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March 20, 2007


Martin Bentley

There is that horrible truth behind it though. The Baby Boomers didn't pay enough taxes for what they are expecting to take out from the system. They now expect the current younger generation to pay for the shortfall and refuse to accept that they might, for example have to give up the Thatcherite dream of owning their own home.

So I don't know what the BBC has against the Baby Boomers, but I certainly know what I do have against them. They are forcing the younger generations into debt and fiscal slavery to support their poor planning and bad voting track record. Tough. It's time they started paying their fair share.

The Labour Humanist

I don't think it's sensible to exact policy revenge on someone on the basis of their birth certificate. Boomers weren't agitating for tuition fees, there was a Labour manifesto pledge not to introduce fees which was broken on Tony's Sofa. SO blame Tony for one cause of debt. As for housing equity, a great proportion of this will be passed onto younger generations within families - family transfers are always ignored by the doom merchants.

I am younger than the boomers, but I don't want some right wing US economists little plan to use the boomers as a wedge strategy to get public consent for slashing pensions and health care spending - just because some boomers are doing alright for themselves - ignoring the fact that later life for millions is a pretty miserable, socially excluded place to be.

Also, if you look at research and polling data there is huge support amongst boomers and older generations for increased investment in education. It goes against the evidence to portray them as somehow more selfish voters than other age brackets.

Joe Otten

Ever since the 60s, the baby boomers have, thanks to their numbers, got their own way, and if the rest of society got stuffed who cares.

These people elected Thatcher in the 80s to cut other people's pensions, but now they are dead against retirement ages rising in line with longevity, just to stabilise, never mind cut, pension liabilities.

But if anybody suggests it is time to stop distorting policy in favour of this one generation, they are assumed to have something against them.

The Labour Humanist

"these people" Joe? Let's be careful here, a proportion of people in this age bracket voted tory in the 80s, as did, of course, a proportion of people in all the age brackets. Boomers weren't by any means the "most" tory age bracket.

It's also strange to hear people from the "left" - are lib dems left? - demonising a cohort which is the most socially liberal and progressive in its attitudes - even more so than current younger age cohorts.

Here's another way of looking at it, baby boomers didn't slash pensions in the 80s, it was the Conservative party who slashed pensions.

By the way the so called "dependency" ratio of workers to retired people will actually be the same in 2025 as it was 1985, and doesn't increase noticeably until the 2030s.

When I reach later life I want a proper universal state pension, I want decent health care and equitable social care. I don't want it all scorched and privatised in some bizarre, irrational, act of generational revenge.

Martin Bentley

Whilst I do agree that a broad "these people" generalization is risky the Baby Boomers as a collective group have a large number of issues that come from and are made by their collective habits and behavior.

Blaming the Conservatives for the current fiscal problems is blatantly ignoring that as a voting block the Baby Boomers are the ones the generation that supported the conservatives. As for progressive, at their time the Baby Boomers did often take the right path on key moral/social issues but it's worth noting that very often that was not out of altruism but out of pure selfishness. The "Easy Rider" age group that wanted to "Do what we want to do" (nice sample of that speech which introduced Primal Screams indie classic 'Loaded' from a later generations hedonism). The problem is that the Baby Boomers don't want to pay the bill for 'trashing their hotel room' and like many rock stars (of which their generation was the first) thinks that clearing up after themselves is someone elses problem.

The Baby Boomers had an electoral choice and they often chose Tory (the statistics of voting habits and results show clearly that Baby Boomers increasingly moved to the Tories as they got older) and this is what they got. Now that they are still a large voting block they are (not consciously) taking advantage of younger voter apathy to force in policies that make the younger voter unfairly carry the burden of their past fiscal recklessness.

The Baby Boomers have always been largely a "me" generation (they created the hedonism of the 80's) which is both a blessing and a curse, individualism is wonderful; selfishness is not.

The point about the dependency ratio ignores about who is carrying the tax and economic burden though. Because the distribution of taxation and economic benefit is definately not equitable.

