The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it.
Millennials, myself included, take a beating. We’re spoiled, entitled, over-educated yet under-skilled, and are too reliant on technology. Is the millennial hate justified? Or was it a previous generation, the baby boomers, who ruined everything?
Bruce Gibney makes the argument in his book A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America and in an interesting (and depressing) interview with Vox.
Well, the damage done to the social fabric is pretty self-evident. Just look around and notice what’s been done. On the economic front, the damage is equally obvious, and it trickles down to all sorts of other social phenomena. I don’t want to get bogged down in an ocean of numbers and data here (that’s in the book), but think of it this way: I’m 41, and when I was born, the gross debt-to-GDP ratio was about 35 percent. It’s roughly 103 percent now — and it keeps rising.
The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it. They habitually cut their own taxes and borrow money without any concern for future burdens. They’ve spent virtually all our money and assets on themselves and in the process have left a financial disaster for their children.
We used to have the finest infrastructure in the world. The American Society of Civil Engineers thinks there’s something like a $4 trillion deficit in infrastructure in deferred maintenance. It’s crumbling, and the boomers have allowed it to crumble. Our public education system has steadily degraded as well, forcing middle-class students to bury themselves in debt in order to get a college education.
Then of course there’s the issue of climate change, which they’ve done almost nothing to solve. But even if we want to be market-oriented about this, we can think of the climate as an asset, which has degraded over time thanks to the inaction and cowardice of the boomer generation. Now they didn’t start burning fossil fuels, but by the 1990s the science was undeniable. And what did they do? Nothing.
As a millennial with gainful employment and a young kid at home this point doesn’t worry me a bit, not one bit.
Right. Starting with Reagan, we saw this national ethos which was basically the inverse of JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This gets flipped on its head in a massive push for privatized gain and socialized risk for big banks and financial institutions. This has really been the dominant boomer economic theory, and it’s poisoned what’s left of our public institutions.
So how do we undo the damage?
So if we unseat the boomers from Congress, from state legislatures, and certainly from the presidency over the next three to seven years, then I think we can undo the damage. But that will require a much higher tax rate and a degree of social solidarity that the country hasn’t seen in over 50 years.
That will not be easy, and there’s no way around the fact that millennials will have to sacrifice in ways the boomers refused to sacrifice, but that’s where we are — and these are the choices we face.
I know it won’t be easy, but this millennial is ready. Elections matter. Doing your part matters.