Young People Finally Starting to Recognize the Super Rich and Not Oldsters Are the Problem

Lambert and I have inveighed repeatedly against using cute marketing categories (GenX, Millennials, Boomers) in political analysis. Generational cohorts do not have agency. Please identify a GenX party or a Millennial lobby, for starters. But that typology nevertheless proved to be very successful in stoking yet another implementation of the Jay Gould saying, “I can hire on half of the working class to kill the other half.” And as Gould intimated, the rich who were pulling the strings remained as the real threat to the common man.

Nevertheless, the moneyed have successfully stoked generational hatred as a Trojan horse for their own interests. One noteworthy example was billionaire and Soros fund manager Stan Druckenmiller. In the years shortly after the financial crisis (there was a period when unemployment among recent college grads was higher than among high-school-only job seekers), he sponsored presentations on college campuses that presented Boomers (and not other age cohorts) as leaching off the young. His talks focused on Social Security and Medicare, contending that Boomers were getting a great deal and the young would get nothing like that.

That argument was designed to create that reality. Social Security and Medicare are pay as you go programs, despite the convenient fiction of a trust fund and depicting them as insurance. Even so, “fixing” them, even on that basis, requires only some tweaks, one of the most important being raising the ceiling on incomes subject to payroll taxes. Many economists, particularly Dean Baker, have made detailed proposals and proven out the math.

Financiers like Druckenmiller have also been promoting the Social Security remedy of privatizing it. Imagine how much Wall Street would make by getting its greasy mitts on such ginormous assets.

Moreover, consider how we wound up where we are. The shift to financialization actually started in 1976, when real wage gains and productivity gains started diverging. To put it more colloquially, laborers stopped getting their fair share of efficiency improvements, and that only got progressively worse over time. 1976 was too early for Boomers to have had anything to do with that policy shift; even the oldest Boomers were barely seasoned enough to be establishing themselves as politicians or pundits.

Milton Friedman, born 1912, was singlehandedly the most effective promoter of neoliberalism and demonizer of government intervention and safety nets, depicting them both as contrary to “freedom”. Louis Powell, author of the then extreme right wing Powell memo, which set forth a long-term, open ended strategy to roll back the New Deal and make Americans more receptive to business-friendly policies, was born in 1907. Jimmy Carter, the first modern US president to adopt deregulatory policies (for instance, of trucking) was born in 1924. Ronald Reagan, who campaigned on the idea that government was the problem, was born in 1911. Alan Greenspan, who as Fed chair actively promoted a hands-off, bank friendly economic regime, was born in 1926. His regular partner in inequality crimes, Bob Rubin, was born in 1941.

Even our most powerful pols today, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, are not Boomers.

In particular, the shift away from growth and prosperity based on rising wages to based on asset growth and more consumer access to credit as a cover-up for stagnating real wages, really took hold after Volcker decided he’d had enough with raising interest rates to the moon to discipline labor. The resulting fall in interest rates kicked off a very long period of disinflation, which continued through 2007 and set the price for a long asset price boom (admittedly with some hiccups along the way).

Now obviously Boomers of some means benefitted from housing and stock price rises. But were they actually better off than older cohorts, where not just many white collar workers but also union members, had defined benefit pensions? And due to limited rentierism, particularly in housing costs and medical care, those stipends were not shabby in purchasing power terms?

That is not to say that younger cohorts have not suffered in relative terms as the neoliberal con of asset price goosing has started hitting its limits. But the big winners have been the wealthy, as income and asset concentrations in the top 1% and 0.1% exploded in the neoliberal era.

Now to the Financial Times sighting, that the young are finally realizing who their real enemies are.

When millennials first emerged, blinking, into the adult world in the 2010s, they quickly bonded over shared adversity….

It was a grim decade, but at least they had each other, and were united against a common foe in the shape of the wealthy, homeowning baby boomer generation…

as the targets of millennial ire increasingly recede from view, they may soon be replaced by another privileged, property-owning elite much closer to home: millennials who have benefited from family wealth….

In the UK and US alike, the average millennial had accumulated less wealth in real terms by their mid-thirties than the average boomer at the same age. But this aggregate picture obscures what is happening at the top end of the distribution.

In the US, while the average millennial had 30 per cent less wealth than the average boomer by age 35, the richest 10 per cent of the cohort are now about 20 per cent wealthier than their boomer counterparts were at the same age, according to a recent study by researchers in Cambridge, Berlin and Paris. Not all millennials are created equal.

