Weekend reading: Baby boomers suck. Discuss

Two generations (a Millennial son and his Baby Boomer dad) debate who’s really to blame for the wreckage.

Who Destroyed the Economy? The Case Against the Baby Boomers

The facts as I see them are clear and damning: Baby boomers took the economic equivalent of a king salmon from their parents and, before they passed it on, gobbled up everything but the bones.

Ultimately, members of my father’s generation—generally defined as those born between 1946 and 1964—are reaping more than they sowed. They graduated smack into one of the strongest economic expansions in American history. They needed less education to snag a decent-salaried job than their children do, and a college education cost them a small fraction of what it did for their children or will for their grandkids. One income was sufficient to get a family ahead economically. Marginal federal income-tax rates have fallen steadily, with rare exception, since boomers entered the labor force; government retirement benefits have proliferated. At nearly every point in their lives, these Americans chose to slough the costs of those tax cuts and spending hikes onto future generations.

Read more — the argument is informative.

The comments to this article are also well worth reading.

Generational list via Wikipedia: (NOTE: for simplicity I’ve rounded the start and end years to decades. People are hard and fast on 1945 beginning the baby boom but generally speaking, it seems someone born within 4 years on either side of a generation’s beginning or end can be considered part of either generation.)

  • Lost Generation: 1880 – 1899
  • Greatest Generation: 1900 – 1919
  • Silent Generation: 1920 – 1939
  • Baby Boomers: 1940 – 1959
  • Millennials / Gen X: 1960 – 1979
  • Generation Y: 1980 – 1999
  • Generation Z: 2000 – 2019

What we all have to look forward to: Elderschadenfreude

Sandra Tsing Loh at The Atlantic, shares her thoughts on caring for her elderly father:

Daddy Issues

RECENTLY, A COLLEAGUE at my radio station asked me, in the most cursory way, as we were waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, how I was. To my surprise, in a motion as automatic as the reflex of a mussel being poked, my body bent double and I heard myself screaming: “I WAAAAAAAANT MY FATHERRRRRR TO DIEEEEE!!!”

[...] Gross undertook the care of her mother in as professional a way as possible. She was on call for emergencies and planned three steps ahead by consulting personally with each medical specialist. Like the typical U.S. family caregiver for an elder (who is, statistics suggest, a woman of about 50), Gross worked full-time, but (atypically) she was unencumbered by spouse or children. She had the help, too, of her child-free brother, a calm, clear-headed sort given to greeting his sister with a quiet, reassuring “The eagle has landed.” What could go wrong?

Plenty. As Gross herself flatly describes it, in her introduction:

In the space of three years … my mother’s ferocious independence gave way to utter reliance on her two adult children. Garden-variety aches and pains became major health problems; halfhearted attention no longer sufficed, and managing her needs from afar became impossible … We were flattened by the enormous demands on our time, energy, and bank accounts; the disruption to our professional and personal lives; the fear that our time in this parallel universe would never end and the guilt for wishing that it would … We knew nothing about Medicaid spend-downs, in-hospital versus out-of-hospital “do not resuscitate” orders, Hoyer lifts, motorized wheelchairs, or assistive devices for people who can neither speak nor type. We knew nothing about “pre-need consultants,” who handle advance payment for the funerals of people who aren’t dead yet, or “feeders,” whose job it is to spoon pureed food into the mouths of men and women who can no longer hold a utensil.

However ghoulish, it is a world we will all soon get to know well, argues Gross: owing to medical advancements, cancer deaths now peak at age 65 and kill off just 20 percent of older Americans, while deaths due to organ failure peak at about 75 and kill off just another 25 percent, so the norm for seniors is becoming a long, drawn-out death after 85, requiring ever-increasing assistance for such simple daily activities as eating, bathing, and moving.

This is currently the case for approximately 40 percent of Americans older than 85, the country’s fastest-growing demographic, which is projected to more than double by 2035, from about 5 million to 11.5 million. And at that point, here comes the next wave—77 million of the youngest Baby Boomers will be turning 70. 

[...] What I propose instead is seeking comfort in what I like to call, borrowing in part from Kafka’s German, Elderschadenfreude. On the one hand, sure, here we stand around the office coffeemaker in middle age, mixing flax into our Greek yogurt and sharing more and more tales about our elderly parents, tales that are dull (“Mom slipped in the shower—at first she said it was nothing”), slow-moving (“And then I took her to the foot doctor, but then, right there in the parking lot, she insisted she had to go to the bathroom—but the door is on the north side while we were on the south—”), and in the end, well, depressingly predictable (we already know which colleges our wards are getting into—NONE). On the other hand, I believe it is by enduring this very suffering and tedium that one can eventually tease out a certain dark, autumnal, delightfully-bitter-as-Fernet-Branca enjoyment, best described by some dense and complicated noun-ending German word.

Elderschadenfreude is the subtle frisson of the horror tale that always begins so simply (“Mom slipped in the shower—at first she said it was nothing”) but makes listeners raise eyebrows, nod knowingly, begin microwaving popcorn. It is the secret pleasure of hearing about aging parents that are even more impossible than yours. Prepare to enjoy.

Read the whole thing…

This article has a humorous voice to it – and it is funny — but maybe only to caregivers.  You either sympathize or you don’t. The author describes how they’re paying $6,500 / month for their father’s nurse. That’s a huge sum! It got me to thinking that as age advances, dementia in its many forms takes over the minds of many as well which, in combination with a physical body wearing down, brings its own set of problems and care. It’s estimated that 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 10 men, who live past the age of 55 will develop dementia in their lifetime. [source]

Can you imagine what the world will be like in 2035 with all of these millions of people able to live until they reach their 80s and 90s (but for many, only with assisted care), with hundreds of thousands suffering from some kind of dementia on top of everything else? I know many people who say, “Just shoot me.” Or “I’d shoot myself.” But the reality is: that’s probably not going to be an option for you.

