The Baby Boomers are uniquely awful

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Back in 1996 I made this case on the maillist of Left Business Observer. I said that the Baby Boomers were uniquely awful and they’d been terrible to the country. Doug Henwood gave me a hard time about this. I thought about what he said and decided that generational conflict is never progressive — in every generation there is a working class that is struggling for its fair share, and there are marginalized people struggling for justice. So I’ve never repeated the line in earnest during these last 21 years. But I have seen the line become more common. Vox has a whole article on this now:

The damage done to the social fabric is pretty self-evident. Just look around and notice what’s been done. On the economic front, the damage is equally obvious, and it trickles down to all sorts of other social phenomena. I don’t want to get bogged down in an ocean of numbers and data here (that’s in the book), but think of it this way: I’m 41, and when I was born, the gross debt-to-GDP ratio was about 35 percent. It’s roughly 103 percent now — and it keeps rising.

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. They’ve spent virtually all our money and assets on themselves and in the process have left a financial disaster for their children.

We used to have the finest infrastructure in the world. 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.

Then of course there’s the issue of climate change, which they’ve done almost nothing to solve. But even if we want to be market-oriented about this, we can think of the climate as an asset, which has degraded over time thanks to the inaction and cowardice of the boomer generation. Now they didn’t start burning fossil fuels, but by the 1990s the science was undeniable. And what did they do? Nothing.

This kind of talk is not progressive. It wasn’t the Baby Boomers who wrecked things, it was a fairly small group of affluent Baby Boomers, who were helped by a larger group of Baby Boomers whose politics were driven by racism. But those groups don’t include all Baby Boomers, not even all white Baby Boomers.

More so, breaking the labor unions, and therefore the affluence of the working class, is a process that started in 1948, before much of the Baby Boom was born.

Still, the politics of most white Baby Boomers was deeply reactionary. And that is a subject that is altogether legitimate for progressives to research.

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