Sunday, September 5, 2010

Baby Boom a bust

I come here on Labor Day Weekend 2010 to declare the Baby Boom generation a failure.

I'm part of the failure. In fact, all my life I liked to tell people I was born at the cusp of the wave of the boomers. Born in 1947, the official second year of the boom, I have turned 63 and am still trying to make a success of myself.

Reading the business section of the Denver Post today, pushed me to the conclusion that I am not alone. All my fellow baby boomers have, as Peter Fonda said in "Easy Rider," blown it.

Here's a little inventory of the stories and comment you'll find in the Post that back me up.

"Unions facing tough times," by Steve Raabe tells the story of a decades-long decline in union membership in Colorado and nationally, which coincides with the devastation of the nation's middle class in America.

Most of us baby boomers came from the loins of the blue-collar generation that organized America after World War II, although even that great generation never reached more than a 34 percent share of the workforce as union members.

That means, too, we baby boomers were young witnesses to the worst of union abuses: Jimmy Hoffa, wages paid for work not done, false claims of on-the-job-injuries, and a cycle of wage increases that made the work not worth the price.

So most of us chose the white-collar way, and found ourselves going to work, and teaching our children to go to work, in what is now parodied on TV as "The Office." The idiots are real; the trouble is they are us.

All the while the old wealthy and the new wealthy, the very establishment we rebelled against as hippies, made sure that,along with unions, the entire middle class in America was drained of power and influence, reduced to a status just above poverty line.

But let me continue my inventory.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, offers a piece in favor of a second round of stimulus measures for the economy, arguing that the unemployed and underemployed in America will never get back to work without one.

It's hard for me to even mention the idiocy of the article paired with Weisbrot's, by William F. Shughart II, a senior fellow at The Independent Institute in Oakland,Calif., who argues against a second stimulus package because: "The only sure way to perk up the job market is to cut taxes permanently and rein in public spending and excessive regulation."

Which, by the way, is also the establishment's sure formula to push what's left of the lower middle class below that poverty line, and to ensure future opportunities for the wealthy to become more and more -- even exceedingly -- rich.

But then there is the column by Robert J. Samuelson that provides the real indictment of an entire generation.

Samuelson gets to the failure of baby boomers to provide their children and their children's children a proper education, which was the real route baby boomers took to whatever prosperity they have gained.

Samuelson catalogs the failure of parents and education reformers in America to improve learning for large swaths of U.S. students over the years. "Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don't like school, don't work hard and don't do well."

That's where we blew it. Unfortunately, there's no way to go back and make repairs.

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