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Stupid boomer tricks



I have a piece in Salon about the new generation gap, and how annoying it can be when The Graying of America fails to notice it’s not 1968 any more.

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  • ploeg

    These facts seem to be even less clear to the boomers’ male elders (that is to say, those who had cheap tuition and who had the G.I. Bill). I definitely wouldn’t single out the boomers for special treatment here.

  • Josh G.

    It’s not the Boomers who are worst about this, it’s the Silent Generation. And they seem to get completely ignored in virtually every discussion of intergenerational equity. But if you look at the numbers, pretty much everything was sweet for that generation, except maybe early childhood. They were too young to fight in WWII, too old for Vietnam. They got to enjoy the post-war job boom and the escalating middle-class wages from 1946-1973. They had an opportunity to get college education at little or no cost (even without the GI Bill, it was very affordable), and even if they only had a high school diploma, there were still lots of jobs for them that paid good middle-class salaries. They bought houses in good areas when they were still dirt-cheap. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this generation preferred to attribute their success to skill rather than luck. They are the Republican base. This is the Tea Party generation.

    • Steve LaBonne


    • Ever notice how no one in the US ever gets ahead due to connections, good luck, or the misfortune of others? Just ask ’em!

      • James E. Powell

        Like no team every wins the Super Bowl because of a bad call or a fluke play.

    • Cody

      I always assumed we don’t hear about the Silent Generation… because they’re so quiet. Kind of like those Blackhawk Choppers following them around in the middle of the night, that don’t make any sounds.

    • James E. Powell

      One of the great untold, or at least rarely told, stories about that post-WWII boom, especially the increase in household wealth in the middle class, is that African-Americans were excluded from it by law and by the real estate and mortgage industries.

    • BobS

      My dad would take particular exception to your forgetting about Korea, although veterans of that war have become used it.
      And Mr. Powell references the structural racism in banking and real estate that kept the “good areas” like the one I grew up in all white.

    • David Hunt

      Most of this description describes my father perfectly (Born 12/7/31). The main difference is that he has mentioned to me how incredibly lucky he feels that he’s been in life. He’s told me that he never had to even hunt for a job. He was sought out and offered employment at every stage. The closest he came was enlisting in the Navy in ’53 because his mother didn’t want him in the army while there was fighting in Korea. The war ended when he was in bootcamp.

      Unfortunately, he is a diehard Republican who gets all his news from Fox, Drudge, etc. I don’t talk politics with him because I want a good relationship with my father…

      • BobS

        My dad was born 7/3/31 and the only part of what Josh wrote that describes him is that he was able to get a good union factory job with just a high school diploma. The tract house my parents bought and still live in wasn’t “dirt cheap” in 1953 dollars and both my parents have remained loyal and grateful to the (old) Democratic party and the UAW for what they have. My dad has a great head of hair at 82 years old but he never leaves the house without covering it with either a UAW or Veterans for Peace ballcap (in February 2003 him and my mom walked with me through downtown Detroit on the coldest fucking day of that winter to protest the impending invasion of Iraq). He gets most of his news these days from MSNBC but I try to avoid talking politics with him even though we agree on most things- he just gets too pissed off about what’s happened to his country. He’s especially worried about young people who don’t have the job opportunities he did, who get saddled with too much debt for their college educations, who don’t have health insurance, and who will probably get fucked out of their Social Security. I’ve watched him nearly come to blows with my mom’s younger cousin who’s a teabagger asshole and if Josh G were to accuse him of being a member of the “Tea Party generation” to his face he’d probably challenge Josh to a fight as well.

    • addendum

      Everything was sweet for that generation if they were white, middle class, male and did not fight in Korea.

    • de stijl

      Silent, but deadly.

    • Anonymous

      This describes my father exactly except for the Republican part.

  • Spuddie

    Max Frost was one generation too early.

  • Joshua

    USA Today ran an article yesterday about the economic difficulties of younger people today. Not surprisingly the comment section was full of the finger-waggers. Few of these commentators seem to have ever heard of the concept of “inflation” or “anecdotal evidence.”

    But even then, the wording of the USA Today article was really weird – it basically said that 18-29 year olds don’t feel “grown up” and then talked about a few sob stories. It didn’t go into the structural forces that have led people towards delaying adulthood – which is what is really important. I mean, how many 24 year olds WANT to live at home?

    It makes me think that portraying younger people as entitled morons sells papers. Because hey, how many 28 year olds are reading USA Today? Plus, it’s comforting to the old assholes and a good reason for them not to, say, pay more taxes to fund universities.