My analysis finds a similar picture in the UK. The average millennial still has zero housing wealth at a point where the average boomer had been building equity in their first home for several years. But the top 10 per cent of thirtysomethings have £300,000 of property wealth to their names, almost triple where the wealthiest boomers were at the same age.

So, while it’s true that in both countries the average young adult today is less well off than the average boomer was three decades ago, that deficit is dwarfed by the gap between rich and poor millennials, which is widening every year…

The fact that some thirtysomethings now own pricey homes in London, New York and San Francisco, despite it taking the average earner 20 to 30 years to save up the required deposit in these cities, gives away the open secret of millennial success: substantial parental assistance.

Research from property broker Redfin in February showed that 36 per cent of young Americans had financial help from family when buying their first home…

Bee Boileau and David Sturrock at the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that more than a third of young UK homeowners received help from family. Even among those getting assistance there are huge disparities, with the most fortunate 10th each receiving £170,000, compared with the average gift of £25,000.

Parental assistance of home buys is one of those key facts out in the open where weirdly few have connected the dots. I have to admit to it not registering with me how many of my friends casually remarked that they’d bought a condo or house for one of their kids, or alternatively, made a stealthy big contribution while the child depicted the equity as all theirs. Even the home I just sold, my mother’s in Alabama, was purchased by a couple who’d sold their house in Charlottesville very well and thus could easily have bought a pricier house (they’d missed out on several bids). Even so, they plan a very big renovation and the wife’s mother, who lives near by, planned to kick in.

This wealth gap is yet another aspect of the collapse in income mobility in the US. It has been true since at least the early 2010s that those born into the bottom 40% of the income distribution have just about no chance of moving out of that bottom group. We are now seeing even more stratification and ossification at the top.

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  1. Neutrino

    Please forgive another marketing category, The Grotesque Generation. That cohort isn’t age-bound, and takes in those of certain mindsets and characteristics, including but not limited to misanthropy and avarice.

    The Dreckenscheissers have plenty of company with the Rockefeller dynasty, starting with John D. and his plans for educating the masses to be compliant workers. Present one way, apply another way. /end rant

  2. Justice3858243u

    This is also background to why there’s so much political polarization and frustration…and surge toward authoritarianism

  3. flora

    An aside: take the birth years cohort known as the Boomers. That says nothing about individuals or ideology aligned sub cohorts and their dreams like the Yuppies and their opposites the Hippies, etc, etc. And that’s before you get to hereditary wealth – vast wealth, and hereditary poverty* – deep poverty.

    Thanks for this post.

    * The ‘American Dream’ of upward mobility is broken. Look at the numbers
    Mark R Rank and Lawrence M Eppard

    1. flora

      adding: This is the first part of a para in Taibbi’s paywalled interview with Chris Hedges. This is Hedges speaking:

      “When you’re poor in America, you don’t get another chance. So I got a scholarship to these horrible boarding schools and was going to school with the Buckleys and the elite, the Mellons and so on. And I watch these mediocrities get — Bush is a classic example — chance after chance, after chance, after chance, after chance. ”

      Interview: Chris Hedges Discusses “Wall Street’s War on Workers”

      1. JohnnyGL

        In that vein, I recall that while in college, I came across Tommy Hilfiger’s nephew. He came across as distinctively dumber than everyone else I met in college. But, I’m sure his family made it worthwhile for the school to accept him.

        1. WG

          I once had a housemate who had a good side job writing college term papers. It wasn’t middle class kids hiring him. Some big last name clients too.

    2. BeliTsari

      We, the peons saw hippies & yuppies as pupae & larvae of white-flight suburbanite folks, who’d gentrified us out of red-lined sacrifice zones; only to smoke dope, miscegenate & appropriate lifestyle, causes, silly-ass affectations like community gardens, CSA & turn food co-ops into Whole Foods, render BMW & audio equipment out of reach upon discovering cocaine & taking that junior partnership at dad’s firm. It had NOTHING to do with age. And ‘Murikas in DENIAL about race, gender, class & POVERTY. We weren’t invited to play hippie. We just sold them sins & knew how to free-base & fix their Audi?

      PS: Gould never thought to SELL half the working class Bushmasters to subjugate & upwardly redistribute OUR half’s labor, homes & equity?

    3. digi_owl

      My impression is that quite a few hippies turned into yuppies once the summer of love ended.

