Political Animal


July 01, 2012 9:41 AM Generational Warfare

By Ryan Cooper

David Frum had a pretty good piece in The Daily Beast the other day about how conflict between the young and the old is growing:

The old have always grumbled about the young. No doubt Cro-Magnons complained that their kids didn’t appreciate their effort to put a nice, dry cave above their heads. Yet we seem today to hear a new bitterness in the attitudes of the old, a special glee in reproaching and denouncing the young. In 2012 job seekers outnumber jobs offered by a margin of 3-1, down from a post-Depression record of 5.5-1 in early 2009, with the ratio worst among the youngest workers. As young job applicants collect rejection slips, the leading conservative policy intellectual, Charles Murray, has publicly urged his fellow older Americans to regard unemployed young men as “lazy, irresponsible, and unmanly” and to publicly revile them as “bums.”
The disdain of the old for the young appears to be contagious. In early June, a commencement speaker at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts delivered a tough message to the class of 2012: “You are not special,” David -McCullough Jr. told them. In fairness to McCullough, a teacher at the school, the bulk of the speech wasn’t as harsh as the most frequently quoted line.
But it was that line that earned a video of the speech nearly 1.5 million YouTube views, its author media appearances, and his harsh opinion an endorsement from America’s most vocal hater-of-the-young, Rush Limbaugh, who chortled delightedly in his June 11 broadcast: “This is not ever heard. You are not supposed to insult the children … You’re not supposed to harm them. And this guy has just gone out and told these little high-school kids, ‘Hey, you’re nothing, you’re nobody. You’re not special.’”

Obviously, I’m on one side here, no point pretending otherwise. I’m a young person. Through Medicare and Social Security, the old have claims on my future wealth, and it would extremely easy to believe a narrative where they’ve turned into a bunch of extractive parasites like the financial sector, and they’re going to take as much of my generation’s output as they possibly can. Simultaneously, they will protect their own savings by screaming bloody murder every time inflation touches two percent, and thereby prevent reflation and economic recovery, and cripple our job prospects:

Price stabilization is social insurance we provide to the most secure members of our society, while the bill is paid in lost purchasing power and increased risk by the least secure. Further, the benefits of price stabilization accrue disproportionately to the largest creditors and to holders of high-salary secure jobs. Preserving the purchasing power of a billion dollar stash is a lot more valuable than preserving the value of fifty bucks in a bank account. Price stabilization is an incredibly regressive form of social insurance, a program whose distributional ghastliness would be abhorrent to most people if it were not conveniently submerged.

So in this story, the young are being deliberately squeezed from both sides. The cost of the future welfare state for the elderly is staggeringly huge, which we’ll be expected to pay (and if Paul Ryan gets his way, will then be dismantled as we reach retirement age), and we’re graduating into the worst job market in eighty years, which the mostly older elite won’t fix. Perhaps it’s time for us young people to drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred, arm up, and start agitating for the end of Medicare, or maybe forced euthanasia.

I can’t quite believe this, though. I agree there is a strange bitterness in complaints from the old about “kids these days;” I’ve heard it myself and from my young colleagues. But I hold out some faint hope that we aren’t going to descend as a society into a Hobbesian will-to-power hellscape, where camps of crazed zealots fight like rabid weasels over a shrinking pile of scraps.

I think SR Waldman and Frum don’t make enough room in their analysis for ignorance and fear. Opposition to inflation and recovery are driven not so much by a lucid calculation of economic interest than by fear of anything new and, more importantly, total ignorance as to how the economy works. A couple years of 3-4% inflation would not actually mean Grandma would starve (those are, by the way, the rates we saw under Reagan). In the end, this is still one country. The old and young aren’t enemy countries, we’re all part of the same family.

So to my younger brethren, understand that being old is tough, especially in this country. Lots of people are getting old in the suburbs and finding out that is a terrible place to do it. Even with Medicare and Social Security, the elderly often go bankrupt from medical bills. And perhaps most importantly, dying is an increasingly gruesome and terrible process. Have some sympathy.

And to my parents’ generation and on: grow up. I am sick to death about hearing how hard you worked back when you were young. Maybe you did, but you had some terrific advantages, namely that you happened to come of age in what will probably stand as the greatest economic boom in the history of civilization. But when you got power, you handed us a mini-Great Depression, and it’s our fault we can’t find jobs? Have some perspective. As Frum says:

But despite what Limbaugh and his legions of cantankerous listeners may believe, the old truism really is true: the young are the country’s future. If it’s uncaring for society to neglect the old, it’s outright suicidal to cannibalize the life chances of the rising generation. Yet that is precisely what has been happening, before our collective eyes and with our collective assent.

