Tom Friedman Tries to Scapegoat Baby Boomers -- He Should Remember That We Helped Forge American Prosperity
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Baby Boomers, who have now morphed into “young seniors,” certainly did not contribute to the economic decline of America. On the contrary, this huge demographic bulge—as we have moved through our highly-publicized life cycle-- helped create the country’s consumerist prosperity with our teenage allowances and middle age purchases.
Yet running through the debate on the national debt is the subterranean belief that “young seniors,” once known as Baby Boomers, are stealing from future generations by having too many hip replacements and using up too much medical care to stay healthy and active.
Just recently, for example, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, as he wandered through the streets of Greece, wrote with Athenian authority that Baby Boomers were responsible for this country’s huge debt. Just because Eric Cantor and seventy-eight million other people fit into the rather vague category (1946-1964) of the Baby Boomer generation doesn’t mean that a particular generation caused the housing bubble, or turned our nation into one gigantic gambling casino.
Yes, Virginia, there truly are people who daily bet against the economic health of the nation.
This is hardly the first time that Tom Friedman has seemed delusional. He supported the Iraq war because he somehow believed that President George W. Bush would fight the war in Tom’s way, for Tom’s beliefs, for Tom’s goals. What was he thinking—or smoking? Now he wants us to applaud as he substitutes ‘generational clash” for the former “clash of civilizations,” which he has decided is the real struggle our nation faces in the future.
Let’s get real. If Friedman accuses Baby Boomers of “behaving badly,” is he still fighting the cultural wars? If so, he’s right that some boomers have largely been responsible for expanding democracy by fighting for the human rights and legal equality of racial minorities, women, gays and lesbians and disabled. Did we dance and smoke too much? I’m not sure. But we didn’t drink nearly as much as the “greatest generation” and many of us have spent our lives fighting for the common good, especially the preservation and health of the planet.
But if Friedman is accusing the baby boom generation of creating the debt that will burden the next generation, he ought to resign from the Times with dignity, before his analyses get him laughed off the Sunday morning talk shows.
Unfortunately, Friedman is not alone in believing that the Baby Boom is responsible for the nation’s economic decline. True, President Bill Clinton, another Boomer, helped create the financial crisis by deregulating the financial industry. And true, some Boomers in the financial industry turned the country into a gigantic casino, while the corporate sector has outsourced America’s skills to workers in other countries. Also true, George W. Bush nearly bankrupted the country with two wars and tax cuts for the wealthy.
But is this part of Boomer culture, or what market fundamentalists have accomplished since President Ronald Reagan first dabbled in what his vice-president once called “voodoo economics?” And Ronald Reagan was no Boomer.
Surely, Tom Friedman must read his colleagues Paul Krugman and Robert Reich and know that those who created the housing bubble and the madness of the subprime mortgages, who outsourced jobs, crushed unions, have tried to dismantle government, destroy public education, erode health care for the poor, do not represent the views of a particular generation. They represent the ideological insanity of right-wing Republicans, market fundamentalists, who are holding our country hostage to their belief in markets, as opposed to the health and welfare of the common good. Indeed, as ardent fans of Ayn Rand, they don’t believe in a common good. Greed is good. Self interest is what makes the country great.