Measuring the Me Generation

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security.


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Stephen Marche has written a thought-provoking piece about what he terms the “war against youth.” Although a bit whiny at times and sprinkled with class-envy rhetoric—he warns of “flowers of rage,” derides “virulently purified capitalism” and writes approvingly about “the protesters, the occupiers, the kids who screamed themselves hoarse in the parks of New York and Oakland last year”—the thrust of the essay highlights the selfishness of the Baby Boomer generation and the consequences of that selfishness.

Here are a few of the consequences that Marche identifies: Pointing to the “economic cloak of unreality that the Boomers have wrapped themselves in,” he argues that “There is a young America and there is an old America…One takes from the other.” He cites a 2009 Brookings Institution study to support his case: “The United States spends 2.4 times as much on the elderly as on children.”

Thanks to what he calls “30 years of economic and social policy that has been rigged to serve the comfort and largesse of the old at the expense of the young,” he notes that “in 1984, American breadwinners who were 65 and over made ten times as much as those under 35. The year Obama took office, older Americans made almost 47 times as much as the younger generation.”

Maintaining a political-economic system that serves “the comfort and largesse of the old” helps explain the untouchable nature of the tax-guzzling Social Security and Medicare programs. Marche notes that the Social Security system will run out of funds in 2036, “so there’s just enough to get the oldest Boomers to age 90.” Indeed, he makes a compelling case that “the whole of American society has been rearranged so that the limits of vision coincide exactly with the death of the Boomers. Nobody wants this. The Boomers did not set out to screw over their kids. The wind just seemed to blow them that way.”

In other words, the Boomers will likely eat through the safety net their parents handed down to them. Yet many Boomers loudly oppose reforms to the system that could extend its life. A PBS report found that simply raising the Social Security retirement age to 71 by 2040, and to 75 by 2070, would save enough money to cover the looming shortfalls. Likewise, to preserve the system for future generations, Medicare needs to be reined in, means-tested and trimmed down; some elements of Medicare need to be phased out altogether.

But those are non-starters, which means the Boomers’ kids and grandkids will work longer and receive a far smaller return on their “investment” in Social Security and Medicare. Again, Marche offers helpful evidence in this regard: He notes that a wealthy retired couple today will pay $899,000 into programs like Medicare and Social Security and receive $1.01 million in benefits; a low-earning retired couple today will pay $510,000 into the system and get $821,000 back. Post-Boomer generations won’t see anything like this.

Indeed, it could be argued that the spending and debt debates in today’s Washington are basically debates over how much the Boomers will take from their children and grandchildren.

If those are some of the public-policy consequences of Baby Boomer selfishness, what are the causes?

Ronald Reagan offered an answer way back in 1967. Speaking to a gathering of young Baby Boomers at Eureka College, he concluded that his generation had given his children’s generation—the Boomers—too much. “Because we had to earn,” he explained, “we wanted to give…‘No’ was either a dirty word or dropped from our vocabulary.” He lamented that “our motives have been laudable, but our judgment has been bad…I am afraid we shortchanged you on responsibilities.”

The words may sting, but they proved prescient.

“No” and “responsibility”—with all their limiting power—are words that too many Boomers have never understood, grasped or used.

Just contrast the Boomers with their parents.

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  • The Infidel

    And don't forget the catchcry of "charge it", forget the save for tomorrow and hopefuly leave something behind to get the next generation off to a good start. Or the new saying "ski" "spending the kids inheritance" mentality.

    As long as they think that its going to be everyones responsibility to look after them, and everyone else thinks the same, everyone will wind up in the same boat, equaly poverty stricken, because soon enough you run out of everyone elses money. But hey, never let a good leftard philosophy go to waste without dragging as many down with you as you can.

  • harrylies

    You mean like Romney, who skipped Vietnam, and wants a war with Iran. A war he will not serve in. One reason Obama defeated Clinton and McCain was both voted to kill Amerricans in Iraq. People do not want another war.

