Monday, March 5, 2012

Sort of political Monday: don't feel sorry for aging Baby Boomers

Dear younger voters,

If the choice ever comes to picking between prosperity for yourselves or paying steep taxes to save significant numbers of aging baby boomers from doing their grocery shopping in the cat-food aisle, don't even hesitate. Go ahead and cut them off.

The headline to the New York Times story is:
More Americans Rejecting Marriage in 50s and Beyond
And then we get this opening:
On the day she decided to sell her wedding ring, Katie Dunn tucked the gleaming band into a Ziploc bag. The ring had been designed for her nearly two decades earlier, with swirls of yellow and white gold symbolizing the romance she had prayed would endure. But as she approached her 60s, her dreams and her marriage dissolved in resentment and regret.

“I wasn’t sentimental,” said Ms. Dunn, 55, who sold her ring last summer to a jeweler near her hometown of Denmark, Me. “I was like, it’s time to let this go.” 

And with that, she joined the growing number of men and women in their 50s and 60s who are opting out of marriage and venturing into old age on their own.
 As Ann Althouse says, feels like another lifestyle story until we get down to this rather grim paragraph.
And federal and local governments will have to shoulder much of the cost of their care. Unmarried baby boomers are five times more likely to live in poverty than their married counterparts, statistics show. They are also three times as likely to receive food stamps, public assistance or disability payments.
Ah yes, those brave, trail-breaking Baby Boomer rebels exploring new lifestyles and then screwing up so every one else has to take care of them because they can't take care of themselves. And notice it doesn't say divorced baby boomers are five times as likely to end up in trouble, it says single baby boomers are. Marriage largely correlates to success, being single largely correlates to failure. When boomer and Gen X journalists write articles talking about how "wonderful" that "conventional marriage" is being abandoned, what they mean is that more and more people are setting themselves up for a life of poverty and pain. And loneliness.

Loneliness, loneliness and more loneliness. This is not brave, new and exciting. It's old, tired and miserable. (An aside to you younger types who aren't getting married and aren't planning to be, you are also much likelier to be poor and burden on the social system when you get old. Think about it. Life, as Homer said a long, long time ago, is tough in any case but you needn't make it even worse.)

And I love the way the Times says "federal and local governments" will have to pick up the load as if these governments had money of their own to hand out. It's not governments who are having to shoulder the load for these irresponsible jerks, it's you and me.

For contrast, consider this column from today's Globe and Mail.
But it has become common for governments to blame baby boomers for increases in the cost of public services. The argument is: More older people means more Old Age Security payments, more health-care expenditures and a greater need for social services, along with less tax revenue. Therefore, to control and reduce spending, the biggest bang can be found in programs targeted to the elderly.
 The author, one Thomas Klassen, doesn't want us to pit the young against the old. And fair enough if his point is that not all baby boomers are screw ups but the fact remains that freedom includes the freedom to fall on your face and if large numbers of people are screwing up, as, to cite the NYT again, "the divorce rate among baby boomers has surged by more than 50 percent, even as divorce rates over all have stabilized nationally," then they should be left on their faces.

And then he starts making things up about these aging baby boomers:
Nearly all have saved for retirement, through the Canada Pension Plan, employer pension plans and individual retirement savings, including home ownership.
Paying money into a compulsory government program (that's what the Canada Pension plan is for any American readers) is not "saving". Neither is an employer pension plan. And paying down the mortgage on your house, while a good thing to do, isn't saving either. Of the four kinds of "saving" he lists here, only one, "individual retirement savings" is really saving. And the baby boomers collectively have an appalling record when it comes to individual retirement savings.

And the baby boomers cheerfully voted for governments that saddled us with all these social programs that we can no longer afford.  They didn't spare a thought for the younger generation coming along who would be stuck with the bill.

We've been living in dreamland for too long now and that bill is coming due. It would be obscene to expect twenty-somethings to support people who haven't been responsible. And if you're stupid and selfish enough to get divorced in your fifties, you haven't been responsible.

Final thought, if there are any twenty-somethings feeling guilty about abandoning baby boomers to their fate, do a little research to see just how disrespectfully the baby boomers treated the older generation back in the 1960s and 1970s. Trust me, any guilt will disappear.

1 comment:

  1. As you point out, it is not at all uncommon for baby boomers in their 50s to get divorced, once the children are grown and out of the house. For many it represents one last chance at happiness, having endured a 30 yr marriage--for the sake of the kids--that was less than fulfilling. I think that this phenomenon started with the pre-baby boomer generation back in the '70s. Some baby boomers were put in the position of having to provide for their parents and not all abandoned them. As a result some still suffer economically because they did step up to the plate to do "the right thing." This is a complex issue, and I don't know what the answer is. But it is true that government will be called upon to pick up the slack, no question about it. But I can think of worse things. Its easy to point a finger when you're not in the situation, as my mother always said "walk a mile in my shoes."