co-opted by radicals.

    THESE WOULD BE THE SAME RADICALS THAT WERE PROTESTING IN BERKLEY AND ELSEWHERE IN THE 60′S. IN OTHER WORDS; BOOMERS. THE FAILURE TO PASS ON VALUES WAS DUE TO MEADE’S ALREADY MENTIONED NARCISSISM. YOUR GENERATION WAS TOO BUSY TRYING TO FIND ITSELF TO BOTHER WITH THEIR KIDS, OR MARRIAGES, OR FAMILY VALUES IN GENERAL.

  • rosignol

    Too many Boomers high and low clung to the ideology of youth we developed back when we didn’t trust anybody under thirty

    Surely you meant ‘over’?

  • Mark J

    Perhaps it’s time to dust off the old Socrates quote that hung on posters in many a dormroom of then 1960′s and 70′s:

    “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

    Baby boomers of the 400 BC’s.

    All generations have their virtues and their vices. The Baby Boomers are no better or worse than the Greatest Generation or Gen X’ers.

  • Susan P

    There is no doubt that history textbooks require generational stereotypes. One cannot spend more than a few paragraphs on any generation, so of course, generalizations and stereotypes are used as abreviations of reality, and that’s fine.

    I wonder, though, about the history books fo the future. As the generation preceding the Boomers is described as “the Greatest Generation,” and then the Boomers are described as amoral, narcissistic, and greedy, I wonder if the confused children of the future are going to say “how did such GREAT ones raise such ROTTEN ones?” And perhaps it might occur to them that any generation that failed to instill its most pivotal values into its children is, perhaps, not worthy of the title “the Greatest Generation” at all.

  • Angus Dei

    There are some true artists among the boomers, but they’ve been shut out of academia by the postmodernists (Who are scared to death of anyone with real, verifiable talent).

    http://polyphonists.blogspot.com/

    In a sane world, that guy would be teaching at an ivy league school.

  • Mike

    “They preferred the praise of men over the praise of God!”

  • Mark

    The boomers are much to blame. At the same time the vaunted WWII generation created the entitlement programs. They set the stage for the catostrophic 60′s And when the mass insanity of the 60′s hit it the WWII’ers jumped on the debauchery bandwagon, breaking up families, withdrawing from church, letting the schools and universities get hollowed out, not to mention abandoning deferred gratification as a virtue..

  • Carl Eric Scott

    Kate, Elizabeth L. Crain, and Pashely1411, great comments!

    And I welcome all the comments rejecting the Greatest Generation idea.

  • joe

    I’m 58yrs old, I have never collected an unemployment check, a workers comp check, a welfare check, food stamps. I intend to work until I drop dead. I am a throw back to earlier times , an off the farm, 1st generation to college. I’d like to chime in though on the “greatest generation.” Greater than the founding fathers ? the civil war? Give me a break. I’ll take my grandparents generation any day.

  • Howie

    Well you Boomers need to get it together because the oldest X’sers (61 to 80) turn 50 this year. That’s right the kids are not kids anymore. The best thing you can do is GTF out of the way.

    Oh and for all you whining Nexters down at Occupy. Get in line punks.

  • Anonymous

    Worked hard, graduated college in 3 years w/ honors, got kicked out of a job interview by a Boomer who screamed “What’s wrong, didn’t you LIKE school?!” after she saw it on my resume. Tells you all you need to know.

  • Fred

    Granpa’s back home with his Beatles and his Stones.
    We never got it off on that revolution stuff.
    What a drag.

  • imoo

    “It is too late for us to be remembered as a generation of wise statesmen, great leaders, selfless role models, responsible business people, faithful spouses, sacrificial parents, and builders and renewers of great institutions. We have too much pillaging, wrecking and looting, too much heedless consumption of scarce social capital and too little forethought in our history for that.”

    From a person who grew up in the shadow of the “baby boomers”, I thank you for your acknowledgement. Thank you. Unfortunately you are correct, the “baby boomer’s” will be known as the product of the “Greatest Generation”, and that product turned out to be the “Me Generation”, to the great detriment of those of us who followed.

  • Ryan

    With regards to government imposed inflation and institutionalized government retirement planning crowding out private alternatives, Hayek wrote in The Constitution Of Liberty,

    “…the real outcome is indeed likely to be such that most of those who will retire at the end of the century will be dependent on the charity of the younger generation. and ultimately not morals but the fact that the young supply the police and the army will decide the issue: concentration camps for the aged unable to maintain themselves are likely to be the fate of an old generation whose income is entirely dependent on coercing the young.”

    While it may not get to the extreme Hayek predicted, the Boomers have only themselves to blame for the inevitable inability to pay for their care. They had the opportunity to deal with the problem and instead rewarded demagogues leveraging entitlements for political gain.

  • wesley mouch

    I am a boomer myself and I think that Bill Clinton epitomizes what the boomer generation is all about. Corrupt shysters who are “slick” beyond belief. Ultimately it is the fault of all Americans that these troglodytes were give the reins of power. With Obama it continues as the Affirmative Action President helps boomer whites allay their guilt. As they say in the South: Fool me once , shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.

  • Russ

    Shall we indict the Boomers? Let us do so with their own words. Only the Boomer generation finds “live long enough to be a burden to your children” to be funny, rather than a statement of horror.

    That’s right, an entire generation so selfish it actually resents having had to parent its own children. There are exceptions, and worthy ones. To this day the fastest way to make my father (born early ’45) angry, upset, and prone to rant at length is to call him a “Boomer.”

    And yes, I’m a fully-adult GenXer who, like so many of my cohort, holds the majority of that generation in utter contempt. We the GenX have a lot of failings (not least among them that so many of us let our parents scare us out of having kids), but at least, unlike the Boomers, we have come to the realization that OUR poop does actually stink.

  • Bertie

    I think the author is confusing Boomers with Liberals. By and large, though, worldwide Anglo-Saxon Christians are not reproducing themselves. The decline started before the Boomers and continues to this day. I am a Boomer and as I entered adolescence books were being written about the collapse of the gene pool at the same time that Zero Population Growth was being promoted throughout the Western world,long after FDR started Social Security.

  • Ex-pay in Oz

    Born in ’65, so I am an Xer. Married 20 yrs w/18 yo daughter. Conservative (NOT a Republican– tho I was one of the proud Reagan Youth). I thought Mr. Mead hit it on the head, as he almost always does– he is one of the most thoughtful observers out there.

    He’s right– on all of it. And like Dilsey, we shall endure. All of us Xers have always known deep down that we’d have to rebuild it all. I think we can. And no, we won’t get any thanks nor will we expect any.

    It is what it is. Unfortunately. ; )

  • Adele Conner

    I am so glad to finally see this sentiment in writing! Boomers could be categorized by a collective and loud foot stomp that has lasted 40 years. I’ll never forget how disappointed I was when I turned 40 and had to relive all the blather of 1968 as an iconic time, in realizing that I would be forever tied to this self centered, anything-goes-if-it-feels-good group of whiners. Except my Mom, who worked two jobs to make ends meet and didn’t have time to protest! Our family (off the boat three generations ago,) are nothing but grateful to be US Citizens. I try to never miss an opportunity to thank God for making me an American.

  • don

    The Who were boomers? Three of the band were born before 1946. True, Moon was born in 1946, but he was dead by 78. If you look at their contemporary trend setting musical and intellectual movers and shakers of the boomer generation–Marcuse, Kesey, Timothy Leary, Sartre, etc.,– they were not boomers, Jack.

  • mere citizen

    I was born in 1963, a month and half after I was born John Kennedy was assassinated. I lived in Patuxent River Maryland, actually just outside that Naval Base where my dad was stationed when Martin Luther King was assassinated. I recall it quite clearly as we watched car load after car load of impossibly packed in black people driving by the house on their way into Washington DC. The Navy was sending buses around to those who were living off base in order to bring them on base because of the riots and general unrest already starting. We stayed where we were because as my mom said-she had a gun and a dog. Those who choose to not go to the base instead came to our house. That night the dog, a military trained German Shepard, went out through the glass bottom of the screen door after intruders in the back yard, two young black men. One took off the other knocked down by the dog. That one was given the opportunity to leave the property before the dog was let to harm him. I remember the incident distinctly, I remember how badly my mother physically shook, and how one of the neighbor ladies wished my mom would have just shot them. I remember the riots in Washington DC. At the time my dad was overseas.

    In 1969 we were stationed at Barbers Point Naval Base in Hawaii. We left in 1972. Through that time span I grew up watching the Vietnam war on TV, riots and protests throughout the country, I even remember Cassius Clay before he became a Muslim. I remember too, the obnoxious way military people were treated. I remember the cold war because my dad was a large part of that as a flight engineer on a P3-Orion. In fact in 1973 when my parents split up and my mom told me she needed to tell me something about my dad I was relieved to find out that he hadn’t been shot down and killed because that’s what I thought she would be telling me.

    We returned to the little town my mother grew up in and it was often embarrassing to me to be the only kid whose parents were divorced. Yet my growing up was like a foot in one world, which seemed to be falling apart, and the other inhabited by the my grandparents, where there were constant norms and rules of behavior. Here Christian values and precepts were the norm, in their childrens world, my mother and her siblings, those values were often sifting. To this day my mom at 68 years old, and technically a war baby, sees little difference between Christianity and Buddhism, after all everyone is just trying to be good. As if that is the precepts of the Christian religion.
    By the time I became an adult I had quite consciously rejected the world of my mother and her siblings, each of whom are divorced, with rules of behavior I find abhorrent, and each with the belief that the world owes them, well, something.

    Instead I embraced the world my grandparents lived in, a belief that hard work would get you what you wanted out of life, a belief in God and Christ, a belief that a lady behaved like a lady not a cheap thrill. I raised my children that way, but lo and behold they went to a school that often times had teachers who directly contradicted what they were taught at home, particularly the oldest in his college education. It pains me to no end to find this child supporting the OWS because he has so little understanding of the times I grew up in, or the history of the left in this country.

    It is not just an entire boomer generation, it is the left of the boomer generation, and the left of the war baby generation and the left of the generation before that. It is generations of progressives who do not believe in the Constitution and who have actively worked to negate it to the best of their ability. It is generations of Progressives who spit on the beliefs of Christian people because those beliefs impinge on their ability to do whatever feels good. It is generations of Progressives who have corrupted the work ethic, the moral ethics and Judeo-Christian beliefs of this country. If Harry S. Truman had been able to enact his platform he would have been Obama more than 50 years ago.

    Neither George Bush was a conservative in what a conservative actually means, and that is someone who believes in the limits of government as set out by the constitution. Each progressive generation blames the earlier progressive generations ills on conservatives, but it was not conservatives who embraced what were essentially fascist socialism in the early 20th century, that was the original progressives. The progressives of the early 20th century and those after the war are the difference between socialism, which run to it’s natural course looks like Fascism, and Communism. The difference between corporatism and nationalism as an economic model.

    I am sick to death of the Progressives, and most especially of the baby boomer Progressives. I am sick of them in the country and I am sick of them in my own family, and I am sick of the younger generation who buys into their lies and outright BS. Those of us who have consistently put our heads down and kept on keeping on have simply got to root out the sickness these people have brought us, financially and culturally.

    It’s not just baby boomers, it’s just the baby boomers who embraced Progressives and the New Left. They are the worst of the lot and unless we are willing to fight back I believe we all know where it ends.

  • Jeremy

    To paraphrase William Graham Sumner’s “forgotten man” analogy, as soon as Generation Boomer observes something which it wants but cannot afford, Boomer A talks it over with Boomer B and then proposes to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help themselves. Their law always proposes to determine what Generations Later shall do for Boomers A an B. When it becomes clear that the bill is coming due and Generations Later simply won’t be able to borrow enough to afford it, Generation Boomer (a) resorts to worn narratives such as blaming the rich and advocating higher tax increases (nevermind the empirical evidence streaming in from Europe on this point), or (b) insults Generations Next by offering it some free goodies too (e.g., free college education and loan forgiveness! Hooray! Thanks for insulting my intelligence). All this Generation Boomer does while increasing deficit spending to historic peacetime levels!

  • John

    Overall, I agree with everything in this article. That said, it should be realized that the Boomers were the first generation to have access to birth control, without which the Sexual Revolution could never have happened. Because of this, the Boomers were given temptations that no previous generation had ever been given. If the World War II generation (the Greatest Generation, in my view) had had access to birth control, they might have done the same. Who knows?

  • TellsItLikeItIs

    Well as a boomer who rejected the downward spiral of the corporate culture shoved our way starting mostly in the 80′s,who rejected the $100 “pump-it-up” Nike shoes for my 8 years old, who rejected the war-mongers who chew our country’s treasurer with endless forays into this country’s mess and that one’s mess, who stood up for civil rights and women’s rights, who spoke up for good paychecks with decent benefits while jobs were pouring out of the country and no one would listen, who recycled stuff before cities mandated it, who lived on a budget and regarded the super consumerism with disdain and disgust, who now believes that welfare is yet another cottage industry of the non-profits and should be abolished for all except the income-qualified elderly, mentally ill who cannot be institutionalized, and certifiably physically disabled, and who railed against the green of Wall Street back in the 80′s with the savings and loan bailouts, I still remain hopeful that my fellow boomers will live long enough to not just “pay it forward,” but rather to set it right for themselves too.

    Stop comparing the so-called Greatest Generation with the boomers. The times have changed so quickly that it has been hard to get a handle on it. We pushed for daycare, for equal pay for equal work for women, opened up professions and careers and jobs that the Greatest Generation could have never realized. We have equality in sports in colleges now. Women can work without guilt and have children.

    Do not blame boomers or anyone else for being sucked into the morass that is the uncaring, deviant corporate culture and how destructive it has been to our value system.

    Do not blame boomers for the rate at which kids drop out of school today – that’s that next generation signing the paperwork.

