Baby boomers stole the American dream, but young people can take it


Gen X and Y (and younger) could use this type of activism more because it’s not just gun culture that needs to be fixed. In many areas – from social security financing to climate change to health spending –the current political settlement is not focused on young people. It is aimed at baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964) and their parents, who have imposed an increasingly bleak future on us.

As Bruce Cannon Gibney writes in A Generation of Sociopaths: How Baby Boomers Betrayed America, baby boomers have met their needs by squandering our heritage. They passed unfunded tax cuts that we will pay back for years to come. They protected Social Security checks while leaving us with billions in student debt. They ran NIMBY campaigns against new housing while protecting the value of their condos. They elected pussy catchers and child molesters while teaching us a lesson in personal responsibility.

Gibney says it’s time to look to a new generation of forward-looking leaders. The Clintons, Bushes and Trumps – all baby boomers – will not look after the younger generations like someone younger would. “For several decades the nation has been ruled by people who present, personally and politically, the full sociopathic pathology: deception, selfishness, recklessness, without remorse, hostility. . . “he writes.” Unless the younger generations remove the baby boomers from power soon, the next quarter century will be even worse than the last – a parade of missed opportunities and bad choices. “

I asked Gibney how we young and relatively young can get the agenda back. If the baby boomers have transferred the wealth of the nation to themselves, investing only in priorities that pay off in their lifetime, how can we reorient the system? Here are some ideas based on his book.

Forgive all student debt

Student debt, now valued at over $ 1.4 trillion, is a big drag on generations X and Y, limiting their ability to start businesses, buy houses and seek a better life. “The government borrows much less than students and may as well use its advantage by directly assuming many student debts,” Gibney writes. Federal loans carried interest rates between 4.3% and 6.8% in 2015-16, while 10-year Treasury debt traded at just 1.8% in mid-2016.

A recent study by Bard College’s Levy Economics Institute estimated that student debt relief would cost about the same as last year’s tax cut (around $ 1.5 trillion), but would have much more positive economic impacts. Of course, paying student tuition is a bit like paying bankers’ debts after the financial crisis: it rewards financiers who prey on students. But the government had better tackle this problem now “before the debt crash prematurely derail younger lives and the costs come, compounded, through the backdoors of social assistance and social security. other programs, ”Gibney says.

Raise taxes for the elderly

Although Gibney denounces the state of public finances, he says we need to spend more to secure the future. There is a big difference, he says, between investing in education, infrastructure and climate resilience, and simply giving money to business and political donors. Investing at least brings hope of some return. He wants $ 8.65 trillion more in total government spending, including about $ 3.6 trillion to repair the deterioration of roads, bridges and rail systems.

To pay this Gibney would raise taxes, especially on baby boomers, because “they haven’t paid their fair share of taxes, as the national debt and the general decline attest,” and because, unlike to younger generations, they tend to have more wealth than can be taxed. It would also end state property tax caps that see baby boomers benefit from substantial increases in house prices without paying more to the government, and increase inheritance taxes, which serve to curb wealth. dynastic. “That would be downright republican (in lowercase), given that low inheritance taxes are quirks in a nation founded, even in the blink of an eye, as opposed to inherited privileges,” he says.

Better cost-benefit analysis of health costs

Healthcare spending in the United States will account for one-fifth of the entire economy by 2020. We spend a lot more than other countries on medicine without achieving better overall results. No serious reform benefiting generations X and Y can avoid reducing expenditure in this area. Gibney favors cost-benefit analysis or, to use a more loaded term, rationing. Arguably, the amount we spend on health care is already rationing other priorities anyway. “Social programs are supposed to do the greatest social good, not respond to false sentiments about benevolent geriatrics,” he writes. “Costly interventions to drag out a life for a few unproductive months, at the cost of a lost generation of children do not balance out in the benthamite books. “(Bentham, an English philosopher, argued that society should do the most good for most people, even if the cost to a small number of citizens is high.)

Give young people a chance at the office

If Gen X and Generation Y want different policies, they need different political leaders. Gibney suggests a test to decide who to vote for. Does a politician advocate ideas for the next four years, or investments that pay off over the next 40 years? The latter is more likely to help.

Then the question is: who is going to pay for these expenses? Right now, baby boomers are passing laws – like the Republican tax cut last year – that affect today and nothing tomorrow. “The goal of sociopaths is to squeeze every last dollar out of the system and any investment that may not be fully realized in the life of baby boomers. [is] avoid, ”Gibney writes.

Other ideas – which are not specifically championed by Gibney – could include setting an age limit for applicants for a higher post. Why do you need to be 35 to run for president, but somehow being 70 or 80 is fine? (Trump is 71 and Joe Biden is 75). At the same time, Generation X or Y could do with their own AARP. After the NRA, the Retirees Association is perhaps the most powerful lobby group in Washington, DC, immediately putting other generational groups at a disadvantage.

Gibney’s agenda may seem like an unfair attack from one generation to the next. But then, the current political settlement is already a form of generational redistribution. Seniors can tell you that they are just getting back what they put into the system. But social security and health insurance hardly pay for themselves. The way we deal with (or don’t deal with) rights agendas, climate change and national debt means that future generations will have to pay huge liabilities. Our current policies in these areas effectively dictate our future policy choices.

Gibney expects Trumpian politics to dominate the 2018 midterms (even if Trump’s party doesn’t actually win). But, after that, he hopes that a new kind of politics, more motivated by the interests of Gen X and Y than by the baby boomers, will emerge. In 2020, issues like health insurance, social security, climate and debt may be more on the agenda than today.

“The strongest argument for getting rid of baby boomers, aside from 30 years of political failure, is that seniors don’t change much. They don’t adjust their view of the world, ”Gibney says. “How many times will the Bushes, Clintons, Trumps and Bidens show up? How many times do we have to keep electing the same people and expect a different result? “



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