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Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper


  • RepubAnon on July 01, 2012 11:40 AM:

    Ah, wedge issues. Get people fighting over the ever-fewer scraps of food that fall from the overflowing tables of the 0.1%, and they won't notice how much the 0.1% are taking from the food grown by the rest of us.

  • mto3 on July 01, 2012 11:43 AM:

    I've just passed my 57th birthday, and let me say that not ALL of us geezers conform to the "I've got mine, screw you" philosophy of the Me Generation. Your point about my generation --the boomers--growing up in extraordinarily good economic times is spot on, and at least a few of us know this.

    Your salvation as a generation is a growing economy. Getting that over the obstruction of the GOP and the collusion of Dems will be a trick. Three to four percent inflation is, IMHO, exactly what the doctor ordered, and is sustainable over the medium term, ESP if we have the political will to revive the COLA for SS and impose it for minimum wage.

  • 2Manchu on July 01, 2012 11:49 AM:

    Who is it that created our current economic climate of "get rich the quickest way possible"?

    Who decided that maximizing profits at all costs was the only way to do business?

    Who shipped good paying manufacturing jobs overseas?

    Who weakened and eliminated legislation that was designed to protect the American people from the catastrophes of unchecked capitalism?

    Who has continually underfunded education for the past several decades?

    Who allowed median income wages to remain nearly stagnant for thirty years, while the cost of living kept increasing?

    Who keeps fighting to prevent needed changes in healthcare, environmental protection, consumer protection, employee protection, and generally anything that keeps the majority of Americans safe and secure from those who seek to exploit them for their own personal gain?

    Lastly, who threw away thousands of young lives in a wasteful war, and left tens of thousands broken mentally and physically, and did almost nothing to help them for years?

    Not the youth of this country, I can tell you. This is the same bullshit that the older generation dumped on us Gen Xers during the late eighties-early nineties, that we were slackers, lazy, and expected something for nothing.

    So for those people who are now dumping on young Americans today:

    Blow it out your ass. You fucked up the country, not them.

  • Robert Waldmann on July 01, 2012 11:57 AM:

    I can tell you my perspective. Can't say I'm young (I'm 51) but that makes me always a bit too young to get the Zeitgeist (because I am a bit younger than the baby boomers). I was learning about division (of numbers) in 1968 when the cool kids were learning about division (and alienation). Now I'm not yet old and bitter and complaining constantly about the kids these(key word constantly). I'd say the Limbaughisation of the debate is based on their being a lot of old people, because the boom is aging. This is related to the finances of social security, but not just cause they need your money. It's because there are a lot of them so advertisers care a bit about them.

  • JackD on July 01, 2012 12:03 PM:

    One thing young people can do to improve things is to vote and pay attention to their interests when they do. Much of the 2010 midterm result was due to failure of younger people to vote. As has been noted by many, older people do vote.

  • c u n d gulag on July 01, 2012 12:18 PM:

    Not only is all of this very harmful and, frankly, stupid, it was all easily avoidable.

    However, my generation, the Baby Boomers, of which I'm one - albeit closer to the end of it than the beginning - decided to listen to Conservatives, and voted for people who were determined to unravel the very middle class they, and their own parents, were a part of.

    The damage was a slow leak at first - a drip here, a drip there - and all to keep "THOSE PEOPLE" from having a share.
    Having "THEM" have the same as everyone else, was looked at as being 'more than their share.'
    After all, what's the use of having something, if everyone else has it, too?
    You need people below you, so you can say, "Well, we may not have that much, but at least we're better of than those ___________________ (fill-in the blank)."

    And now, as young people can't find good-paying jobs, postpone marriage and house-buying, let me ask the old folks and their families a question:
    "You know that house your parents have, that they, and you, look at as an "investment" for the future?
    When it comes to selling that "investment," who's going to be able to afford to buy it? Hmmm?"

    Young people don't have any money. Just debt, for those who followed "The American Dream" and went to college.
    And it doesn't look like they're going to have any in the near future.

    Some fixes:
    Let the ACA take full force now, rather than in 2014.

    Lower SS and Medicare age eligibility - and also extend the cap from the present rate. Have a donut-hole from, say, $110,000 to $300,000, if that's what it takes. But it's idiotic to have working people pay over 10% for SS and Medicare on most, if not ALL, of their income, while the richest just pay that on the money that they leave behind in couch cushions and in limo and car seats - or, tipping money, for the riff-raff who serve them.

    Those will all free-up jobs for younger people.

    The ACA will allow people to have health care if they leave their jobs to do something they may have always wanted to do, but couldn't, because they had to keep their corporate-subsidized health care.

    And so will lowering the ages for SS and Medicare.

