Generation X To The Rescue?

I like writing about things I know little about, because typically I learn a lot from the commenters, and get humbled at times. I am sure that the following will be one of those types of posts.

I have had this thought rolling around in my head for quite some time, and wanted to air it out to see what type of play it will get.

Our entitlement programs steam ahead into oblivion here in the US. In particular Social Security, while not exactly a Ponzi Scheme (but close enough), is on the Highway to Hell, if something isn’t done to fix it.

The only time I remember that something was honestly tried to fix SS was when GW Bush attempted to let a tiny portion (was it 4%?) of new inputs be allowed to be managed in a private account. Not many will remember that debate, but it was ridiculous. Literally, I heard over and over that the OLD PEOPLE WERE GOING TO BE THROWN OUT INTO THE STREETS AND FREEZING COLD. The noise was incredible, and very little logical, well thought out debate was presented. I am still disgusted when I think of how that debate was framed.

Every time that I get my pay stub I look at those numbers leaving my net pay and cringe knowing that MY PROMISE will be broken. This is a system that will most likely be insolvent by the time I get to the age of collecting. I have taken it for granted, and so have many of the folks I have talked to that are my age. My age – Generation X.

Loosely, Gen X is described as the post Boomer generation, the 13th to be raised under the flag of the good ‘ol USA. The birth years (again, loosely) are said to vary from definition to definition, but center between 1961 and 1981. I fall almost smack dab in the middle of it. So does my wife. And most of my friends. We talk about things like this.

This time period saw some of the lowest birth rates in the US. We don’t have enough of us to support all of you (I’m talkin’ to you, Boomers!). We are paying into a system (Social Security) that is designed, mathematically, to fail. Of course SS is just one of our many entitlement programs that are going to be under intense pressure in the future – if nothing changes. That is a big if.

The thrust of my thinking here is that it will be up to my g-g-g-Generation to fix this mess. As I look at all the grey hairs in the Senate and House (there are exceptions, of course) my thinking is that these things aren’t about political parties, they are age and culture differences. The folks I hang around with – Democrat, Republican, Tea, whataver, want things fixed, and done right. This isn’t universal, of course, but I hear a lot more common sense out of younger people and younger CongressCritters than the Old Guard.

Paul Ryan is a Gen X’er. I think the guy is fantastic and a breath of fresh air, and I firmly believe that his message and belief system is held in check a LOT by the Old Guard (I am pointing that finger at you again, Boomers). Sarah Palin is also a Gen X’er. Have you heard anyone else in politics say things like this? Again, this isn’t a party thing, it is a generational thing. I sort of feel like in a lot of respects, we have our own old person combine in Washington DC.

If we stay on the current course there will be hell to pay for anyone who hasn’t saved their dough, as far as retirement goes. But most of us (at least the people my age that I talk to) aren’t that stupid. Some of us are.

I guess I am tired of the Old Guard who screwed up the system telling me and others like Ryan how bad it could get screwed up if attempts are made to fix it. To me, it isn’t about parties, it is about generations. Generation X might end up being the folks that have to fix…everything.

28 thoughts on “Generation X To The Rescue?”

  1. I read an article in National Review in the 1970, when I was a teenager. It showed the projections for Social Security, and how the people paying in would not support the benefits going out by sometime early in this century, more or less now. I looked at my pay stub from Bickford’s Pancakes and I knew I would never see that money. I have known my entire life I would never see that money. It is a tax, they spend it as it comes in, and its gone. Al Gore, making that stoopid hand-gesture when he said that SS was in a “lock box” literally made me sick to my stomach. A blatant lie, and no one called him on it.

    The final word on the Boomers will be that they ate the country, shat it out, and its gone.

  2. Gen Y voted 2:1 for Obama, Gen X slightly more than fifty/fifty for O and silent generation mostly for mccain. It was tthe youth vote….

    Blame the media and the schools and youthful ignorance. Us xers too….

