Share article The impact the baby boomers have on the economy!: The impact Baby Boomers had/have on our political economy By Dennis Porter ...
The impact Baby Boomers had/have on our political economy
By Dennis Porter
I like calling this generation the “freedom seeking, me” generation!
There were approximately 79 million babies hurriedly born in the United States and Canada between 1946-1964, and within these births they’ve become known as “Baby Boomers”. Much of this cohort of nineteen years (1946-1964) grew up with Woodstock, the Vietnam War, the Birth Control pill, belief in free love, the Civil Rights Movement and John F. Kennedy as president. In this paper I will examine the impact this burst of population growth has had and continues to have on our political economy.
The Baby Boomer phenomenon came as a result of WWII vets on leave from their tour of duty rushing to get married and have children in order to receive government benefits for their spouses. Another reason for the explosion of population was due to men married with one male child was exempt from serving in the armed forces. This is how one could avoid the draft. The thinking here was preservation of the family name. Sending a father with only one male child off to war could literally destroy the family name. College enrollment grew at this time was another way to defer from the draft. Many well-to-do families used this option.
Baby Boomers were born to parents directly impacted by the 1920’s Great Depression. Parents of Boomers had a drudgery economic experience that they would pass down to their Boomer children and that was primarily the importance of saving, rationing and being prepared for unforeseen economic downturns. It is from this horrid economic experience that while growing up for example, my parents continued to remind me and my siblings that no food goes to waste and the importance of building a nest egg. This tightly gripped economic way of living was a recipe in waiting for Baby Boomers to break out and come of age by professing political and economic freedom, freedom from the war generation before them, and our parent’s conservative ways of thinking.
As Boomers become early twenties adults the 1965 birth control pill is born here expressing a sexual revolution never experienced before, the peace movement is started rejecting wars men were supposed to automatically sign up for. Where young hippie folks rejecting “the establishment” were introduced to the Summer of Love (1967) and drugs abundantly flow, like LSD, Uppers, Downers, Speed, Marijuana they called pot and weed could be taken without risk or public scrutiny. One had to experience Woodstock, the Age of Aquarius (1969), the ultimate expression of freedom from domineering parents and strict ruled government agencies. The Black Panther movement begins in 1966 expressing a need for freedom from an oppressive city and state government. Rebellion runs amuck in our rural areas with young adults moving to cities demanding freedom from tightly controlled old ways of life. Race riots filled our urban cities in the turbulent sixties during young Boomers lives all as a way of determining freedom. The Cold War was that boogeymen meant to scare Boomers into submission but no longer was that an effective tool. All of these experiences greatly impacted the Boomers socially, politically and economically.
As the first born Boomers leave their twenties and enter their thirties by mid-70’s you see a different economic shift. Off the free love bandwagon and VW Bugs these Boomers are now deeply into the manufacturing workforce and many having gone to college are now middleclass and amongst the newly professional rank. This once freedom professing, pot smoking group is now getting married, raising family and moving to the suburbs. Having enjoyed their youthful indiscretions, freedoms from their parent’s conservative upbringing, and a cheap but good college education, these thirty something Boomers get away from urban blight created by the 60’s riots to raise their own families. In 1978 for example comes the introduction to California’s proposition 13 essentially lowering property taxes to a one point five percent per year increase. This decision gutted the once number one public school system in America. California voters overnight decided that Boomers wanting economic freedom (lower taxes) were more important than their children’s educational future. The aging population pushed for this proposition too so as not to get priced out of their homes and that made sense. A coalition was built between young and older home owners to pass prop 13.
By the eighties a conservative movement is sweeping across the nation. This movement was attempted in 1972 with President Nixon and because of the late 60’s insurrections, but was thwarted due to Republican political corruption (Watergate). These same flower child Boomers (at least some of them) vote in a conservative Republican political party. Boomers now with jobs and children shifted from being socially free to wanting economic freedom and saw the Republican Party as best to get them there. President Reagan and the Republican Party begin to take rule; they begin to dismantle all the left leaning tax increasing on the wealthy political and economic gains made in the late 60’s and 70’s. Ironically in 1981 as Boomers turn to their mid-thirties, AIDS burse onto the scene creating a sexual conservative family values movement. No doubt the Boomers and their birth control, free love, drug infested movement some twenty years earlier is when and where this virus was born. Equally in the eighties we saw a flood of elicit, cheap and very addictive drugs enter the urban centers of America, a precursor to high crime and need later to build industrial prison complexes to house these young underclass, underperforming black male adults. So in the eighties you had two economic forces going on concurrently, massive prosperity for many and an increasing economic underclass due to a drying up of social services and abundance of cheap drugs for others.