      1. flora

        Ah well, the opportunists (free love) are gonna opportunist (free money). That’s what opportunists do. / heh

        Doesn’t mean the ideas were created by and followed by only opportunists. Of course not. Now, about politicians, I can’t say. / ;)

      2. Henry Moon Pie

        Somebody wrote a pretty good song about that right at the turning point:

        I want to know what became of the changes
        We waited for love to bring.
        Were they only the fitful dreams
        Of some greater awakening?
        I’ve been aware of the time going by.
        They say, in the end, it’s the wink of an eye
        When the morning light comes streaming in
        You’ll get up and do it again, Amen…

        I’m gonna be a happy idiot,
        And struggle for the legal tender,
        Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
        To the heart and the soul of the spender.
        And believe in whatever may lie
        In those things that money can buy.
        Who thought true love could have been a contender?
        Are you there? Say a prayer for the pretender,
        Who started out so young and strong only to surrender.

        The Pretender,” Jackson Browne

        I do believe that “generations” share common experiences even if their responses to those experiences are individual and widely variant. JFK, RFK, MLK, Vietnam, Kent State all shaped us Boomers even though we didn’t agree with each other about their meaning at the time.

        1. seabos84

          a quibble about the generation labels, and why I consider them crap –

          I’m a boomer. In 1968 I was dropping bricks off the back porch onto my tonka trucks and golfing my G.I. Joe action figure and playing flashlight tag when the sun went down, cuz, I was 8.
          I kinda sorta remember the adult angst & churn about LBJ and RFK and MLK and the nightly slaughter on t.v. …
          what does that have to do with an 18 year old Boomer in 1968??? ;)

  4. JonnyJames

    Thank you for covering this. Mass Media Marketing categories – exactly! It is not surprising, yet still frightening how the Mass Media Cartel frame and dictate nearly all public discourse. “When they say ‘jump’ you say…”

    They tell us what to think, what terms and vocabulary to use, and how to think about it. Now it just irritates me and pisses me off whenever I see “boomer’ this gen Z that – mindless nonsense. Reading critical analysis like this makes me feel better, makes me less angry to know that others recognize the dystopia in front of us.

  5. Glen

    I’m a tail end Boomer, and even the Boomers I know are only doing well because 1) they started buying houses (rentals, etc) early in their career, or they inherited houses from their parents. I know many more Boomers that are just hanging in there, some able to “retire” and some having to work til they drop.

    But then I mostly know other engineers (and their kids seem to become mostly engineers), and the blue collar Boomers (the people I worked with on the factory floor). They are finally maybe admitting that their kids will not have it as good as they did. (I’ve been “that idiot” trying to tell them this for a long, long time.)

    1. Wukchumni

      Generation Jones checking in…

      We barely Boomers came of driving age only to endure a couple of gas crisis epochs, and watched ‘That 70’s Inflation’ play out~

      None of us went to Woodstock or hung out @ Haight-Ashbury.

  6. David in Friday Harbor

    You simply need to look at how the average age of the unhoused population has crept up from 30 in 1990 to over 50 today. Something like 40 percent of the unhoused are between 50 and 62. They can’t access either Social Security or Medicare. Generational warfare is a false narrative designed to protect the wealthy.

    1. aj

      I really despise the word “unhoused.” Even worse is “person experiencing homelessness.” So many weasel words stripped of emotional meaning. Unhoused makes it sound like less of an issue.

    2. Ranger Rick

      Yeah, the animus against the old was primarily driven by a sense that they were rich. From the perspective of a young adult, someone who owns property and a vehicle are wealthy beyond compare.

      Then when you actually reach that milestone yourself, and realize just how wrong you were (the very concept of “house poor” comes with a free shattered dream), the elderly become fellow victims rather than ruthless got-mine oppressors. Then, as the years pass, you get to personally witness the tragedy that is retirement in the United States for many, many people. Those smug rich old people are instead depressed nervous wrecks, wondering how they’re going to survive another year as costs spiral out of control.

      1. flora

        Where did that bromide offered to college kids back in the day, that bromide “Don’t trust anyone over 30” come from. Back then the over-30’s would have been the men and women in the work force who fought for unions and good wages and safe working conditions. Don’t trust anyone who fought for those good things for the working class? Trying to saddle the workers, all the employees, with the sins of the elites in foreign wars and domestic problems. Where did that bromide, that cliche come from I wonder…? I have some ideas. / ;)

  7. i just don't like the gravy

    Yes the rich are the “problem” but the boomer mindset is also a problem. Nate Hagen touches upon this in various ways, but essentially we need a consciousness shift to have any hope of solving these problems.