    The income taxes from the younger workers, and a relatively small increase, say 4-7%, on the earnings of the top 2% of earners - and another 5-8% on the top earnings of the tippy-top-earners.
    That's a top rate of around 50% for the wealthiest of the wealthy, on a certain level of their income.

    And hey, you "Job Creators" you, that's a small price to pay to keep a lot of your money - and all of your heads.

  • Terry Nixon on July 01, 2012 12:25 PM:

    Ryan---I was born in 1944. You are spot on in your ignorance and fear statement. I have been extremely lucky in beginning my career when IBM came out with the 360 computer line in 1966. The other part is if the business downturn had happened 5-6 years before it did, or the dot.com bust was as severe I would have been SOL. All generations need to work collectively to FIX SSA first--a small math change or two will ensure your benefit as much as I have. The other one of health care (Medicare) will take more effort but can also be sustainable, if we can fight off the luddite's such as Ryan & Romney. Let's begin that fight this November.

  • bloomingpol on July 01, 2012 12:26 PM:

    I don't know who these old people are who are so ignorant and all around stupid, but I can tell you that not all of us are like that. I'm 69, a mother and a grandmother, and I am fighting for my kids and grandkids lives at this point, what with climate change and all. I am running for state representative in NH, we are just scraping by in retirement, and I am working for other candidates who have the same attitude toward the young as I do, and there are a lot of them, and voters, around who regret deeply that somehow we are leaving them such a mess!

  • SadOldVet on July 01, 2012 12:31 PM:

    The problem with generalizations is that they are generally inaccurate in their specifics.

    As one of those who is now ending his first month of retirement and will start drawing social security next month, let me add some generalizations.

    1) There is a great diversity of opinions and philosophies among people of all ages.

    2) Greed did not start with my generation, although it did seem to came of age during the Reagan years.

    3) Youth today have a much harder road than I did growing up.

    4) The 'quality' of today's youth is a mixed bag, just like when I was young.

    Sidenote: Class warfare exists. The monied classes have been waging war on the working classes for a very long time. Their have promoted racial divisions as a part of that class warfare and now they are promoting age divisions. Believe it or not, blacks and browns and jews and muslims and old people and young people are not the sources of the real problems for working people.

  • Mudge on July 01, 2012 12:32 PM:

    It's always a bit annoying when I (and many above) are clumped with those whose brains petrified as they aged; the subjects of Frum's essay. Now, to be fair, many over 50 (roughly the youngest babyboomers) and less than 65 (older boomers) have lost jobs, have zero retirement security and see hell ahead of them.

    Any older person who is ideologically anti-youth is just plain stupid. They may also be greedy and sociopathic, but those are subsets of stupid.

    The young need an optimistic future and we codgers need to help them achieve it however we can. Age warfare benefits no one.

  • Gary K on July 01, 2012 12:34 PM:

    I understand the fear young people have and I hear the voices out there that are fanning the generational fires. But the single biggest failure of the youth of this nation is to mobilize politically. You voted in great numbers for Obama and then disappeared. You have the most power of any gfroup of youth SINCE the baby boomers. Now use it. Demand a few executions on Wall Street (I mean, if we are going to have capital offenses, why not for capital offenses. Steeling from millions should be worth a hanging in front of the stock exchange. We put people in jail for life for stelaing a whole lot less from a lot fewer people.) But seriously, an overhaul and legalization of marijuana, a sane approach to finacial oversight, a Fed that will allow for growth in the ecomony can and will happen if you organize and vote. Yes, it takes time and there is not an immediate payback. But don;t complain that we are stealing your future if you won't step up and take charge of yours. We will gladly run it for you, to our benefit, if yoo can't figure a way to do it yourselves.

  • jjm on July 01, 2012 12:53 PM:

    For once I agree with SadOldVet: this is just a new smokescreen over the real class warfare that exists. The rapidity with which the 1% comes up with one new 'wedge' after the other is astounding.

  • g on July 01, 2012 1:13 PM:

    As a person in my 50s, I certainly don't feel that way about my 24 year old child. But if there really are a large number of older folks who feel this way (and, frankly, I've never met one, even among my cohorts) they are due for a big surprise, because this is the generation that will be spooning gruel into our drooling maws when we're in our dotage, and wiping our incontinent asses. I'd surely hope that my caretakers will feel gratitude to me, rather than resentment.

  • Tess on July 01, 2012 1:22 PM:

    I hate to be lumped into a generation, especially since I think you are talking about a small minority of "tea party" types that give young people such flack. Most of us oldsters, being parents and grandparents feel bad for the kids today and certainly had hoped better for them.

    But here's the thing, every generation has had their tough times and had to survive. My folks had WWII where many, many young people died but the country was brought together. I came of age in the Viet Nam era when the country was torn apart over young people dying. My kids came of age in an era of perceived prosperity without much to fight for, little did they know that they were on the fast track to no middle class.

