Used and abused: How baby boomers are ruining their children’s lives

I was always told that parents want their children to have better lives than they have, that each generation will strive to make things better for the generation that follows. But as our politicians in Washington debate spending cuts, the debt limit, and whether there will be a government shutdown this week, I’m starting to see something very different: that our elders are instead passing off their debt to us, and ensuring we won’t have any future at all. And nobody in my generation seems to care.

Here’s how it is: our national debt is $14.2 trillion, and our debt limit, which we’ll hit over the summer, is $14.3 trillion. But there’s an even larger number that should give us all pause: the $119 trillion in unfunded liabilities for our entitlement programs, as calculated by Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute. Those programs — Social Security, Medicare and, to a lesser extent, Medicaid — largely benefit the old, those who will be retiring and drawing on the system. They do not help my generation, which will be forced to cough up 119 trillion greenbacks in order to ensure our elders live comfortably. (By comparison, our gross domestic product is about $14.6 trillion, only a smidgen larger than our government debt.)

If I sound bitter, I am. The Greatest Generation went to war to stop Nazism and provide a future for their children. The baby boomers spent all of that future and put the rest on a half-dozen credit cards, which they passed off to their own children, Generations X, Y, and Z. We never asked for it, we never volunteered for it, but yet here we are, being forced to pay off these credit cards.

The current debt — that $14.2 trillion — amounts to $45,879 for every man, woman, and child in America, or $128,439 per taxpayer, according to the U.S. National Debt Clock. If I obtained a job at around, say, $30,000, it would take me over four years to pay my “share” — but only if my entire paycheck went to it, completely ignoring my own needs. That’s also optimistic: while unemployment overall is at 8.8%, unemployment for those my age is much higher, at 15.5%. Those are numbers that should shock anyone.

What’s worse is that we know what’s going to have to be done to fix the problem: a combination of tax increases and benefit reductions. Benefits will likely be cut off entirely for those born past a certain year, meaning that most of my peers are going to pay into this pot for years, financing our elders’ retirement, but when our time comes due, we’ll receive zip. We’ll be used and abused, giving our wealth away but receiving nothing in return.

So the parties’ “battle” in Washington over $61 billion in cuts — less than 2% of spending — is intolerable, insulting, and childish. That they would pass off these enormous costs to their children shows they do not care one bit about future generations.

Some may say that’s the cost of living in a democracy. But wait a minute: when did anyone my age agree to this? We didn’t — these were programs put into place a half-century ago, and left to collapse without any repair or improvement. If anything, we should get a waiver from the taxes taken to support them.

My generation needs to wake up. We’ve been a largely apathetic bunch for some time, but our future is at stake. We need to step up and say that our elders cannot exploit us for their own well-being. We need to reform these programs so they don’t rob the young and lead us into economic and fiscal ruin.

If we don’t do this, if our leaders don’t get their acts together sooner rather than later, if our generation doesn’t snap out of its apathy, we’re going to have a fight nobody will win.

Jeremy Kolassa is a young writer in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

  • Smarg

    Sorry Jeremy, we can’t help it that tens of millions of Generations X, Y, and Z folks are still living in their parent’s basements, surfing porn and masturbating all day.

    We can’t help it if you are socially stunted because you rely totally on electronic devices to communicate.

    Do you need any more advice?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Everett-Vinzant/100002084626361 Everett Vinzant


      Thank you for proving his point, where exactly did you expect these generations of people to go if there are no jobs? How are they going to move out of their parents basements if there is no work? It’s cheaper for them to live in Mom and Dads basement than it is for Mom and Dad to pay rent for them.

      Given the adoption rate of digital devices, and their pervasive use in society, the “socially stunted” are the ones not participating in the use of these devices.

      For the record I’m a GEN X’er, joined the Military at 18, currently have my own kids, and have been paying for my own house for several years (don’t even live in the same state as my parents). Should I use a hasty generalization like you did, and define you?

      Do you have anything intelligent to advise?

      Do you have anything intelligent to advise?

    • docinpa

      Smarg, you are a perfect example of why every ‘Boomer should have to work until they drop dead. Jeremy, as far as I’m concerned, we could means test every federal program starting now. But Jeremy, we have a little problem and that problem is called the Democrat Party. And until people your age wake up and reject this nonsense, you and your cohort are hosed. Because the leftists will abuse you until the cows come home as long as you let them.

  • TruthInAction

    Hey, Jeremy, my “accounts” have over $315,000 of confiscated funds that are now worthless. Those unfunded liabilities will go away when the Federal government goes broke. Don’t worry, at least you won’t have a whole lot money flushed away like we “boomers” did. If we are guilty of anything, it is the guile we endured for the past 45 years that came from our spineless federal politicians and their bureaucrat-“niks”.

    • jnchavez

      Yeah we forgot you weren’t able to vote for these spineless politicians. Where’s democracy when you need it, right?

  • clw

    Jeremy may I just say that I am old enough to remember full service gas stations >sigh< wow I miss those.

    ANYWAY, we grew up in an entirely different world. We were MUCH more isolated, educationally speaking.

    Your generation has the internet, meaning access to every corner of the world at your fingertips. I had to find certain books via card catalogs at the library.

    Liberals… Hippies… Lefties… DEMOCRATS. That whole crew is who are responsible for the gazillions of unfunded mandates and socialist policies.

    PLEASE, as a conservative I am begging you, convince your age group to launch a full on assualt against the idiotic Saul Alinsky crap. Firmly plant yourselves in conservative ideals and take back your country!

    It's too late for us! We were ill-equipped and caught off-guard as to the real damage our government was doing, slowly and methodically giving us over to socialsim, and taking away our liberty! Making us slaves to THEM, instead of them BEING us.

    Conservatives of ALL ages are never going to give up getting everything back on track, and taking this country bck from those IDIOTS, but you guys can't sit back and blame either. You have to take some serious and SWIFT action!