    Although boomers by and large aren’t the mega rich destroying the planet, their mental models of the world are definitely a major impediment to progress.

    Also, I don’t blame young people for hating the old. The boomers were born into the biggest material wealth explosion that humanity will ever see, and they squandered it on trifles. That is worthy of derision.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I do not buy your assertion that there is a “boomer mindset”. There is a PMC mindset. There are boomers who are rich and boomers who are living in cars or on the street. There are boomers who are environmental activists and boomers who work for Big Oil doing PR. To assert a common mindset among a group this large is logically fallacious.

      1. Phenix

        I am an older millennial. I agree that birth cohorts do not have ideological coherence BUT boomers have lived the longest with constant propaganda pretending to be the news. Boomers are most likely to watch Corporate Media and are therefore most likely to protect corporate interests with out realizing they support a system that systemically impoverishes everyone.

        I also use the term boomer to refer to leaders. Boomers and the “greatest generation” have led this country/empire since I’m going to say Carter. They destroyed the largest empire in human history in one human life span. It is an accomplishment.

        1. i just dont like the gravy

          You basically nailed the boomer oopsie with your second paragraph. For Yves’ benefit the boomer mindset I refer to is largely that one. Regardless of one’s material circumstances, many from that age cohort in the United States were all indoctrinated with the same cultural mythos utilizing the same symbols, language, etc.

          The irony is that it is essentially the forerunner of the PMC mindset Yves describes. These are all psychic tumors caused by capitalism. They are excised by way of Cultural Revolutions, not tawdry class consciousness.

          1. flora

            I think you mistake the advertising and MSM outputs of an era for the polity of the era, mistake the map for the terrain, as they say. / ;)

            1. skippy

              flora this was a meme trotted out by all the old corporatism ideological think tanks back in the day like Cato and Heritage in an ageist agenda to liquidate the middle class that FDR polices enabled.

              Just another ploy like the Koch’s in advancing an ideological agenda via getting into youths heads before they have a chance at gaining broad knowledge or life expedience. The very idea that some elites had no dramas in indoctrinating kids to forward their notion of natural order[tm] and by dint of it advance humanity is so messed up it hard to have faith in our survival whilst they are driving agendas.

        2. upstater

          It was, is and will be about class and the ownership of the means of production. It has ZERO to do with generations. Who controls the media and tech? It is not generational, but is class.

        3. flora

          Phenix, I appreciate your statement:
          “I also use the term boomer to refer to leaders.”
          Indeed. Thank you for stating your priors. And I understand them completely. Back in the day we’d call this pushing back against “the establishment.”

          However, I do have one quibble… (You knew I’d have a quibble. / ;) … with this your comment:

          “BUT boomers have lived the longest with constant propaganda pretending to be the news.”

          I do not think this is true. The question is what generation’s life span has lived longest under officially sanctioned propaganda, imo. And what was/is that propaganda designed to steer the polity toward? It was O who kneecapped the Smith-Mundt Act against domestic US propaganda by print and over the airwaves. It’s my belief that it’s the Millennials and younger generation cohorts who have lived the majority of their adult lives under formerly prevented propaganda pretending to be the news. / imo.

          Could a new Church Commission even take place now? If it did take place, would it be reported on fairly in the MSM, what with so many spooks like Brennan now acting as acknowledged “advisors” to the MSM?

          1. Grebo

            Smith-Mundt only disallowed government propaganda to be used domestically. The corporate propaganda scarcely differed from it. News has always been superficial and slanted, even when there were ‘balance’ laws and ownership regulations. Now there aren’t, and things are even worse, but not that much.

            Back in the day there was no alternative media so we had no way to know how much we were being lied to and gaslighted. When all the outlets said the same thing we assumed it must be because it was true. Now we assume the narrative engines are being revved up again.

        4. skippy

          Amends in advance Phenix …

          #1. Boomers or better yet everything post the whole Marketing[tm] terminology and framework that is generational studies or it ilk is pure concocted out of whole cloth ideological grooming.

          How a pre and post – marketing study – in a hope to define “consumer choices” via a decade age cohort on some plucked from the air date and then trot it out as some sort of social science is just absurd. MSM then breaths life into it just like it has forwarded TDS for fun and profit without any social conscious and increasing team sports like fixations.

          Better yet is the framing that the Boomers stole everything from younger cohorts, when they were just the hapless recipients of the first mover advantage that was the result of FDR policies until neoliberalism became dominate in the mid 70s. Everyone born after that date is just the victim of said Ideology and not of any other age cohort.

