The root illness remains undiagnosed, but here it is: the baby boomers, that vast generation of Americans born in the first two decades after World War II. The body politic rests on the slab because boomers put it there, because decades of boomerism produced the problems and disaffection of which 2016 was merely the latest expression.
.. the unusual prevalence of sociopathy in an unusually large generation.
.. How does that disorder manifest? Improvidence is reflected in low levels of savings and high levels of bankruptcy. Deceit shows up as a distaste for facts, a subject on display in everything from Enron’s quarterly reports to daily press briefings. Interpersonal failures and unbridled hostility appeared in unusually high levels of divorce and crime from the 1970s to early 1990s. These problems expressed themselves at generationally unique levels in boomers, to a greater extent than in boomers’ parents or children at comparable ages.
.. They were the first generation to be raised permissively, the first reared on television and subject to its developmental harms, and the only living group raised in an era of seemingly effortless prosperity.
.. By 1994, boomers held a majority of House seats, a proportion that peaked at 79 percent in 2008 and remains a still formidable 69 percent. The rest of government went the same way: Boomers make up 86 percent of governors, about three-quarters of the proposed Cabinet, and much of the judiciary and bureaucracy. Except for youthful Silicon Valley, the private sector also fell into boomer hands decades ago and remains there.
.. Since it was politically untenable to locate blame in obvious places, other explanations were manufactured for the nation’s woes. (Immigrants!)
.. boomers who, despite their hippie reputation, are net Republican.
.. So what if Social Security faces partial insolvency after 2034, or that climate change has scientists and generals fretting for the world circa 2040? By then, the median boomer will be dead.
.. Nor do I assert that all of their co-generationalists are sociopaths. They aren’t. But I don’t shrink from arguing that an unusually large fraction of boomers behaves sociopathically, with the power to realize their agenda.
.. It explains why Reagan lowered taxes on income while raising them on capital gains (when boomers had salaries but not portfolios), why Bill Clinton lowered taxes on houses and stocks (when boomers owned those in quantity), and why Bush II cut taxes with unseemly attention lavished on the “death tax” (just as the boomers’ parents neared expiration)
.. Today’s seniors (boomers) are much wealthier relative to the present young than the seniors of the 1980s were to then-young boomers.
.. All those tax breaks, bailouts, easy money, deregulation, and the bubbles they spawned supported that boomer wealth accumulation while shifting the true costs to the future, to the young.
.. no amount of tax reallocation could keep the government together and goodies flowing, so boomers tolerated astounding debt expansion
.. BOOMERS show no appetite for maintaining the assets their parents accumulated. Public higher education, nearly free for boomers, has become dauntingly expensive. Infrastructure is neither built nor maintained
.. overconsumption, underinvestment, and appetite for risk
.. When problems grow large, boomers resort to deceit, and the huge degradation of truth suggests just how bad things have gotten. Whether it be misrepresentations by Worldcom, Lehman Brothers, Bill Clinton, Newt
.. The dubious draft deferments of the 1960s became the off-balance-sheet obligations of the 1990s, ginned-up weapons of mass destruction of the 2000s, and today’s phantom terrorism in Bowling Green and Sweden. “Alternative facts” are just the most recent consequences of the boomers’ declaration of epistemic bankruptcy.
.. If Trump has given America one gift, it’s a free hand to condemn the generation of which he is the impeachable id.