Admittedly, it is unfair to label an entire generation. No generation is any more homogeneous than any other group of people; despite sharing common ground, individuals have differences. Some, I assume, are good people.
And baby boomers have had some successes. As young adults, they marched for civil rights. As adults, they have expanded rights and opportunities for women and minorities and the LGBTQ community, and they won the Cold War. Ronald Reagan wasn’t a boomer, but he was the first president elected by them en masse, and America’s largest generation has mostly held control ever since.
Plus, Tom Hanks is a boomer. Who doesn’t like Tom Hanks?
But in looking back at the past 35 or so years of American politics — essentially my adulthood — it is impossible to ignore the defining trait of the baby boom generation. That trait is selfishness, and it is a selfishness that has abandoned our social compact and allowed problems to fester.
The Social Security system is teetering. The national debt is $23 trillion. Infrastructure has been ignored for decades. College is less affordable. We spend about $700 billion a year on the military, but any mention of improved health care is met with incredulous questions about how to pay for it.
All of these reflect short-term gains at the expense of planning and investment in the nation’s future. Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what is in it for you. While their parents put an American on the moon, baby boomers don’t even want to pay for vehicle tabs to fix our roads, let alone address something as important as climate change.
All of this reached a nadir some 15 years ago, when President George W. Bush launched two wars while passing tax cuts. It was the perfect boomer ethos: No oblation is needed; we’ll just make future generations pay for it.
At least, we thought that was the nadir. Later, President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress passed tax cuts that benefited the wealthy while also passing a $1.3 trillion spending bill. As Gibney summarizes, “This was a fantasy and the result of a spoiled generation assuming things would be easy and that no sacrifices would have to be made in order to preserve prosperity for future generations.”
When Reagan took office, the highest marginal tax rate was 70 percent. Now it is 37 percent, and corporate tax cuts have allowed for stock buybacks that further enrich executives rather than workers.
So, to be honest, it is easy to empathize with Generation X and Generation Z and long for change in the American power structure. They might not be my generation but, as the saying goes, you’re only as old as you feel.