This follow-up of my blog post exposing the philosophy behind the corporate takeover of the U.S. under Trump hits even closer to home. It documents how my generation, the Baby Boomers, have plundered the nation's wealth and destroyed its social solidarity. Guilty as charged.
Combing through today's news, I came up with few glaring symptoms of that plundering:
Jon Stewart: “Please understand that a lot of what the right does, and it’s maybe their greatest genius, is they’ve created a code of conduct that they police, that they themselves don’t have to, in any way, abide.”
Alternet: The feeling that we’re part of an Embattled Majority is what gives us the sense that we’re all stars in our own action movie, that our current mediocrity is mere prelude to some glorious overcoming, that the din of the polis might evolve into our very own theme music. And in Trump’s America, solid facts—the lifeless bodies of school students, the realities of institutional racism, the norms and laws hourly flouted—are commuted into things that can be ignored.
Being a Baby Boomer myself, every word by Bruce Gibney below details what my gut has been telling me for years:
Vox: According to Bruce Gibney’s book A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America, boomers have committed “generational plunder,” pillaging the nation’s economy, repeatedly cutting their own taxes, financing two wars with deficits, ignoring climate change, presiding over the death of America’s manufacturing core, and leaving future generations to clean up the mess they created.
The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it. They habitually cut their own taxes and borrow money without any concern for future burdens.
The American Society of Civil Engineers thinks there’s something like a $4 trillion deficit in infrastructure in deferred maintenance. It’s crumbling, and the boomers have allowed it to crumble. Our public education system has steadily degraded as well, forcing middle-class students to bury themselves in debt in order to get a college education.
Most of our problems have not been addressed because that would require higher taxes and therefore a sense of social obligation to our fellow citizens. But again, the boomers seem to have no appreciation for social solidarity ... basically the inverse of JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This gets flipped on its head in a massive push for privatized gain and socialized risk for big banks and financial institutions. This has really been the dominant boomer economic theory, and it’s poisoned what’s left of our public institutions.
I think the major factor is that the boomers grew up in a time of uninterrupted prosperity. And so they simply took it for granted. They assumed the economy would just grow three percent a year forever and that wages would go up every year and that there would always be a good job for everyone who wanted it.
The irony is that boomers criticize millennials for being snowflakes, for being too driven by feelings. But the boomers are the first big feelings generation. They’re highly motivated by feelings and not persuaded by facts. And you can see this in their policies.
Take this whole fantasy about trickle-down economics. Maybe it was worth a shot, but it doesn’t work. We know it doesn’t work. The evidence is overwhelming. The experiment is over. And yet they’re still clinging to this dogma, and indeed the latest tax bill is the latest example of that. Time after time, when facts collided with feelings, the boomers chose feelings.
I'll give you something abstract and something concrete. On an abstract level, I think the worst thing they’ve done is destroy a sense of social solidarity, a sense of commitment to fellow citizens. That ethos is gone and it’s been replaced by a cult of individualism. It’s hard to overstate how damaging this is.
On a concrete level, their policies of under-investment and debt accumulation have made it very hard to deal with our most serious challenges going forward.
So if we unseat the boomers from Congress, from state legislatures, and certainly from the presidency over the next three to seven years, then I think we can undo the damage. But that will require a much higher tax rate and a degree of social solidarity that the country hasn’t seen in over 50 years. That will not be easy, and there’s no way around the fact that millennials will have to sacrifice in ways the boomers refused to sacrifice, but that’s where we are — and these are the choices we face.