Monday, March 11, 2019

a Boomer's mea culpa

One Baby Boomer writes an open-letter apology to the younger generations. I don't agree with everything in the letter, but it's worth reading and discussing all the same.

Here are some excerpts:

The previous generation, the Greatest Generation, saved the world by sending Orwell’s rough men into the crucible of war in the interest of peace. My generation, the Baby Boomers, was to live the life purchased for us by the boys of Normandy, the Ardennes, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other killing fields. White marble crosses and Stars of David in these places testify to the enormous price of that purchase. And live we did. What a party we threw ourselves. So, as I reflect on the goodness of the job my generation has done, I apologize. I apologize for it all.

I apologize that we Boomers bankrupted this great nation. We made all manner of promises to ourselves while leaving you the bill. Herbert Hoover once quipped that “blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.” He was only partially right; it’s far worse than that. I’m not talking about $22 trillion in treasury debt or even the exponential rate at which it’s growing. I’m talking unfunded liabilities.

Were one to add today’s treasury debt to the unfunded Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid promises we’ve made to ourselves on your behalf — valued somewhere in the $120 to $200 trillion range depending on assumptions about discount rates, life expectancies, etc. — the total would exceed the market value of the United States of America. (I think that prior to pulling the most powerful lever in the world, every U.S. citizen should be made to write $120,000,000,000,000 in a box on his or her voter registration form.)


I apologize for Democrats who simply refuse to staunch the fiscal bleeding, and for Republicans who, er, simply refuse to staunch the fiscal bleeding. I apologize for Donald Trump, who took the White House, in part by campaigning as a fiscal scold, and immediately proceeded to explode the country’s deficit. His largesse followed eight years of generally declining profligacy under President Obama who, in an inter-generational game of kick-the-can, still managed to double, that’s right double, the accumulated national debt during his tenure. In fact, I apologize for almost all of the tanned, bleached, toupeed and plugged worthies we’ve sent to Washington to run your life.


As Margaret Thatcher once reminded us, democracy is a fragile thing. At its shaky foundation is the requirement of an informed electorate. Well...that didn’t work. Only one-in-four adults in the U.S. can name the three branches of government; one in three can’t name a single branch. Not one. Zero! Zilch! And it doesn’t appear that it’s going to get better any time soon. Only seven of the nation’s top 25 liberal-arts colleges require history majors to take an American history course. You can blame the students, but it’s the generation at the helm, the Baby Boomers, who gave in to their squeals for relativism and feel-good instruction.


I apologize that we allowed you to think that the world outside of academe will be filled with therapy puppies, safe spaces and crying rooms. I apologize for black graduations, Hispanic graduations, lavender graduations and all of the other graduation-types that celebrate something other than academic achievement. During our lifetimes we’ve witnessed where tribalism leads (think Yugoslavia), and it never leads anywhere you’d want to live.


I don’t know which is more distressing. Both are personally tragic, economically wasteful, and manifest the worst angels of our nature. While some cite true and truly horrific historical wrongs needing correction, the majority of my minority students seem to view preferences and set-asides — not as compensation for past crimes, but as a post-modernist slur. My experience tells me that incalculable harm is being done intra-psychically and otherwise. I grieve for my black students, as bright and capable as any group I’ve ever taught, who feel themselves discriminated not against, but in favor of, because others feel they can’t otherwise compete.

So let’s review the bidding. My generation has spent its inheritance, beggared its kids, spiked the nation’s education infrastructure, and is at risk of substituting one type of racism for another in the interest of ending racism. On one side of the political ledger we’ve gifted the country Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Chris Christie and Rick Perry (today’s secretary of energy, for those of you without a scorecard). On the other, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid (he’s retired but he still deserves honorable mention), Blago (same although in prison) and Maxine Waters. And things are no better in the Old World.

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