    The Tea Party believe in handouts for the old. If they ever talked about responsibility, they'd be as popular as the Klu Klux Klan.

    • tarleton

      dude , you are a simplton

      • John C. Davidson

        Just a piad aggitator. As usual, they make no sense, just denegrate the rich & opposing viewpoints.

    • Kal

      This is exactly why I have to explain that an ACORN is an Oak, not a kernel, nor a lefty clubhouse. The limited capacity of unionized public education.

    • Rifleman

      Romney didn't burn his draft card or wave enemy flags, he was never friends with anyone who set off bombs in America, or d*mned America. Try again.

    • tagalog

      I'm glad to be reassured that Obama didn't vote for the Iraq and Afghanistan ventures. Of course it's immaterial that Obama has continued those fights for another three years. What's important is not that he continues to support it, what's important that he once, some time ago, voted against it. He was against it before he was for it, that's the ticket.

    • JakeTobias

      I find the "unless you were a soldier, you can't start a war, or endorse one" argument to be, not only tedious, but heavy dumbbell dumb, as well.

      So I assume, if anyone's house catches on fire, they should not be allowed to call the fire department, unless they are a fireman. Or fireperson. And unless one is a policeman, or policeperson, one can not call the police department either. Right? How about brain surgeon? Should only brain surgeons be allowed to seek the services of brain surgeons? I hope not, because it sounds like you need one.

    • tarleton

      what a creep

  • melissajacksons

    I just read online about Man robs bank to get medical care in jail and presented the view that if the United States had a health-care system which offered people more government support, he wouldn't have had to make the choice he did but wish somebody told him about "Penny Health" hey i am just trying to find a solution

  • pierce

    Let us face up to this fact. He, Obama, is the ultimate man, according to Obama, but I for one don't believe it, and furthermore never will. . God help us if he is elected to a second term.

  • melissajacksons

    By reading "Penny Health" website I learnt In actuality, there are two programs at work here: States that chose to administer the plan themselves and states that opted out and asked the federal government to step in.

  • StephenD

    Mr. Dowd, I would have liked if you took the article a few steps further. Because I don't believe the numbers would reflect what you propose. I don't think my generation is as selfish as is contended. Plenty and far spread to be sure, but not overwhelmingly so I believe. I still think we have the capacity and temerity to save America from Socialism (which is the quick answer to selfish motives). I hope you cannot prove me wrong.

  • jacob

    OBAMA is a narcissist and therefore the "I", "ME" etc,. is just par for the course.
    PERIOD.
    He firmly believes he is the last cold COKE in the desert, thanks to the legion of morons who elected
    President this unknown quantity and straight political parachutist whose only merit in Congress was
    to yell HERE every time roll was called ah…..and for opposing Mc Cain's legislation to curb FANNIE
    and FREDDIE's abuses, which are the real causes of the economic debacle he pins on BUSH, fact
    which McCain failed to rub on his nose at the debates….
    Now on his reelection, lets see how is he going to defend his "HOOF IN MOUTH" on everything from
    his "administration", as I don't believe ROMNEY will treat him with the same kid gloves MCCAIN did…

  • Schlomotion

    Too much is made of this "me" vs "we." The Reagan/Bush "we" is not like the "we" of the Founding Fathers. The "we" of the Founding Fathers is a populist "we." The "we" of Reagan and Bush is an oligarchical collectivist "we" that really means "you" fight and "I" get paid.

    • Rifleman

      How were the Founding Fathers populist, Schlomo? While you're at it, would you illuminate Reagan's collectivism for me?

      • Schlomotion

        Did you fall and bump your head and forget the first three words of the Constitution?

        • Rifleman

          Lol, that doesn't make them populist (maybe you need to look that word up), and how was Reagan a collectivist?

          • Schlomotion

            He was a collectivist in terms of pitting the "free world" against the "totalitarian world." The collectivism gets worse after Reagan. CATO Institute did a paper on it: http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/rise-

          • Rifleman

            By your definition, what grouping isn’t a collective?