    Actually, stop with the critical comments altogehter. As for that Iraqi vet: You don’t know what disloyalty, disillusionment, and being let down is all about unless you served in Vietnam. Pedophilia is a Catholic thing that has transcended more generations than simply then simply the boomers. Grow up.

  • lsjogren

    “Those over 60, on average, are 45 times wealthier than the average 35 year old.”

    Wow, I remember how much savings I had when I was 35 and by golly my assets now are just about EXACTLY 45 times what they were then, and I am close to turning 60.

  • lsjogren

    As to Bill Clinton: He’s a good example that things are a lot more complex that that boomers are simply a bunch of narcissistic brats.

    He conducted himself in creepy, possibly grotesque ways (depending on whether the worst of the allegations are true), yet also appears to have been a pretty good parent and even conservatives are acknowledging he did a pretty good job as President.

    Today we have a President who lives an upright life but isn’t very good at his job.

  • Indy

    Do the math.

    The real problem is unfunded liabilities. Take a look at what taxpayers have to shell out to help the boomers live well in retirement.

    Whether it is municipal or state workers, the pension system is the biggest burden that the boomer generation has foisted onto the next generation.

    And is the private sector any better? Only in some cases, but it is being corrected. Do the math again. What was it that bankrupted GM and Chrysler? You have a smaller number of employees paying for the well being of a large number of retirees.

    Look at europe, or Greece or Italy, to differing degrees, the entire western civilization is facing the same root problems. The depth of the debacle may differ, but the core problem is the same.

    The economists like to point out their ability to create multiplier effects, virtuous cycles, and ridicule the old ideas of savings. They stretch small slivers of wisdom like the paradox of thrift into justifications for debt financing. Entire systems of taxation and financing was built such that in the US, only stupid people would try to pay off their mortgages.

    I think our parents got it right when they said “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Take that you Keynesian scoundrels.

  • Left Coast Conservative

    I’m a boomer – my parents have been married for over 50 years – to the same person. They worked hard to instill character and values in us – their flaw? A lack of oversight due to a trust in humanity and their country.
    This destruction goes back much further than my generation – who brought in Freud? Who brought in Marx? Who brought in Hitler? Who brought in sex ed in the public schools? Who came up with that cannard – what I do in private is my business and effects no one else?
    This article doesn’t even begin to cover the complexity of the great American landscape. For every deginerate, there are easily 20 people out there working for a living.
    My husband and I have taken three vacations by ourselves in 30 years of marriage – far fewer than my parents and more on par with my grandparents. We’ve worked two and three jobs at a time between us. Sometimes four – just to meet our goals. The younger men who work with my husband (20′s and 30′s) have what we’ve never dreamed of having – and the debt to go with it. Why? Because their patrimony has been lost – they no longer believe in any absolute truth. They’ve been lied to and they’ve bought the lie.
    It’s not too late for any of us – whether we are boomers or GenXers or any other. This is an issue played out on each individual stage – and all private actions have global implications. That is the greater lesson here – not the class warfare created by men and women who aren’t willing to pick up the yoke and help pull the load.

  • Mike Mahoney

    The Tea Party is stuffed with boomers. OWS, their progeny. The radical, Republican, congressional freshmen of 2010 are boomers. In 1977-81 a national debate on Funding for future social security resulted in a very hefty tax increase to pay for the boomers. That funding meant the boomers were going to pay for their grandparents and parents, like always before, but also for themselves. It was a new paradigm for social security. And guess what? It wasn’t boomers who stole that money as they weren’t in a political position to affect that yet.
    This is some more balance added to the narrative. Certainly, the boomers are guilty of not doing more and better. But the show ain’t over yet, folks.

  • Darby

    I could not agree more with this article. And I am speaking as part of the boomer generation. What I see is unbelievable greed in a broad sense by our generation and the narcissism of which you speak. In a nutshell, I feel my future benefits need to be cut because we cannot saddle the young with the burden we have selfishly created. The younger generations are saddled with debt more so than any other, lack of job opportunities, and a decline in their relative living standard relative to the boomers. And yet, we expect them to pay our social security and medicare irregardless of the financial ruin this will bring them. The younger generation is OUR CHILDREN, we cannot bankrupt them so we can live in the luxury we greedily demand. However, I find very few people in my generation who share this view. They are selfish to the extreme and it is disgusting.

  • http://CookDingsKitchen.blogspot.com Rick Matz

    What will be one of the things that causes the collapse of China is the generations of “only children.”

  • JennX

    Great: Baby Boomers will regret their lost legacy just in time for them to “sacrifice a few benefits” – so my generation will be penniless and due nothing in old age in yet one more instance of us atoning for their narcissism.

    The Boomers are considerably wealthier as a generation than younger ones; it won’t be them eating dog food when we return to the model of assistance-free old age.

  • PLP

    Born in 1941, married in ’67. Born of the WWII generation and, fortunately, never sired into the Baby Boomer generation.

    Mine is the silent generation – in between and forgotten by both. We are now 66 to 83 years old. We have great admiration and respect for the generation preceeding us and we mourn as it is disappearing. Conversely, we have negligible admiration for the majority of the generation which follows us. Should they get their wish from the lyrics of the WHO song (in the first sentence of your article), our generation will be happy and content to grow old without further distraction from these Baby Boomers.

  • John Smith

    Well-written. I think of the Baby Boomers as the Most Selfish Generation, determined to spend every last dollar and leave NOTHING to posterity. Usually each generation is intent to improve the lot of its children. Not this generation!
    Social Security is going to completely run out of money the year before I retire. Politics, the media, the monied interest really do not care about twenty years out – SPEND IT ALL NOW!
    It really is disgusting. I think the theory that the Boomers’ brains were fried by all their drugs has a lot of merit, because they wrecked this country and the world at large.

  • Mike

    Complete hogwash! It wasn’t boomers who put in place Medicare, Medicaid, WIC, Food Stamps, The Department of Education, and all the other Great Society entities that are bankrupting our culture financially and morally. We had 50 years of Democrat Party rule in Congress before 1994 so don’t blame the Boomers.

    Actually, Boomers have taken the opportunity to vote in new leadership in 1980, 1994, 2000, and 2010 to try and fix this fiscal mess we have created. Our only problem is we haven’t found anyone yet with the courage to make the real changes necessary.

  • Luap Leiht

    The article cites Bill Clinton as the arrival point of Boomer political power. This, however, is incorrect. As President, Mr. Clinton’s ability to do good or harm was constrained by the Congress.

    It wasn’t until Boomers of both parties took over Congress (around the year 2000) that the wheels fell off. With Boomer majorities, Presidents Bush and Clinton (both Boomers) sold the next two and maybe three generations into debt slavery.

    I am a member of Generation X and have known since my youth that we would be sold down the river. My only consolation is that in the Boomer’s haste, the train will wreck all that much quicker.

    This gives me hope that my elementary school children will have a good shot at the American Dream rebuilding in the aftermath of the Boomers.

  • elvisatemydonuts

    Perhaps this article should have been addressed more specifically to liberal boomers. The boomers who emulate their parent’s generation’s values much more are the conservative boomers. Liberals who came of age in the 60s and later are overwhelmingly responsible for the erosion of values and the lack of a work ethic in this country.

  • Boomer

    We did one thing far better than our parents – raising such outstanding children and that will make all the difference.

  • steve

    I am 44 years old, just outside Baby boomerness, but born to Boomers. My parents are very liberal and I have sort of rebelled and gone towards the light of conservatism. This has been my thesis since about 20 years old,and hounded on this very topic of the Boomers destruction of America. Since they were so large a population they have coopted everything, and no adults ever stood up to them. We have had to live their lives since the 50s and unfortunately have never recovered from the 1960s. The Baby Boomers have visited an awful fate upon the West, and foremost was the destruction of authority and the “death” of God. Now we stand in despair at how a great man can stand by and do nothing while he watches children being raped. We have swung low and beyond a safe trajectory. Woe and misery is ahead, and this sordid issue will fade like they all do. Boomers in Concentration Camps I once pondered, but the spirit has been released upon the land, it is too late for a physical emend. God help us all.

  • Luap Leiht

    “My generation has some real accomplishments under its belt, especially in the worlds of science and technology. And we made important progress in making American society a more open place for people and groups who were once excluded.”

    I’d like to hear about some of these scientific and technological accomplishments.

    Moon Shot – The rocket scientists running the show were mostly ex-Nazis. The Boomers (thanks President Hope and Change) cancelled manned spaceflight.

    Computers – Moore’s law was coined in the 1950′s. Personal Computers were a natural extension of this growth. Many of the Boomers I know can barely operate a computer (even in the year 2011).

    Internet – Originally created as DARPAnet in the 1960′s. Commercialized by Generation X in the late 1990′s-2000′s. To the Boomer’s credit, though, they are largely responsible for using this technology to offshore US manufacturing so we can get some more cheap junk from Wal-Mart.

    Human Genome Project – Headed up by a couple of people from the Greatest Generation (Watson and Healy). This is the same Watson who is a co-discoverer of DNA.

    Credit Default Swaps – Invented by Boomers in the early 1990′s, these little babies took down the financial markets in 2008 and now threaten to take down entire countries.

    Cell Phones – I’ll give this one to the Boomers, but only because they like to incessantly talk about how great they are. It did take Generation X to shrink the cell phone smaller than a shoe box, though.

    As far as civil rights, it was the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation that championed these. Most of the Boomers would have needed a permission slip to attend a protest march. The Boomers just took the credit.

    These “accomplishments” aren’t much to brag about. However, if the Boomers agree to finally ride off into the sunset and let us fix the damage, I promise we’ll let them continue to feel good about themselves.

    Deal?

  • rjh

    Obviously, Mr.Mead buys into the obama/progressive/marxist idea of pitting various groups of Americans against each other. This does not require as much effort or intelligence as identifying the real problems we have in this country.

  • clawhammerjake

    I’m 65 now. Maybe we had it right way back then. Maybe we shouldn’t trust anyone over 30. The boomers didn’t start doing the things that really messed up our country until they were 30+. Maybe the thing to do is more simple than it looks … don’t let anyone over 30 vote. They have proved themselves too greedy and shallow.

  • ldm357

    Dr. Mead and fellow readers, I think JC in comment #8 hit the nail on the head. The rot started with the Progressives.

    As a Boomer (which I’ve always perceived as a demographic tag, not as any badge of merit) I saw the same desire in our Depression-era parents to insure that we never had to go through what they went through.

    A large number of extremely selfish people grew up as an unintended consequence of that desire. We’re no different from any other generation, except that we have not been tested by world wars, world-wide depressions, or revolutions by the mobs.

  • gordo

    I remember my old man warning that our generation was throwing away a culture that worked. He, of course, was an immigrant kid from Queens, combat vet, and Ivy educated on the GI bill. I don’t think he ever had a credit card, but he and his generation had courage to do the right thing and call out the wrong thing – we don’t – if it feels good lets do it is our creed. He told me one day that if we threw away the concept of shame its over. I think we did and it may be unless guys like that Iraq war vet stay mad.

  • Pops

    Clearly this article would be laughable were it not so bigoted. Imagine picking a whole generation and claiming they are problematic. Many who commented are ignorant of who is included in the baby boom generation. Surely Joe Paterno is not. A baby boomer is someone born between 1946 and 1964. They are currently people between 47 and 65 years old. They are people either in the midst of their productive work years or nearing the end of their working years. A failure to understand history merely indicates ignorance and a tendency to repeat it.

  • gordo

    Our generation (boomer)failed to rein in the liberal/progressives and their “open-minded” society of relative morals. This included throwing God under the bus. Not a good thing to do.

  • the bob

    He lost me with the Bush hate.

  • Brian

    This morning i attended a ceremony at the US Air Force (Maxwell AFB) Air University for Mr. Tom Brokaw in which he received an honorary doctorate. At the end the audience asked several questions. One of the ‘professors’ (a baby boomer) asked Mr. Brokaw: (paraphrased-’how can you honor the “greatest” generation when they made so many mistakes during the Vietnam War?’) It was a perfect example of the boomer generation and modern academia. Luckily, there was one more question from the audience that allowed Mr. Brokaw and the school to leave on a high note.

  • valwayne

    As pointed out not all the boomer turned out so badly. Those of us on the tail end of the boom saw what older boomers did in the 60s and 70s, voted for Reagan in 1980, and many of us maintained those values, although not enough. And I’m not optimistic that the next generation will do any better, the signs are that they will be worse. A large majority of them after all voted for Obama, and by any measure he doesn’t even come close to Bill Clinton. And if the Occupy movement is any sign, the post baby boomers are fully entrenched in the free lunch mentality, being fed by Obama, believing that they can have free education, and won’t have to work, if only we shake the tree of those evil rich people. And they are willing to break the law and commit violence to get someone else to pay for their freebies. We’ll know how far down the road to decline and despair we have traveled in Nov 2012! If Obama is reelected you can write the epitaph for our once great nation. If he isn’t the jury will be out, but their will still be hope for renewal!

  • ryan

    Absolute drivel. The WWII generation brought forth Civil Rights? Are you kidding? Nonsense. The generation before the boomers were oppressed oppressors and socially backward. Before the boomers America was run by white people AND NOW IT IS NOT AND THAT IS WHAT REALLY BOTHERS YOU!

  • Eurydice

    I’ll have to admit that it’s taken me most of the day to stop seeing red over a particular part of this article. So, the Boomers have been too narcissistic to have children, have they? Which Boomers exactly would those be? Perhaps you mean the women who would actually have to bear those children? Those women who finally got an opportunity to study what they like, to get a job in their chosen field, to get equal pay, to be able to participate in the country’s economic and political life without needing a husband’s blessing? Those women who were finally able to choose what happened to their bodies and when? Are those the ones you mean?

  • MurphyB

    The generational guilt by association meme is wrong. If I have the responsibility I should also have had the authority. Oops the logic fall apart.