    – Madhu

  3. I’m just pointing out that the generational business Gen-Xers perpetually bang on about is overblown. You guys have been whining about Baby Boomers ever since you had to enter the workforce with entry-level jobs.

    For example, Sgt Mom somehow blames Boomers for Vietnam. Boomers were 20 something draftees in that war, the people in control were the folks who came of age in WWII. In fact, Vietnam makes since if you consider that in their youth they fought both Nazism and Japanese militarism. With China having gone communist, and Indonesian having the 3rd largest numbers of communists at the time it must have been a bad dream to those decision makers. They must have felt that in some ways they were back to square one. At any rate give them the blame and credit for that section of the Cold War.

    BTW, it was Johnson, a president of that generational cohort who gave us Medicare and Medicaid and it was Obama — of the Gen-X cohort who gave us Obamacare. It’s not a generational issue — it is an issue of the collectivist idiots of the past 70 years foisting this crap on us time and time again.

  4. Ambisinistral: “You guys have been whining about Baby Boomers ever since you had to enter the workforce with entry-level jobs.”

    Whining? Whining?!!? I am not whining, I am bitching. The Boomers are consciously protecting their precious ss, while I keep paying in with exactly zero hope of ever recovering one cent unless radical change is affected. Meanwhile, possible solutions are floated (such as GW Bush’s very minimal one) and we are all of a sudden tossing the Boomers into concentration camps. You bet I am bitching. The Boomers have screwed this country up to the max and we are left with the carnage. I am not even talking about other issues like Medicare, etc. Just the never fixed ss nightmare is enough to make my blood boil. The Boomers had their shot and proved what they were made of. I guess it is time for someone else to take a shot at it. We can’t possibly do worse.

  5. “Whining? Whining?!!?”

    Yes. I don’t want to beat this to death, but I don’t think Gen-Xers realize what they sound like when they go into the “Oh, woe is me, the Boomers are blocking my path” schtick.

    As I pointed out, the problem with entitlements is multi-generational, starting with FDR, heavily boosted by LBJ and expanded further by ObamaCare today. That’s a hell of a lot longer span than one generation. “The Boomers have screwed this country up to the max and we are left with the carnage.” I’ll say it again, that is an incredibly shortsighted and risible statement to make considering ObamaCare which was put in place by a President who was heavily supported by Gen-Xers and Millennials.

    If you persiust in thinking this is just a problem with one greedy generational cohort you’re never going to fix the mess, because you’ll be waiting for a cure — the ravages of old age apparently — that is no cure at all. It is not a problem of one age group over another, it is a problem of one political philosophy over another. Concentrate on that and you stand a chance of getting somewhere.

  6. Gen Xers need to suck it up. They were simply not as lucky to be born at the right time….no help for that. The Boomers came into the world at a time when their country ruled the world, economically and materialistically, if not literally. A time of unparalleled prosperity (for the U.S.) after WWII when it’s enemies and it’s allies (that is, almost all of it’s economic competitors) were devastated. As children that is all the Boomers knew. That time could not last indefinitely.

    The Greatest Generation, after the trials of depression and war, may be forgiven if they had an appetite, a lust, for living the good life and if they were over-indulgent with their children.

  7. “The Boomers are consciously protecting their precious ss, …”

    Of all entitlements, this seems least egregious to me since people have paid into ss specifically as they have received a paycheck.