            This is the definition I use:
            “Collectivism – A political or economic theory advocating collective control esp. over production and distribution or a system marked by such control.” – Websters

            That ain’t Reagan.

          • Schlomotion

            Then it follows that none of the Republicans that ran for office this year are in the tradition of Reagan.

          • Rifleman

            Nice subject change, lol.

        • tagalog

          Yes, "We, the People…in order to…secure the blessings of LIBERTY to ourselves and our posterity…"

          Liberty is inescapably individualistic.

  • John C. Davidson

    I grew up in the 50's and couldn't wait to get a job so I could buy a car. Now, kids grow up expect their parents to get two jobs so the get a car. It's that simple.

    This is a must rea for those who want to make life easier for those who produce for others.

    • BS77

      Yes…we have gone from being a nation of frontier toughness and rugged individualism to spineless dependency…..to a welfare Nanny State where PC idiocy rules . If you object to the flood of illegal immigrants, why you are a racist!!! If you are concerned about fifteen trillion dollar deficits, you are an "alarmist". If you object to astronomical taxes and the welfare gravy train, you are an "insensitive cave man." That's why the show Doomsday Preppers is so popular…People are beginning to realize they MUST care for themselves just like in the old days.

    • Rifleman

      I was doing odd jobs like cutting grass, tilling gardens, splitting wood, and doing oil changes for spending money before I was old enough to work. I think it started because mom wouldn't buy me candy or a comic book, and then I realized that with my own money I could buy or do whatever I wanted. Back then the ideal was to be as grown up and independent from your parents as you could be.

  • Choi

    Whoa there "sparky" Dowd.
    As a Baby Boomer PATRIOTIC American Veteran,just slow down with your condemnation of Baby Boomers based on YOUR resentments.
    First of all: You're NOT always going to be the Young Man your avatar suggests you are.
    That being said,as a Boomer ,I'm the FIRST to be outraged by much of my generation, for going OFF THE RAILS back when we were teenagers in the 1960's.They were PRONE to Communist KGB Psy-Ops ,while the stronger minded of us,were NOT.
    Close to half remains OFF THE RAILS to this day and have been leaders in BRAINWASHING suceeding generations AGAINST all that's Good & Right.,especially by becoming teachers and academics to stay out of the Military Draft ,in effect,during Vietnam.
    By biggest "beef" with Dowd is HIS feeling of ENTITLEMENT yet he believes the Boomer Generation is "selfish".
    Does Dowd realize that without his parents ,HE NEVER WAS?
    Does Dowd realize that Baby Boomers DID NOT COMPLAIN when OUR taxes went to help our parents and grandparents get their Social Security and Medicare benefits,but NOW that we've aged,these young POS' "resent it".
    Dowd ONLY exists because his BOOMER parents had sex WHEN they did resulting in him being conceived.
    Dowd ,in this article,is fomenting GENERATIONAL WARFARE and is NO DIFFERENT than Lefties fomenting Class & Racial DIVISIONS.
    Frankly,Dowd belongs on a Lefty site such as PUFFHO or DAILY POS,NOT this site.
    Dowd's parents either realize that they ineptly raised him,or they're SELF-HATING LEFTIES who will volunteer to have their son THROW THEM UNDER THE BUS.

  • tagalog

    Why, those robber baron older types! I have a solution: make laws that prohibit paying them any more in compensation than the average 30-year-old. That'll show them!

    Putting the older worker in the same shoes as the inexperienced younger worker as far as compensation is concerned will not only take away the incentive to become skilled and experienced, but will also act as an incentive to those lazy types who find working beneath their dignity.

    Of course, the young will soon start to die off as the society becomes an impoverished society, but the older folks will last a little while longer because they at least had the decade or two just past to save some money. Eventually, of course, the older folks will die off too, leaving only the politicians who will have saved themselves by writing laws with loopholes for themselves.