    I’ve worked my a*s off since I was 10 sometimes in bad conditions. I’ve never voted for a democrat either. Take your generational guilt………

  • Carl

    How about benefiting from the taxes of their parents – good public schools, great infrastructure – and then lobbying to lower the taxes and cut public spending when it was their turn to foot the bill!

  • David

    JohnMc wrote: “We completed the Cold War (many call it WWIII) and saw to the destruction of the Soviet Union.”

    WE completed the Cold War?? You think BOOMERS did that???

    Excuse me, but Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher ended the Cold War. And the last time I checked birth dates, they weren’t Boomers.

    What BOOMERS did is elect LBJ to preside over the greatest expansion of the Liberal Welfare State since the New Deal. WE endorsed Medicare and Medicaid. And it is WE (AARP members) who are now shouting, “Don’t touch my Social Security! Don’t touch my Medicare!” WE are the entitlement generation who are willing to pass all the costs on to future generations of taxpayers.

    So please, JohnMc, take you sanctimonious `We are heroes` attitude and stick it in your ear.

  • David

    Comment #96 by mere citizen: Well-said, my friend. Well-said.

  • marijam

    Don’t blame those at the tail end of the baby boom, from 1954 to 1964. We’ve always had to live in their shadow and take their leavings and their hand-me-downs. I’ve never considered myself to be a boomer and never will.

  • Shrewsbury

    By the way, 50,000 of those inexpressibly detestable “Boomers” died fighting in Vietnam while all the “Greatest Generation” jerks in the mass media and Congress did everything they could to undermine them, and welcomed them with jeers and indifference if they made it home. I’ve never seen such a bunch of philanderers, lushes, and prescription drug abusers as that cohort of the “GG” that survived WWII. When the Boomers turned to free sex and the drug culture and all that crap they were just acting out their parents’ secret lives.

    And how many “Boomers” really grew up pampered and sheltered in a Leave it to Beaver suburban paradise? Two per cent? My own childhood was positively Gothic. God I’m so sick of listening to this “narcissist Baby Boomer” crap. How many “millenials” and Generation Xers and Yners died in ‘Nam? Oh – zee-row.

    Now the Yners are blaming us for the Social Security ponzi scheme. Never mind that the Boomers had nothing to do with its establishment and almost no Boomers are actually receiving it yet….

    But now that ethnic hatred is unacceptable, I guess we have to have generational hatred to satisfy those same ancient cravings….

  • Mark

    AMEN AMEN AMEN. Can’t stand the Me Generation. And their queens are Nancy Pelosi, Mrs. Clinton and Barney Frank.

  • http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/ Eric S

    Come off it! Is pointless to blame the entire generation. It’s the Democrats’ fault.

  • AAC

    Boomers threw the baby out with the bathwater when they tossed their parents’ values. They were led to believe that they deserved to be happy and have been relentlessly pursuing happiness every since.

    As bad as this may sound, the Great Recession may be the best thing that has ever happened to young people today. They have a chance to learn from it what their parents never learned from their own parents’ hardship.

    On a political note, there is something seriously wrong with the democrats’ efforts to treat hardship like a disease that must be cured with government assistance. Hardship builds character. More boomers on steroids.

  • boomermom

    What a crock! Blaming one group of people as diverse as boomers for all the ills of society is simply a witch hunt. I am a boomer, born 1947. Married for 40 years, tried to teach my children, born 1972-1981 values, morality, and the faith. They are the ones who have swallowed the media values hook, line, and sinker and have abandoned the ideas of the sanctity of life, of marriage, and think divorce is just fine if you are “bored” with the marriage.

  • http://was Any Mouse

    I agree wholeheartedly with the spirit of this piece. One exception, however, is the notion that they are exceptionally tolerant. They seem to be but only within the context of the confines of their collective generational delusions. Outside of that self-limiting playground, my experience with them is that they generally very intolerant. Within the playground, their collective delusions enforce and reinforce a rather stark conformity.

  • jt

    a response to one common theme of responsibility avoidance here, where each seems to defend its own generation by saying, that ‘everybody said they won’t grow up to be their parents, yet many did,’ as a way to spread and generalize, as if this were a common theme with humanity, and therefore there is nothing to be made s sight of, no blame to be cast. my response would be that there is a historical line, a cutoff, a sea change. it occasionally comes about as technology accumulates. take the instance of this occasion. what we are using is called “alternative media”. it is the internet. it is individual citizen and a public forum made by individual citizens. here we discuss politics, activities reserved only for an interested few in the upper class in older times. there is a wide gathering of information, no spin, and free exchange of opinions. this is internet blog, one of the countless forms of internet alternative media today.

    the human struggle for the first time can be accurately recorded in their entirety, not in forms of short synopsis and summarized essays, but the whole process, from beginning to end. what was said, what was done, what was actually voted in–everything is now archived on the internet. when was the last time a great country on the brink of collapse actually had a couple older generations reflecting on themselves, instead of taking families to hideouts or robbing the streets if you lack scarce resources, before everything comes tumbling down? this is all work of technology and alternative media.

    humans haven’t been in existence for a tremendous amount of time, in a comparative sense to nature, and recorded history is even shorter, disregarding the accuracy of it. there is much difficulty for people who lack broad information sources to gain proper understanding of nature of their doing. they need accurate accounts of history over which they can compare each political event and their eventual consequences. now there is a tool to achieve this, for the first time in human civilization. perhaps there is some wisdom to the phrase ‘history repeats itself’, but at some point some things will begin to change. during these times, it’s better to consider the grander picture, instead of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks to justify your own world view and become defensive.

    no doubt future generations will have much better documentation of their own struggles as well as much more accurate accounts of history, always the instance as they happened through replay-able videos, with no spin, because the alternative media pool is so vast, once mainstream media is gone, and they will be, in their current form. no doubt future generations will look back at this as a turning point, and i have no doubt past generations won’t be looked upon kindly, although they may put you in perspective of lacking communicational technologies and grant you some credit where due.

    same reason why arab spring is occurring. no doubt there will be chaotic times to come in that region, but the wheel of history is quickly turning on what accumulated information technologies have brought us. short term it will be chaos, but as long as people can still communicate with each other and record their own history and struggles, long term is nothing but of absolute brightness.

    being a member of the younger generation, i suspect i will witness much of the change to come. i would say, as future generations might, that no doubt many of you older generations will rate very low compared to what’s to come, but as previously stated, your lack of information alternatives and political education tools will be taken into account by history. my personal philosophy, which i apply to self with equal rigor, is however one of work ethics, and of results–if you mess up, admit it and improve if you will. don’t open a mouth full of excuses.

  • jfhdsiu

    I don’t see why the ‘baby boomers’ should be blamed for newer generations lack of self reliance and their under achievements! After a person reaches the age of legal responsibility, they assume responsibility for themselves. The newer generations are sure trying hard to foist off their own lack of achievement on someone else. It has always been thus. And always will be. All of those who are wishing the older generations out of the way, just remember, life is short and YOU will be that person one day real soon. Then YOU will have your own ingrate offspring wishing YOU out of the way. Talk about poetic justice………………… Savagery at it’s most eloquent!

  • Neal K

    “Failed parents often do better with their grandchildren. Perhaps the Boomers can go out on a higher note, learning from our mistakes and spending the rest of our time smoothing the path for new generations rather than endlessly nurturing our narcissism, our selves. As a generation the hardest lesson for us to learn appears to be that in the end it is what you give rather than what you get that really counts.”

    Unfortunately, I doubt this will happen. They’re called “entitlements” for a reason, and Boomers will demand them like never before. Sacrifice will be only for the young who are forced to support a system that the Boomers created and proceeded to make worse.

  • K.F. Miller

    The Boomers did not raise themselves. While the so-called “Greatest Generation” certainly did some good, they were also at the helm during the disastrous moral decline of the last 40+ years, and their legacy will be further tarnished by the selfish, shallow Boomer generation they raised. Maybe the lesson to take is that proper parenting will truly measure what generation is “Greatest.”

  • dr kill

    I’m encouraged. At least none of your readers blamed current American problems on godlessness.

  • Mary

    This editorial is really interesting, because some of it seems to be true.

    However, the big truth is that when things get good, we humans, regardless of birth decade, get to feeling we don’t need God any more. The Boomers’ mistakes can all be summed up by this feeling of superiority over their less educated parents and grandparents, and rejection of their values and traditions. And, if future generations think they do not need God either, their numbers will self-destruct with psych meds and perish with increased suicide rates.

    The good news is this: humbling yourself to the belief in something greater than yourself does a world of good — literally! It is not too late. The boomers were right when they spoke of love and peace. They just thought they could engineer it without a grounded faith. May God Bless America and all her generations.

  • R.C.

    The Baby Boomers are the worst generation of Americans thus far: The most useless and narcissistic, the most destructive and self-righteous, the most dismissive of everything that is true and honorable and the most eager to embrace every stray crackpot thought.

    They married for foolish reasons, had children with spouses they didn’t care to stay with, and then abandoned those children by divorcing those spouses. Sure, the women continued to have custody and it doesn’t always look like abandonment: But dating some stranger while your children can’t spend time with both parents under the same roof is essentially the same thing.

    They adopted the view that children are fashion accessories, with too many children being a kind of gauche social faux-pas. Having taken this view, they naturally enough aborted a large swath of the children who otherwise could have afforded to pay for their health care in their senescence without risking economic collapse.

    The boomers also turned their noses up against the faith of their parents and replaced it with pop psychology, and new-agey stuff about crystals, and philosophies adopted wholesale from drug-addled pop music lyrics, and neo-pagan faux-religions fabricated whole-cloth from Hollywood movies and role-playing games, and crass materialism, and watered-down social-gospel churches which substituted compassion for moral self-control and used trendy leftist political activism as an indulgence to justify pettiness and dishonesty.

    Any man might make such mistakes until he reached maturity and repented. Boomers dodged the maturity phase and boasted of their own silliness. And they still do, wearing tie-dyed shirts below scraggly thin gray hair.

    So? So what?

    Remember that these are the folks who clamored for legal euthanasia, as a nice bookend to their support for legal abortion.

    I think that their children will be grateful to see the silly old self-centered fools finally enter their senility. For when that happens, those children, who have long tired of putting up with their parents’ s***, will make use of the moral and legal revolution their parents pioneered, and finally, with a sigh of relief, put their parents out of their children’s misery.

  • john thayer

    Well, the article is a little too self-indulgent too. SOME of us turned 21 in the Republic of Vietnam, served their country there for 13 months; returned to the Marine riot battalion to serve in the streets of D.C. when MLK died; starved on the “G.I.Bill” ($130/month. Period.)at the University of Maryland. And went on to work and raise families. Such angst. Such B******t.

  • hardtoport

    Liberal, progressive boomer here. Sorry, I did my part. I never voted for a Republican. Have my own business, happily pay my taxes, have 2 great liberal kids, put them through school, and both are gainfully employed. Married for 35 years. Have a nice home that generates it own power – gotta love the sun and wind!

    Why all the hatred and anger directed at liberals/progressives/democrats? Republicans/conservatives have been running the show for 28 of the last 39 years. You had complete control of all 3 branches from 2000-2006. Yeah, evil Bill Clinton lied about a consensual sex act (something no conservative Republican President has ever done)…but his tax increases did create 24MM jobs. Bush’s Trillion dollar taxcuts created how many jobs? :-)

    The answer of course, is to elect yet another conservative Republican in 2012 and give him a majority in both Houses…I think that will pretty much finish off any pretense of an American Dream.

  • http://RealClearpolitics Charlie Fremont

    I for one am sick and tired of all the claptrap praising the “greatest” generation and condemning my “boomers”. Do Clinton’s picadellos compare to JFK? Hardly. Do our government excesses and corruption compare to LBJ, Nixon, Wright, etc? No. Aren’t the boomers faced with unwinding the myriad international and military entanglements foisted upon by the “greatest”?

  • John Hammer

    What an exceptional article Mead has written. It’s easy enough to take it a step further and add that the neoliberal policies and the false morality of Christian fundamentalism expressed by this generation have created a perfect storm for the demise of our nation into a perpetual funk.

  • ELF

    Bommers now ask their children and their grandchildren to pay into Social Security & Medicare at a higher rate than they paid in. Shamelessly they also ask their children and grandchildren to pay higher taxes to re-fund the trust fund that they spent when they controlled things.

    Sadly boomers now demand that their children pay more than they did through payroll taxes and in higher taxes to fund a system that will be bankrupt before they ever get benefit from it….disgusting.

  • rsdcllc

    @ John Lynch,
    When the Vietnam Veterans returned from war even the WW2 veterans turned their back on them. Vietnam veterans idolized the WW2 guys, but, it didn’t seem to matter. Today, in your wars, the most outspoken supporters of your generation of soldeirs is the Vietnam Veterans and this is how you repay them? If you’re a good example of generation X, then your gmeration is sorely lacking! You better go fix your comptemparies and yourself before you attack the Baby boomers!

  • GKE

    Reading these comments its clear: Every generation thinks their daddy’s generation was misguided or somehow screwed up and that the generations that follow are messed up too. Old coots and young whipper-snappers, quit your [whinin]‘. I don’t care when you were born, life is tough and whining and blaming just isn’t helpful.

  • CobbleHill

    A few somewhat random thoughts.

    Generations are by definition arbitrary. But you would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to recognize that lots of significant historical events have distinct markers. Was there are generation of 1848? Yeah, it marked an era that led to the emancipation of slaves in the U.S., serfs in Russia, Jews in Germany, broader enfranchisement in England, and the end of feudalism in Japan.

    And I do think that the there was something disturbing about the 1960′s. I’m kinda trying to write a book about it by focusing on so many of the influential books of that decade (give or take a few years) which were really wrong or harmful or just plain kooky. Thomas Szasz. Marcuse. Malcolm X. John Kenneth Galbraith, talk about wrong. Charles Reich. Etc.