    I’m not sure there’s a way out of this short of these assholes dying.

    • Cody

      So this is how the newspapers exact revenge upon my generation for not buying lousy subscriptions?

      Luckily, I’ll never know all the bad things they say because I don’t read them.

      It seems to be rather institutionalized that every generation after you is worse than the previous. I’m not really sure how America got so backwards, where in other societies you work to make your children have better lives. Here we work to make our children pay for us.

      • Joshua

        I remember the stuff my parents said about generation X, so I know what you are saying. It seems nastier this time around, though. It’s like, the typical “kids these days” head shaking was married to welfare queen claptrap. So the kids aren’t just unaware of the value of walking uphill to work, but they are leeching ‘our’ money too.

        On second thought, I’m sure this was a sentiment common in the 1960’s. Hell, Reagan got elected governor of California on it. But it’s back.

        • NJW

          early 90s recession – slackers
          internet boom – GENx entrepeneurs

    • Sierra

      Many studies of GenMe found that they display a sense of entitlement, narcissism and rejection of social conventions compared to previous age cohorts. They also display many positive traits as a “generation.” Most of these generational attributes however are based off the affluent, white, suburban segment of that population.

      There are 80M GenMes so the small percentage of entitled dunces is amplified compared to the previous cohort of 51M. Many of those “self absorbed” old people who complain about the “self involved” young people and resist higher taxes are the Boomer parents of GenMe children. In the end it is all a fight over resources in a time of declining expectations.

  • +1 for Yacht Rock.

    Don’t forget to keep it smooth, Paul.

    • Hogan

      Are you ready to soft rock?!

  • Holden Pattern

    Fun anecdatum: A friend of mine is in city government in a smallish city in an area of a mostly rural state that serves as an anti-taxer retirement destination. The city counsel is mostly boomers or a bit older, who moved there a long time ago, starting out without student loans or any other debt, and got wealthy (sometimes for the area, sometimes just flat-out rich) as their land values increased.

    These people are shocked, shocked I tell you, that they can’t get professionals to come work in their little city in the ass end of nowhere for the wages they want to pay to these dadburn bureaucrats. They simply can’t grasp that between student debt, the present price of housing (which represents an asset to the councilmembers, not a liability) and the ass-end-of-nowhere citizens-are-gummint-hating-tax-hating-retired-teatards problem, they’re not paying enough.

    “In my day, this would have been extremely generous! Young people today expect far too much! Ingrates!”


    • Holden Pattern

      counsel -> council

    • Paul Campos

      Favorite comment from the TLS thread linked in the piece:

      (was grateful for being tipped a nickel as a child)

      (nickel worth $834,403 in today’s dollars)

      • Craigo

        The basic innumeracy of American society is sometimes frightening. That’s a funny joke, but when I told an older relative that I couldn’t live on 20,000 a year, he was bafflingly outraged. “That’s more than I made when I was your age!”

        He was my age in 1980.

        • Cody

          I tell you, this would all be fixed if we were still on the gold standard! CURSED SOCIALISTS!

        • Bill Murray

          $20,000 in 1980 is like $55,000 today according to the BLS inflation calculator

          • Craigo

            And we’ll leave aside that the defined benefit plan and generous health insurance he received were a fair bit better than the 401(k) and PPO I was offered.

          • Bill Murray

            I should have added that $20,000 today is equivalent to a little over $7,000 in 1980

  • Jason

    I like the gist of the Salon piece, but I do think it has one very big flaw. All of the data and anecdotes are about law school, but the conclusions are framed as about “higher education” as such. But not every fact about legal education generalizes.

    Higher education includes college. While it’s true that college is now outrageously expensive, and much more than it used to be, it is completely false that it is no longer worth the money. The reality is that even today college graduates have a much bigger average salary than non-graduates. 84% more than high-school graduates:


    Higher education has problems. But the problems and issues vary depending on the kind of higher education. Best to be clear about that.

    • Craigo

      Well, the analysis doesn’t end there. College graduates have higher wages, and higher debt. If we haven’t reached the tipping point where the latter outweighs the former, we will soon.

      • Jason

        No, we won’t. According to the piece I linked to, the wage premium for a college education, over the course of a lifetime is $1,000,000. Even if those figures are wrong, they’re not that far from the truth.

        Tuition will have to go up much higher before debt outweighs wage premium. Unfortunately, that means it probably will in the long run. But it will take a while.

        • Holden Pattern

          A couple thoughts:

          1) What do the first 10 years look like? Because if you can’t get through those, you’re fucked, and it doesn’t matter what the 50 year wage premium looks like. Long-term return on debt-financed investment means precisely fuck-all if you can’t service the debt.