          But its convenient for Capital to blame those without agency in setting up neoliberalism and fob it off to the original cohorts that got the sticky candy to reduce everyone to hyper individualism and I got mine suck dirt everyone else market place survival of the fittest mind set.

          Here you go … read the comments mate …

          Attorney General Andrew Bailey
          See you in court.
          President Biden
          Today, my Administration is canceling student debt for 277,000 more people – bringing the total number of Americans who have been approved for debt relief so far under my Administration to 4.3 million through various actions.

          I will never stop working to cancel student debt.

          Square this with what Hudson talks about …

        5. Paul Art

          Very succinctly put. All this discussion makes me wonder, have we become the usual “Left Circular Firing Squad” again? Squabbling over fine differences? Isn’t a generation known by its leaders? Like that “The Greatest Generation”.

        6. spud

          the youth of america voted in obama, not once, but twice. the youth of america voted in the most progressive president since FDR, biden.

          so if i wanted to talk mean, i would say how stupid is the youth of america.

          but in reality i know that if advertising, lying and propaganda never works, no one would ever use them.

          the youth appear to be wising up to the advertising, lying, and propaganda.

          boomers were and to some degree the recipients of the new deal, fair deal, the great society. we got lucky.

          the advertising, lying and propaganda against boomers, simply will not help the standard of living of the youth in america.

          and its about time they took off the blinders.
          it was not the boomers that dismantled the new deal.

    2. flora

      What, pray tell, is the boomer mindset of a back-to-the-land hippie? What is the boomer mindset of a social climbing yuppie? What is the boomer mindset of a working class drafted Vietnam war vet? What is the boomer mindset of boomer civil rights marchers and activists?

    3. Jeff in Upstate NY

      What is the “mental mindset” to which you refer ? What are “their mental models of the world”? “The biggest material wealth explosion that humanity will ever see” ?

      None of this registers with me, born in 1946. I began working when I was 16 y/o. I paid for more than half of my college education and can thank my time in the US army for most of the balance. Many of my peers were in a similar boat. No one gave us anything, especially a job following matriculation from grad school in 1972. Lots of competition for a relatively few positions. Mortgage rate on our first home was 8.5%. I wasn’t able to refinance to a lower rate until 18 years after purchasing it. Oh, and I continued working, for myself, until I retired at age 75. Nothing was easy.

      I find your generalizations disingenuous.

      1. Paul Art

        The tuition rate you paid for your college and grad school are a pittance compared to what they charge these days. Did you vote for Reagan by any chance?

      2. CarlH

        If there is a “boomer mindset”, you encapsulated it perfectly in your second paragraph.

        1. Uncle Doug

          If there is a mindset lost in the myth of a guilty monolithic generation . . . it only took you a single sentence.

        2. Paris

          Yes, the perfect boomer mindset. “Look at me, how perfect I am and how useless all of you are, we built everything.” 2/3 of the wealth of this country are in boomers hands and they have the chutzpah to say oh no, the problem ain’t us…

      3. steppenwolf fetchit

        What did your college education cost? If the college(s) you went to still exist, what would an education at that(those) colleges cost today?

  8. Rip Van Winkle

    So when Occupy Wall St. and lesser extent Tea Party (non-Astroturf version) were in full-bloom, that’s when the “racism” strategy was rolled out. Divide and conquer by the Uni-party. A tale as old as time – ask any old Roman or Brit.

    I am a bit tech challenged, but isn’t there a tool on Google where one can track the history timeline and frequency of certain terms and phrases, such as “racism” as they appear in the written mainstream media?

    1. JonnyJames

      Good point: Divide, and distract – that’s the job of the mass media. And the hypocrisy is staggering: the folks who use the emotionally-manipulative methods like superficial identity politics, are the same (mostly white of course) people advocating for more war in Ukraine, more support for Israel and genocide, more bombing, sanctions and more fearmongering hysteria.

  9. Dan

    Rich old millennial here. You know what my secret was? Parents paying for college. I didn’t get assistance with homebuying, but graduating college debt free was an enormous leg up on peers who graduated with substantial student debt, even those who are out earning me. People would be remiss to overlook that leg up.

    1. britzklieg

      Similar circumstance. My dad was a college professor and I attended that school tuition free. Then again, that was before Ivy League tuition kicked in everywhere. Also, the loan I took out for my Masters degree was $3000 and covered everything with enough left over to go a long way to paying the rent.