    I think a big issue, though, that no one is focusing on is why suddenly, things got a lot better in the world, starting in the West around 1800. Was it ideas? That’s a bit of a stretch. The ability to record information more cheaply? Maybe. I think that we can find a lot of parallels for societal decline in the past. One person mentioned not having children, and David Goldman’s recent book is very interesting on this point.

    But this time around, our information systems are dramatically better. And I think that will have two consequences. First, we will continue to accumulate new technology. And second, the feedback mechanisms on various political and cultural mistake will be more efficient.

    Per the comment about progressivism, I thank that is basically correct, if you mean by that socialism. The modern world caught that disease sometime between the last 19th century and then mid 20th century, and clearly, it’s been hard to shake.

    The big problem is that socialism destroys how we price things. That was clear in the old Soviet Union. It was less clear in the welfare state. But that confusion is now coming to and end, and my sense is that notwithstanding the best efforts of Obama et. al, we will begin to pursue reforms.

    So that’s my two cents.

  • Rick

    Bravo. Well done. Congratulations on an excellent analysis. I have been ashamed of my generation generally since the 60s when I witnessed them shutting down universities in order to skip finals, trashing property to create barricades against a non-existent attack. I must admit I participated in the unending pot and booze party, but I sobered up. I opposed the Viet Nam war, but I had friends who were drafted and felt they had no options. I could not condemn them as easily as could the newly budding feminists on campus. I went to the Woodstock stage, but hiked my way back out of the world’s largest pig wallow without hearing a single act. I hated Nixon, but I had to admit he was trying to end a war started and fouled up by Democrats. I watched the phony radicals ensconce themselves in the comfy sinecure of academia, where they destroyed free speech and independent inquiry. Perhaps it wasn’t all their fault. Too many Boomers had indulgent parents who overcompensated for the hardships of their own Depression- and war-torn youth.

  • Steve Lyons

    The boomer generation got a free ride at the expense of future generations for three reasons.

    1) The creation of the federal reserve that fabricated paper wealth out of thin air without needing real work or real assets to back up that wealth.

    2) The 16th Amendment that confiscated real wealth directly from those enjoying the expansion of the fake wealth,

    3) all the social redistribution programs that were leveraged off of the first two and the degrading impact they have on the future generations.

  • mukman

    There is only one word for this catharsis – depressing. I’ve never seen so much whining and maligning in a single essay that purports to define a generation.

    I hesitate to say that among the excesses of the Boomers was pressuring the backroom of politics to open up at their conventions to work toward a more egalitarian political process. Yes, we pushed the envelope, sometimes out of self-absorbed experimentation, but so many of the Boomer generation made sure that we DO have a cleaner environment, equal treatment of men and women, the disabled and – oh horrors gays!

    We also were a generation of Olympians that excelled and, if this is about tearing down political leadership, we lacked the in-your-face external threat that always bring Americans together. Yes, that singleness of purpose was absent until 9/11. I dare say that was true of isolationist American before Pearl Harbor.

    This treatise is so far off the mark, it’s pathetic.

  • Larry

    I don’t agree that the entire mess is the Baby Boomers’ fault. But I do believe they will have a painful, unpleasant retirement. I’d rather be 40 when the economy collapses that 65. At 65, you’re tired. State pensions are bankrupt. Social Security is bankrupt. Medicare is bankrupt. People will have to keep working. Also, Baby Boomers have had a deadly combination of stress, alcoholism, smoking, and poor diet. They are not NEARLY as healthy as the WWII generation. Boomers will likely have shorter lives.

  • Travis

    The Greatest Generation was followed by the Greediest Generation.

  • Deborah Moran

    Hogwash! While I do not disagree with the ills the author mentions, for every Boomer leader he does not like, there is another very different Boomer who ran against him.

    For every mindless Boomer movie, there is an incredibly thought provoking TV series that renews one’s faith in the medium.

    I am proud to be a Boomer because this is how the world changed, largely thanks to Boomers:

    A woman can have virtually any career she desires.

    Sexual harassment is a big no-no (not true before!)

    Racial intolerance is driven underground.

    50 is the new 30 and 70 is the new 50.

    If we think something is wrong, we don’t shrug our shoulders and say, “that’s the way it’s always been.”

    We are outraged by injustice.

    We changed the world for the better with computers and the utility of the Internet.

    We are not resigned to anything.

  • Jamie B

    Thank you for this illuminating piece… There is no better example in my mind of the author’s premise than the fact that NASA recently announced that it would take 20 years for the USA to return to the moon. Our parent’s generation (the shirt and tie engineers that the Boomers despised) did it in less than 10 years, with no example to follow, without computers, email, faxes, or cell phones, for less than 1/5 of the cost of the “stimulus” the Boomers largely spent on themselves.

  • Alan

    Reading the responses to this article it strikes me how few understand much history repeats itself and how little control those who are born in the generation into which they enter the world have much control over what will occur on “their watch”. We have gone from periods of crisis (Revolutionary War, Civil War, Depression/WWII and now our current Great Recession) to periods of rebirth (of civic order, conformance, institutional development aimed at preventing the crises of the past from ever being experienced again) to periods of awaking and rebellion (sounds like the 60s generation to me…) to generations of unraveling of social order (our gen Xers being the latest). Go read the Fourth Turning, its all laid out clearly.

    So yes, the Boomers are the most selfish, greedy, narcissistic generation of all those alive today – just as their counterparts were in the last cycle, and the one before it, and the one before that one.

    Does that excuse them? Absolutely not, they have been a human tsunami of social destruction their entire adult lives if you call their time in the 60s a period of adulthood. They thought they were smarter, that they knew it all, that they had it all figured out, that the only rules that applied were the ones they decided mattered to them or which they wrote.

    The worst of it personally is to have been one of them by dint of the year of my birth and to have been a voice screaming into a hurricane where no one listened or cared. At least I can live with my conscience having spoken my peace loudly and widely to my fellow boomers, and having told my kids and their circle of friends before the [excrement] hit the fan in 2008 that the generations that preceded them had screwed them royally and left them a massive mess to clean up.

    History will not be kind indeed.

  • Corlyss

    Struck a nerve, Prof.

    Wanna see the Boomers’ lastest products? Look at the OWS rabble. For the most part, they are the grandchildren of the privileged Boomers. Lazy, dumber than even their parents as products of a school system all but destroyed by Boomers’ fiddlin’ in the name of justice, spoiled by an entitlement society, all they know is they want their whining to be attended to – NOW!

  • David Minnich

    I usually enjoy Walter Mead’s writings, but this is simplistic stereotyping nonsense. Many of the ominous public policy trends (Social Security, public employee pensions, etc.) are thanks to the Silent and WW11 generation, not the boomers. And it was GenX and GenY that helped put in high-spending Democrats, including the chief spender himself, Obama. Everyone must share responsibility for what has happened to our country; no one can claim immunity.

  • Skep41

    So you wait till now to tell me this stuff? Instead of going to the wildest party in human history I could have toiled like a drudge under the cruel lash of my responsibilities? That’s nice. I’m sorry for my generational failings because we did indeed get it completely wrong. In the old societies, whose ethics WRM thinks we should have clung to, your rewards were delivered in middle age after a youth spent in earnest and ultimately successful endeavor. But the Boomers were the first generation to have grown up with the new technology that interlinked everything. Youth dominated age for one short moment. They abandoned a Judeo-Christian paradigm that was completely out of sync with the new technology. There is no way that the ideology of a bunch of nomadic sheepherders makes any sense. Or the ideology of 5th Century monks. What replaces the old world is what happens after the coming crash. Enlightenment, Ingsoc, who knows? The Boomers were the bridge between two different worlds. Also, is it not better to have a cool youth, like we did, and a busted pension-plan then a well-funded old age and a bummed-out youth like the Depression-WW2 generation had?

  • JM Hanes

    Wow. The last place I’d have expected so many unflattering collective stereotypes strung together in a single column would have been here.

    If you want to take boomers to task, however, I’m not sure that an aggrieved 31 year old man who has apparently been waiting around all his life for some leader he can follow to cross his radar makes a very sympathetic complainant.

    Every generation swears they won’t make the same mistakes their parents did, and they don’t. They make their own mistakes, which their own children will one day promise themselves they won’t repeat.

  • EJM

    ‘Progressivism’ is destroying our nation, and this disease is not limited to any one age group or generation. Do you think the misguided grown-up children who voted for Obama or the .01% who cannot distinguish between free speech and free camping in Zuccotti Park are going to exhibit more sense or responsibility in later life?

    Millions are free now in countries where there was no freedom when I was born 58 years ago. Nuclear Armageddon was averted. World starvation due to overpopulation predicted in the 60′s did not occur but a green revolution in agriculture did. Science and technology continue to make wondrous strides in many fields. Life expectancy is higher, and infectious diseases that were the scourges of history have been banished. We have been to the moon, and stand on the threshold of stepping to the planets. Human progress is real.

    The night often looks darkest before the dawn. The “Greatest Generation” had to survive a decade-long Great Depression and many of them were struck down in their youth by a terrible World War. But the country grew and prospered. What is even a $15 Trillion debt, when we as Americans decide to reduce it. America will not only survive but thrive in the 21st Century. The future is where it always was, in our own hands.

    Each one of us can only live our lives as well as we can and pass the timeless values of honor, integrity, compassion and wisdom we learned from our parents to our own children.

  • Russ

    Actually no….the Boomers got more of their philosophy from their parents than they may realize.

    The WWII generation failed to question authority at any point( much as their parents also did), ushering in the New Deal, and telling their kids why depending on government was a good thing. The WWII generation was also first fed the scam of the Middle Class, and didn’t bother to challenge it; yes, they were technically accepting a handout, but not directly in the form of a paycheck from Uncle Sam.

    The booming economy spoken of was actually a very heavily manipulated economy that started in the 1930s, and ended in the early ’70s, mostly due to a heavy increase in global trade; it was good this happened, btw, giving American business true competition for the first time in decades…and showing we didn’t have the maturity to take it as a welcome challenge.

    As Dr. Hurd best said it in a previous article of his “ideas are rotten now because ideas were rotten then”.

    I will confess I am beginning to see the winds of change taking place…and I do think it’s a very good thing; but I see those winds with my generation( I was born in the ’80s), not the Boomers.

    You folks still don’t get it, and I don’t think you ever will. And all your singin’ around the campfire smokin’ doobies won’t change that.

  • Pablo Cruize

    Life is but a walking shadow a poor player thats struts and frets his hour upon the stage it is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing… W.S.

    Boomers and their child killing, self indulgant, neo paganism has brought the nation to the brink of financial and moral distruction.

    I have growing doubts the nation can recover from the ravages of such a feeble and deluded generation.

    God Have Mercy…

  • Don Colibri

    My dear Walter:

    As a child of the 60s a full member of the Boomer Generation, an ex-hippie myself (and a radical right-wing conservative) I must simply say that you more or less nailed it, except for one little detail.

    We (the “boomers”) grew up in the post depression, post-WWII era and we had it good, sweet even. Our parents tried in every way to give us a life that they never had. A life of economic security and political peace.

    The problem was that without going through what our parents went through (the Great Depression and the great World War Two)there was no way on Earth that we were ever going to come out like they did. Great Character is formed by great challenges and we, the “boomer” generation never had many of those. Life was easy, it was sweet. My parents were formed in the forge of great sacrifice and suffering, we were formed in the caldron of great expectations and affluence. There actually is a huge difference between the two.

    Our parents were to blame somewhat too. Oh, I know that you want to believe that in the end the WWII generation was noble, sacrificing and dedicated (and they were!) while we ended up completely self-indulgent and weak. But the simple truth is that after the horror of the Nazi regime and after the economic wasteland that was the Great Depression, our parents wanted something different, something much better for their children.

    They raised us in the near utopian life style of the 1950s and 60s. It was not their fault, but neither was it ours. We grew up believing in a new world, a better world without fascism, war, racism or colonialism. I grew up believing that since 1945 the world was to be a much better place.

    I know that you Americans had the Vietnam thing and I really think that that screwed you people up worse than anything else. During that war the youth became militant and revolutionary and the establishment became frozen in American patriotism and reaction. In other countries where there was no “Vietnam War,” the boomer generation grew up as a fundamental evolutionary part of their cultures, it never turned into a flaming radical militancy against an immoral war.

    It is NOT the “boomer” generation of the world which has failed so badly, it is specifically the “boomer” generation of the UNITED STATES that has failed so dramatically. In Britain, Canada, Mexico and other countries, the “boomer” generation has done just fine. In Canada the “boomers” have just re-elected a Conservative government which has effectively saved the country from the entire recession that has crushed the US. In Mexico it was the “boomer generation” which brought the liberal PRI dictatorship to its knees after 71 years of repression and corruption and brought the conservatives to power in 2000! The greatest Labour Prime Minister in British history was a “boomer”, Tony Blair. A “boomer” Angie Merkle is perhaps the only one saving Europe from itself at this very moment.

    It was the Vietnam War that changed the face of the US and set a radical “us verses them” mentality amongst your people and politicians. The “boomer” (hippie) call for a kinder, less racist, more tolerant and more decent society has been practically seamlessly integrated into most advanced Western societies over the years. Except the USA.

    Blame Vietnam. It poisoned your country more than most of you seem to realize……

  • No One Important

    The failure of our public schools produced this group of “boomers” who think they can have it all at the expense of the future.

    The group that brought you “free love” and big entitlements, and pushed those big government entitlements past what their purpose was, is now on the brink of busting the very systems they created.

    And the intergenerational pushback is sad. These kids weren’t even born yet when these horrendous entitlements were warped beyond recognition. . .and now, the boomers become angry when the youth say “pfffff, I’m not payin’ for that.”

    Previous generations should not “assume” that future generations will pay for their malfeasance and their perfidy. You don’t have the right to enslave future people when they aren’t even born yet and cannot vote.

    The anger shouldn’t be a surprise to the boomers.

