The Rich Boomers Are Alright; The Kids, Not So Much

I understand why the baby boomer generation and the ever growing government / dependent class between the ages of 30 and 50 voted for Barak Obama: it was in their best self-interest. And I understand why 20-somethings voted for Barak Obama: they were tricked by the boomers.

And the weather was fine on voting day.

Why, by whom and how were they tricked? To what end?

A democratic vote is for compassion and kindness, legal restraints on the authoritarianism of the church and the exploitation of business, protection of the environment, world peace, economic security and the protection of the weak and unlucky. And a republican vote is for the opposite of these things. One would almost worry if youth didn’t vote democrat.

That’s how they were tricked by the boomers. But why? Blatant self-interest:

In 1975, the average boomer was 25 years old. The energy crisis and stagflation were early warning signs that the post WWII economic boom could not be taken for granted, but no one seriously doubted that the future belonged to America. What the boomers were thinking about in the late 60s and early 70s were the consequences of being drafted and sent to kill and die in Vietnam. After the war, an odd combination of guilt, cynicism, idealism, narcissism and LSD led the boomers to believe that every contemporary religious, social and economic system was flawed and must be destroyed and rebuilt. The 60s and 70s were a time of considerable attack on the status quo, but rebuilding not so much. Marriage, Christianity, families, children, patriotism, military, ambition, industry and science were all broken and had to be remade. And the working proposal was cocaine, disco, and sex without love or commitment.

In 1985, the boomers now in their mid-30s discovered that capitalism and business were not such bad things when the car loans and mortgage bills were mailed to them and not their parents. But Ford’s advertising folks were not successful with “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” because the boomers were not interested in their father’s capitalism: 50 years of hard work, living within their means, paying the bills on time and with a little luck maybe a cottage in their old age. The investments and infrastructure that their parents and grandparents had left them were still generating real wealth in the economy. But a side effect of the investment decisions made simultaneously by this large demographic created a rolling boom/bust cycle that continues to this day. In the 80s the action was real estate and the stock market. The Japanese economic model (ironically) and the loss of manufacturing jobs to Asia were a bit of a concern, but for the most part the influential and lucky boomers were getting rich quick and liking it.

Another trend that started in the 80s was the split between the expressed ideological values of the richer boomers and their own person choices. They were still anti-marriage and family, but they were marrying, having children and sending them to private school. The environment was important, but they were building large homes and driving large cars. But they often voted their values, which over many years metastasized into the parody of Al Gore living in an $8 million dollar 9 bathroom house and burning jet fuel at a monster rate while simultaneously being the global father of an imaginary threat to the environment.

The 1990s: The movie The Big Chill, in 1983, was ahead of its time. In the 1990s the baby boomers discovered both their own mortality and economic uncertainty. Waves of economic and investment boom and busts created by the boomer demographic had produced many clear winners and losers with luck being a key attribute of success. The signs of social decay, the permanent loss of blue collar jobs due to globalization,  endless growth of the government / dependent class, regulatory overreach and unsustainable debt at the federal and state level were all there. But the rich boomers didn’t notice them, because none of them were directly affected. They were engaged in the latest get rich quicker game: technology.

Rich middle aged boomers, torn between living their values and not living their values brought us the 4 car garage housing a BMW M series, a Lexus LX series, a Prius and a Harley. And concern that gays couldn’t fight and die in wars.

In 2005, the average boomer was 55 years old. Their parents were struggling with the most difficult parts of old age. The boom/bust cycle was getting risky for folks with a shorter investment horizon, but one last trip to the casino of housing produced a massive windfall for some and many others holding the bag for the bill.

The result of the last 50 years of boomers booming is unsustainable debt at the personal, municipal, state and federal levels, massively underfunded forward looking liabilities, a slow or no growth outlook for blue collar workers, a black community with a large majority of children growing up without a father, exhaustion of many of the core social, industrial and economic assets we inherited, dependance on China to kick the can down the road for a few more years and dependance on the middle east for oil.

We did see a rise in the anti-war movement, which at least until the election and subsequent actions of Barak Obama seemed to rooted in principal. But we now know that the principal involved was the importance of borrowing trillions of dollars from their children, and their children’s children, and their children’s children’s children, to fund health care for themselves and their parents over the next 20 years.

Live and learn.


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