    2. Angie Neer

      Same here. It took me a while to understand what a huge head start I had. Another major factor, which is also a matter of luck, was graduating from college with a stable romantic partner to whom I’m still married 40 years later. (My wife did graduate with some student debt, but not the insane amounts that I read about these days.) I’m grateful my two kids are also starting out their independent lives with partners (good, sensible people in their own right) to share the challenges.

    3. Terry Flynn

      My response is similar to Yves’s. I had a good millennial friend in Sydney. He got (via the social norms of his cultural background) a huge financial leg up when it came to education and “buying into the houses and holes mentality” that underpins modern Australia.

      He is socially “progressive” but has firmly supported the Liberal-National coalition in Aussie elections. He is a rentier. I never confronted him about that but upon a recent email “change and opportunity for anyone to cut ties with me”…. He did.

      I’m quite sad at this. However if you think you deserve a living by being a rentier then I’m with Adam Smith.

    4. ian

      Evil boomer here. I agree with you completely. The best thing my parents did for me and my sisters was to pay for college and leave us with no student loans. My wife and I lived within our means and saved to enable us to to the same thing for our kids, who are both now in college. I don’t feel like I have anything to apologize for personally.

    5. Lena

      Late boomer here. Born into poverty. Had no help from anyone to pay for college. Worked my way through (Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude). Never really made it into the middle class because of family responsibilities I refused to turn my back on. A lot of boomers were poor and are still poor. The myth that all of us had everything handed to us on a silver platter is just that, a myth.

      1. CarlH

        ” Had no help from anyone to pay for college. Worked my way through (Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude).”

        This is no longer even remotely possible. The fact that “boomers” keep bringing examples like this up as a point of pride is part of the reason younger people think this is a “boomer mindset” and resent it.

        1. Lena

          It took me seven years to earn my bachelor’s degree. I worked very hard in both my classes and at my minimum wage jobs. I also helped to support a disabled family member. I am proud of my accomplishments. I make no apologies to anyone.

          1. CarlH

            My point stands regarding college and working your way through it though. What you accomplished is no longer possible, so it irks the younger generations to hear this kind of story without the acknowledgment that that ladder was pulled up for us long ago. Sometimes when people tell these stories, they do it in such a way that implies that younger generations aren’t hard working or scrappy enough to accomplish what the storyteller did. You did not do this in your comment though, which is why I felt bad for the aggressiveness of my initial response.

            1. Glen

              Most of us posting here mention it BECAUSE we know it is no longer possible. The MSM will never report about stuff like this. We want to make sure all the younger people know that state colleges and universities were supposed to be free, and in my case were extremely inexpensive until Ronald Reagan came along.

              I’ve already apologized to my kids about our current mess, and will do the same to you. I apologize. I did very little to create it, and have been trying for a LONG time make Americans realize how we’re getting screwed.

              But I am not a rich boomer, I tried to do everything right, be responsible, live small, within our means. We watched corporations and rich people [family blog] up and get bailed out by the government over, and over, and over. I’m expecting to see it happen again in CRE.

              1. CarlH

                You make a great point. I did not have the people of NC’s comments section in mind. But people my age and younger have heard a version of “Stop whining. I worked my way through such and such and bought a home because I was resourceful, hard working, and generally scrappy. Why can’t/aren’t you?” This is, I believe, why the “Okay, boomer” meme went so viral. I acknowledge that the vast majority of all generations have been victims of this system and agree with the premise of the article. I am struggling to get my thoughts across today and hope I haven’t caused offense to anyone.

        2. CarlH

          I didn’t mean for this to come out sounding so strident. I apologize for the aggressiveness of my comment and would like to point out that I have loved reading your contributions here lately, Lena.

    6. Rip Van Winkle

      I remember in the days when I would take a stagecoach (slight exaggeration) to the job interview, it was encouraged that if one worked to pay for college then by all means mention that in the interview and note the part-time and summer jobs on the beginner resume, even if it only involved pizzas or road crew work. Is that somehow verboten in HR World to discuss now ?

      1. Lena

        It didn’t help me to tell job interviewers that I worked my way through college. My good grades and Phi Beta Kappa membership didn’t help either. I saw kids with lower grades and no work experience getting the well paying jobs because their parents “knew someone”. It was all about “connections” and I didn’t have those.