          2) Maybe some of the wage premium is because the debt drives people into professions where they can make lots of money, but which professions have fuck-all to significantly lower than fuck-all value to society (e.g., investment banker). That seems counterproductive, dunnit?

          • Craigo

            The mean vs. median distinction is one that probably doesn’t get the attention it should.

            • Steve LaBonne

              Amen. I am so fucking tired of seeing journalists and other innumerates quote utterly misleading means arising from highly skewed distributions where a median would be far more informative.

              • mattH

                Give me a quintile or decile break-down. Median would work, but I bet even that hides and elides some interesting data.

          • Barry

            Seconding this strongly. When somebody comes out with tens of thousands of dollars of debt into a 25% unemployment rate economy, the ‘wage premium’ means squat.

        • Paul Campos

          These sorts of analyses tend to feature two flaws:

          (1) They confuse correlation with causation.

          (2) They assume that what was true of college degrees earned 25 years ago remains true today.

          • Holden Pattern

            Also, this.

          • ploeg

            Even 20 years ago, you were at a disadvantage if you didn’t have something other than your college degree. It could be a hot technical skill (such as network administration). Or it could be experience in a specific niche, such as writing for a magazine or a newspaper (and experience writing for a newspaper didn’t matter if the job required experience writing for a magazine). There have been brief periods like the dotcom boom, when most everything is relatively new and even the best players are making it up as they go along, so it was a lot easier to get a job simply by showing up and digging into the pile of work. But these periods are getting fewer and farther between, and apart from such periods, it’s getting well nigh impossible to break into the ranks of skilled, high-paying work without having anything more than a diploma.

        • Craigo

          “Over your lifetime” is meaningless when your starting salary is a third of your total debt.

          Assuming you can find a job, of course.

          Tuition will have to go up much higher before debt outweighs wage premium. Unfortunately, that means it probably will in the long run.

          You meant short run, right? College costs have gone up at least 20% since the recession began.

        • Barry

          “No, we won’t. According to the piece I linked to, the wage premium for a college education, over the course of a lifetime is $1,000,000. Even if those figures are wrong, they’re not that far from the truth.”

          And just how good is that prediction?

        • mpowell

          This is fucking idiotic. There isn’t a $1M wage premium for going to college. There’s a $1M wage premium for being a person who can graduate college and actually does so. Most of the value is in the first part.

          And is that present-day value corrected? Because the debt is now. Usually those numbers are uncorrected, which is another huge problem.

          College is getting way too expensive, mostly because we have 4 or 5 times as many administrators as professors. Public schools are also getting more expensive as we defund them.

          At this point, I’m pretty sure paying full boat at a top 100-20 private school and incurring $150K in debt or somethign similarly ridiculous is a bad bet compared to the other options available to a prospective applicant. That person should go to college, but they should find a way to pay less.

          • Jason

            This is fucking idiotic. There isn’t a $1M wage premium for going to college. There’s a $1M wage premium for being a person who can graduate college and actually does so. Most of the value is in the first part.

            Of course neither I, nor the article I linked to, were claiming anything other than the latter of the two claims you distinguish. The point is about the economic value of a college degree, period. Since you have to go to college to get a college degree (do you disagree?), there is the same economic value in going to college.

            Everything you say in the last half of your comment is consistent with what I was saying, and I certainly don’t disagree. It is hard to dispute the advice to “find a way to pay less” for things.

    • Joshua

      I have no doubt a 40 year old man with a college degree is making a lot more than a 40 year old man without one. To the point that the 84% may be understated.

      But can a 23 year old today with a college degree expect the same? I’m not convinced. In fact there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.

      • CC

        With a degree you will most likely be working with your mind and without one, with your body. If ROI is your primary concern forgo university and become a plumber, electrician or PTA.

    • Jason

      I understand the frustration with the cost of higher ed, not to mention the state of the economy. But these responses to my comment are ludicrous. Having a college degree, in 2012 no less than 1992, is a prerequisite for the vast number of decent paying jobs. Alternative tracks to decent paying jobs–skilled crafts and trades, union shops–are if anything on the decline.

      Campos raises a correlation/causation question. Of course people who attend college are already better situated in other ways than with respect to people who don’t. But of course there’s also a significant causal role for the college degree itself: you can’t get a job that requires a college degree unless you have a college degree.

