I used to joke that I was born during the first ten minutes of the Baby Boom. Technically, that’s not true—I was born during the second year of the phenomenon—still. . . .
No more, though.
Even before I became aware that there was something different about my generation, I felt blamed for being alive.
Because the government saw us coming and did nothing about it, I went to kindergarten in a church and 1st and 2nd grades in army barracks; I attended an overcrowded high school that held classes in the cafeteria and the auditorium and anywhere else a free corner could be found; when I went away to college, new dorms were being constructed at breakneck speed—and we were crowded four to a room that had been designed for two. Until then, students had been required to live on campus. During my sophomore year, off-campus housing began becoming standard practice.
We regularly attended classes that enrolled 500+ students. And, because the idea of teachers’ assistants who would attend to students’ needs hadn’t been thought of yet, individual attention from teachers was non-existent.
In each of those instances, adults looked at us as if we were causing them terrible inconvenience. I felt it. I know I wasn't alone.
Then, I got out of school and there were no jobs. It was in all the magazines and newspapers that we were swamping the markets. According to the articles, we had no one but ourselves to blame—there were just too many of us. I remember a cartoon of a young man knocking on the door of a home and asking, ‘Would you like to have your lawn fertilized by a Doctor of Philosophy?” It was no joke, though. How were we to support ourselves when there were no jobs?
Eventually, the market sorted itself out. As we finally began to make some money and started buying things, manufacturers began needing workers and sales people and executives to oversee them in order to supply the burgeoning market.
The economy began booming again.
No one said, ‘Hey, Boomers, thanks for buying our stuff!’ In fact, there were articles in those same magazines about how self-indulgent we were. This line was being touted, by the way, while I was living in a) the back of a truck b) a cave and c) various communes and crash pads. Housing was still in short supply—and we were blamed for our eccentric lifestyles.
Now, fast forward to today:
Throughout my working life, I’ve paid for Social Security. In fact, having been self-employed for much of that time, I paid double.
Given the numbers of us, there should have been ample funds to support all the seniors who came before us AND put some aside to pay for ourselves. Instead, Congress treated the surplus like found-money. Need to fund a highway or bicycle path? Need to dam a river? Want money for some pet project so you can show your constituents you’re ‘creating jobs’? Tap the SS fund. It’s just sitting there.
And, here we are again.
Get out the stick. It’s time to beat up the Baby Boomers.
We’re going to retire soon—and we’re all going to do it at about the same time. That’s how it works when a lot of people all got born at the same time. And, the government would like us to believe that we are causing a terrible inconvenience to everyone else by asking for our Social Security allocation.
Hey! We paid the tax. Month in, month out—we paid it.
The government officials knew we would be retiring one day. And, they didn’t care. Let the future worry about it.
But, one thing is certain: whatever else may happen, the future has a way of arriving—right on schedule.
Now, I’m not talking about the red herring Bush tossed out there a couple of years ago when he tried to privatize Social Security. THAT was part of the Right Wing conspiracy to dismantle the New Deal and get rid of the program.
I’m talking about the real thing that, if some real, substantial steps aren’t taken, will occur in forty years or so. When our grandchildren are ready to retire, the funds will be drying up.
The reason won’t be because there were too many Baby Boomers way back when. It will be because, when there was a surplus of people paying into the program, Congress was spending the money on everything else.
But, it’s easier to blame the Boomers than it was, 54 years ago, to build schools, 41 years ago, to build dorms or, 38 years ago, to build housing.
And, it's easier to blame us than it was, 42 years ago, to put the money aside or than it is today to come up with thoughtful solutions to the dilemma. So almost certainly, once again, nothing will be done to address the problem—and the conservatives will finally get their way: Social Security will die. And, millions of our elders will die in poverty that was preventable.
At least, by then, the Boomers will be dead and the government will be able to blame us—again—without a voice being raised to challenge it.