        1. Lena

          I remember some of my college classmates got new cars as graduation gifts from their parents. One classmate had a father who bought her a house for graduation. Another classmate had a father who bought her a franchise. She got to chose what franchise she wanted. I thought who are these people?!? I got a few graduation cards. There was definitely a lot of income inequality in the boomer generation.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Here in Oz, my wife and I have noted how some of the cars parked at the local high school are really expensive, modern ones. And they are not parked at the teacher’s parking lot either nor are they visitor’s cars.

          2. undercurrent

            I remember a Christmas in the early sixties when I was about eleven years old. My mother bought me a second-hand Schwann bike for $25, and later told me she had taken $10 dollars from my savings to help buy it. Never bothered me because that was how we had to live. Something in my DNA never made me pine to be rich, but to take comfort in trying to live a life where someone doesn’t have to screw someone else to get ahead. That came from my dad.

        2. digi_owl

          And this rarely make into into corruption statistics, because it is not notes in envelopes.

          I wonder if it was around 2011 i read something about back channels between companies etc via spouses that shared various board rooms.

          So you have A that sit on a board with B who is married to C who sites on a board with D. Now if A wants to collude with D, they can pass messages via B and C on the quiet.

    7. jhallc

      I’m in the same boat. My parents covered my undergrad college cost and I got a teaching fellowship for my grad degree. I was able to give both my millennial daughters the same advantage. My son in law is a first generation of Dominican parents who moved here 35 years ago. He put himself through college and has paid off the loans he took out to do so. It can still be done but the first rung of the ladder is a lot higher these days.

    8. flora

      Indeed. My parent were able to put us kids through college leaving us debt free upon graduation, provided we worked summer jobs to help cover costs, because they -my parents being children in Great Depression era knew the importance of starting life debt free. They knew the dangers of too much debt. And back then public college tuition didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Back then the the govt agreed that education was a good investment for the country’s future and so supported and subsidize public colleges costs.

      How different my life would have been if I’d graduated with a huge debt burden.

      1. flora

        adding: It only these many, many decades later I realize how much my parents sacrificed to insure their kids would graduate with at BA or BS degree without debt. We kids had to to work full-time in summer and part-time during school year to cover the college costs, per my parents demands. I didn’t understand then my parents’ push and worry for their children’s future. Which I now understand as Who knew when the next Depression would happen?

        We are too soon old and too late smart.

      2. CA

        My parent were able to put us kids through college leaving us debt free upon graduation, provided we worked summer jobs to help cover costs, because they -my parents being children in Great Depression era knew the importance of starting life debt free. They knew the dangers of too much debt. And back then public college tuition didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Back then the the govt agreed that education was a good investment for the country’s future and so supported and subsidize public colleges costs.

        [ Perfect; I am so pleased. ]

  10. Susan the other

    Most of us boomers just caught the population wave we are named after. The vanguard, those of us at the crest, had all the momentum of a twenty year population explosion pushing us up. Those same years gave labor a fair deal until, my guess, the dollar was burdened with maintaining profitable international relations at the end of the old colonial empires. Hence mistakes like the Vietnam war which served only, imo, to keep France and the UK prosperous enough to pay off their war debt to us. Which looks more and more like extortion on our part. We had the wrong constitution for colonialism, but wrong friends for our constitution. So we backed the dollar at every turn, keeping it strong. It sent the boomers off to the ranks of millionaires and future generations to drug addiction and living on the street. And the very rich became more and more protective of their “wealth.” That became a trap we could not exit until now. If we had good sense we would welcome this opportunity to join up with the rest of the world to achieve peace and prosperity. But look at those latent idiots, Macron and Cameron. It was nice to hear that Mike Johnson snubbed Cameron. But who knows what will happen next?

    1. Joe Well

      Akshually, the biggest beneficiaries of the postwar boom were the people who started their careers just after the war ended, so roughly those born in the 20s or 30s. The decline was already underway by the time that someone born in 1960 entered the job market and those born before would have limited chances to enjoy it. Housing prices in many markets first spiked in the 1970s.

      1. Susan the other

        I remember my mother going apoplectic when the national debt hit its first trillion, circa 1972. I thought she was going to have a heart attack before I could get her to the bank to withdraw her cash so she could buy gold. Her gold investments never panned out like she thought, they kinda fluctuated and eased off as the economy remained stable – no Great Depression. My parents were card carrying members of the lost generation. Born in time to understand the First World War and lived through the depression and WW2. but they never trusted circumstances. Who would? And they had died by the time I had my great awakening in 2008. Life is very sobering but I always remind myself that “there’s a reason for that.”