There is however one possible solution. We keep the pension plan positive, we promise to maintain and support future retirees BUT WE PUSH BACK RETIREMENT. Thanks to those wonderful socialist inventions of national health and worker rights people are living longer and having better working conditions. It only seems fair that having made it more bearable people should work longer. Up retirement to 70 all round, let's keep some of the knowledge and experience in the work place and take advantage of progress that we live longer.

The fact that young people might actually really benefit from just once flexing their political muscle at an older generation in this way might actually be a genuinely good way to motivate them to be politically active. Non-party aligned campaigns to "Have more money to have fun now, make Grandad pay his share", appealing to that same "me" attitude that drove the Baby Boomers, might just work. The enduring success of the American and British conservative political movement has been that in the face of more sensible and progressive policy they have always exploited the "me" factor. If Labour (and the Democrats in the U.S) could learn to use that tactically they would possibl fare much better. For example the reason Gay rights works for example is not so much about it being the right thing but because the "me" of the Gay community drives it (and a good thing too). Socialists are altruists at heart politically and often fail to see that to achieve a more progressive society which benefits all, it often needs to help people see how it benefits them as an individual. The Baby Boomers sadly as a generation have failed to see that supporting younger people's economic growth will ultimately secure their future and they didn't fight to protect them, rather they chose to protect their short term interests (they of course being a broad voting habit not them as a uniform collective).

FAR TOO LONG A RESPONSE I'm sorry but it's a complex issue on a simple point.

Martin Bentley

On tuition fees etc. I wish Labour would take up the Swedish/Australian loan-tax method of funding students. Effectively a graduate tax that repays in easy increments you cost of being educated. If it covered living costs and was managed well it would both make it easier to sort out college but also mean less lost money in education costs for the government overall. As it is the Government just enslaved the next generation of educated people to the banks and that is not a great idea. Other issue entirely though :)

The Labour Humanist


But what’s the problem – define the pressing problem that needs to turn families against themselves?

There is an issue of developing a pensions systems that ends the scourge of poverty in later life based on sound financial planning by the state. But we don’t need to sponsor social strife to achieve this. I agree with you about putting back the retirement age, this and other policy tweaks and evolution can deliver what we need.

As a socialist myself I much prefer to approach the oncoming demographic changes in a spirit of inter-generational solidarity – and reject siren calls for massive cuts in social investment and spending founded in some of the basest of human motivations.

Martin Bentley

Point about intergenerational friction taken. My point would be that the current trend in behavior of the Baby Boomer generation exasperates that very conflict. That a realization that taking more of the burden on themselves and away from the younger generation actually will benefit them. Younger people more able to invest, be motivated by some personal gain and in turn increase growth that will benefit them and their parents.

I'm not saying that the Baby Boomers deserve to suffer, I'm saying that they need to wake up to the situation before they do suffer the consequences of enslaving a younger generation to their economic mistakes.

Just as the young should look out for the old (because they will one day hopefully be old) so also should the old look out for the young (because they will need them).

This very interdependency should breed some understanding of the others needs. Right now that isn't happening.

Joe Otten

Demonising, Scott? Really?

All I did was complain about one cohort getting everything their own way, and being used to it.

Even the Labour Party no longer thinks its wrong to be successful, dontcha know? Let me know what the position is on whether it was wrong to vote for Thatcher.

But seriously, pissing aside, yes you have a fair point that a selective picture of one generation shouldn't drive policy - any more than any other completely spurious argument.

I suspect you'll find media people's parents frequently well off and spending vigorously, and so this is an understandable concern among the media community. If those parents wanted their say, they could have kept working, perhaps. But I would guess those children are still broadly in favour of their parents, not against them.

Pensioners struggling to pay their council tax are off the radar when it comes to this sort of material. Is this inaccuracy? Or just a case of people writing and making programmes about what they are interested in?

And when we hear about youth drinking without a discussion of the shortage of housing, is this similarly inaccurate, is it the BBC having something against young people?

We have failed to build enough housing and we have failed to increase retirement ages in line with longevity, these are failures that have suited one generation quite well. Yet as soon as somebody points this out you start talking about "scorched and privatised in some bizarre, irrational, act of generational revenge." Huh?

I can see more ulterior motive in this hysterical response than in some BBC programming complaining about the decadent old, or the decadent young.

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