Father Knows Best… “Blame the Boomers”

Occasionally, my Father and I have little email exchanges in which we debate some matter of the day. This week’s example actually started a couple weeks ago with a segment I did on my radio show about the 2012 budget (link here) in which I explained how increasing the retirement age was actually not a slight against the elderly, but against the young. Well, that got Dad’s dander up a bit and he wrote the following:

From: Dad
To: Josh

Hey Josh,

I’m working my way back through your Friday shows, and the March 30th show on the Tory budget seems to take a lot of unfair swipes at my generation in particular and the pensions for which we have worked. I have paid into UIC (EI) and CPP all of my working life, which in my case started at 16, and we working stiffs, both represented and unrepresented (from an organized labour standpoint), have planned our retirements around that 30 year investment. Even in the represented groups, of which there are a diminished number now, deferred wages in lieu of a pension plan included the provisions of CPP and OAS to defer costs to employers and make more money available to younger workers should the company go out of business.

But now the Reform-a-Tories change the rules without much thought as to how old farts such as me get back into the work force to augment our OAS losses. I should like to remind those starting out that it was this much maligned group that did their best for their children in the hopes that they would achieve more than we did. Sadly, that seems to be a failing prospect. The problem is with the money-grubbing capitalists and their boot-licking politicians more so than the Boomers.. However, It is handy for the government to pit parent against their children to deflect attention from what they are doing.

You were quite right to advise your generation of voters to get to the ballot box if they want better representation. They will have to wrestle for their power and it will not be an easy struggle.

Ok so much for my morning rant…… I’m am really enjoying your show.

Love you,
Dad

From: Josh
To: Dad

I think you’re a little quick to take umbrage.

Certainly the baby boom generation is the one that helped to create the social state in which we now live and prosper. They are also, quite ironically, the ones who now overwhelmingly vote against that very state. Not only is your cohort the largest single demographic voting block, they’re also voting Conservative in ever-increasing numbers.

If my notes from that show are to be believed, the point I was making was not that the baby boomers either did or did not earn their right to a pension. Certainly, anything paid should be, in due time, repaid. You have paid into a system and should expect a reasonable return. Also, I was certainly not arguing that the baby boomers were responsible for a pension crisis, because I don’t believe there is a pension crisis.

I do, however, believe that the baby boom generation is, as Tom Mulcair said at the start of my segment, leaving less for the next generation than was left for them by their parents; less in terms of economic prosperity, employment diversity, employment opportunity and wage levels. In fact, the leavings for the next generation in their working years are so much less promising than those left to you by the WWII generation, who can even bother to worry about the absence of public pension or OAS we’re like to expect in our older years. And it won’t be gone because it’ll be untenable to maintain the program from an economic standpoint, but rather because it will have been sacrificed on the alter of ideology. And while I know you still hold onto to the collectivist ideal, you are the minority in your cohort.

The point, as I think you took it, is that OAS or CPP won’t be there because the baby boom will have spent all the money and left naught for us. But you’ve misread me. My point is that OAS and CPP won’t be there because the baby boom generation, which currently dominates government, will either kill the programs or hobble them to such an extent that they’ll exist in name only.

And how can they do this? Well, because your cohort votes in larger numbers than mine and in much larger numbers than those behind me. And while it would be political suicide to kill the entitlements of your largest voting block, there’s little harm is screwing over the people who aren’t likely to vote for you anyway.

Weakening entitlements, increasing the retirement age, and incentivizing the baby boom generation to work longer, reduce opportunities for young people. And none of these things can be blamed on a broken system, because the system isn’t broken. The money won’t be gone because, as the Conservatives claim, the money is gone. It’ll be gone because your cohort overwhelmingly voted for a government inclined against state-sponsored social programs.

The baby boom generation is the generation in power. They are the generation that’s moved North American society inexorably to the extreme right. They are the generation that are, for the first time in Canadian history, leaving less than they were given, both in economic prosperity and social programs.

Accepting this, I would caution members of your generation against talking in broad, generic terms about the baby boomers, because when taken generally, they don’t look so great. These capitalists and moneygrubbers and fixers that have ruined our economy…how old are they, exactly? The captains of banking and industry have white hair, as they always have.

It would be far more useful for the members of the baby boom generation who are getting screwed just as hard as us kids to delineate themselves through social strata, rather than generational lines. That you are of the baby boom generation is less relevant than you being a member of the manufacturing class, for example. My being of Generation X/Y (the bridge cohort for people born at the end of the 70’s) is far less relevant than my being a child of the middle class, who was given much, but not nearly as much as some, a fact reflected in my current social standing. Being from an affluent family has always been a leg up, it’s a much longer leg now.

Ironically, when you attempt to defend the baby boom as a generational whole, you are defending the very people you and I equally blame for our troubles. Impossible as it is to believe, our Prime Minister is a Beatles-loving baby boomer; later in the cohort than you, but still solidly within the range. He is, for lack of a better term, the younger brother if the early cohort boomers like you.

I too have been paying into CPP and OAS since my teens, but it’s impossible to ignore that my contributions are rapidly becoming sunk costs; money that I am obligated to spend, regardless of my expectation of return. And it would be disingenuous to argue that my generation has the same expectation of return as yours.

When I’m 69, or whatever the retirement age is when I get there, I won’t care what generation did what to whom when, I’ll just wonder where my 50 years of investment went. By then, it won’t matter who I blame. It’ll be gone all the same. Spent on planes and hunting for diamonds and whatever other bullcrap the Conservatives think up in the next 3 years.

And like it not, these turkeys and Reformatories are your generational brethren. Might be time to disown yourself from the baby boom. They’ve no better to you than they’re being to me.

OK…enough of my response to a rant. I gotta get back to work.

Good chat.

Love you,
Josh

 

 

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