    It is no longer up to my generation to change things, it's up to the kids. But usually what happens is when they grow up enough to get into the rat race with jobs, kids, cars, houses and the daily grind, it's easy to forget all about changing the world. If I am guilty of anything, it's not voting at all for several years. The Republicans might not have been able to bring us trickle down economics if I had voted and the freewheeling bankers might not have the power they do today, if I had voted.

    Now that I am old, I ALWAYS vote. Therein lies the rub....so do most older people. So, if you are going to take your world back, VOTE! Better yet, get involved, protest, call out their lies, and make sure those old white guys get kicked out of office. Because if Senators like Inhofe who denies global warming, or Governors who want to deny you a vote, or state politicians that want to cut education, continue to win, it's going to be an ugly, ugly world. VOTE! VOTE!

  • g on July 01, 2012 1:22 PM:

    Lastly, who threw away thousands of young lives in a wasteful war, and left tens of thousands broken mentally and physically, and did almost nothing to help them for years?

    Um, 2Manchu I'm with you for most of your rant except for this. I'm in my late 50s. Sorry, you're way off base on this one.

    Vietnam Total American deaths - 58,209; wounded 153,303
    Iraq Total American deaths - 4,477; wounded 31,965

    Learn some history.

  • neverted on July 01, 2012 1:30 PM:

    I'm 64, and evidently have somehow become the enemy.

    We're all hurting, and blaming an age group only serves to provide a focus for anger and disappointment.

    Policies, politicians and power, the media, economic mechanisms and its distortions, income distribution, communal and personal responsibility ; these are cross generational problems requiring dramatic change.

    But don't make me the enemy. We believe in the same things.

  • buddy66 on July 01, 2012 1:56 PM:

    Hey, kids, I've got an idea! Why not do it yourselves and put on a show in the old barn? You can even charge admission and pay off the family mortgage...

    Call it a REVOLUTION and smash the damned state and hang the capitalists and Masters Of The Universe. Substitute a democratic socialist government and economy...

    But -- sigh -- I've been saying that for 60 years and I'll never see 80 again. I just can't seem to shake my old-fashioned ideas, kids.

    What do YOU suggest?

  • 2Manchu on July 01, 2012 2:02 PM:

    What am I way off base of?

    Yes, Vietnam had a higher number of killed and wounded than Iraq. And World War II had a much higher number of killed and wounded than Vietnam. And the American Civil War had a much higher number of killed and wounded than World War II.

    What part of history do I need to learn?

  • josephus on July 01, 2012 2:05 PM:

    One of the things that has the unemployment high is that older people don't want to stop working (for whatever reasons). I'm an old man and i've been on social security for a while but I have stopped working. But I payed into SS for a long time, and I'm only getting back what I payed into it. It is not my fault that the government has been using my money for their own spending. They have been using bonds for a long time and now they say they are in a bind. Why not just raise the top that people who work pay? That will bring in enough revenue to keep the program working forever.

  • PTate in MN on July 01, 2012 2:21 PM:

    A couple of quick comments.

    1. It's not the generation. It's the political attitude. What we are seeing is the consequences of 30 years of conservative policies that have handed over 80% of the wealth generated in the US to the richest 1% and sought to dismember the progressive New Deal policies that had made middle class America rich and admired. Conservativism is a toxin that is poisoning America.

    2) The Baby Boom started about 9 months after the end of World War 2, roughly July 1946--and lasted until 1962. Don't get confused and assume that all retired people are Baby Boomers. The Baby Boom is only just starting to retire. "Boomer" is a great way to demonize every old person in America, but it is the kind of generalization that obscures more than helps.

    3) If you look carefully, you'll see that most of the evil bast**ds behind the conservative movement are not Baby Boomers, although they have recruited nasty pieces of work to support their assault on the USA (Karl Rove, 1950; Grover Norquist, 1956; Rush Limbaugh, 1951.) This is further evidence, not of generational betrayal, but of the fact that there are always thugs who will do or say anything to benefit themselves at the expense of others.

    4) Some of the us who have children under 30s are keenly aware of the mess that conservatism has made of the US economy and society. Some of us keeping hoping that this generation will wake up one day, outraged at what is being done to them--since every conservative solution involves cutting off the young--and start voting for liberals instead of 1) opting out ("what difference does my vote make?"; 2) voting for conservatives ("I don't want the government interfering in my life!) or 3) voting for libertarian or 3rd parties ("There's no difference between the Democrats and Republicans, anyway.")

