Next Avenue Logo

What to Say When They Blame It On the Boomers

Comebacks for the bashers (aka our kids) pegging us as the "worst generation ever"

By Linda Bernstein

If you believe what you Google, baby boomers are responsible for ruining the American economy (see "Baby Boomers Are What’s Wrong With America’s Economy" by Jim Tankersley in The Washington Post). And not only that, but also for ruining the entire world ("Our Parents Are Ruining the Entire World" by Linette Lopez in Business Insider).


Well, what else would you expect from the worst generation ever ("Baby Boomers: Five Reasons They Are Our Worst Generation" by Gene Marks in Philadelphia magazine)?

This new boomer blame game represents a change in attitudes toward people born after the end of World World II in 1946 up until 1964.

In the 1990s, when sociologists began to realize that soon there would be three generations in the workplace — the boomers, Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980, during an economic lull) and the children of boomers (aka the huge cohort we call Millennials) — much was made about the benefits of the oncoming intermingling. The Millennials liked their parents! The boomers would be willing to learn from young people! We were headed for the best of times!

Then two things happened.

First, came the economic collapse of 2008 when suddenly companies needed to downsize and boomers often found pink slips on their desks.

Second, in April 2016, the size of the Millennial cohort overtook that of the boomers’ — partially because of the influx of immigrants in the younger age group, according to the Pew Research Center.

Now suddenly, boomer bashing is in fashion.

What's a self-respecting boomer to do? Arm yourself with some clever comebacks — and the facts to back them up — for the Millennials who want to blame the woes of the world on you. I mean, really, the “worst generation ever?” Worse than, say, Julius Caesar’s generation? I don't think so.

When They Blame Boomers for Brexit

You can say: “Nope. The 'Remain' campaign underperformed.”

The facts: It’s true that 57 percent of people ages 55 to 64 voted to “leave” the European Union. It’s also true that the “Remain” campaign garnered a significantly lower voter turnout than had been expected, particularly among younger voters. So while Millennial Brits took to the streets accusing their parents of stealing their future, perhaps they should have been asking each other, “Hey, bloke, did you actually vote?”

When They Blame the Boomers for Undermining Our Consumer Economy

You can say: “We call that ‘downsizing.'"

The facts: The foundation of our economy is tied to buying stuff that is manufactured in this country (or overseas). How much consumers spend is considered a sign of economic health. And boomers, who right now account for 18 percent of overall U.S. spending are pumping fewer and fewer bucks into the consumer economy. But, hey, give us a break, many of us are trying to economize and sock away as much as possible before retirement while helping our kids out financially. (There’s also this: When a person reaches the age of 50, realistically, how many new things does he or she need? I find that many of my clothing purchases these days are on items that need to be replaced, like worn out sneakers or panties that slip down my butt as the day wears on. Sure, a cute top or a snazzy new pocketbook may be tempting. My female friends and I already own, however, shelves of pocketbooks and drawers of tops that ... have come back into style!)


When They Say Boomers Will Bankrupt Social Security

You can say: “Vote.”

The facts: Many factors we can’t predict will determine whether the Social Security Trust Funds will be solvent in 2046 and beyond, when today’s Millennials begin retiring. Right now, if nothing is done to reform the way the Trust Funds work, the Social Security Administration expects that benefits will be able to be paid in full until 2037, and after that at 76 percent of the scheduled rates. Naturally, Millennials who are paying for our benefits from their paychecks resent this. The politicians have a variety of fixes that could fatten the trust fund. So Millennials should make sure they understand the implications of the policies proposed and choose the candidates they think can fix the system, because experts agree Social Security can be fixed. And perhaps young people should also start thinking seriously about retirement saving as soon as they become employed.

When They Say Boomers Ruined the Environment

You can say: Boomers are taking the lead to fix it.

The facts: Events that have negatively affected the environment were happening long before the boomers were born. The flames primitive humans used to heat their caves and cook their meat added carbon to the air. The Industrial Revolution, which began in the 1700s, resulted in mass deforestation. The “pea soup” fog of London in the mid-1850s, when a person couldn’t see around him or her in the middle of the day, has been immortalized in the works of Charles Dickens. In 1952, a terrible poisonous smog descended upon London and actually killed people. Fast forward to December 2015, when ministers from 191 nations came to Paris and ratified an agreement to fight climate change. Among those who worked hard for the treaty that would limit greenhouse gas emissions were Laurent Fabius, a politician from France born in 1946, and János Pásztor, a Hungarian ambassador born in 1955.

When They Say Boomers Are Selfish

You can say: Then why are you still living at home?

Th facts: In 2014, 32 percent of Millennials were living with their parents, according to a Pew study. Almost every boomer I know has had an adult child coming home to the nest until the kid could afford to live on his or her own. And almost all the boomer parents I know made significant financial contributions to their kids’ college education. Yes, it’s true that 70 percent of the class of 2014 had a burden of student debt upon graduation (an average of $29,000). However, boomer parents provided as much financial support as we were able — because we know these young adults have it harder in some areas than we did.

This won't solve the blaming, of course, but it may make you feel better. And it's important to remember that blaming the older generation for society's ills is really nothing new. Remember when we used to say “Don’t trust anyone over 30?”

Linda Bernstein has written hundreds of articles for dozens of magazines and newspapers, writes the blog GenerationBsquared and teaches journalism at Long Island University, Brooklyn. Read More
Next Avenue LogoMeeting the needs and unleashing the potential of older Americans through media
©2024 Next AvenuePrivacy PolicyTerms of Use
A nonprofit journalism website produced by:
TPT Logo