The Problem with Baby Boomers

By: Adam Perkinson

Before I get into this article, I need to establish something: I don’t hate every Boomer per se, but rather what I call the Boomer Mentality that some of our elders exhibit, such as: undiagnosed narcissism; closeted – or, in some cases, open – racism; veiled misogyny; and perceived victimization. There’s also an overwhelming “I got mine, I don’t care if you get yours” sentiment that seems to be universal across the entire generation.

Here it goes: Baby Boomers’ parents were arguably the greatest generation America has ever seen. It’s even in their name – “the Greatest Generation”. They were raised during the Great Depression, saw the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany, and fought in World War II. In order to protect their kids and their kids’ kids, they enforced policies like the Glass-Steagall Act to keep another Depression from happening. They were scared that their kids would have to go through what they did, and they wanted to prevent that. This meant that Boomers had an advantage no previous generation had growing up – a prospering economy. They all grew up in relative comfort, went to college for up to 571% less than Generation Z (us) will, got jobs in a manufacturing industry that was still rebuilding worldwide, and put the money in savings accounts that actually generated interest. They paid taxes that paid for tangible projects, like 1956’s Interstate Highway System. They got mortgages from heavily-regulated banks (regulations put in place by their parents), and paid 905% less for the same house you could buy today.

But why didn’t the economic conditions the Boomers had stick around for their kids and their grandkids? Simply put, they’re selfish, and they made selfish policies. Once they became old enough to have political power, they repealed almost every act that created the economy they inherited in what I like to refer to as a “conservative cleanse” during the 1980s and 90s. They repealed the Fairness Doctrine because they didn’t like smug academics and TV personalities telling them everyone is *gasp* equal. They voted for Reagan, who repealed almost all of the regulations their parents passed in order to prevent another depression, all while doing nothing to combat the rising tide of inflation. If it was even remotely liberal, it was repealed. 

By 1992, the Boomers had effectively erased their parents’ political legacy. Banks were relatively unregulated, and with the loose regulations they did have, there were loopholes to get around them. This deregulation, in addition to the housing boom in the late 90s to mid 00s’ led to banks being less strict on who they gave loans to and an increased number of subprime mortgages. The conditions were prime for another depression hour, and in 2008, the clock struck midnight for America.

Now, I won’t go into the fine print of the 2008 Recession, but I will place all of the blame on Baby Boomers and their policies. While it wasn’t their fault there was a housing boom, it was their fault that the banks weren’t regulated enough to prevent poor lending. It was their fault the national interest target rate reached zero for the first time in American history in 2008 in vain attempts of encouraging borrowing. It was their fault that large existing financial companies were allowed to merge, becoming “too big to fail”. And it’s their fault that we have to pay so much more for the same things.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, a college education for us Gen-Zers is over 571% more than it was for the Boomers. To put this in perspective, a 4 year degree from Harvard would’ve set you back around $2300 per year, or about $9200 in total. Today, the same degree will set you back $43,000 per year. But not everyone is going to go to a university like Harvard. On average, the annual cost for a public college has gone up roughly $8,000 per year. 

And it’s not like we’re making much more money, either. Minimum wage is one of the many divisive topics in American politics today, and for good reason. Those in the workforce clamor for a minimum wage that rises with inflation. Even more problematic is that a low minimum wage also increases turnover rates in businesses that pay it. In a small business study conducted by HR firm Gusto, they found that for employees paid $7.25/hr there is a 70% turnover rate compared to the national average of 32%. However, they also found that once wages were raised to $15/hr, the turnover rate dropped drastically to 41%. 

And perhaps one of the only reasons minimum wage hasn’t increased is because of conservative Boomers running our government. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has voted to raise his own wage 6 times, but he’s voted against raising the minimum wage for the people he is supposed to represent 15 times. 

I’m sure you’ve heard the jokes Boomers make about their Millennial children, too. You know the ones — “If they didn’t spend so much money on avocado toast, they’d be able to buy a home by now.” Also, Boomer humor is strange. Their favorite slapsticks include lumping anyone younger than them into the Millennial generation, blaming said Millennials for the economic troubles but then getting angry when they find out their precious social security benefits might be taken away to help relieve the national debt, and “phone bad, book good” among other things.

What they don’t find funny, however, is combating climate change. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist, summed up the Boomer’s plans to reduce its effects in a speech given at the UN Climate Summit early this week. (I say it’s the Boomer’s plans because they predominantly run the governments around the world.)

“How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight,” she said. “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act then you would be evil and that I refuse to believe.”
But I disagree with Thunberg on one thing: While Boomers aren’t “evil”, they are narcissistic. They only care about themselves and their wallets. They elect leaders that repeal regulations not only on banks but also on companies and industrial leaders (especially power companies) because — wait for it — money. Oh, and to “own the libs,” of course. They repeal environmental regulations in favor for weaker ones. For example, the now repealed Obama-era Clean Power Plan forced power companies to cut greenhouse gases by 32% by 2030. Its replacement, the Affordable Clean Energy act, only forces them down to 1.5% by the same time.

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