  • tcinaz on July 01, 2012 2:22 PM:

    Limbaugh is a divider by design. Everything he says is intended to pit someone against another. And he is the mouthpiece of the 30 or so percent who believe his every word, the Republican base. The trouble is that he is given too much attention for what he says giving his deliberately skewed perception greater currency than it deserves. I worked with young people all of my career. My own sons continue that tradition today. The divide between the beliefs and philosophies of the young and old are more myth than reality. Young people work hard when engaged, think effectively for themselves when it is demanded of them, and respect others as they deserve to be respected, even people they consider old. I simply reject the notion on this basis, that we can not find important common ground to approach and solve any of these issues on which Limbaugh and his ilk harp. These kids are mostly Americans just like the rest of us.

  • Anonymous on July 01, 2012 2:44 PM:

    Yanno, uif we all really hated our kids and grandkids as much as these d00dz claim we do they wouldn't have to spend all that time and trouble trying toconvine us that we should.

  • SYSPROG on July 01, 2012 2:49 PM:

    Hey Ryan? Quit listening to those cranky old white men on the Right...I WANT you to find a job and succeed! I want to the youth to be well educated. I want everything for you (I'm using the royal 'you') that the Boomers had. And I want you to be SMARTER than we were. In fact, I'm COUNTING on it. Because yes, I am an old fart that believes in you!

  • Roddy McCorley on July 01, 2012 2:53 PM:

    I guess I'm old. I'm 54. That means if I get pancaked by a bus tomorrow I'll be tragically young, but if I send out a resume tomorrow I'm tragically old. I have a couple of kids who are young, though. My son, for instance, is 26. Oddly enough, when he sends out a resume he gets the same sort of response I do: Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

    Not so long ago we had a conversation about that. "When I was your age," I said, wincing inwardly the way I do anytime I can't avoid starting a sentence that way, "if all else failed you could always apply at one of the factories. The jobs sucked, but they paid." The irony of all that was that when I was his age that was also the very definition of Hell to me. (Check out "Factory" on Darkness at the Edge of Town.)

    Compounding that irony: It wasn't even true. Because I came of age in the 1970s, y'see. And between the time I graduated from high school and turned up my nose at factories, and the time I turned 26, Saint Ronnie came along and the factories closed and the shitty jobs went overseas where they no longer paid.

    All of this I shared with my son. I wanted to offer some helpful fatherly advice. There wasn't any to offer. No thoughts on where to look, no tips on what training to get, since training now is just a way of piling on debt. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

    That's where we are - the previous generations have nothing to offer the newer generations. I wonder if that's why they fill that particular vacuum with scorn?

  • rose on July 01, 2012 4:05 PM:

    "And to my parentsí generation and on: grow up. I am sick to death about hearing how hard you worked back when you were young. Maybe you did, but you had some terrific advantages, namely that you happened to come of age in what will probably stand as the greatest economic boom in the history of civilization."

    What can you say to that? Certainly I have never hoped the younger folks get no jobs, not me. I have two sons under thirty. I am 53 and I agree with Roddy McCorley.

    When my 54 year old husband lost his job he was umemployed for a year and a half, and now he works for $12,000 less a year but now we at least have health insurance.

    We're not those rich baby boomers that the Ryan is b*tching about. I kind of resent his attitude, frankly.And if you really want to hate on people, bonus! We live in a trailer park because that's all we could afford!

  • Zorro on July 01, 2012 4:12 PM:

    What 2Manchu said, and then some.

    Simply put, where the Greatest Generation won WWII, came home, and built the strongest economy that the human race has ever seen, their children- the Baby Boomers- figured that they'd done so so that they would have a constitutional right to a 3-car garage

    I hate to say it, but the best thing to come from the Baby Boomers was music- and even the best of that came from people of the War Baby generation ('41-'45 in the US): Bob Dylan, The Beatles, etc. All said, the thing that the Baby Boomers will do to help the US the most is die off.

    Sad to say it, but easily supportable.


  • Bill D. on July 01, 2012 4:36 PM:

    Dissing the young is not new. Young people were being called lazy and worthless back in the 1960s and 1970s by a minority of old farts. And we did have a certain percentage of slackers back then, but they weren't called slackers- they were called hippies and ski bums.

    Meanwhile, I came of age when the economy was in a downward spiral ("worst recession since the Great Depression") and it seemed like it would never be good again. In the end things did get better for quite a while and most people in my age range (late boomer) did fine, but that outcome was not apparent for a while.

    I see a lot more similarities between different times than the generational warriors (old and young alike) would like to admit. What *is* different now is an economy that only rewards the wealthy and a conservative movement that is fully dedicated to tossing nearly all the progress made in the entire 20th century.

  • g on July 01, 2012 4:58 PM:

    What part of history do I need to learn?

    Learn who you're talking to and learn what they experienced.