      It’s just freakin’ obvious that essentially the only path left to a decent living in this country (insofar as there is one at all) is via college. This is not a defense of tuition prices, or of anything else. It’s just the obvious social reality. Paul’s implication in his article otherwise, based on irrelevant factoids about law school, was way off base, and it’s silly for people here to continue to defend it.

      • Anonymous

        Campos raises a correlation/causation question. Of course people who attend college are already better situated in other ways than with respect to people who don’t.

        But this is not a small point and it seems to get lost in so many of the articles that discuss the wage premium.

  • c u n d gulag

    In all of the mind numbing rot I read about us “Boomers,” and about how we’re going to suck SS dry for future generations, what pisses me off the most is that no one ever mentions that in the SS deal signed when Reagan was President, many of us were either very early in our careers, or in early-mid career. And the amount that we paid was INCREASED to cover what will happen as we started to retire, and that WE have paid “our fair share” – and THEN some!

    The burden on wealthier pre-Boomers, and Boomers, was capped – and the understanding when that SS deal was signed, was that in the early part of the 21st Century, THEY, the wealthier people, were supposed to start paying THEIR fair share!

    The poor and middle class people of all generations have paid MORE than enough.

    As opposed to those in the upper incomes, who only paid on their first X number of dollars, depending on what the cap was at any particular time.

    And now, when it’s their turn, there’s some sort of manufactured debt crisis, and we can’t ask them to pay.
    The only solution to the rich short-changing SS for over a generation, is to cut benefits for people who already get SS benefits, or those who will need them to survive in the future.

    I wonder why no one EVER mentions that for well over 20 years, the poor and middle class have paid, and paid, and paid, on every buck – while the rich paid only on their first few bucks?

    Don’t answer that – I already know…

    • Joshua

      I don’t think there was ever any understanding that the rich would pay more. Indeed, the “deal” has largely worked as intended. There really is enough money to pay for boomer benefits for a long time, starting with the present. Yes the system will be strained in a few decades, but since when does Congress care about problems coming in a few decades? We’ll probably all be literally-underwater by then.

      So, the deal. The problem only came when the government decided to borrow that extra money and use it to fund tax cuts for the rich, wars, and corporatist policies. They’ve been doing it ever since. Well, now we are getting to the point where those extra payments are needed to fund liabilities, and surprise surprise – Congress doesn’t want to pay up. So they manufactured this phony crisis based on something that’s already been paid for.

      Obama hasn’t helped either – in fact, his payroll tax cut has made things worse.

      • mpowell

        The payroll tax cut has hurt the finances of SS as a stand alone progam, but it was done for stimulus reasons. Of course, it’s all just accounting.

    • DrDick

      I think that you highlight an important issue here. This is much less of a generational issue than a class issue. It is older, affluent people (which includes law professors and established lawyers) who are the problem, not boomers. Certainly everybody I know in my generation is well aware of these problems and very concerned about them. Many of us have children that we are or have struggled to put through college and who are burdened by these debts, when our parents were able to send us to school without incurring such debts. We are also supporting children who cannot get jobs, or at least none that will pay them enough to live on and service their debt.

      • Chris

        Boomers are the problem, in a generational sense, because there are 79 million of them.
        When the Millenials begin to retire, they will also be a problem due to sheer numbers.

        • Craigo

          Well, that depends on how many working-age people we have when Millennials begin retiring. Generally speaking, each cohort is larger than the one that preceded it, but Generation X was significantly smaller than the Baby Boom.

          • Craigo

            (Part of that has to do with the fact that the Boomers were so much larger than the previous cohorts as well.)

        • DrDick

          But we already paid extra into social security to cover the additional cost and have done so for decades (we even paid for some of your costs). The social security “problem” has already been taken care of and there is no freaking crisis, as all the sane economists and experts have been saying for a decade.

          The problems of perception that Paul alludes to are in fact largely class based, with affluent people, especially the older affluent, being completely out of touch with the lives of most Americans.

          • Barry

            Back in the early 80’s, SS taxes were raised (on everybody, please note). The revenue was used to cut taxes on the rich.

            Time to raise taxes on the rich, to collect that money.

            • DrDick

              Until the late 80s, the boomers were the youngest working generation, so “everybody” at that point was the boomers and older generations.

          • Dana

            Income and age tend to be commensurate in extent. “Class” is squishy and not particularly useful in this discussion.

            This debate is not only about the ’83 SS deal, or the SS trust fund. If it were I would agree that there’s not a big problem and we have the 80s reforms to thank for that. But that’s not where the debate ends, because we must consider the federal government’s financial responsibilities in toto. The problem is that there is a huge Medicare trust fund deficit and $10+ trillion in debt held by the public, bills that the retired, retiring, and near-retirement generations couldn’t bring themselves to pay.