  8. I don’t know X from Y from Millenial, and am near the front of the Boomer generation.
    I know who I voted for, and, I think, what they stood for. I realized back in U.S. History 101 that Social Security was going to go bust, and that was 45 years ago. There was NOTHING I could do to change it, except plan ahead. Even then I figured that it would be foolish on my part to expect to receive benefits from SocSec, well, optimistic anyway.
    There is a ‘lump going through the boa constrictor’ that will disappear as the Boomers age out of the system. I don’t know if any actuarial studies have been done to determine the health of SocSec after the last of the Boomers quits getting a check, but think the problem should be ameliorated significantly by then. In other words, we have a problem of limited term.
    In my opinion, the Democrats in Congrefs have refused to consider changes to the system, and use those tentative changes as ammunition to savage the Rep’s who propose them. Every single time a change is considered, it is used by those on the left to demonize, and it was within the past year that the Majority Senator Leader declared there was ‘no problem with Social Security’.
    Phooey on them all. If you could invest ~13% of your income, taken pre-tax as FICA is, by the time you wanted to retire, you would be rich, and have an estate to leave to your children if desired. Instead, you get whatever Congress decides, that session, perhaps nothing, with no guarantee, no residual, and a terrible rate of return compared to private investment.
    It may not be a Ponzi Scheme, but it IS worse. Try refusing to contribute or to withdraw the funds from your ‘account’. Good luck.

  9. Stating facts is not “whining”.

    There is a problem, and we’re going to clean it up. Do you realize that Gen-X built the commercial internet? Linux, the web, Google, Amazon, the early ISPs, the new networks that have largely replaced the old telcos, and transformed business and culture. We built this city. Many of us on-call, working hours our parents never had to deal with. No union protections. No 9-5. And do you know why? Because that was where the opportunities were. This bunch of “slackers” made the greatest, most innovative infrastructure improvement in U.S. history, simply because the Boomers had outsourced everything else to China.

    Gen-X is just now starting to come into its own politically. And I firmly believe these “slackers” are going to do the exact same thing in that realm that we did in the economic realm. That whining? That’s just a cynical – some would say clear-eyed – analysis of the problem. The fix is going to hit the traditional political parties the same way Amazon hit the traditional big-box retailers’ bottom lines.

  10. Jason – “Gen-X is just now starting to come into its own politically.” A good thought. If anyone hasn’t noticed things starting to change, they aren’t paying attention. There is a lot of work to do and I can’t wait to start it. A ton of things need to be undone and fixed, but the Boomers have proven without a shadow of a doubt that they cannot, or will not, do these things.

  11. The fact that Social Security will never pay us a dime is one of the few things that my oldest son and I agree on. Finding one agreement at a time is promising. Having survived my first myocardial infarction last week, I may have overestimated the problem. Didn’t John Maynard Keynes say, “In the long run we are all dead.”

  12. Michael, I will pray for your full recovery. Let’s push that “Keynes Horizon” in your case as far off as possible.

  13. [M]y thinking is that these things aren’t about political parties, they are age and culture differences.

    I thought about this quite a bit over the weekend. Bottom line: I don’t quite buy it.

    The age/reality divide among politicians is real enough, but consider that a seat in Congress has been a lifetime appointment those senior members. I think their delusions reflect the wishful thinking of the electorate as a whole back when they were first elected.

    The politicians making sense are largely Gen-Xers not so much because that generation finally has a clue, but because they are the coming into power at a time when speaking the truth is starting to become politically viable. That is, those with a grasp on reality who are now entering politics are at the right place and and the right time, and demographically Gen-X predominates in that group.

    It is certainly true that the Boomer presidents — Clinton, George W, and Obama — have all failed in their responsibility to fix problems before they reached a crisis level, either by wasting time and political capital, or by actively making things worse. But they were were young or even unborn when the hole was first being dug.

    I think the biggest share of blame goes to voters of any age who elected FDR four times, even as he managed to turn a short-term financial crisis into a decade-long economic catastrophe. I don’t know how the demographics skewed in those four elections, but obviously we can’t blame the Boomers.

    And as regards Social Security, to the degree that there is generational blame to place, the punishment fits the crime. The wheels are going to start coming off just when those Boomers who didn’t save are most dependent on it, and just as their numbers and electoral throw-weight are dropping fast. If Gen-X and Gen-Y can architect a soft landing for them, something that doesn’t look like a scene out of Soylent Green, it will be an act of grace, not because fools have any right to be rescued from their own folly.

