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“The Boomers Did It”

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A few weeks back CAIT48 posted a blog (Old And In The Way: The Politics, Policies and Poverty Of Aging). It brought out a rather vitriolic discussion of the Baby Boomer Generation. I was puzzled at the time and remain puzzled as to what brought on that broad-brush treatment of a whole generation (large one). I researched the web and found few if any negative articles on the “Boomer Generation”. Therefore, I went back to the blog and copied the charges made. Those include:

  • The Baby Boomers sold the younger generations down the river so as to maintain their own lifestyles.
  • Baby Boomers are the ones who put into place the laws and policies that allowed those things (401k being wiped out ) to happen.
  • (Boomers) pursue profit above all else (rather) than to look down the road and try to consider the impacts of those decisions.
  • The Baby Boomer generation prefers not to do so (think about aging). They are too busy trying to pretend that they are twenty something to think ahead.
  • It isn't the Generation Xers or the Millennials that slashed education. It isn't the Generation Xers or Millennials who put the policies into place on Wall Street and Corporate America that allowed them to raid the government coffers.
  • The majority of them (Boomers in power) are socially conservative (social conservatives are not true conservatives).

I do not know how to summarize these points as they are IMHO all over the map. It seems to me that the protagonists feel that the society is not as they would have it and they blame those who came before them. I suspect that every generation has that beef. The points made, however, seem woefully inadequate for such a broad denunciation.

I might observe that on the one specific concerning education the point is factually in error. In my time, we have increased societal contributions to education by a factor of four in real terms – it has only been in the past few years that funding for education has declined as tax revenue has declined because income has stagnated.

I might also observe that the “Great Society” originated on the Boomers’ watch. Is there an argument that the efforts therein were not a serious attempt to take the edges off many of the generally recognized ills of our society? Could “Social Conservatives” be responsible for such a broad set of empowering social legislation?

My one beef with the “Boomers” is that they have allowed the government to grow tremendously since my childhood. It is the government that guaranteed risky mortgages with the taxpayers money, provided inadequate oversight of what it demanded and now hides from the results (the negative impact on “Boomer’s” 401Ks). It is the government that bargains away all kinds of benefits to those able to pay for them. You cannot bargain something if you are not granted the power to do so.

In the dialogue there seemed to be a thread that addressed the cost of providing for the Boomer Generation as it retires. Now I find that a bit deceptive. That generation improved/created Social Security and Medicare and paid for them with their own money. Politicians spent that money. To conceive they did so with the agreement of the “Boomers” defies reason. Perhaps the rising generations just don’t want to contribute as past generations have.

In the absence of anything but general grousing that the society is not what some of the rising generation desire, are there specifics as to the generation wide “faults” of the “Boomers”? Otherwise am I to conclude that the comments expressed are those of a small group of unhappy citizens who have been unable to convince the society as a whole to “see it their way” to the benefit of the complaining group?

Is there any difference between “the Boomers did it” and “Bush did it”, “the Military Did It” or “Wall Street Did It”? Seems like those attacking the “Boomers” are the ones that find a need to blame everybody else.

Comments

George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

Well OPH

Your "facts" and my facts seem to be in contradiction. I asked for your reference so I could try to figure out the difference. You responded with another personal attack. I think IRS tables available to all on irs.gov are a good bet particularly when discussing us federal income tax.

Always willing to learn but never willing to be buffaloed or cowed - Moderate

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overplayedhistory 2 years, 7 months ago

Is there such a thing as a fact that contradicts anything you believe? I don't think there is. You have proven to many here that your generation Is hopelessly childish.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

ljwhirled (anonymous) replies… At 50% of its current expenses, the US would still be responsible for over 30% of world wide defense expenditures.

Right now we are responsible fore 1/2 (50%) of global defense expenditures. This is complete overkill, but DoD leadership keeps advocating for more, more, more.

Our leadership is betraying the national security of the United States by insisting on spending levels that will eventually humble us before the rising tiger in the east.

Moderate Responds: Write the President.

I know the process by which these numbers are created. The entry point is National Goals. How would you chage ithem to change the military component.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

Hey OPH, where is your response after calling me stupid and ill-informed??

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Kontum1972 2 years, 7 months ago

Sooooooo..are boxcars and Death Camps next?

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ljwhirled 2 years, 7 months ago

If you want to have a serious discussion about what we should buy with all that money (or more importantly, what we should NOT buy), you have to put defense on the table.