  • Maxie

    The Boomers came in just as the "Information Age" was replacing the fading uber-masculine eras of the Industrial Revolution and the Westward Expansion. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome replacing calloused hands. "The Pill" and the Computer Age entered as the Patriarchy morphed into the Matriarchy. Remember Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" which launched the Feminist movement which has now peaked. We are on the cusp of another societal shift. I'm predicting it will be the Psychology Age where people will be tested at an early age to determine where they might best find success in life. Stay tuned.

  • PhillipGaley

    Although in this article, there's just too many cans of worms been opened, on the end of the V. war, I would say rather, like when FDR had all the pigs killed, and skipped funding in the Southern states which needed it, but funded do-nothing projects in the North, where his support was NOT so strong, corruption in politics lost the Vietnam war for the many S. Vietnamese who were killed–the democrat's House, cut off funding because they wanted Nixon to look bad.

    JFK opened discussion on the give-away of the Panama Canal, and he allowed the Berlin Wall to be built, and, he was responsible for the slaughter at the Bay of Pigs.

    While Obama might well represent a "Me" generation, I think that, he presides over a "I'm like really lost." generation: if they were possessed with giving things to their young, the thing which so very many parents of the preceding generation did not do for the Boomers was, to have shared their time and a worthwhile schema of life as a doable proposition.

    Does Marche mention that, for the $899,000 paid in, the 1.01mil paid back will be say, 200,000 in actual buying power? Does he mention that, when govt guarantees appear—AS IN BANKING AND EDUCATION—costs go through the clouds and, quality and integrity go through the floor?

    And for all the sundry detail, does Marche consider whether after the Sino-Soviet invasion of the USA, and with plenty of civil turmoil and bloodshed, will it be the oldsters who remain, or will it be the youngsters? And does he thing that, real-estate prices then have reached their normalcy?

  • Marvin E. Fox

    Obama's plan is simplicity itself, he doesn't have a plan. His attitude, instead of a plan, is socialism all the way. He doesn't need an end result for his attitude and it really wouldn't help if he did. If his work as POTUS goes forward in an entirely socialistic manner, the results will be a socilaist U.S. without a prescription for change. After all, he put his hand on himself and promised fundamental change in the American way of life. He didn't promise specific results and he was elected on his lack of specifics. People thought his promise was the democrcy's usual campaign hogwash. No one expected specifics to be a factor. He wasn't elected on specifics and he cannot be reelected on his specifics. Our constitution is specific and demands specific actions from our elected countrymen. The current POTUS is as close to being a man without a country that politics can offer us.
    Marvin E. Fox

  • Ronald Johnston

    I was raised by my Mother who never let me or my brother forget how hard it was to survive the Great Depression. I missed the baby boomer period because I was married and raising 3 children. My Mother scraped and worked hard to send me and my brother to college. It gave me and my brother a work ethic which the boomers lack. My wife and I scraped and worked hard to send our 3 children to college. Our 3 children are all productive members of society, all 3 of them worked in the family business and learned the work ethic. 90% of children today have not had the privilege of learning the work ethic and the satisfaction it brings! I would guess that most people who have the work ethic are employed today! People who do not have the work ethic may never work again!

    • Ruckus_Tom

      "People who do not have the work ethic may never work again!"

      Unfortunately, they'll vote.

  • mrbean

    Hey it is all about me since the day I was coneived. All of the rest of you are only upon this earth to meet whatever my needs are and I owe you all nothing. Gee it is hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way. I walk on water and leave no ripples and when I step on the shore the ground becomes hallowed from the holy oils of my feet. And when I die to be escortered into Valhalla by Valkyries on white steeds to sit at the left hand of Odin with equal status with Thor, I want my body placed on my longship with the buttocks in the air so all of you may have the priviledge of kissing me goodbye before I set out to sea in a glorious blazing Viking funeral

  • barclay reynolds

    The 'ME' generation are the 12-30 year olds! This 'author' is a thief! The book was published three years ago. Read it 'GENERATION ME' when ever people like Obama says 'I' I chringe..

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