I’ve mentioned before that I am a big fan of Bill Maher, and his “New Rules” segment on Real Time. Comedians, of course, even more than other artists, tend to have a knack for bringing uncomfortable truths to our attention, in a way that we can process. Unfortunately, this time, what began as an excellent finale to the segment devolved into a bunch of dick jokes with little to no insight.
But the beginning of this particular New Rule made me think.
As Maher put it, “In the battle for government giveaways, we have to stop thinking in terms of rich versus poor, or black versus white, and admit it’s really a war between the young and the old. And the old are winning.”
Maher highlighted that federal spending is roughly $3,822 per child, and $25,455 per senior citizen (a difference of $21,633).
Then he began the dick jokes. And that’s ok, because Bill Maher is a comedian. It’s his job to tell dick jokes, and he’s really good at it.
That said, I think it would have been nice if some other issues had been brought up. Like, for instance, the fact that college tuition rates have increased over 1000% since I was born, while at the same time, earning potential has become more dependent on acquiring an advanced degree than ever before.
Medical expenses have also risen over 600%, and food is up over 240%.
And from January of 1975 to January 2005, housing costs increased a stunning 700%, from $39,500 to $283,000.
And all this time, the median household income has remained flat since 1965.
And all we hear is that it’s imperative we all go to college, so we can remain a competitive workforce with the rest of the world.
This brings me to another point in the Real Time episode, when Maher and author P.J. O’Rourke wax nostalgic about their Boomer youth, and make the claim that, though their generation is often called spoiled, they were far less spoiled than generations after.
Why were they less spoiled? Apparently it’s because corporal punishment was more acceptable then and kids have more sophisticated entertainment available to them now.
But fewer spankings and more television channels does nothing to account for the fact that, as a generation, the Boomers had more advantages and opportunities than any other generation in history, before or since. And, as is evidenced by the massive discrepancy in federal resources devoted to the young versus the old, that same Boomer generation is still reaping the lion’s share of benefits from our civilization. And the programs that Boomers use most, Social Security and Medicare, are the only ones no one is willing to cut, while anything that helps out the under-50 crowd is immediately on the chopping block, because those same Boomers don’t want their taxes to be used for anyone but themselves.
Maher says “…let’s not kid ourselves where our tax dollar goes. It goes to Grandma, because she votes, and young people don’t.”
What he leaves out, of course, is that people over 55 constitute about a third of all voters, and they vote more regularly because they can. “They have the time to participate in politics… Most of them are retired, largely thanks to Social Security, and they have the disposable income to make campaign contributions…”
It’s a lot easier to get out and vote when someone else is paying your bills, and you don’t have to put in a twelve hour shift on election day.
Seniors vote at higher rates because they have the ability, and the people they are voting to screw are the ones giving them that ability.
Here’s what it comes down to, though. My partner and I were discussing plans for the future this weekend. Because we have children, and because both of us have found ourselves remarkably disadvantaged by the utterly ridiculous cost of college (and therefore the cost of opportunity), we have decided our priority is that none of our children will face this roadblock. We will live meagerly our whole lives if necessary. We will, if need be when those children are grown, take to a tiny one-room studio, and pour our combined income into making sure our children do not have to pay a thousand percent more, just for the opportunity to earn the same lifestyle that their grandparents had.
We will not sacrifice our children, in other words, for our own benefit.
Because that’s what the Boomers did. That’s what they continue to do.
If you are a Boomer, know that your generation had every possible advantage. You came of age when wages were the highest (in adjusted dollars) they have ever been. Food, housing, everything was far less expensive then than it is now, or was before you. College, the engine by which so many chose to improve themselves, was damn near free, by comparison. Your parents’ generation sacrificed everything to make sure you had these opportunities. It was their gift to you, so that you would never have to know the difficulties they knew.
You took these gifts, enjoyed them, grew fat from them, then turned around and demanded that every generation after did the same, for you.
For you and only for you.
I’m not going to go as far as former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm, and claim that you have a “Duty to Die,” but I will say this:
You will be gone, one day. You can’t suck enough life from the rest of us to stick around forever. One day, your stranglehold over America’s electoral system will be gone, and perhaps those of us who came after you will finally have a chance to benefit all of us, instead of just you.
I do not wish you ill, and I do not wish you pain. I just wish you would think of someone other than yourselves, or, barring that, at least get out of the way.
We will be better off without you.
*As always when speaking in broad generalities, I add this caveat: If this post, and my comments on the Boomer generation don’t apply to you, then they don’t apply to you You know who you are.*