As a member of the armed forces, I see exactly how much money the DoD pours into boondoggles, super sweet infrastructure, employee benefits and useless hardware.

Nothing speaks more to the uselessness of DoD spending than the fact that the F-22 has been grounded since April (in the middle of two wars) without any consequences to our national security.

We need to cut DoD spending by at least 50%, maybe by as much as 60%.

Most defense spending is a complete waste of money. The weapons we build are expensive and consume resources while providing society with exactly nothing.

Spend $100K on a bulldozer and get a tool for creating buildings and roads.

Spend $100K on a bomb and get a useless hole in the ground, which you are then going to have to pay to fill in with a bulldozer.

If we are going to talk about cutting spending, we need to talk about DoD. As has been pointed out above, Medicare and Social Security are earned benefits, i.e. I have paid for them.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

Ljwhirled said…

George,

Half pay no income tax, but they do pay payroll taxes. The extremely rich pay almost nothing (in terms of percentage) in payroll taxes.

Saying 47% don't pay Federal income taxes is disingenuous.”

No it isn't but of course I say that households with a population between 60 and 80 million pay no federal income tax and are not poor. That is a fact!!!

Payroll tax is in fact a payment for your social security. At the income levels discussed SS will return more than the combined contributions of the individual, their employer and the time value of money. It pays not one cent to the operation of the federal government – our largest by far government spending entity.

If the majority have no skin in the federal tax game but benefit significantly from federal programs, the majority will vote to increase federal income taxes forever. That is grossly unfair to the 40% or so of middle class Americans who will have to pay the bill. Yes, by all means tax the rich but because there are so few of them they will contribute little revenue toward the operation of the federal government. Of course, they have already worked that problem for them selves.’

Eat the rich!!!

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George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

OPH and CtyRes

Gentlemen

Please provide your sources.

I checked the IRS tables. The highest tax rate in 1982 was 50% for those over $200K in income. That income would be equal to $470K in today’s dollars. In 1981 the highest tax rate was 70% for those over $530K in income. Where did you get 70% for those at $161K income?? Same place you got the 70% of Boomers???

An income of $100K today would have been a little less than $11K in 1950 (my fathers’ time). The marginal and total tax rate on $11K income in 1950 was 10% while the marginal tax rate on the equivalent $100K today is 28%. That comes from the IRS tables and the BLS inflation calculator.

The marginal tax rate (same sources) on an income equivalent to $100K in today’s dollars follows

65 - 15% 70 – 16% 75 – 32% 80 – 21% 85 – 33% Now – 28%

I think you all are the ones avoiding reality in trying to argue that the middle class does not pay enough in taxes. One more time. The rich need to be socked - they are getting away with the farm – be it investments or salaried income. I think we agree on that so what are we arguing about??

If you want to continue to argue for the expiration of the “Bush” tax cut in total why not come at it from what it is that the federal government needs the additional 5% of GDP to purchase?

The average marginal tax rate for an equivalent $100K income today has been about 28% over the period since the 1940s. At least that portion of the current income distribution has not and is not paying lower than historic amounts. I might also observe that those with incomes above the federal poverty level and below the median income are paying less than the historic average.

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David Roberts 2 years, 7 months ago

I'm suspicious of sweeping criticism of any generation, as well as praise. The truth is that it is just too early to make a final judgment as to the contribution of the "boomers". Data is not readily available to prove either point since we don't know the boomers final impact on Social Security or Medicare.

In about 20-30 years, we could perhaps draw some conclusions about the boomers.

What I believe, however, is that the dominance of America in this world is peaking (and may have peaked). Long life spans, increased standards of living, energy use, wealth, unprecedented growth in technology, and relative peace; these things may well be on the decline as well. Only time will tell...

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CountyResident 2 years, 7 months ago

Overplayedhistory has it right. Nothing more for me to say.

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overplayedhistory 2 years, 7 months ago

I copy information from the tax foundation, and you say I don't agree with you, classic! Like I said before biggest Hypocrites in American history.

Facts are not opinions George, I should not have to tell one of my elders that. Ever consider the comparison between your father and you does not disprove facts? Furthermore, we are talking about the top 1%, after 1982 they paid a lot less. Facts are facts are facts, and the culture that you are a part of that denies them, sinks us further down the hole.

Not only did Reagan drop the top rate to 39.6% he increased the the cut off before you get taxed the top rate by over 200K. He also let people start writing off their mortgage interest.