            We know there are fair and workable solutions to this problem. I would like to believe that everyone in my parents’ generation agrees that their children and grandchildren should have access to the social safety net they enjoy. I would like to believe that we’ll come together and arrive at a just and equitable solution to these challenges. But the “keep the government’s hands off my Medicare crowd” doesn’t inspire confidence. And the boomers as a group have shown themselves rather pliable to the “we can’t afford it” and “it’s just math” (math that assumes fixed or falling revenues) logic of the right. If we don’t recognize there is a generational equity problem here I’m not optimistic we will arrive at an equitable solution to the budget problem.

            • DrDick

              Frankly, Gen-X are overall more conservative than Boomers and more receptive to those messages. While you are correct that income tends to rise with age, age does not correlate with social class. It is not all boomers, but rather the wealthy and near wealthy, particularly older members of that group who are the problem here. “Generations” are far fuzzier, and have less social coherence or reality, than classes do.

              • Dana

                I’m not all that concerned with generational categories. I prefer to think in terms of retired, retiring, and nearly retired vs. those still working. And I want the people in the older category to acknowledge they were irresponsible, they overspent, they deregulated, and that the solution is not sticking the rest of us with the bill. The
                “it’s no our fault, we’ve paid our share, now it’s your turn” delusion drives me crazy.

                • Steve LaBonne

                  It’s not a delusion, asshole. Its’ the fucking truth,a s already explained above. And who is this “they”? I’m of quite modest means and I didn’t vote for any of the Republican assholes who have trashed the country. Take that bill and shove it up your ass.

                • Dana

                  U.S. debt held by the public is more than $11 trillion, most accumulated over the last 40 years. So if calling me an asshole helps sustain that $11 trillion delusion, then that’s another reason not to do it.

                • DrDick

                  I am 60 and my income is about at the national average. I have never voted for a Republican nor supported any of the policies that you mention. Again, your efforts to categorize people in terms of age/generation are quite simply stupid and meaningless. I am undoubtedly well to your left and oppose any efforts to cut the social safety net. The answer to any and all of our financial problems are quite simple. Slash military spending by 50-67%, tax all income (including capital gains and inheritances) the same and increase the top marginal rate to 80% for individuals and 50% for corporation, and eliminate all individual tax loopholes not normally available to those in the bottom half of the income distribution.

                • Steve LaBonne

                  I’m also calling you an ignoramus, since you don’t understand that that debt is at most a minor issue compared to many vastly more important problem.

                • BobS

                  Dr Dick, your proposals are all quite sound, but don’t forget about removing the cap on earnings for Social Security.
                  By the way, I’m 57 and also far to the left of all of the younger people I work with (as are my parents, my wife and her sister, and all of my close friends).
                  I must confess to once voting for a Republican, McCain in the Michigan primary in 2000, not because I bought his bullshit (I thought he was as much an asshole then as I do now), but as a ‘fuck you’ to Governor John Engler who was endorsing Bush.

              • update

                The 2006 report about Millenials that you linked to doesn’t actually support the breadth of your claim. It does show that in 2006 early Boomers were more Democratic leaning than late Boomers, who are now one of the most reliable Republican voting blocks, and GenX.

                This 2011 Pew Report also notes that
                late Boomers and early Gen Xers lean more Republican than early Boomers/late Gen Xers. It also notes that Gen Xers are much more likely to support gay marriage and favor diversity than Boomers. Those older Boomers might not be the problem since they are more likely to lean Democratic
                than the younger Boomers.

                Ironically, a majority of Boomers now favor a smaller government presence in spite of being supportive of big government in their 20s and 30s.

                Boomers were also more likely to pick Reagan as the best president whereas Gen X selected Clinton.

                • DrDick

                  Does rather make my point that this kind of generational analysis is bullshit, now doesn’t it? I am not trying to get into a pissing match over which generation is “best” (none of them are), just pointing out that this is a really stupid way to frame the debate. The real conflicts are class based and the problem is rich people not old people.

            • DrDick

              Also, that debt you are fetishizing? Mostly that is from tax cuts for the rich and unnecessary wars of aggression, along with the effects of the Great Recession and responses to it. Had nothing to do with old people. It was quite managebale in 2000.

            • Barry

              “Income and age tend to be commensurate in extent. “Class” is squishy and not particularly useful in this discussion.”Income and age tend to be commensurate in extent. “Class” is squishy and not particularly useful in this discussion.”

