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Generation Screwed?

In this week’s issue, Newsweek asks: “Are Millennials the Screwed Generation?”

Apparently the answer is a resounding “Yes” and the magazine points to Baby Boomer parents as the culprits for this generational goring: “Boomer America never had it so good. As a result, today’s young Americans have never had it so bad.” That’s certainly an attention-getting headline but is it hype or reality?

The evidence cited: Gen Y, ages 18-30, has been severely impacted by the recession, with record numbers underemployed or unemployed, and Baby Boomers are not on;ly to blame for causing the economic downturn, they have a lock on the job market by refusing to retire. As a result, net earnings for Gen Y fell 37 percent as opposed to those over 65 who “took only a 13 percent hit.”

Thanks to greedy Baby Boomers who insist on entitlement programs, writes Newsweek, Gen Y also faces limited earnings potential over the next few years which means they can’t afford to marry, have children, buy houses, or expect promotions. And on top of that, the piece continues:

The screwed generation also enters adulthood loaded down by a mountain of boomer- and senior-incurred debt—debt that spirals ever more out of control. The public debt constitutes a toxic legacy handed over to offspring who will have to pay it off in at least three ways: through higher taxes, less infrastructure and social spending, and, fatefully, the prospect of painfully slow growth for the foreseeable future.

Given those daunting prospects, Gen Y might as well just stay in bed and pull up the covers!

No doubt that our children face decades of digging the country out of national debt and economic problems. But is it really due to the greed of Baby Boomer parents? The article generated more than 700 comments. While many were a political version of he said, she said (blame Reagan, blame Obama, blame the Democrats, blame the Republicans, etc. etc.), one Baby Boomer mom, “AngelaM,” provided a response that likely resonates with others in her generation:

We’re all screwed. I am a boomer, as is my husband. 65 and 62 respectively and working full time. Here’s what we’ve been told. We are bankrupting our children’s’ future by eating up ‘entitlements’, i. e. Social Security and Medicare. None of which we are enrolled in at this moment. We’ve paid into them since our twenties and have worked all our lives. We’ve put 2 kids through college at tremendous costs to us. We’re not in debt, we’ve always lived within our means. Our 401ks and IRAs that we’ve contributed to all of our lives were decimated in 2008 through no fault of ours. We cannot afford to retire, besides, if we do, we’ll be “Bankrupting our children and grandchildren” by claiming those entitlements. We work because we have to, but of course, we are taking jobs away from the young people who need them. Just what exactly is it we are supposed to be doing? Commit suicide on our 65th birthday? All problems solved.

Pitting one generation against another doesn’t provide any solutions. Rather than tell them they’re screwed, perhaps the message Baby Boomers should convey to our adult children is that with their entrepreneurial drive, technical talents, and positive outlook, they might provide some of the solutions, not just further prolong the problems.

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