It might be worth considering and voting for where we’d like our healthcare system to be when our parents (or when WE) become the people who aren’t ready to die yet but will need daily care to live. We should consider whether or not wealthy people should pay more for Medicare / Social Security. We should question the fairness of the system. The affluent, as a group, take in more benefits from the system than they ever put into it, because they live longer. [source] We might also want to consider the continuation or expansion of stem cell research with regard to Alzheimer’s / dementia. Just throwing those thoughts out there for the fundamentalist, “small-government” teaparty and glibertarian voters.

Because the alternative, small-government crowd, is that you all plan to go out like Ayn Rand, talking and voting one way while, in the end, you’ll anonymously sponge off a government system you claim to hate because it makes people “weak” and “lazy.” And that’s IF there’s a government system at all when it’s your turn. In the meantime, if you’re a working or middle class Republican voter, keep worrying about low state and federal tax rates for the wealthy and watch while your government cuts its state and federal services and programs to the bone. Because those are programs and services for the elderly as well as everyone else who needs help.

And here’s your consolation (or maybe it’s mine?): the only way that these choices you’re making today won’t catch up to you in the future, in a very personal way, will be because you won the lottery (and you now have no financial worries) or because you died early (you never got old). Now take a guess if either option, statistically, is likely to happen to you.

America’s future is currently Occupying Wall Street — here’s why

image: evanfleischer

Robert Hiltonsmith summarizes a new report on the recession’s lasting consequences (via: Andrew Sullivan):

Rising debt, un- and underemployment, and dim job prospects have forced many Millennials to postpone the key decisions that historically marked entry into adulthood. Nearly half of the 25- to 34-year-olds surveyed said they’ve put off purchasing a home; 29 percent say they’ve delayed starting a family; and 26 percent still live with their parents. These decisions have long-lasting effects.

Someone who is forced to delay purchasing a home until their 30s will likely not have that house paid off by the time they retire in their late 60s. Those who have to put off starting a family will still be paying for kid-related expenses until their late 50s or early 60s (or later, if their own children are unemployed and living with them in their 20s). Millennials’ parents, the Baby Boomers, were able to buy their first homes and start their careers and families in their late teens and early 20s, right out of high school or college, with little or no debt.

These issues are something completely new to our youngest generations – our NEXT generations. If you don’t think something needs to be fixed after reading this, or if you really believe the solution is to cut spending to lower the deficit right now, you’re completely insane.


A progressive solution to the future of Social Security

Obama backs lifting income cap for Social Security and I agree:

“For the vast majority of Americans, every dime you earn, you’re paying some in Social Security,” Obama told college students in Virginia. “But for (billionaire investor) Warren Buffett, he stops paying at a little bit over $100,000 and then the next $50 billion he’s not paying a dime in Social Security taxes.”

[...] “If we just made a little bit of an adjustment in terms of the cap on Social Security, that would do a significant amount to stabilize the system,” Obama said.

Social Security will pay out more benefits than it collects in taxes this year. It will return to surplus next year and in 2015 start tapping into interest income and trust fund reserves. If Congress does nothing, the trust fund will be exhausted by 2037 and taxes will cover only about 78 percent of benefits.

Raising the income cap “is a progressive solution to the problem,” said Bill Samuel, chief lobbyist at the AFL-CIO labor group. “It is not a severe problem; it can easily be dealt with.”

Besides messing up Social Security completely (lookin’ at you Paul Ryan and Teaparty Republicans), can anyone else come up with a better solution for a system where the current workforce pays for the generation before it, a workforce with high unemployment and under-employement, with no middle-class jobs being created by the wealthy, AND with our nation’s largest generation, Baby Boomers, turning 65 years old daily, at the rate of 10,000 every day for the next 19 years?!


Which sounds better to you? Raise the retirement age to 69 or raise the Social Security tax cap

Think Progress »

Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) are expected to release legislation soon that would involve raising the retirement age to 69. Yet a new poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP) finds that one group that does not support these regressive cuts is the American people themselves. The PPP poll found that 77 percent of Americans would rather “pay Social Security taxes on salaries above $106,800,” essentially lifting the income tax cap, instead of seeing their “benefits cut and the retirement age increased to age 69.” Surprisingly, however, even 67 percent of self-identified Tea Partiers said they would rather raise the tax cap than cuts benefits and hike the retirement age.

Increasing the retirement age does nothing good for two important groups of people: 1) those who want to retire and 2) those who are unemployed and/or under-employed and are WAITING FOR PEOPLE TO RETIRE to, you know, free up a job or two.

It will be interesting to see how the GOP deals with the baby boomers and their new priorities, which will be retirement (and Social Security and Medicare) — after all, EVERY DAY for the next 19 years, TEN THOUSAND baby boomers turn 65 years old.  That’s staggering: 10,000 each day for 19 years. Every 100 days, a million people hit 65.

This issue is just the tip of the baby boomer iceberg.


A Brief History of Boomer Political Involvement…

azspot:  Monte Wolverton

Starting on 01/01/2011 and DAILY for the next 19 years, TEN THOUSAND baby boomers turn 65 years old.

“As the year 2011 began on Jan. 1, the oldest members of the Baby Boom generation celebrated their 65th birthday. In fact, on that day, today, and for every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65. The aging of this huge cohort of Americans (26% of the total U.S. population are Baby Boomers) will dramatically change the composition of the country.


That means every 100 days, an average of one million people in this country will be eligible to retire — not that they all will. But it seems like this is a great thing for the younger generations, including the tail-end of the baby boomers, by providing many more employment opportunities than they have now.