    You’re absolutely, right, however, that Gen-X will be at the helm as the wave crests. If the ship of state is still upright and afloat in 2040, then I suggest the Greatest Generation moniker be officially transferred to them.

    (Full disclosure: I was born in 1965, so while I’m certainly not a Boomer, I have never fully identified with Gen-X, either. Thus my references to Gen-X as “they” and “them”. Funny the difference a few years makes.)

  14. I’m a boomer (born 1950) and I can assure you that many of us feel very deeply that this country took a serious wrong turn, in large part because pols were/are catering to a bunch of “leaders” who claim to represent us but don’t. There is a real constituency out there for doing the for future generations… I don’t know if it’s a majority, but it’s a large number of votes and if added to those of Gen-X and Gen-Y/Millennials would be able to accomplish something.

    But, just as groups like MALDEF and La Raza don’t really represent most Hispanics (at least, most Hispanics legally eligible to vote) and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton only claim to speak for blacks, AARP is a political Potemkin held together only by cut-rate insurance that gives them a big mail list.

    Many boomers understand that there needs to be a gradual adjustment in entitlement programs to provide for future generations. A very small number would go so far as a gradual phase-out, which would greatly reduce the burden on the X-ers and later, but a real audience is there for ratcheting benefits down, say with a later retirement age and slower inflation adjustments (I’m talking SS, Medicare is a different set of issues affecting teh entire health care system, but still does not have to be fixed in amber), would do great things financially over a couple of decades.

    But we need a lot more politicians like Ryan who are willing to face reality and tell the public about what it really means. Interest groups like AARP (and all the race- and gender-baiter and their media accomplices) are an almost wholly pernicious factor but I don’t know how you deal with them except to provide better, more realistic plans and keep hammering it home.

    Remember, boomers as a group voted for McCain, youth for Obama, and while neither was very honest about entitlement reform, and one could argue this is just people voting for those who look like them, ha ha, the world is a much more complicated place than the media and pols understand. We need people who will level with us rather than the mostly evil and incompetent careerists we keep electing.

    In other words, the Tea Party needs to get more organized and realistic without losing its fire, and then take over the GOP.

  15. Dan, I feel the same way. Born in 75, which I believe had the fewest births of any year since the start of the baby boom generation. I have always felt that Gen X was going to be the generation most screwed (on the SS front). Why? Because we have the fewest voters. It is simple electoral math. Gen X may lead the fight with leaders such as Paul Ryan, but it will take the votes of Gen Y to get things done. The Boomer vote cannot be overcome unless Gen Y comes along for the ride. I doubt Gen Y will be as kind to Gen X as we are to the Boomers.

  16. (Full disclosure: I was born in 1965, so while I’m certainly not a Boomer, I have never fully identified with Gen-X, either. Thus my references to Gen-X as “they” and “them”. Funny the difference a few years makes.)

    I REALLY agree with you. I was also born in ’65 and feel this very strongly. For me, the mindset and culture of the boomers and the Gen-Xrs are both strange and comfortable in equal parts. In my case, my family history emphasizes this. My parents are boomers. My younger sister’s kids are X. My mom likes to take those multi-generation pictures. In her living room, from left to right (across two pictures) you see my great-grandmother (late Victorian/Lost?), my grandmother (Greatest/WWII), my mother (Boomer), my sister (???), my niece (Gen-X), and her daughters (Z ??? dunno).

    The point? Well, I guess the point is that the whole generation model is a little weak and it undermines the argument of the original post. I came to pretty much the same conclusions as setbit… hmmmm…. maybe there something in it after all.

  17. For me, the mindset and culture of the boomers and the Gen-Xrs are both strange and comfortable in equal parts.


    Add in the fact that I’m a culturally conservative technophile, and the sense of having one foot each in two different worlds is almost palpable.

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