    Want to fix this mess? Make some hard decisions at the federal level and cut the federal government down to size. Your liberal friends believe in the ever growing federal leviathan that keeps taking without accountability. Work together to slash the federal government out of your lives, to preserve what you feel “entitled” to have.

    As Reagan said, government is like a baby. An ailamentary canal, with a big appetite at one end, and no responsibility at the other.

    Stop feeding the leviathan government. So they stop spending your social security and medicare/medicaid. Stop accepting the expansion of these programs into areas they were never designed to cover, and never funded to cover.

    Until generations realize that they cannot enslave future generations, this intergenerational war will increase. . . .until someone is left on the side of the road. . . .

  • Chris M

    Well put Dr Mead, these have been my thoughts for several years now. And the Boomers get very annoyed when the facts are pointed out to them, as we see.

    Here in Australia it is in some areas worse as by government regulation we have the least affordable housing in the world, 50% of which is owned by by Boomers – so currently most of their own grandchildren will never be able to own a home.

    They gave us the hippy movement, abortion on demand and unaffordable housing. Just wonderful. Now we get to pay their pensions.

  • Luap Leiht

    Probably the biggest crime committed by the Boomers is their inability to get along with each other. This nation is more at odds with itself than since just before the Civil War.

    Boomers on the left want welfare, social programs, and no taxes on the bottom half of the population.

    Boomers on the right want warfare, government-imposed values, and lower taxes on the top 10%.

    The only thing both sides agree on is that when you don’t have the money, borrow it from your kids. You can see this in these comments as conservative Boomers blame liberals and vice versa.

    All I see is two groups of aging children who cannot get along.

  • Michael Curtis

    Dr. Mead. As always I find your articles thought provoking. I wonder if you accounted for the effects of the socialist experiment on our society? Certainly, the effects of that failed idea are more strongly felt in Europe than here but they are here and from the 30s to perhaps the 60s was the period of greatest effect.

  • James

    I am a boomer and I have failed in everything but I still kinda happy.

  • Vicki

    Well good, finally.

    Does that mean that we can finally emerge from the 60′s, please?!?! No more hippy dippy nonsense?!

    Does that mean that retirement might actually be spent watching grandchildren and helping out their very busy parents? Doing all the unsung things that made the difference for countless generations before?

    Could this spell the resumption of inter-generational cooperation ala the people who came up during the Great Depression??

    Do I really think these leopards will change their spots? no, I suspect they will only further degrade and corrupt, realistically speaking.

  • FrancisChalk

    Of course the young should be irate at the mess the boomers have created. They are starting their working life deep in debt with absolutely nothing to show for it. So what is their response: vote overwhelmingly for a Socialist president whose policies only ensure they will never have any prospect of getting out of that debt.

  • mtb

    Dear Ms. Moran,

    Well put! Please allow me to add two thoughts to yours:

    We no longer believe something just because Uncle Walter or Eric Sevareid say its so.

    Mr. Day went into military service of his own free will and volition. He was not conscripted by Boomers to die in the rice paddies of Viet Nam as the Greatest Generation did to Boomers.

  • sjay

    Just to start, neither Joe Paterno(1926) nor Jerry Sandusky (1944) is a Boomer. The rest of the article is just dreck, mainly fueled by Gen X eagerness to take the reins before they really know what’s what. But I’m not going to make that into a defining feature of that generation, because youthful impetuosity has been around to devastating effect since Icarus. So have a cup of STFU.

  • David Beiler

    Some of Mead’s points are trivial or imbalanced, but you can’t argue convincingly against his main thesis as to what ails the country. But is the self-absorbtion really just generational or is it societal? I see little indication that the succeeding generations — X, Next or whatever — are much different. If anything, they seem even more self-absorbed with an even stronger sense of entitlement.

  • Luke Lea

    I just realized we know almost nothing about Mead’s personal situation, once inside the gates of his estate in Queens: married, single, divorced, children?

    A little information might be helpful to understanding better where he is coming from. Or do context and circumstance not matter anymore?

  • David Beiler

    OMG! My comment #178 followed by comment #179 from “Luke Lea.” That’s a pen name I used to use, based on the amazing (but obscure) Tennessee politician/newspaper mogul of the early 20th century. Do I have a phantom alter-ego on my shoulder?

  • Bobert

    @Skep41

    How is the “Judeo-Christian paradigm out of sync with the new technology” and why would you think that the “ideology of a bunch of sheep herders makes no sense’ – especially when you boomers and your loose ‘free-love’ has had such *wonderful and positive* effects on single parenthoold, divorce, family cohesion, welfare, and inner city ghettos. I will stick to my ancient sheep-herder morality, thank you. Enjoy your 3rd world welfare state!

  • Scott

    While I agree with the general premise of the piece, several things are worth noting:

    One, we’re not talking all of those born during the Baby Boom. Rather, we’re talking about the cultural ethos of the stereotypical Boomer.

    Two, I don’t know how Mead defines a great and effective political leader, but surely some mention of Barack Obama, born at the tail end of the Baby Boom, deserves some mention, as he is the apotheosis of Boomerism, especially its narcissistic tendencies.

    Three, to be fair, some blame must fall on the parents of the Boomers for helping to create people with such a mindset. If you need a more specific culprit, I would suggest one Benjamin Spock.

    Four, more of a technical note, blaming free trade for the decline in manufacturing is bunk. U.S. manufacturing output as a % of GDP has been relatively stable for decades. What people are really complaining about is the decline in manufacturing jobs, but that’s due to increased productivity and automation, not free trade.

  • beejeez

    “There is, I fear, plenty of blame to spread around. The culture of narcissism and entitlement can be found on the left and the right.”

    The left that’s trying to implement the universal health care enjoyed by almost all other modern countries? The left that wants to raise federal taxes to somewhere near historical norms so that we can cover the debts we’ve run up? The left that’s agitating for jobs and a slightly more equitable distribution of wealth so that the less powerful have a chance at stability and advancement? The left that tries to constrain the political influence of powerful financial entities? The left that casts “yes” votes on the local and state level to preserve the quality of school districts, health and safety services, and natural resources? The left that tries to shift the country toward renewable energy sources, even if it’s at greater expense to themselves? That morally depraved, narcissistic left?

  • Old Man

    Hmm, the younger generation not liking what the older generation has done, is leaving them etc etc. Age old story – my dad was fool and his dad was a fool, and I’m a fool and my son will be a fool to his children. The human condition is fatal 100% of the time. Do what can, for who you can while you can. As Morrison said…”No one gets out of here alive!”

  • Russ#2

    @ Mr. Beiler #178,

    There’s a lot to that. The fundamental difference being that the Gen Xers know they’re screwed up, whereas Boomers are for the most part still proudly drinking the kool-aid.

  • The Count

    An important post. As Dr. Mead points out, we of the boomer generation failed to grow up–to become adults–and so we have squandered our birthright and heritage. Our failings far outweigh our modest achievements.
    What irks me most is our arrogance and defensiveness. We still think we’re great–so hip and cool–not like our fuddy-duddy parents–and we resent and attack anyone who tells us otherwise.

  • nperry

    What’s the big deal? For once, Mead has said not much of anything here. Every generation is a reaction to the preceding one. Yep, I’m a boomer and my parents of the “greatest generation” and my children are Gen Y.

    The latest “backlash” is just more generational stuff. There is nothing ominous (or new)about one generation bashing the previous one. If you want to blame boomers for the sorry state of the world, fine. If the younger generations like or need or want to see boomers as a failed generation, if they want to make us feel guilty, so be it.

    As a younger generation, then, do it your way. It is your turn now. As I advise my own Gen Y children, live your lives as your own and as you do so, make your own mark on the world. If boomers have failed in so many ways, then I, for one of that generation, am all too happy to hand over the reins. Just rest assured your children won’t agree. And on it goes.

  • LittleDixieChuck

    As a Baby Boomer myself, I appreciate the essay. Perhaps I missed the article’s mention of it, but I think that a major, yet unsaid, failure of the boomers was to accept the core Christian faith and values of their parents and grandparents. So many of the other boomer values and failures chided in the article, in my view, potentially find significant solutions in the profession and life application of authentic Christian faith, in both personal and social ways. Boomers as a group, and in their widespread attack upon society’s institutions, also jettisoned the church of their parents, and for me, the results are all around us

  • Eric

    The defining trait of liberal Boomers, their monumental arrogance, now turned on their own.

  • tailend boomer

    Oh please ….

    You are writing about the boomers born between 1945 and 1955. Don’t be lumping the tailenders in with that bunch. We are actually quite different.

  • Dan

    Maybe it is just me and the people that I associate with but, people my age (25) are not taking anything for granted. I think the new “cool” coming into American culture is those that choose to work hard (wealthy or not), those who have respect for their neighbours, those who do not cheat or impede those around them.

    I have had this conversation with several of my colleagues and friends throughout this great country so I do not this is an isolated sediment within my generation. It is time for the boomers to move over and let the adults in the room fix their mistakes.

  • Whit Sours

    Its all well and good that Xers and Yers are starting to wake up to the Ponzi scheme that the past 3 or 4 generations have foisted on them but what of it? Old people vote and the Boomers are getting ready to really settle in for their turn at the GrayHair Entitlement Trough. I don’t think the electoral #s are there and even as the Xers and Yers take more political positions they will have to kowtow to the Boomers who won’t take kindly to anyone suggesting they do with less. I fear this will create further unrest as folks realize there might be no political solution because the Boomers simply by the facts of their large #s and having the time to vote will resist any meaningful reform.

  • Tom Kinney

    Entirely agree, but like all such analyses about boomers, it misses one key point. The 60s wasn’t about politics. Sure, it was full of politics, especially civil rights–but that battle was started and finished mostly by a pre-boomer generation. And let’s not forget that political boomers were also all about diving headlong into the briar patch of welfare. An ultimately illiberal, anti-individualist, collectivist ideal if there ever was one.

    Instead, the boomer 60s was really about social upheaval and a subsequent readjustment to a burgeoning new world (social) order. One that was inclusive of all races, religions, ideologies, etc. That was doubly important in the U.S. because of our extensive melting pot, both racially and culturally. We had to expand our race, ethnicity and culture bases or go to war against each other. And that version of the 60s worked out extremely well. We benefit from an expanded acceptance of what is culturally okay–i.e., pretty much everything–every day in the 21st century.

    But at heart, the politics of boomers were always and still are a mess. Hippies were about individualism–do your own thing–but set within a stifling collectivist framework–communes, rock concerts. And an endless capacity for creating culture heroes, both in the arts and in politics. True hippies were individualists who were rebelling against a conforming society. Rebelling with the sole purpose of creating space for others who didn’t conform. Namely, ourselves. Conversely, political hippies preached collectivism but were really looking out for themselves and their future. And their future, for many, was in politics, where they ended up. Between these two contradictions, lie the facts.

    The bourgeois don’t start or finish revolutions, and yet that’s who political hippies were. A class grouped by age who’d never worked manual labor nor been tasked with most of the cold hard realities of life. How could they be, they were the most prosperous such population group in history.

    Political hippies were fakes taking the “movement”–such as it was–for a self-serving ride, whereas cultural hippies were the real deal. But like all young people, their endgame was too unsophisticated and ultimately too ADD to triumph.

    As someone who is officially eligible for medicare in a little over two weeks, I hold out great hope for the second tier of boomers, those born in the late 50s and early 60s, and even more so for those growing up since then who I expect to reaffirm foundational American values like individualism, and by extension its evil twin, anti-collectivism.

  • http://www.occidentaldissent.com/ Hunter Wallace

    White minority status in America and “Death of the West” in Europe here we come. Thanks Baby Boomers!

  • R.C.

    The Boomers accepted:

    1. Philosophical skepticism (“what is truth?”) and moral relativism (“whatever I like is right for me”);

    2. Sexual immorality (artificial contraception, abortion, homosexuality, masturbation, premarital sex, affairs, “swinging,” take your pick) as unsinful and non-shameful;

    3. The severability of marriage on a whim, with the family needs of the children and grandchildren utterly disregarded in favor of the parents’ desire to experience a second (and a third, and a fourth) adolescence;

    4. Socialism to replace the supportive role in life formerly held by family and church;

    …and thereby destroyed most of the glue holding Western Civilization together.

    Pretty straightforward, no?

  • RightontheLeftCoast

    Great article- spot on in many ways, but would be even more apt, if modified slightly,

    if you were to substitute “Progressives”
    for “Boomers”.

  • Stefan Stackhouse

    Mr. Mead sort of acknowledges that there are “honorable exceptions” amongst we Boomers, but it is a half hearted acknowledgement at best. A little more balance is needed here. Consider:

    1) Over 75 million boomers did NOT attend Woodstock. You would never know this from all that has been written in the media about us over the years. The fact is that the “Hippies” and their ilk were always only a small, flamboyant minority that attracted attention to themselves out of all proportion to their numbers. The vast majority of boomers dressed more or less normally, obeyed their parents about as much as youngsters ever had, studied, went to work, and raised families. In other words, normal, quite, dull, unexceptional lives. Not the type of stuff that attracts the attention of the media. However, it is this vast majority that is far more typical of our generation than were the few wild ones on the fringe.

    2) I can remember joking about there being no Social Security for us way back in the late seventies. This is nothing new. What I can’t remember is any expressions of resentment against the retirees at that time, or feeling that it was unfair of us to have to pay as much (or more, actually) in payroll taxes than the older generations paid. We kept quiet and did our duty. Oh how terrible we were!

    3) I’m sorry that the young folks at present are having such a hard time of it, but a lot of we boomers had an equally hard time transitioning from school to work in the seventies. It took me a year after graduating to land my first real full-time job, and years of living quite frugally thereafter. Those were the years of double-digit inflation, double-digit mortgage interest rates, and soaring energy prices. Not the great depression, perhaps, but those were not good times, either. Nor was all of that our fault. How could it have been?