Inflation is inconsequential at those rates decreases, especially since inflation went down under Reagan. I agree 15% capital gains rate is a crime.

You are so invested in your narrative that you argue whether color blue is really the color blue at all when it contradicts your narrative.

Fact: the largest economic expansion in U.S.A. History paralleled the highest Tax rates. Inconvenient to your narrative but it is true.

Why does your Generation love their Kids and this country less than your parents did?

Are we the United States of America, or are we the Hardly United Individual Narcissists of America?

It is your Right as an American to be born on third and act like you hit a triple, but that does nothing to insure the future of this country, it only makes you feel better about yourself.

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Carol Bowen 2 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps, what we are seeing is a combination of Boomer characteristics and the characteristics of their off-spring. (It is difficult to identify a generation, given that generations overlap.) Every " generation" has had challenges left by the previous generation. The comments collected by Moderate express an unwillingness to face the challenges left to them.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

Because I do not agree with you.

I have already done all that research - at least three times. One more time. Tax paid is the result of income, tax rate and deductions. My father made a lot less in income because a dollar bought a lot more. As a result he paid a lower rate on the tables which you correctly point out haD SOME MUCH HIGHER RATES THAN NOW on income none of us made. His deductions were about equal in real value to mine. I have calculated his income and tax rates and concluded he paid about what I paid Pre -Reagan. I can not do that post Reagan because the deductions are different.

I know for a fact, because I have my 1040s, that my taxes did not go down noticably post Reagan because my deductions were less. I might also observe that the taxes Pre Reagan were higher than historic leading to the many ReaGAN dEmocrats that supported the tax changes (favoring the rich). Remember, he had a Democratic Congress supporting that change.

You seem to want to avoid the effect of inflation on income (as did Liberty) in making your argument. Use the inflation calculator at commerce to take back in time an average salary and see what the tax rate and amounts are. Incomes are not constant.

My data is calculated using the time value of money and tables at ten years increments. At times those tables changed quickly and at other times they were stable for decades. Don't cherry pick years in the middle of WWII.

The real crime is on those making the equivelent of millions who at times paid as much as 90% when today they pay 35% and much of their incomes are capital gains taxed at 15%

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overplayedhistory 2 years, 7 months ago

There was a 70% bracket for individuals who made over 108K per years and couples who made over 161K a year until 1982. IT is not the left that would have you believe that it is a fact ?

In 1982 it went down to 50% It is a fact no matter how you want to color it, It is not left it is not right it is a fact. It was 39.6 % for income over 378K when Reagan left.

Like I said earlier you paid less than your parents. Why can you not except facts?

Look for your self. http://www.taxfoundation.org/publications/show/151.html

Is the tax foundation going to give it a left spin? Are Pdf files part of the liberal agenda?

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George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

Now let me explore the tax issue. The new mantra of the left is that we are paying less than we used to pay. Absolutely. The same people lament the economic disaster and note that we need to expand the social safety net because incomes are non-existent or retarded. If the latter is true than the former is obvious. You pay lees tax when you make less money. Improve the economy and tax revenue will rise to near historic proportions.

Now tax rates. About 40 years ago (pre Reagan) the wife and I paid a marginal rate of 45%. She was a parochial school teacher and I was a very young Major. Now we were middle middle class. A few years later (post Reagan) we paid slightly higher taxes on a slightly higher income. Seems there is a second dimension to taxes – deductions. Pre-Reagan we could deduct all kinds of costs associated with earning our incomes. Post Reagan the deductions available were fewer and for some people (not us) were capped. So quoting tax rates as opposed to tax revenue is dissembling by overlooking the deduction side of the ledger. But you all know that and are deliberately misleading to get what you want.

Have there been times when the rates have been higher – absolutely. Have there been times when the rates were lower – absolutely. Perhaps the real argument focuses on what do we need. Mr. Obama wants a lot more than what Mr. Bush wanted. The argument should be on the content of the difference. If merited we should raise taxes. If not we should not.

Now I point out that the highest marginal rate is 35% but that is tempered by deduction limitations that cut in seriously at about $175K. It has traditionally been higher – in some case much higher. I argue that if people making a middle class income of about $100K pay a marginal rate of 28% than those making ten times that should pay a much higher marginal rate than 35%. To me it is a matter of equity and not some given tax take (25% of GDP) that only very liberal people seem to demand.