    That's all I meant. Don't go complaining about your casualties to a group of people who have suffered greater ones, and who had less power to avoid them than you did. Otherwise - what you said is fine.

  • g on July 01, 2012 5:05 PM:

    the Baby Boomers- figured that they'd done so so that they would have a constitutional right to a 3-car garage....I hate to say it, but the best thing to come from the Baby Boomers was music

    You're communicating this sentiment on a medium developed by Baby Boomers.

  • Zorro on July 01, 2012 5:13 PM:

    You're communicating this sentiment on a medium developed by Baby Boomers.

    Oops, sorry, wrong answer. Development on what became the Internet- the ARPANet- began durinog the 1960s, when most Baby Boomers were either getting stoned or wishing they could be getting stoned.

    FWIW, the big things that happened in the '60s... happened before then. The womens' movement really began w/Rosie the Riveter- in the '40s. The modern Civil Rights movement could rightly be said to begin w/Marian Anderson's concert on the Washington Mall, in 1939, or at the latest w/the Montgomery Bus boycott, beginning in 1955. As for the anti-war movement, that was an anti-draft movement: the moment the draft ended, the protests got a lot less intense.

    To put it another way: the Baby Boomers had best get over themselves. If their parents were the greatest generation, then their generation, in the words of Asok from Dilbert, be called a the something ending in bag generation.

    Prove me wrong. Go ahead- I'm waiting. More to the point, my generation will be cleaning up the mess created by the Baby Boomers long after they've all breathed their last. To paraphrase Warren Buffet, there is a generational war, and the Baby Boom generation is winning.

    Woo, go team,

  • castanea on July 01, 2012 5:39 PM:

    Submitted merely as a data point in this thread's discussion:

    My 76-year-old mother is one of the older generation who is a staunch rightwinger and bigot.

    She has not contributed a dime into Medicare--her last job was in the early 1960s, just after my parents married--but she has received tens of thousands of dollars in Medicare benefits.

    She never went to college, let alone graduate school as I did, but still fancies herself more intelligent than college graduates and even university professors, all of whom "have an agenda" and are "anti-American."

    She hates labor unions, even though labor unions are what allowed her father and her husband to earn decent wages and support their families on a single income.

    She has the deepest sense of entitlement of anyone I have ever met, and yet that sense of entitlement is not based on her own achievements or accomplishments in life.

    Unlike my father, whose political and social stances mellowed as he aged, to the extent that he supported marriage equality and loathed Bush's wars, my mother becomes more adamant in her beliefs despite every fact that reveals those beliefs to be founded on lies and racism.

  • castanea on July 01, 2012 6:03 PM:

    PTate knocked it out of the park.

    There is something inherently evil and self destructive with the way modern American conservatism seeks to rule.

    It has been a movement that has crushed the middle class, has started pointless wars, has opposed sane health care reform, has demonized and scapegoated gays and lesbians, immigrants, Muslims, atheists, and has done not one damned thing to make the life of the average American any better, and yet it manages to convince tens of millions of average Americans to vote for its candidates.

    A pathway of pure dogma--which is what modern American conservatism is--will always lead to destruction.

  • stinger on July 01, 2012 8:18 PM:

    Wow -- guess I'm going to have to stop reading PA on weekends, if I'm going to get slammed simply for being born when I was.

  • ceilidth on July 01, 2012 8:27 PM:

    I've worked and paid into social security and medicare all my working life. I've also believed all these years that those programs need to be funded properly so they will be there so that when the Ryan Coopers of the world get old and retire they will be there for them as they were for my parents and for me. And, guess what, you will get old. Here's something you don't get: social security and medicare will make it possible for your own parents to live a decent retirement so you won't need to have them begging you for a place to live, food to eat, and medical care. And it won't be all that long until you too are old.

    My guess, since you are on a part time gig at Washington Monthly, they also paid or helped pay for your college and they may be helping you pay your rent as you try to get established. If they aren't doing that right now, I'll bet that if you needed a place to live and food to eat, they would give you those even if it meant they had less money for their own needs. The old are not some blob of nameless old geezers. They are your own family and neighbors and members of your own community. What you have bought into is the most invidious belief of the far right: that each person is an island to themselves and no one owes even the least bit of care and love for anyone besides themselves.

    Those awful parents of yours: kick them aside if they aren't rich and aren't doing you any good anymore. You never got anything from them. You've accomplished everything on your own. Don't even let the idea that there are any solutions even enter your thoughts. That's what Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck hope you will do. Romney, who never spent a second of his life without more money than any human being needed will laugh all the way to the bank.

  • 2Manchu on July 01, 2012 8:54 PM:

    "Learn who you're talking to and learn what they experienced."