    4) Which gets to my main point: The period from 1945 to 1970, the atomic bomb to the lunar landing, was America’s golden age. It was a unique period when the rest of the world lay in ruins and we were master of the planet. It couldn’t last forever, and it didn’t. The rest of the world caught up, and the US has been struggling ever since. This would have happened in any case. I can see no possible way that we boomers could have prevented this inevitable megatrend. Perhaps a few things could have been done differently that would have made a small difference. In retrospect, the debt spree at all levels – government, household, etc. – was a mistake, and we would have all been better off if we had all been more prudent, more frugal, and better savers. We’d be a little better off today if we had done all of that. However, we would still be talking about “the rise of the rest” and the relative decline of the US. We boomers were just unlucky to have been the ones to have that happen during our watch.

    5) As for culture, yes, it has been a cesspool. However, the rot started long before a single boomer wrote a script or stepped behind a camera. The mild censorship that had been in effect was lifted in the mid-sixties – lifted by those who were older than boomers. After that, it was anything goes. I am not saying here that censorship is a good thing, just that the rules changed, that they were changed by people older than boomers, and that there are inevitable consequences that followed from those changes.

    6) And as for leadership, it is true that the leaders we boomers have produced in both the public and private sector have been pretty poor. However, I do wonder to what extent that can be fairly attributed to the character of boomers themselves, or to what extent that is systemic, something inherent in the way our politics and corporations have become structured? Time will tell. If it was all the former and none of the latter, then we should reasonably expect to see the rise of wonderfully competent leaders in all sectors as the younger generations step up. On the other hand, if we continue to see mediocrities or worse, then we’ll know that this isn’t a generational thing at all, but a systemic thing. Given the many, many problems that our country is facing, and its seeming incapacity to solve them, I am more inclined to think that it is systemic problems we are facing rather than the character flaws of a single generation.

  • Kevin

    Thanks Dr Mead for this article. I’d like to see more “what to do about it” but expect thats up to each of us Boomers to examine.

    I recall what I learned from a member of the Greatest Generation, a wealthy and successful businessman very active in local philanthropy, who first got started from his experience with his developmentally disabled son.

    Whats in it for you (all of us) is this: “the gift is in the giving…”

  • DirOfTheObv

    I’m afraid I left you at “WE”. Who is we? There are plenty of us “boomers” who didn’t BUY what you were selling. There were plenty of us who enjoyed the times but didn’t buy the notion that we had to enjoy them in a morally Godless vacuum. We didn’t approve of the murder of unborn babies. The government shoved much of it down our throats despite better arguments. We didn’t believe in ANY of that stuff. The term “baby boomers” encompasses a whole lot of years, Sir. The world was already gone down a road when many of us came along. It really wasn’t the hair growing sixties kids imo, it was their martini guzzling parents of the 50′s…or maybe it was the hair bobbing, boogie woogie dancin’ folks of the fourties? Whoever they were they came right out of the depression too, and missed the lessons.

  • Lorpa

    Good analysis by Dr. Mead, as far as it goes. It could be put this way: “Listen Boomers the EVOLUTION Has Begun” [of your cherished values]

    What’s missing, I believe, is to see this system of values of the generations in question put in the context of evolution, a philosophic dialectic. Because we’re all part of a process that’s evolving. And values are the interior of this evolution of consciousness.

    The present cultural narratives of Modernism and Postmodernism have reached the point where their pathologies have produced a FUBR situation. These values are no longer relevant to the vast problems confronting us. We’re now seeing that a synthesis is on the horizon. An integral form of consciousness that will offer solutions to our dilemma. We don’t need to beat up on ourselves.

    Evolution is messy business and a shift in consciousness will be neither comfortable nor secure to those of us attached to the status quo.

    For example, OWS can be seen as part of this process, shining light on the pathologies of Postmodernism and thus calling for a serious look at where our narcissism epidemic and ego trips on steroids has brought us so that we can contemplate what direction this shift in consciousness will take. We need to move from a ethnocentric view to a worldcentric view of our place in the world. It’s in our hands.

    Ref. to Integral Consciousness, see Steve McIntosh, Ken Wilber, Don Beck, Andrew Cohen, Teilhard de Chardin, Robert Kegan, et al.

  • Jerry

    Interesting that folks like Pelosi, Reid, Dodd, Frank, Carter, Nixon, Hoover, Johnson, Warren who had so much (arguably) negative impact on this country starting in 1950 and even through today were not boomers. I remember hiding under our desks in the 50′s as part of the nuke test as children, watching as a 13 year old the death and funeral of Kennedy, the riots of that terrible year of 1968, the joy of the moon landing in 1969, the testing of justice of our country in 1974 during the Nixon hearings and the joy of the fall of communism as the wall fell in 1989. All generations have their challenges but to draw a conclusion about millions of Americans born from 1946 to 1964 does not show that other generations before and after still have impact both positive and negative on this country even today..

  • Steve Zimo

    Boomer self flagellation seems to be in vogue these days, but isn’t that just another manifestation of the much lamented narcissism, painted with such broads strokes, of those who happened to be born between the end of WW2 and the Viet Nam buildup? I think we have enough to be credited and blamed for without need for exaggeration.

    “We are a generation that deliberately and cynically passed the cost of its retirement down to its children.” But this has always been the case. Children were expected to support their parents when the latter were no longer able to support themselves. The Social Security scheme simply acknowledged that in times of economic stress, this family obligation was too often impossible to meet. Society had to step in, taxing others to pay for those no longer working. The problem, of course, is that the group receiving payments is overwhelming the ability of the working population to pay. This needs to be addressed and many can be faulted for not doing so, including the new batch of definitely non-Boomer GOP congressmen.

    This same argument can be made for our public health system. End of life medical expenses are the highest. Much of the current inflation in medical costs are for such treatments to the pre-Boomer generations. Our turn is fast approaching, and we all need to address that issue.

    As for the list of moral evils that riddle our society due to us Boomers, how about prohibition? The prohibition amendment unleashed the full potential of organized crime. The syndicates may no longer be Italian mafias, but the model is still there and being run by Latin or Eastern European cartels. The generation who gave us prohibition enabled vice of all kinds to proliferate, and it is still with us.

    The filthy rich Boomers? There were a few unscrupulous businessmen during the Gilded Age. The Roaring Twenties saw some scandal. And how about the excesses and incompetence leading to the Great Depression. How much suffering did that cause?

    Drugs and profane lyrics? Ever hear of the Beat Generation? And again, the Roaring Twenties were rather fun in this regard.

    Come on guys, let’s not take credit where credit isn’t due.

  • Lois

    This generation, plus the one before it, was a set up, to fail, to fall. Our people have been misled by some evil minions. This was NOT by accident, it was a well laid out plan to bring on the One World Government…the BEAST Increment by increment we’ve been misled. Satan doesn’t want to lose. He does not want Christianity, God’s Word to be taught.

  • Jon

    Mr, Mead you have your head so far up your butt you don’t know why you are confessing to failing. The culture you see today was created in the early 70′s by corporations who where losing out politically and decided they needed their agenda force fed to the masses (asses). They started the think tanks that ply the media with ideas, so that the whole nation was manipulated, brainwashed. And now these corporations are people. Wake up! It’s always those with money who want the power to make more money and power.The Koch Brothers are a great example today. The Republican insiders of the “W” Bush administration, Rove, Norquist, Wolferwitz, conspired to bankrupt this country. It’s a matter of public record. And now the think tanks have you believing that it’s entitlements that are killing this nation.Social Security always ran a surplus that was appropriated by Congress to pay for wars, and subsidies to corporations. Had that been set aside at any time over tha last 40 years there would be enough to last. And it wasn’t that nobody mentioned it. The pillage of Social Security has been hearlded often over that time period. Political will prevented it from being saved. The money for that will that won came from corporate America to elect it’s patsies. I am a so called baby boomer. And no one gave me anything. Like the earlier writer Chris, I did all the right things and will lose. Cry about what you inherit if you choose. Must of us didn’t inherit anything and made it on our own. I saw several recessions without employment, and wouldn’t consider blaming the previous generation. Hard work and perseverance get you through. I suggest you persevere and stop playing the blame game. As has been stated before, you to will be judged by upcoming generations, are the “Boomers” your only excuse?

  • rkka

    What a load. Nowhere in this extended whine would you learn that of the 11 terabuck national debt we had before the global financial collapse, 9 terabucks were accumulated by presidents named Reagan or Bush, two of whom were non-Boomers, just like Joe Paterno.

  • Darby

    Three things I think resulted in boomers being the disaster they are today (and I am a boomer). First drugs. I see so many people taking all sorts of drugs “but hey man, I can handle it, it is just for fun!”. Uh, no. Your wrecked family, lost job etc. states otherwise. What used to be “cool” in my generation is now simply substance abuse. Nothing cool in that. The second is loss of religion. At it’s core, religion teaches how to live a humble but happy life. The boomers thought this prevented them from being happy. But my informal survey of my friends finds the religious ones on the whole are much happier. The others are constantly searching for the nirvana they think exists. They don’t find it, then do drugs. The final thing, possibly related to the first to is a lack of personal depth, i.e. they are not very deep. This is where the selfishness comes from. This is why boomers will discard a husband/wife like a piece of old furniture. That is why they attack people who think differently, like religious people for example. They are so shallow, their ego’s built on such a shaky foundation, they must attack others to affirm themselves. This rarely works, then they go to alcohol and drugs. Sure the previous generations way of doing things may not be perfect, but I would say it is better than what we are doing. We are not as happy as they were/are. And that is our own fault. An intelligent individual will see what works and do that, a stupid one will do otherwise, and even if it doesn’t work, keep doing it. Welcome to the boomer generation.

  • ame

    I detested my Boomer generation right from the start – bunch of spoiled rotten simpering brats who knew it all and ruined it all – Boomers are a pathetic give it to me bunch of ignorant unlettered slob elitist ungrateful fools who are corrupt, dishonest, judgmental, barbarians whose policies have brought ruination on the USA – throw all the Boomer bums out, and definitely throw over the cliff the Soros/Union Marxist-in-chief [Obama: disrespectful wordplay based on the name of the President of the United States not used on this site]
    -

  • Mack

    As a member of the Millennial generation, Im left shaking my head at those here who want to go back to the good ole days.
    Some of the people here sound like the cultural mores of the Middle East might be better suited to their tastes. And these are the same people who are paranoid of sharia law!

    I dont get all the doom and gloom. What everyone is ignoring here is the amazing innovation in technology that has taken place in the the last 30 years and will revolutionize life even further in the next 10-20 years. Predicted costs of social security and medicare are based on today’s technology.
    If you are a millennial, you would have been smart to go to college for an engineering or computer science degree. If you didnt, go learn some software programming online (start with “ruby on rails”) and then get your butt over to Silicon Valley or Austin Tx, or Raleigh NC…there’s more openings for good paying tech jobs than there are qualified people. (NYC also has decent prospects for tech professionals, but the cost of living there is just ridiculous)

    The problem is we have too many business majors and law students who want to have a career directing people around, and you cant have more managers than doers.

    If there’s one beef I have with the boomers, its the awful tort law system and lawsuit culture they created.

  • Walter Sobchak

    Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa.

    I had heard of thee by the hearing of my ear,
    but now my eye sees thee;
    therefore I despise myself,
    and repent in dust and ashes.

    Job 42:5-6

  • pjean

    I am a Generation X-er and I’ve been saying this for years. I am SO SICK of the baby boomers who talk about their generation as some superior generation. They think they’re more enlightened and that the rest if us slobs owe them something special for their mere existence. Much of what we are experiencing today and much of the austerity measures we will need to take to save this nation is in large part because few had the courage to just tell the Baby Boomers “No”.

  • jay

    The “Backlash” started in 1974

  • Tim

    Wow, now that the Pol’s raiding of our Country’s assets has come home to roost, it seems that the need to assign blame to an entire generation is in order. This of course is prompted by these same Pols that raided the system, because taking blame is not one of their strong suits. It makes me sick to see the Gen Xers and beyond falling for this BS. I was born in late 62 (late Boomer), and was taught that if I couldn’t pay for it in cash I shouldn’t have it. Bought one huse in ’93 with a 50% DP and have been there since. Paid it off in ’08 and have been contributing heavily to my own retirement funding as I saw long ago that the Pols promises would not, could not be kept, either with Medicare/Aid or SS. Keep up the hasty generalizations about an entire Generation though. It helps those in D.C. keep your eye off the ball so they can continue to spend us into oblivion.

  • Lindsay Doering

    As a gen X-er a couple comments. First of all – enough drama – boomers really are not that great of a generation to be as bad as this article makes them out to be. A couple mitigating corrections:

    1) “What the Boomers as a generation missed (there were, of course and thankfully, many honorable individual exceptions) was the core set of values that every generation must discover to make a successful transition to real adulthood: maturity.”

    Wrong – these values are passed from one generation to the next – not “discovered”. The values were either rejected by boomers or (in many cases) never passed on by the prior generation. That’s right – the Greatest Generation was not perfect. However, the values are not necessary for individual “maturity” they are necessary for the survival of the culture. So the situation is both better and worse.

    2) Many of the errors in government (i.e., the wellfare state) were errors of the greatest generation. For all its revolutionary posture, the boomer generation really did not change all that much in government – they simply expanded all the big-government federal entitlement programs of the prior generation.

    So- boomers are better and worse that this article would indicate and the Greatest Generation was not as perfect as the boomers would like to think. So enough drama – just stop voting for Obama.

  • Rodney Murdock

    I looked my parents and aunt in the eye when I told them that they [committed an unpardonable indiscretion with the family dog]. How did I as a 10 year old figure out that Social Security was doomed? I watched the same newcasts that they did. The media was all concerned about debt and solvency of Social Security. I knew before puberty that one day the ratio of payers to recipeients would be 2:1 and the sytem would fail. [Gosh] I was at a business meeting and Social Security came up and those of us under 40 laughed out loud at the prospect of Social Security being available to us. The boomers at the meeting gave a rather sheepish chuckle…

    This isn’t a long haired hippie narrative plenty of salt of the earth flyover country conservatives turned a blind eye to anti-freemarket farm subsidies and never once in their life questioned the solvency or wisdom of the Social Security system.