              Incorrect; the USA is now a country which ranks lower on intergenerational income mobility than most developed countries. Class is not squishy and really is the core of what’s going on.

  • mike in dc

    Well, let’s break this down demographically:
    Greatest Generation–dead or long retired(the youngest are in their mid-80s)
    Silent Generation–retired or dead(the youngest are in their late 60s)
    Boomers–(b.1946-1961(or 64, depending on how you define it))–oldest are starting to retire, youngest are in late 40s/early 50s(in other words, this group straddles a big chunk of the highest earning bracket)
    Gen X(b. 1961-1981)–this is the 30-50 year old age bracket. Normally this would imply cultural dominance, but have Xers ever felt like a dominant cultural force? Not in my lifetime.
    Gen Y(1981-1999?)–Teen to about 30–the bulk of the recent college grads belong in this category.
    Gen Z(2000+)–have no idea how screwed they are.

    One of the problems is that the Boomers really need to retire at a good clip(esp. from partnership positions at big law firms) in order to free up space for the Xers and Yers coming up the pike.

    • % of popl

      Silents 12%
      Boomers 25%
      X 16%
      Y 26%
      Gen Z 20%

      • wengler


      • Dana

        I understand some of these generational causation fetishists don’t use a Gen Y category.

    • DrDick

      have Xers ever felt like a dominant cultural force? Not in my lifetime.

      It is worth noting that, even though we get blamed for all of our current problems, boomers did not actually start taking charge of things until the 1990s. Clinton was the first boomer president and most CEOs were (and many still are) older generations at that time.

      • JoyfulA

        And Clinton’s predecessors were “Greatest Generation.” As usual, the Silents were skipped over.

        As a Silent (1945), I spent years in half-day school as the Greatest got around to building enough schools for their progeny, and my classes had 50 or more students. College was the same.

        And decent jobs still required being male and white. The help-wanted ads were divided into “male” (anything requiring college) and “female” (secretaries, seamstresses, waitresses, nurses).

        And we were surrounded by Vietnam, its threat and its consequences.

        This is what the early Boomers encountered, too, except there were so many more of them.

        • Hogan

          And Clinton’s predecessors were “Greatest Generation.” As usual, the Silents were skipped over.

          Reagan took your spot.

        • Pseudonym

          Nursing didn’t require college?

  • David W.

    The Baby Boom
    is a granfalloon
    as Vonnegut knew
    now you do too

  • Charles Giacometti

    Any article that attempts to ascribe opinions or personality traits to–quite literally–millions of people is, by definition, perfectly useless.

    And, no, I’m not a boomer. I pretty much hate them, too, but I know it’s just my own lens on their behavior and not worth writing about.

    • Sev

      “I pretty much hate them, too.” Huh? I would refer you back to the guy who said this:
      “Any article that attempts to ascribe opinions or personality traits to–quite literally–millions of people is, by definition, perfectly useless.”
      You could learn a lot from him.

      • Furious Jorge

        Heh indeed.

      • Charles Giacometti

        You don’t read very well, do you. I stated clearly, “I pretty much hate them, too, but I know it’s just my own lens on their behavior and not worth writing about.”

        I realize you get all your feelings of self-worth from snark, but at least finish reading the sentence.

        Go ahead and answer with more snark. It only proves my point.

  • Sev

    I get inklings of how they will take their revenge- and give their SS/Medicare headache a wee haircut:


  • wengler

    The difference in the cost of education is the most telling. The fact is that the largely successful Republican destruction of the New Deal has transformed our society back from a trust-centered collective responsibility and collective reward system into a distrustful individual responsibility and individual reward system. It’s not surprising that the capital-rich totally dominate this type of system and use their position as a hammer against everyone else.

    Due to the complexity of modern society, this is a horrible system that doesn’t have a very long shelf life. The conservative response has been to double-down and will eventually lead to full-system breakdown if they remain unimpeded.

  • Dana

    I just have to wonder when this blog and its commenters woke up to the fiscal generational divide. Not so long ago I posted a comment pointing out that the financial interests of the boomers and the under 40 crowd were pretty well at odds and I was crucified for generational warfare.

    • Sev

      Well, yes, because the argument leaves a lot to be desired. Do you want boomers to keep working and deprive their youngers of jobs, or retire and burden them with SS/Medicare/ personal support? The point is, this divide is largely a diversionary tactic by the plutocrats- the real entitlement problem being those who expect all the benefits of a civilized society, but little obligation to support it. I mean you, Mr. Romney.