I might also point out that state and local taxes eat up additional revenue as do regulations. So we are talking government consumption of something between 35 and 45% of GDP. Perhaps those arguing for tax increases should be required to justify such a high and historically exorbitant amount. Just what will we get for taking that much money predominantly from the middle and upper middle class!!!

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George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

Interesting. As I suspected the consensus on here is that the “crime” of the “Boomers” is that they are somehow responsible for the election of Republicans.

There is probably some truth in that. But not the way you seem to think.

Mr. Reagan really set the “Bush” tax cuts adjusted by Mr. Clinton and readjusted by Mr. Bush. The “Boomers” hardly elected Mr. Reagan – before their time. His selection falls predominantly on the silent and “greatest” generations – the ones who supported the “Great Society”. The post election results revealed there were many “blue” collar democrats in the Reagan camp – taxes.

Obviously the “Boomers” must have helped (at least in part) elect Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama as they are a very large group and without some of them the rest would be unable to achieve that reality - even assuming they voted as a block.

What I have noted and what can be supported with a fair amount of research is that people tend to look at taxes (the crux seemingly, of the argument) differently as they age and their incomes increase. From my various blogs, federal income taxes play little in the decisions of those in the lower half of income in this country. Federal income taxes play heavily on those whose income is above about $85K. These mostly being high paid professionals and two income wage earners who have advanced in their career. Funny thing about people is that they seem to be very supportive of high taxes when they do not pay high taxes and they are very unsupportive of high taxes when they get to pay them. When you pass fifty a new gene kicks in and makes you very stingy.

I humbly suggest that I have seldom seen anything as stupid as blaming a generation for the electoral choice of a specific party. As I wrote above, some of you have turned off your brain boxes.

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some_random_person 2 years, 7 months ago

Throwing money at education isn't the answer. We've tried that and it hasn't worked. The problem is much deeper than just money. Go watch the documentary "Waiting for Superman" and you'll see how the US has stagnated in education despite all the money we've invested in it.

There are two real problems with our education system:

1) The parents aren't making the required effort to ensure their kids are getting a quality education (it doesn't always have to come from a school you know...). Granted, some parents bend over backwards to teach their kids but it is sadly the minority situation. I wouldn't say most, but too many parents don't give a crap about their kids education, they assume enrollment in school is enough, but the parents need to really study the schools and how they operate to ensure a proper education is being passed to their kids.

2) There is no accountability for a teachers performance. Teachers aren't being put through the paces to find out if they are a good or bad teacher, again, no accountability. Also, there are too many barriers to firing an obviously bad teacher. The unions are a major hinderance in this scenario. Tenure is granted to teachers WAY too early and the emphasis on a good teaching performance is thrown right out the window....

Now, once these fundamental problems are solved (No. 2 can be solved through policy), then we can throw money at education and watch it really improve. I think teachers should be paid more money but their job security should mostly be related to their performance.

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ljwhirled 2 years, 7 months ago

Here is an easy way to visualize the problem.

The great depression happened during the first period dip in the graph, just a couple years after Hoover reduced the highest marginal tax rate to 25%.

The great recession happened towards the end of the graph. Just a few years after Bush reduced the highest marginal tax rate to 33%.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e5/MarginalIncomeTax.svg/500px-MarginalIncomeTax.svg.png

I'd like to point out that the rate for the richest boomers is even lower. Warren Buffett, for example, the second richest man on earth (Third? Has Mark passed him?) pays only 17% on his income.

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overplayedhistory 2 years, 7 months ago

When you look at the individuals who make up the 60 member Tea party caucus in the house over half our 55 to 65 Boomers, there is lees than 10 Gen-Xrs, the rest are divided between late Boomers and older than Boomers.

No surprises there. So there you have it, if you are white and between the ages of 55 & 65, there is a much greater than 50% chance that that you are a grade A selfish @$$ho!e.

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overplayedhistory 2 years, 7 months ago

Hey George do you remember the Tax brackets from 50 years ago? If not look them up and stop being silly.

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hgwellsiii 2 years, 7 months ago

Found the original post and comments all very interesting. The legacy of the boomers is a complex topic. I deal with boomer stereotypes (from the political left and the political right) in my new book ONE NATION UNDER AARP: THE FIGHT OVER MEDICARE, SOCIAL SECURITY, AND AMERICA'S FUTURE (available on Amazon.com)

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The_Original_Bob 2 years, 7 months ago

"Well, so far your answer is the best one received. I know you are making sport. Some of the comments I referenced were not. Where is the substance to back up those comments."