    Own it.

  • FreeUlysses

    Wow, what a fantastic comment thread. The essay was definitely thought provoking, and encouraged a number of boomers to be introspective, before answering, whether they agree or not. I applaud the thoughtful comments by readers hailing from multiple generations. When the millenials suggest that our doom and gloom is as overblown as our self-esteem, I’ll say: I certainly hope so. I don’t think the world is such bad shape, it’s been in bad shape before, if we are looking at the stats. What I do fear, is the TRAJECTORY. I hope today’s generations make a critical analysis of where the problems are, and work to correct them for their children’s sake.

  • bigmill43

    i have to take a little bit of exception to the article…much of it refers to the college kids during that time…the truth is the majority of boomers went to work after high school in the very healthy economy of the time…my parents are both boomers(by the by..the generational line changed a few years ago..boomers are now considered born from 1945 to 1960)they both worked hard their whole lives ..my dad became very successful with an 8th grade education ..and two of my uncles fought in vietnam and instilled in me a love of country and my duty to serve her..my parents both were conservative democrats(a long dead class)..and as far as we genxers are concerned..we tend to be much more conservative in our views than most boomers(the class of 2010 is almost all gen x)…we experienced jimmy carter and the 70s(a disaster)….anyhow..some good points in the article…but its coming from the point of view of a small minority that was part of a very large generation

  • FreeUlysses

    I was thinking, and looking at that picture of ol Bill Clinton…I think he just might be the poster-child for the Boomer generation. Smart, high esteem, self-interested, morally weak, practical, but always a nudge to the left when it can get done. Oh I know there were salt of the earth people very different from Bill, in the flyover country, and the silent ones. But when you think about the symbol of the culture, at least as presented in any mass media format, he seems to fit. I think the others were busy working and didn’t realize they had to actually fight to stop the cultural demise of education, family units, truth in media, etc.

  • Ken_L

    Mead has a bad attack of (fully warranted) self-loathing, blames peers.

    The end.

  • Gina

    Honor and idealism are two words that the boomer generation know well. Maybe in what we failed was to try to live by those two words that mean nothing in the present. The boomer generation brought changes that still breed today. We took our responsibilities seriously and are baffled when some of our children don’t feel the same. We didn’t whine or expected a hand out -not even from our parents. Somewhere America lost their way, but to blame it in a generation is not only wrong, but misguided. Search elsewhere.

  • MichaelM

    What a strange article. Hardly worth a normal post, let alone a standalone article.

    Every generation is like this: They make mistakes, they project their shortcomings onto their children, the live the rest of their lives struggling to find their hopes and avoid their fears. That’s life. The Greatest Generation wasn’t perfect — in a very important way, they were even more collectivist than their children. They certainly bear a great part of the blame for the Boomers turning out as they did.

    The parents of the Greatest Generation had their issues, too. You can trace a lot of the problems we face today right on back to the mistakes and shortcomings of the Founding Generation more than two centuries ago. Shooting around blame and trying to find scape-goats is probably an indelibly human trait, but it also gets nothing done. If we really want to blame somebody for something, we should leave the emotion and moralizing behind and, instead, decide exactly what it is we think they did wrong so we don’t repeat their mistakes.

    It’s not worth it to waste breath and blood on rooting out traitors and freeloaders where there really are none. Everybody goes into life with the best intentions and no idea of just how badly they can go wrong. It’s a learning process. You screw up and you figure out that good intentions aren’t enough. The only thing you can really blame anyone for is refusing to learn.

  • Tracy Starrett

    Looks like you are trying to blame a whole generation on what the elitist class wants- unfettered crony capitalism as they are the cronies. I’m not buying it. This story is B.S.

  • http://www.thesupernaturalist.com/TEXTFILES/5.htm John Jordan

    Mr. Mead should include a picture of Radical Bill Ayers’ smug mug to round out his Boomer Hall of Shame. Boomer Radicals (like Ayers and his twisted wife) are even now working like termites to undermine the strength of this Republic and corrupt the Soul of We The People. Historian Robert Conquest’s “Reflections on A Ravaged Century” sums up (in scathing analytical language) the philosophies and psychologies of ideologies which inspired the slaughter of 200,000,000 Souls and gave birth to the turpitude for which Boomers have become most notable. Be honest Mr. Mead.

  • Becca

    what the boomers forgot was their own children!! instead they continue to ruin our future with things like their opposition to reforming social security because “they want their fair share”….problem is that the average person uses their fair share times 3!! and now people my age (in their 20s) will be stuck paying their bills in addition to our own since we aren’t delusional enough to think ss will be there for us!!

  • http://tinyvox.com Srini Kumar

    Please take some time this winter and READ THE BOOMER BIBLE. The explanation is clear. This is a generation NAMED AFTER THE ATOMIC BOMB. They were BROUGHT UP PARANOID that THE WORLD WAS GOING TO END. You can hear this in the paranoid lyrics of 80s music. THE BOOMER BIBLE EXPLAINS IT ALL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boomer_Bible

  • http://kurlander.blogspot.com Gregory of Yardale

    “But at the level of public policy and moral leadership, as a generation we have largely failed.”

    Mainly because Boomers let public policy and morality be defined in terms of political correctness; core values that rejected the existence of right and wrong in favor of what was convenient and strove, above all, not to offend even the most neurotic hypersensitive people in society.

  • http://underthegables.blogspot.com/ Linda

    Great essay. The 1950s home was not all it has been cracked up to be. Just compare 1938′s Four Sisters with its 1950s remake, Young at Heart. The life has gone out of the party. Faith and hope were gone. The baby boomer generation, of which I am one, was the product of a quiet but lethal pall that swept Western culture in the aftermath of World War II.

  • Luke Lea

    Some of the best comments in history! One thing overlooked, however, is that the failings you chronicle are mostly the failings of the Boomer elites, graduates for the most part of the best colleges and universities in America. That too many of them took a little too much LSD is another overlooked factor: lysergic acid is a cultural solvent.

    One of the mysteries to me is why the liberal generation that preceded them surrendered so easily?

  • vikingord

    As a 36 year old son of Boomers, this column is dead on. I love my parents, but the boomers ruined this grand experiment with their insatiable appetite for self.

  • bobert

    @Mack #208

    How will the costs of today’s healthcare decrase with technology? Healthcare costs have skyrocketed as technology has increased – new tests, new ultra-expensive technoligies, and of course social/policy idiocies that can trump any savings that technology can come up with.

    As a CS grad myself, I have one word about the future of most CS majors, at least for the time being – “outsourcing”.

    I personally avoided that fate, but narrowly, and only by a confluence of
    factors.

    And saying “Some of the people here sound like the cultural mores of the Middle East might be better suited to their tastes. And these are the same people who are paranoid of sharia law!”

    What do you mean by cultural mores of the Middle-East? Do you mean Judeo-Christian morality? As in the core foundation of Western civilization?

    And how does that have *any* relationship to Sharia?

  • Cato

    And while the handwringing and blaming continues, and our in-all-but-name feudal aristocracy of the political, legal, and financial classes continues to blame everyone else for their own failures, the wreckage we are left with is still a smoldering heap of ruin without compare in any civilization that has not yet been swept into the dustbin of history.

    The failure of the Boomers was, primarily, a failure of common sense and a rejection of history itself, a belief that it could reshape the world to fit its sensibilities and discard thousands of years of human experience in favor of untested new ideas or particularly in politics, Socialist ideas that have done ruinous damage to every nation that has ever instituted them.

    For those of us who will be the ones that will ultimately be left deciding what we can do with the pieces of the flawed, working society that was smashed apart with gleeful abandon and rebuilt into a superficially pretty but unworkable morass of false promises, rising costs, and declining standards of living will be a daunting task that may well resist even the most herculean efforts to repair, alter, or abolish.

    Recent years give me very little hope for our future. What we inherit is a Titanic that has already struck its iceberg, the flaws in its construction are becoming more evident by the moment to those of us on deck, and the number of lifeboats is vanishingly slim. And with this phenomenon of golden parachutes for those who systematically loot corporations long-established and leave them bankrupt, it becomes evident in this analogy that the Boomers are taking all the lifeboats too.

    I know not what comes next, I have no crystal ball to divine what the future holds for us. Common sense and a lifelong love of history compel me to share this piece of advice, though. We cannot solve our problems with arcane financial constructions, with new and interesting policy ideas, or by pretending that there is either no problem or that we can continue to kick the can down the road indefinately. At some point, we are going to have to face up to the basic fact that we have to live within our means as a society as most of us do in our personal lives, whatever those means actually are. From there, we must work on increasing our means before we increase what we do with them.

    It is time to discard the Boomer’s self-interest for the older ideal of enlightened self interest – that your neighbor’s success is a desirable outcome because it creates more opportunities for you and others to succeed. It’s time we threw out the fixation with “competitive” and maybe started looking towards “superior” or even “epic”. It’s time for our leadership be stripped of the power to pick winners and losers, and to gorge itself incessantly on the public trough. It’s time to pare the arcane legal structures that govern us to their most basic levels, to stop supporting international business at the expense of small business. It’s time to hit our out-of-control government upside the head with the Constitution and put it back in its place, serving the people instead of serfing the people. It’s time for any business “too big to fail” to be seized under antitrust laws and sold piecemeal to its competition as any business so large is simply too costly to exist. And finally, it’s time for us to do something about our financial institutions, who like Thomas Jefferson once warned, are on the verge of leaving us destitute and homeless on the continent our forefathers conquered.

    -Cato Americanus, Age 29

  • alex

    and for their last great act, the Boomers gave society Gen-X and the Millenials, both of whom have acquitted themselves marvelously during OWS and on these pages (predictably) blaming mom and dad for everything. Whatever. Save it; we complained about our parents, too, and they did likewise.

    Some of us of 1960s vintage remember a nation founded on a document that promised you three things – life, liberty, and the right to pursue happiness. THAT was to be the focal point for fedzilla, a beast that began to grow in the 30s and has not stopped. Today, we have a burgeoning entitlement class that believes wealth is evil, that they have a right to the property of others, and that equality of opportunity also means equality of outcomes.

    No generation is perfect and for its shortcomings, the boomer crowd had its successes as measured by improvements in quality of life. No doubt the next generation will move the ball forward because that’s what civil society does. I could not care less about Boomer navel-gazing for it serves no constructive purpose.

    You are owed nothing in this world beyond what you can earn. If you don’t like the way things are, change them; if you don’t like your lot in life, it begins with you; and if you want to be mad at your parents, just wait till you have kids. Eventually, you will become much smarter in their eyes but not before they whine about you.

  • Sui Juris

    People here comment like political and social leadership mystically appear with out their contribution and, that when they do acknowledge their participation it is in terms of a social moral good.

    This undefined social moral good is at the heart of American dysfunctional society [with shared global repercussions] which maintains the social/political fragmentation and the current left/right polarization. In keeping with a democratic society and the question of it’s future prospects the key failure seems to me to be what isn’t being considered as part and parcel of the western liberal collective morality… until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits…

  • Laramie Hirsch

    Too little, too late.

    And now, the world shall devour itself. Thanks, Mom.

  • http://www.feed-forward.net Shoham

    Boomers did some good, and some bad — like all generations. Boomers fought and died (50K in Vietnam) in our wars, and they too were a big part of the civil rights movement. There’s still lots of time for boomers to ‘earn their keep’ — how about a movement of volunteerism?!? As long as this is going to be the longest living generation, why not connect with younger ones and extend the school day with after school education provided for free by boomers? There’s a positive remedy :D

  • Philip

    The author is right, the problem with you boomer is a moral failing. My grandfather was willing to die for his country, his father’s generation demanded that young men fight in WW1 for theirs. That mentality is not shared with the boomers.
    The country can only be fixed by putting its moral foundation right, and that can only happen when people start acting a little less selfishly, and a little more like decent adults. For all you whiners “Us boomers inherited the problem” or “it started after us” you just show how right this article is.
    That’s the kind of talk I expect from my 2 year old. That you have no compunction against making it speaks to the need for you to step aside by in large so that the adults here can fix things.

  • Joe Seely

    Politicians love to talk about the “sacred promise” made to today’s seniors. I am tired of that. Today’s seniors voted in 1977 to change the way benefits were computed, a change that more than tripled their own benefits. Today’s seniors will collect on average 3 times what they paid in for “their” benefits. The program is going broke, seniors, and you say that isn’t your fault; you kept your end of the bargain. Well, you did. But you also sweetened the deal for yourselves quite a bit along the way.

    And then you had your “sexual revolution”– childless marriages– and your permanent adolescence, which left our generation too few in numbers to pay the tab you heedlessly left us.

    Seniors, you did this to us.

    Still, while we acknowledge that your generation was unkind to us, we will live up to the obligations that you bequeathed to us. We will not let seniors down, even if they handed us a raw deal. Seniors, you will get what you promised yourselves.

    But please, seniors, don’t try to stop us from changing this flawed and unfair system that you have left us. You have emptied the tills to the extent that those of us born in the post-Kennedy era will have nothing, if we don’t reform. It’s not me saying that; it’s the actuary for the Social Security Administration who has observed this.

    So please, enjoy your dotage. Although seniors are the wealthiest demographic in the country, we will subsidize your travels, and your comfortable 25 years of retirement.

    But in 30 years when you are all gone, we wish to have some semblance of a program for ourselves. Please let us have that.

  • sjay

    “You have emptied the tills to the extent that those of us born in the post-Kennedy era will have nothing, if we don’t reform. It’s not me saying that; it’s the actuary for the Social Security Administration who has observed this.”

    Uh, no.

  • R.C.

    sjay:

    “Uh, no.”

    Uh, yes.

    Entitlement spending, if not substantially reduced, is projected to expand to around 30% of GDP over the next fifty years.