      • Dana

        Yes, but by papering over disparate interests with a “there’s nothing to see here” response we play into the plutocrats’ hands. That sort of response only works for us so long as everyone agrees we need a robust social insurance system. As soon as people start to question the value of that social good–and I’ve spent my entire adult life watching our society defame and dismiss one social good after another–it’s a short journey to the chopping block. I guess I actually have quite a lot of faith in the retiring generation in that I believe if they understand they helped create this problem they will want to help fix it. And yes that will mean higher taxes on their income for however much longer they are earning it.

        • I’m in the near-retiring generation and I’m in the 25% bracket. How much more would you like me to pay?

          • Malaclypse

            Jennie, please

          • That was me.

            Wow. Awkward.

            • Malaclypse

              Or funny.

              • This is a both/and kind of blog.

        • DrDick

          There are far greater differences in interests between the very wealthy (top 1%) and those, like me, in the bottom 60%, but you totally discount those as relevant to our problems. There is not a generational war going on, it is a class war and you are to stupid to see it. Ignoring class differences in favor of focusing on generational interests is what plays into the plutocrats’ hands.

          • rolla

            I agree and suggest you and others continue to focus on class instead of assisting the plutocrats by making spurious claims about other age cohorts.

            • DrDick

              I am not the one making those claims. I am the one fighting back against such bullshit. Please tell that to Dana and all the other idiots being diverted by the bright shiny object the plutocrats are dangling in front of them.

          • Dana

            I agree that this is a class struggle, that taxes need to go up, that we need to cut defense spending. Getting two liberals to agree on public policy is not that difficult. I’m more interested in convincing the 50% of the American electorate that–election after election–doesn’t seem to believe we have a class struggle going on and doesn’t seem to think that those policies are a good idea. So it seems to me very worthwhile to point out that it is terrible policy to stick workers under 50 with A) the entire interests cost on the federal debt, B)the entire cost of retirees’ health care and half the cost of retirees’ pensions, and C) the entire cost of public investment and defense. “A” will happen no matter what, but maybe if we point out the consequences of continuing to oppose the good policies we here agree upon we can stave off “B” and “C”? Working Americans seem unable to bring themselves to go to war for their class, but maybe we can get them to think of the children?

            • Dana

              I should say, the changing the votes of the 48% of Americans who vote against their interests because they mistakenly think their interests are aligned with the top 2%.

            • DrDick

              Each of your points (A-C) are bullshit. Nobody is sticking under 50s with the entire cost of the debt. Currently those of us 50-65 are paying more on it because we tend to earn somewhat more overall and most of that will go away if we ever get an economic recovery. You are not paying for any of our retirement, we already paid for that, as well as most of our healthcare costs. I have paid far more than you have for stupid and needless military expenditures and if we can cut those you will never pay as much as I have already paid. You seem to operate under the illusion that no one over 50 pays taxes or apparently ever has. Even Social Security recipients pay taxes, and they are the poorest generation.

        • GL

          So what are you going to do about SS and Medicare?

          Boomers do not support cuts or raising the eligibility age and they are roughly 37% of voters and tend to be wealthier as a cohort. Millenials, who are more liberal than previous cohorts,
          favor privatized accounts and private insurance instead of SS and Medicare. Gen X is relatively small compared to those cohorts, does not hold any positions that stand out and just saw its net worth cut by 52%, the largest decline of any cohort. The Silents oppose benefit cuts but favor raising the eligibility age for everyone else.

          The only thing these groups agree on is, the federal government does not do enough for old people and SS and Medicare should be means-tested.

          Instead of seeking a generational equity solution for just SS and Medicare, it makes much more political and moral sense to work for a more just safety net for all combined with forward looking investment. To pay for this you start by increasing taxes on higher incomes, interest & dividends and inheritances and work your way down not by across the board cuts to SS and Medicare.

          • DrDick

            Social Security is not in crisis and never has been. There are some relatively minor problems over the medium term, but none in the near or long term. The simplest way to solve those problems is to eliminate the income cap on payroll taxes. Medicare is a somewhat more difficult problem, but is potentially manageable employing the methods used in Europe and Japan to contain healthcare costs (theirs are substantially lower than ours). Eliminating the income cap also helps, but does not solve this as well. I also agree that we need to expand the overall safety net and actively advocate a European style system. Raising the historically low tax rates on the wealthy and corporations is the best and most effective way to accomplish all of these goals.

          • Malaclypse

            So what are you going to do about SS and Medicare?

            Consistently remind people that there is no program SocialSecurityAndMedicare, and anybody who acts like there is one program with one demographic/funding problem is either misinformed, lying, or stupid.