In 1981 the first IBM PC was born thus starting the beginning of the information technology age era. This new technology gave rise to economic growth and prosperity. Massive economic expansion grew as Boomers come into their mid-forties, the age of middle management. As the so-called Cold War officially ends and Boomers aged, they become a bit more conservative politically. With the then trickle down conservative economic theory it was thought that loose government regulations and laissez faire economic policy would benefit the masses, it did not. These Boomers always set the agenda to favor themselves both politically and economically. It is during these times we saw continuous economic bust/bubbles and massive government debt build up. Reaganomics was the term used back then to build up the military, decrease taxes, lower regulation and cut spending. When Reagan wanted something he simply printed more dollars and Boomers saw no problem with this.
With political and economic upheaval of the late eighties early nineties ushers in our first Boomer President. President Clinton born is 1946 comes in to clean up 12 years of massive built up economic debt and deficit. As baby Boomers enter their fifties they are introduced to the World Wide Web (1993) and the economic windfall it created help to put the U.S economy back in balance. In the mid to late nineties the housing and Dot Com markets explode. This economic prosperity period on the surface looks good however a closer examination divulges a different outcome for some. Here the Boomers enter into their fifties typically the most prosperous wage earning period and demand more on good and services, but what they also do is put the planet in environment peril. Suddenly global warming joins the lexicon and the need to conserve is part of the conversation. This becomes the then Vice President Gore’s mantra. Here Boomers enter a grey area and become a little of both conservative and liberal Re-elect President Clinton.
In many ways Clinton from the South was economically right leaning but socially liberal. It was the Clinton’s administration that reformed welfare created the “three strikes” laws and begins the era of building industrial prison complexes to house the rising illegal crack cocaine buying and selling populace. It is hear he appears a Republican. In this brief grey period (1992-2000) we see economic prosperity, worldwide economic expansion, free trades, and jobs shipped overseas. It is also during this time we also see a drop off of the middle class and once good paying manufacturing jobs succumb to mechanical machinery and dotcom technology. September 11, 2001 would change all of this.
This first group of Baby Boomers in 2001 just five years shy of turning sixty saw their immortal, freedom loving, “me” generations, world turn upside down. They were mortal after all and hurriedly ushered in the Patriot Act. This Act takes away freedoms they so desperately fought to maintain decades before. 9/11 had a dramatic effect on them mentally. Suddenly freedom was no longer free. Now we must nearly undress to fly on an aircraft, and be careful entering other countries, even Mexico. So at an age where vulnerability sets in anyway the 9/11 experience pushes it that much closer. To make matters worse just as Boomers near retirement age the Wall Street stock market implodes. Suddenly all that advice to save for a rainy day taught by our Baby Boomers parents vanished overnight.
Now Baby Boomers for the first time in 2011 enter into retirement age becoming 65. With that Social Security and Medicare is the topic of today’s discussion. This “me” generation is not feeling so free and secure after all. Not only have many of them lost home values, their 401K’s in the 2008 Great Recession, Medicare and Social Security or better put, their entitled freedoms, also appear vulnerable.
Now all of the sudden boomers “want their” country back. Feeling extremely vulnerable as the country is run by its first African American President with direct foreign roots and a massive economic downturn they created themselves has Boomers rushing back to their conservative beginnings. The 2012 Presidential election will have them forced to make a tough decision; vote for the party that plans to dismantle Medicare or vote the party that leans liberal and threatens to tax their riches.
No other group has so impacted political and economic agendas like that of the Baby Boomer generation. When you breakdown their aging process decades at a time it become evident of their unyielding influence and power both politically and economically. Boomers have everything to do with the perilous economic position the world finds itself in today. Their sheer numbers set demands on this economy wreaking havoc both good and bad depending on how it suited them. The Generation X (1965-1983) born after the Boomers always gets the crumbs left behind and tasked to clean up after their mess. It is the Gen X population that will undoubtedly be short changed when the dust is finally settled and the “me” Baby Boomer generation fades into the sunset “free” or so they think so anyway.