    I grew up in the post-Vietnam era. I know what the aftermath of that war did to this country and the generation before me. Almost every field-grade officer and senior NCO I served with in the Army was a Vietnam veteran, and the war was still a heavy burden for most of them twenty years later. It was supposed to be "never again".

    I'm not trying to marginalize what the Baby Boomers went through with Vietnam, but how did this country wind up making the same mistake twice? Those same Boomers are in charge now, and still we got sucked into another Vietnam that's going to have a profound impact on this new generation. How did that happened?

    As for the smaller number of casualties in Iraq compared to Vietnam, there's nearly three decades of technological differences between the two in the areas of combat equipment (better armor protection for troops and vehicles), intelligence (better capabilities to gather, interpret, and disseminate information on the enemy than before), and combat medicine (medics and corpsman, as well as forward aid stations and military hospitals, are far better equipped to deal with the immediately wounded than in the previous conflict). It'
    s scary to think what the death toll for this conflict would be had it not been for these advances.

    Anyway, sorry if I'm sounding disrespectful. I'm just trying to clarify my position.

  • Crissa on July 01, 2012 8:58 PM:

    Of course not all people are whatever. I hate listening to people whining that 'Not all X are Y! I'm X and not Y! No kidding. We knew that. But that doesn't change the reality, that you're swimming up stream.

    Good article, Ryan. We can't be afraid of telling truth to those (like those saying they aren't Y).

  • Bill D. on July 01, 2012 10:12 PM:

    Development on what became the Internet- the ARPANet- began durinog [sic] the 1960s, when most Baby Boomers were either getting stoned or wishing they could be getting stoned.

    FWIW, the big things that happened in the '60s... happened before then. The womens' movement really began w/Rosie the Riveter- in the '40s. The modern Civil Rights movement could rightly be said to begin w/Marian Anderson's concert on the Washington Mall, in 1939, or at the latest w/the Montgomery Bus boycott, beginning in 1955. As for the anti-war movement, that was an anti-draft movement: the moment the draft ended, the protests got a lot less intense.

    Just because something started earlier doesn't mean that the important, influential part was earlier. In the case of the civil rights movement, yes the critical part was in the 1950s-early 60s. In the case of the women's and environmental movements, however, crucial progress was made in the late 1960s and 1970s with heavy involvement of the young.

    The claim that the women's movement began with Rosie the Riveter is stupefyingly ignorant. Women were pressed into service in factories and shipyards due to men being off at war, and when the war ended the "Greatest Generation" and their elders kicked women out of the workplace and back to the home, after which followed the 1950s which were profoundly anti-feminist. The feminist movement of the 1960s came about in rebellion against that 1950s mentality.

    The ARPANET (note correct spelling) can not be considered to be a Boomer creation, but Boomers such as Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Bill Gates have been a fairly important part of the development of information technology. And the World Wide Web itself was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, who is [drum roll] a Boomer. DRATS! ;-)

    As for most Boomers getting stoned or wanting to get stoned during the 1960s, that's a stereotype. Care to provide actual data to back up your sneering?

    To put it another way: the Baby Boomers had best get over themselves.

    Yes, there is a small percentage of loud-mouthed, obnoxious, generationally conceited Boomers (funny... nobody I know). There is also a small contingent of loud-mouthed, willfully ignorant, intellectually dishonest, and hateful Generation Xers. Fortunately, such [ ]bags (as you might say) can not honestly be considered as spokespeople for their generations.

  • Bill D. on July 01, 2012 10:15 PM:

    OK, html format fail... my bad. The quotes are from Zorro's post and include not only the small text but also the paragraph starting with "FWIW".

  • c00p on July 01, 2012 10:39 PM:

    What Tom Brokaw has famously (and fatuously) called The Greatest Generation is actually The Greediest Generation. I am not belittling their having been children during the Great Depression nor having served during World War II. What I'm pointing out is that government has laid the world at their doorstep--Social Security was created when they were children, meaning they grew up knowing they need not fear old age; the GI Bill helped those who served in the military attain a college education; Cold War government spending spurred our economy like never before and they all benefited from the booming economy, whether privately or publicly employed; Medicare was created when they were in their early careers, meaning they need not fear illness in old age. And then, what did they do? As soon as they retired, they voted for politician after politician who was eager to accede to their demands to curtail all of these benefits for future generations. They cried over and over again, Cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes. They voted against property tax increases to fund the public schools. They have taken every single thing the government has offered them, and then demanded that the government make sure no one else get it in the future.