Have you ever heard Hotel California? Blech.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

I also note that the prime protagonist on Cait's blog is missing. Perhaps he/she would like to provide the specifics I seek?

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George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

Liberty_One (anonymous) replies… No, it means the boomers benefitted highly.

Moderate Responds:

Your math confuses me. You seem to be holding income as constant. I assure you that the average income 20 years ago was a lot less than it is today. They paid the same percentage of that lower income as they would pay of an inflation adjusted income today. Numbers seem larger today but the time value of money says they paid proportionally

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Bleubird 2 years, 7 months ago

As one of the late Boomers (< 52), I could write volumes on this topic. I look ahead at the future I've spent my life working for, and what I see is a huge burned-out wake left by those before me. The Social Security I've been paying my earnings into my entire working life has already been spent by someone else. Closer to home, my early-Boomer parents inherited their parents' hard-earned nest eggs and literally spent it. I see that repeatedly with that age group. Somehow, the value of holding onto wealth and preserving it for the stability of future generations is lost on them, both in a macro- and micro economic sense. It disgusts me how that generation consumes whatever they can get their hands on. My retirement savings consists of what I've worked for and saved myself. I feel like I have to vigilantly protect it from over-priced and over-hyped retirement savings services and schemes, scams, and the government--all driven by what Boomers who set these systems up think they are entitled to. I don't expect to ever fully retire. I hope I am not forced into retirement by health or job loss, but if I am I hope I have saved enough to support myself and manage on my own. This is not the reality I envisioned when I started college or when I graduated and enthusiastically began my career. I fear for the next generation after mine, and I do blame the Boomers. As a generation, they have consumed everything they could get their hands on--their parents' wealth and their childrens' future.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

Agnostick replies: To say that most members of the counterculture, peace movement of the '60s were Boomers is one thing…”

Moderate Responds: Well A, I said neither of the points you made.. I also observe that the protests of the 60’s were not confined to a “peace movement”.

I did not do a roll call. But I know for a fact that the rising generations were not there.

Just how do you parse responsibility when at any time our leadership is composed of an amalgam of people from different generations? Was any generation in charge and if so when?

Again you are avoiding specifics! What did the “boomers” do?

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The_Original_Bob 2 years, 7 months ago

The Boomers are responsible for The Eagles.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 7 months ago

Come on people - what did the tens of millions of people in the "Boomer" generation do that warrants the castigation I presented.

Nit picking at me or picking on dear old dad hardly constitutes an informed response. Specifics!! Some of you in this blog space have not turned on your brain box in years.

Are you respondents representative of the rising generations or a sadly dysfunctional group that soils itself when matters of substance arise?

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Liberty_One 2 years, 7 months ago

"Perhaps the rising generations just don’t want to contribute as past generations have."

Past generations didn't have to contribute nearly as much. My father remembers when he would reach the income limit for contributing to social security, but then they kept raising the limit past him income so that he had to pay all year long. If I was to contribute as much as past generations did, then I would be approaching the limit on contributions here in the next month or so, and I would be getting a nice "raise."

So try it again.

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TheBellTolls 2 years, 7 months ago

The boomers are morally corrupt, self centered, hedonist. Everyone knows that.

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overplayedhistory 2 years, 7 months ago

It is not that it is all the Boomer's fault. It is just their epic Hypocrisy which made it hard to do anything.

What else do you call someone who has benefited from social programs more than any other group. Have paid less taxes than their parents, are the the biggest drain on health care and social security due to its size, yet when polled the majority don't want to pay to pass on the privileges.

It is true that us GEN-Xrs were born spoiled just like the boomers, but we don't get to be that way anymore, I can not say the same for boomers.

I will even refine that a little and say that Boomers who are still younger than 52 are probably in the same boat as us. However, The first ten years of Boomers are the biggest hypocrites in American history.

How come Boomers love their kids less than their parents loved them?

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Roland Gunslinger 2 years, 7 months ago

"I might also observe that the “Great Society” originated on the Boomers’ watch."

The Great Society was a set of domestic programs in the United States promoted by President Lyndon B. Johnson and the liberal Democrats in Congress in the 1960s.

The United States Census Bureau considers a baby boomer to be someone born during the demographic birth boom between 1946 and 1964.

So unless children and teenagers were the ones voting in our politicians in the the 60's I'd say the "Great Society" originated from the generation before the boomers.

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