            • DrDick

              Or most often all of the above.

              • Malaclypse

                I think the most likely empirical result would be two out of three.

          • Anonymous

            raise the retirement age: yes, because the problem we have now and in the future is just too many damn jobs.

            means testing: and will the next step be to make Social Security a time limited program for emergencies only? Oh wait. That could be a jobs program– govt contracted social workers deciding if you are indeed eligible. (special bonuses for making the process so onerous that applicant gives up.)

  • Andrew

    A while ago I was curious what my mother (b. late 50’s) paid for her undergrad vs. what someone at her alma mater would pay now. I was able to find a pretty good list of tuition at her school throughout the years here. There was a big increase in tuition at some point in the early 80’s, but there was also a lot of inflation then so maybe that’s expected. On the other hand, there’s pretty clearly a big bump up in tuition between 2001 and 2003 (+$900/semester, from $1500 to $2400) without the accompanying inflation. The earliest millenials would have been starting college in 1998, so this large increase was timed exactly to screw over all but the very oldest members of Gen Y.

    • Paul Campos

      That’s a very interesting chart. In fact at Northern Iowa tuition was barely higher in real terms in 2000 than it had been in 1960 (tuition in 1980 was actually quite a bit lower in real terms than it had been in 1960).

      But then it went through the roof, more than doubling in real terms between 2000 and 2012.

      • joel hanes

        And that increase was directly caused by a Republican-dominated state government withdrawing much of the state’s support for its university system

  • paulo

    ummmm stop playing with cartoons and start thinking about people. In short you are full of shit.

    Boomers faced 20% increases in tuition – yes that was in 1968 dollars – but last I checked those were the dollars that were available then.

    You forget stagflation, the start of serious outsourcing and significantly the suicide of the union movement (remember PATCO and the pilots union sellout anyone?) in the US and as the bosses – Jimmie Hoffa et al – not only sat at the “seat at the table” they fought for, they thought that they were in the same club as the guys across the table.

    Remember too that the boomers actually raised their own taxes to cover the social security bubble that they were going to be. When was the next time that that happened?

    Yeah I thought so…

  • mch

    “Professional-class baby boomers tend to forget they were more or less issued good jobs, along with a complimentary copy of “Rumours,” at the start of their own brilliant careers.”

    You’re kidding, right? For instance, it was harder to find a job in academia in the late 1960’s and 1970’s than it is now (and it’s ugly now, for sure). Especially hard if you were female or black or other minority. But some of us got jobs (and a very few of us got tenure.) My inflation-adjusted salary of 1976 was about half of today’s starting salary for assistant professors. (And my salary, like all women’s, was less than men’s. Hell, the local bank wouldn’t issue credit cards to women. I could go on and on, on this front. Maternity leaves? No such thing existed. Now new fathers get course relief.) But then, we didn’t expect to eat out or travel or go to the movies but now and then. Btw, I have never heard of “Rumours.”

    Don’t mean to sound like an old fart. But jeebus, your piece is a pile of cliche masquerading as argument. So sorry the generation that labored to open the way for women and minorities and LBGT’s did nothing of value for your generation. So sorry that we encouraged our children to think beyond corporatist Stepfordism. So sorry we’re leaches as we enter old age. I guess I should just go die (since I can’t afford to retire, what with financial upheavals due to legislation and attitudes I fought hard against and since my grown children continue to depend so heavily on us financially).

    Btw, as a few commenters have hinted: please define what you mean by the term “boomers.” A lot of definitions float around, but it matters a lot where you start and end things. More generally: you might want to learn some history before you spout off.

    Sorry for the anger here, but I read your posts with great interest, and the linked article read like so much old-time Time/Newsweek fluff of the worst sort. Please, don’t fall prey!

    • harriet

      Thank you, mch. Articles bashing boomers are generalizations of the worst sort and simply create a distraction as those of us on the lower end of the scale fight amongst ourselves.

      “Baby boomer” is nothing but a marketing term, really, used by corporations to help sell stuff to this huge group of kids.

      As a female “boomer,” I had no jobs handed to me. At one of my first jobs in the ’70s, I watched men with less experience get hired with higher salaries over more-qualified women. Then it started happening to me when I tried to move up, and it has continued throughout my work life.

      I normally like this site and enjoy the writing, but this piece is just silly, the kind of thing people write in their sleep.

  • Gus

    Generation gap pieces are lazy. The most important sentence in the whole piece was “Of course generational stereotypes are just that.” You’re admitting the article is based on stereotypes. I expect much better from Paul Campos.

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