  • Zelma on July 01, 2012 11:31 PM:

    I really think the so-called "boomers" are getting a bad rap. The first wave (those born in 1946) are just beginning to become eligible for Social Security and Medicare. (66 for full SS benefits; 65 for medicare.) It is really the folks of the previous generation that are the problem. As a member of this unnamed generation (c. 1936-1945) that really benefitted from the post-war expansion (there were fewer of us and more opportunities in an expanding economy), I often find my contemporaries startling unaware of their good fortune. Think of the guy who had that infamous sign, "Keep the government out of my Medicare." He wasn't a boomer; he was a in his late 60s or 70s.

    I live among these folks and they are blithely unaware of how lucky they were. They were the "silent generation" who came of age before the upheavals of the 60s (which actually didn't really begin until late in the decade.) They remember with nostalgia what seemed to them a better time. They could work their way through college because tuitions were low. They found good jobs that often came with good pensions. Their social security checks are generous and their medicare benefits are safe, even from the threat of Paul Ryan and his merry band. And they enjoyed without thought the benefits of white privilege without even a glimmer of the idea that it might not be fair. They were the foot soldiers of the "Reagan Revolution."

    It is this "whites over-65" group that is most solidly Republican, that is most likely to despise President Obama and his quite moderate efforts to make this a juster country. They are not "baby boomers."

    We have an inordinate amount of power because we vote in greater percentages than the young. I suppose the greatest hope for the future is that we will in time die out.

  • Anonymous on July 01, 2012 11:34 PM:

    "i'm not trying to marginalize what the Baby Boomers went through with Vietnam, but how did this country wind up making the same mistake twice? Those same Boomers are in charge now, and still we got sucked into another Vietnam that's going to have a profound impact on this new generation. How did that happened?"

    ask george bush.

    "Who decided that maximizing profits at all costs was the only way to do business?"

    perhaps the robber barons of the 19th century, although my guess is that they merely perfected something that's as old as humanity.

    i graduated from high school and the vietnam war was raging.

    then we had an oil shock.

    i graduated from college and gerald ford was handing out WIN buttons. the job market sucked. a sense that a three-car garage had become a constitutional entitlement? my first job paid barely more than minimum wage.

    then we had a second oil shock. the job market sucked.

    inflation got out of hand.

    mortgage rates hit the mid-teens.

    the job market sucked.

    i do feel for today's graduates and the job market they are entering, but tough times are nothing new.


    concerning medicare and social security, my generation said the same thing with the same doubts about whether the programs would be around by the time we retire. my guess is the generations that will follow ryan will be saying the same thing.

    and to zorro,

    your remarks would make rush limbaugh proud.

  • Patango on July 02, 2012 12:24 AM:

    I was born in 61 and graduated high school right into the last great recession , and the reagan anti union GREED IS GOOD society , so Ryans generation is not special , If he thinks his generation is going to be some how more enlightened and less right winger , he is in for a rude awakening , so be aware of people talking like this

    "Through Medicare and Social Security, the old have claims on my future wealth" lol

    Real Wages have been stagnate since the 70's and working americans have lost 40% of their wealth since the financial crash , for a perspective on those who have it good

  • Patango on July 02, 2012 12:34 AM:

    God bless you Zelma and thanx for expressing that

  • rea on July 02, 2012 9:00 AM:

    A couple years of 3-4% inflation would not actually mean Grandma would starve (those are, by the way, the rates we saw under Reagan

    Actually, inflation got up over 10% under Reagan.

  • Speed on July 02, 2012 9:33 AM:

    Read "Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline" by Morris Berman if you want to understand the whole sorry mess.

  • Zorro on July 02, 2012 11:11 AM:

    and to zorro,

    your remarks would make rush limbaugh proud.

    Dem's fightin' words.

    In all seriousness, though, I was a bit over the top in some of my cynicism, and apologize for that. I still stand by the basic point that generational warfare does exist, largely by the Baby Boomers + older against X-ers and younger. Statistics, I believe, bear this out.


  • Boomer on July 02, 2012 3:29 PM:

    Ryan Cooper wrote: "And to my parents’ generation and on: grow up. I am sick to death about hearing how hard you worked back when you were young."

    I'm a 60-year-old boomer, and I can tell you that when I was your age I was playing rock & roll and taking LSD and enjoying free love and avoiding anything that remotely resembled "hard work".

    Tune in, turn on, and drop out, kid.

  • sharonsj on July 02, 2012 6:11 PM:

    Bill D: Dissing the young is not new and neither is dissing the old. Nor can you say all the old farts are crazy conservatives. I and all of my elderly friends are flaming liberals.

    And would you please remember that we've paid into Social Security for anywhere from 25 to 45 years? And could you also remember that the average SS for us is about $12,000 a year before Medicare is deducted? Maybe you're just jealous that us old (and disabled) folks are living high on the hog in rented trailers or homes we will shortly lose to ever-increasing taxes.