    But government revenues from all sources over the last 100 years have averaged about 19% of GDP, no matter how the various tax laws were altered. Tax codes as different as those of the immediate pre-Reagan and post-Reagan years pull in the same % of GDP in revenue; it’s only the size of the GDP “pie” that gets affected.

    Oh, sure, there are short-term spikes from boom years and bubble years and war years which take the % of GDP capturable in revenues temporarily up to 25%.

    And likewise there are recessions and depressions which drop the % of GDP capturable in revenues down as low as 14%. (We’re in a bad “main street” recession now, which is why the revenues are only 16% of GDP.)

    But smooth these peaks and troughs out with a moving 10-year average, and what do you get? Around 19%. That’s the percent of GDP that can be transformed by tax codes (formulated however) into revenue.

    And our entitlement spending is projected to increase to 30% of GDP, give or take. That’s apart from other federal spending, like the military. That’s the federal budget in another half century, if the military has to hold bake sales to buy bombers.

    So what to do?

    We can increase tax rates in a recession, if we like. It might even have the effect of increasing the % of GDP we can capture in revenue, although the corresponding damage to GDP might eliminate any resulting revenue increase measured in absolute dollars.

    We can inflate our way out of the problem by devaluing the currency. That is to say: We can pay folks Social Security the $500 a month we promised them, with the only caveat being that rents and groceries will be so much more expensive that $500 won’t keep them alive for a week.

    Or we can cut entitlement spending by around 1/3rd or more, so that the % of GDP (30) occupied by entitlements gets down underneath the % of GDP capturable in revenues (20).

    It is the baby boomers that were in power as we worked our way into this mess.

    It is the baby boomers who had too few children, thus preventing the kind of workforce that could have afforded to pay for all these entitlements.

    It is the baby boomers who’re the primary recipients of all those entitlements.

    Their mess; let them pay for it, and let Social Security and similar benefits be paid out only to those from the earlier generations.

    Anyone for a retirement age of 85?

  • Bruce B

    We turned over to the state functions that we should have been doing, such as helping those in need, paying medical bills and saving for retirement. It was easier to pay higher taxes because we “care” than to take time to do the right thing. Then we are shocked that the power grubbers we turned things over to built Ponzis.

    Do not forget “The Greatest Generation” demanded that politicians grant them large increases in Medicare and SS benefits, regardless of ability to pay in the future, and anyone who stood in the way got voted out because the elderly vote. I hope they are enjoying the Viagra that they demanded that others pay for.

  • Mietopol

    Brilliant as always Dr Mead. “the Boomer sun moves past the meridian and an unmistakable air of twilight infiltrates ” becaus we didn’t need their stinking faith, their stinking morals ” This is the root cause. “For whatsoever the man soweth this shall he also reap “

  • Nats

    The jig is up boomers. Does anyone realise that the markets that have feathered the retirement nests for generations now are writhing in agony since the boomers have started retiring in masse. This massive buy down of the market is the driving force of the next market bust.

  • Sheila

    Many of us have steered the course, following in the footsteps of grandparents who worked hard, lived simply and remained devoted to family throughout their lifetimes. The boomer culture is an outgrowth of unbridled prosperity, brought forth by that same generation, and fallen in the hands of those not mature enough to handle it. Many in the current generation have seen the folly of the boomers and we see around us efforts to transform the parts of this culture that are not working. And the story is not over for the boomers, either. Perhaps as elders, we can humbly acknowledge our mistakes, live modestly in our final years and work for the benefit of others. This could be our finest hour.

  • Bebe

    I suppose drivel like this passes for deeply percipient theory at Bard and Yale, but, Prof. Mead, you overstate your case. Leave it to Boomers not only to be self-aggrandizing for all the successes of the past 40 or so years, but also to be self-deprecating for all the failures. Either trait is the definition of a character flaw, since in each instance the result is the same- I put you down to make myself superior. One recalls that the crime of hubris in ancient Athens referred to deeds which dishonored one mortal for the gratification of another. The shame to the victim came as a result of the abuser’s self-exaltation…dare I say self-pleasuring? For this essay engenders a delicious frisson of the solitary self-discovery of adolescence. Yet, in spite of all recent revelations to the contrary, what Boomers still fail to comprehend is that everyone does it.

  • http://veryconvenienttruth.blogspot.com Drew Snider

    OK … now that boomers have beaten up on themselves (call that “msissicran” — reverse narcissism) and non-boomers have had their go, the big question remains, WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT? We have an amazing ability to look backwards and see how little we’ve done and very little ability to look forwards and see how much we can do in the time we have left. Self-idolization is a sin, and God provided us with the means to repent for that sin and move forward, loving and reaching out to others – living Jesus’ Great Commission. After all, the ills Prof. Meade cites are all to do with falling-away from God. Boomers still have time to leave a legacy that far outweighs debt, war and good ol’ Sense of Entitlement.

  • Born2bTaxed

    Today Ginrich called “Generation [poorly treated]” a generation of “coddled” easy-street kids. (Gingrich: No Role Model for Students?) Gingrich, tisk, tisk, tisk. First of all, a MARRIED man who was coddled by his parents through his entire education has no right to label the next generation as “coddled.” Second, as one of the Boomers that fairly created the well-deserved title of “Worst Generation” for his era, there is irony in the fact that the “Greatest Generation” chipped in to ensure an affordable tuition for their children – free in CA – which you then had your parents pay for in the 60-70s. Since then, the Boomers’ self-indulged, creating the first credit society in U.S. history and rocketing the national debt to the location of your planned moon colony (1970: 370 Billion, Today: 15.3 Trillion). On top of this, the Boomers have decided that they will not pitch in to settle their bill, let alone the fact that responsibility to support the many Boomer-expanded institutions in the first place.

    Because of your generation’s self-indulgence, it is becoming increasingly impossible for a student to self-finance an education the U.S. no matter what class he or she is from. You and other worthless Boomer politicians decided to take the system of government guaranteed loans created for the poor and turn it into a vehicle that would allow the Boomers to avoid paying taxes in favor of saddling today’s students with your bill. Your Boomer group wanted to make sure that there was no way out for today’s students, so the debt is now non-dischargeable (it would be irresponsible for student’s to avoid paying their bill, right Boomers?)

    For example, the Boomers who run the academic institutions have exploded the price of education so that they can keep their bloated paychecks, keep their buddies around in the hundreds of public universities created to give themselves careers, and make up for the Boomer societies’ unwillingness to fund this self-expanded institution. There is no incentive for the Boomers who overwhelmingly run the financial sector to reject lending for these tuition hikes because government backed means win-win. (If the student pays w/ interest, super win! If not, the taxpayer will pay it, win again!).

    If it wasn’t clear that mortgaging their childrens’ future became the Boomers’ avenue to avoid paying their bill, it became clear when the Boomers in Congress created Direct Loans – which has almost completely replaced private loans with government so that government can collect all the interest, and decided to erase Subsidized Loans as a way to pay down the debt through more student interest rather than taxing the Boomers at all for their bill in the recent budget showdown. Both of these events have been explicitly touted by our current Boomer politicians as a way to clean up the Boomers’ mess.

    So the result? Here at Penn Law, for example, the Ponzi scheme goes like this: First year, we are not allowed to work – for good reason. My scholarship cuts the $50.7K tuition down to $20K. This scholarship is supported by the kid paying $50.7. Living expenses are estimated at $20K on top of this, low when considering that books, supplies, and family, will mean that the school actually lends more for this. Working an increasingly rare summer associate position will allow me to substantially reduce my prospective debt of $160k now and in the future, but the kid who will be looking at $210k came into the school as a comparatively poor academic and will likely graduate with no career prospects (none of these debts are adjusted for interest, mind you).

    To compare this to what the $2.3K tuition $1.8k living expenses the Boomers’ paid at the school in 1970, the enormous tax that the Boomers are now passing on to their children through education becomes clear. While law school is the biggest example of how education has been reinvented as an enormous tax, this is the standard situation at all levels of education today. Somehow, I was able to avoid all but $13K debt (wife + me combined – all subsidized, a luxury in hindsight) as an undergrad who worked through school to support himself, got scholarships (the wife too), participated in many community and student organizations, and began a family. Yet still, I avoided the worst of the tuition hikes that have seen the Boomer enforced student tax triple over the past decade while “union and administrative pay [at these schools] has also skyrocketed.” (CA, Political News).

    The Boomers have ensured that their kids start adulthood not at the status quo, not at zero, but at a monumental negative at a time when most students will fail to gain the employment needed to erase this negative. So when Gingrich who represents a Boomer who controlled the levers that created this mess says that this generation is “coddled,” it is ironic to say the least. The Boomers, who were coddled by their parents’ societal contributions and are now coddled by their children who are paying the bill for them, are doing more than calling the kettle black. They are self-projecting in the extremist way possible. The Boomers, I’m sure, will continue to find new ways to pass accountability for their excess onto their children. The Boomers’ only hope is that the house of cards they created will not fall down before they can make a quick exit into oblivion.

    If justice exists, they will be reincarnated as Chinese workers in one of their self-created free-trade-zone factories. An Apple Computer factory would serve these Boomers well, allowing them to learn the lesson that their parents tried to teach them by avoiding foreign products – thus keeping Sear’s products from all reading “made in Japan” at the time. Ironically, if their children can still afford Ipods, Boomers will be working on the opposite end of this system they created to provide their kids with the only good thing they every created: great advances in technology.

  • Jacob

    The Destroyers aka Baby Boomers are the most indulgent parasitic generation in recorded history. No Generation was given more in terms of Safety, Security, Material and Love. What did they do with it? Like any spoiled child they just screamed for more. Being born in 1959 I defend myself as not being a baby boomer. The real destroyers were the Radical 60′s boomer that have given us the rotted country we live in today. I would say they were the ones born between 1945 and 1952. The rest of us had to walk behind them breathing their toxic fumes of destruction and waste. The most patriotic thing that generation can do is DIE!

  • badaba

    I will not let my boomer parents close to my children. Well my father only on supervised visits, my mother no way.

    Sorry boomers, I vote against every AARP endorsed bill. I want business like Kodak and cities like Fremont to go bankrupt so they will not pay your over entitled retirement at the cost of me and my children.

  • 33yo

    The “baby boomer generation” are lazy and abusive pigs. It is a generation of swine.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @33yo: though they say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

  • David

    Very proud to see the reasonably boomers acknowledging the failures of the past three decades.

    And I don’t think it is misogyny that is driving a generally shared belief Betty Friedan’s vision of womanhood absolutely destroyed the soul of this country and our civilization.

    Selfishness is at the root of all of our problems. And that is precisely the bill of goods that Friedan sold to a generation of women.

    Our only hope is that Gen Xers can change our culture for the better and convince the the Ys and Millenials of the sins of their parents.

    I don’t hate you boomers, I’m just enormously disappointed.

  • Dave Williams

    I’m 58, and I say to you, Mr. Day, GOOD FOR YOU!! I wish you every bit of personal, emotional, and, what the hell, financial success in cleaning up the mess my contemporaries have left you.

  • marvin nubwaxer

    “But at the level of public policy and moral leadership, as a generation we have largely failed.”
    my generation mostly running things and we are stalemated in trench warfare.

  • Raymond

    The baby boomer generation was subverted as early as the assasination of kennedy, and his replacement by two hawkish and corrupt presidents (respetively), who through Vietnam and watergate began the moral decline of American culture. Whils war hero Kennedy represented what was ideal about the “greatest” generation, the point where America went wrong begins with the shadow or negative side of this pre-boomer generation. It squashed the boomer’s youthful idealism, and laid the ground for its subsequent excess. The two Bush’s represet this negative cross generational trend, whereas Obama represents something of a wild card. A transitional boomer/x-er, he is the litmus test for if America can regain the lost chord of its moral conscience.

  • JL

    Sadly,I don’t think the boomer generation, as a whole, will ever learn. Quite a few comments are showing the typical boomer response to criticism: sticking there fingers in their ears and performing incredible feats of mental gymnastics to “prove” that anyone who has even constructive criticism is automatically wrong; a typical behavior of children.
    FDR’s social programs had little in common with today’s Social Security. It was created as a safety net for widows and orphans. The minimum age for qualification was far closer to the expected lifespan than today. Only those who couldn’t afford to survive without it could receive a check. It was not set up to be a supplement to pension programs.
    Also, the tiny portion of boomers represented by Vietnam vets, true exceptions of selfless sacrifice, were greeted with buckets of blood, urine, and excrement, as well as chants of “baby-killer” or “murderer” upon their return. Proof that the boomers are, by far, the most ungrateful, thankless generation in (at least) modern history.
    They were handed a nation with the best economic outlook and greatest international influence in it’s entire history, and in turn have passed along one with the worst economic standing since The Great Depression as well as having the distinction of being the most hated nation on the planet. And they call my generation ungrateful. Really classy. We are truly grateful for the equally exceptional heroes of the boomer generation, such as Bill Clinton and Howard Schultz.
    I could go on, but I’m reminded of a quote by Mark Twain: “Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”

  • derpmochump .

    I am going to save lots of fiat currency for my imaginary monetary system controlled by crooks, this will allow me to retire at 50 and then be a burden and a vampire on the young who will serve me as a GOD for another 50 years! You morons this is all slavery and evil no matter how you cut it, you just play a silly game to justify having a few people living like king’s in our now global feudal slave-cieties who own title and deeds to all the land whilst the rest of us live like serfs who you TELL, OH ITS BECAUSE YOU DIDNT WORK HARD ENOUGH. WORK HARD GOYIM SLAVES!! YOUR SUFFERING IS YOUR OWN FAULT!

  • bensant57

    You failed, we did not!!!! We the boomers did what we could to survive, “How dare you label all of us as failures! We did not control government, the rich did and do. Stop blaming everyone without understanding how the rich manipulate your form of government under the guise of CAPITALISM!!!!!