      2. Heraclitus

        To Joe Well: my experience as an early ’90s Ivy MBA graduate bears out what you say. The Class of 1968 had 6-8 job offers apiece. In my class we were lucky if we had one. The time in between jobs was also long.

      3. WG

        As one who went to college in the 1980s, we were the screwed ones in the Reagan economy as the fortunate Boomers were hitting their 40s and appreciating the establishment for the first time. That is the point where that generation got its bad name.

    2. steppenwolf fetchit

      ” It sent the boomers off to the ranks of millionaires” . . . ” The” boomers? How many boomers? What percent of “the” boomers?

      1. Susan the other

        My reference is more to the appreciation or devaluation of the dollar, whichever way you say it. The dollar and its bff – real estate.

  11. Bugs

    I’m sorry but I’ve never identified with an age group. To me there are no boomers, millennials, Gen x, etc. There are the rich, their running dogs, the working class and the poor. There are the powerful and the powerless. The powerful use the old trick of dividing the powerless by artificial categories to create resentment and infighting, and prevent class consciousness from creating solidarity. Call me a Marxist if you like.

    1. digi_owl

      It gets even funnier when one is not USian, as then often what is supposed to define one label gets time shifted into the early years of another. This thanks to the cultural export lag of before the net.

      1. digi_owl

        One may well say it is something innate in our ape brains.

        Get a group of adults drunk enough, and our behavior do take on that of a nature documentary from the African jungle…

        1. flora

          ‘The will to power.’ you mean? And of course the will to power is always there in each of us.
          But even in the African jungle there is another thing more important innate in our ape brains, imo: the drive/need for communal group and communal well being. / imo

          It is the negotiation of these separate drives that create a society.

  12. Joe Well

    The biggest issue with age is that no matter what one’s economic interests, the older Americans are, the more likey they are to subscribe to a world view formed by TV news and the MSM in general.

    We saw this over and over again with the Bernie Sanders campaign.

    If voting and elected office stopped at age 30, 40, 50, 50, 60 or even 70, the US would be a different and much better place.

    And then our overlords can stoke this division and make it worse and try to capitalize on it for things like Social Security privatization.

  13. digi_owl

    increasingly “boomer” is becoming a online catchall for anyone out of high school and not up to speed on the latest social media drama.

  14. SocalJimObjects

    Somehow I read this as “young people starting to recognize that they are not rich and that’s a problem”. Human greed is universal and cuts across meaningless labels, so once “Millennials” get to the top and have had a taste of the good life, they will also seek ways to entrench their position. Also, the mirror side of upside mobility is downward mobility, which a lot of people seemingly love to ignore. Resources are finite, and there are only so many slots at every level, so there’s no such thing as unlimited upward mobility.

    1. CanCyn

      Agreed SJO. Until we all stop wanting less the world is ‘family blog’ed. I have a friend who comes from a lower middle class family (father was a steel worker, Mom stayed home). She has 6 siblings (born mid/50s to early 60s). Except for one who became a priest, she and her sibs are all well to do professionals. Parental help, affordable student loans, and summer jobs got them all through university with little to no post grad debt. To their credit there were no family connections to help establish themselves in their careers, they are all extraordinarily smart cookies. They have all set their kids up to succeed, help with school, help buying homes. None of them see the huge wealth inequality that exists as anything other than people without just not working hard enough. My friend’s son is married to a woman who is not interested in the rat race, dabbles in acting and improv. It terrorizes my friend who can’t understand when her daughter-in-law will join the working world and start earning ‘real’ money. This in spite of the fact that her son earns more than enough to keep them both comfortable. Her other son has a huge mortgage, affordable only if son and his wife both keep their high paying jobs, no thought of the stress this might cause. She sees this all as normal and can’t imagine that there is life other than working to earn money to travel, have a big house, set up their kids in the same lifestyle and afford a luxurious retirement. No recognition of the fact that this lifestyle is only sustainable by exploitation of others and the earth.

  15. digi_owl

    Interesting the mention of the divergent between wages and profits in 1976.

    On a lark i went looking into the history of stock options, and apparently the Chicago Board of Trade opened their Options Exchange in 1973. This then offering a standardized product rather than the ad-hoc agreements that had gone before.

    Then again, 1976 is apparently also when the various international implementation of the BankAmericard was unified into Visa.

    1. Wukchumni

      It might seem an odd turning point, but we were supposed to be all metric in the USA by the Bicentennial, or so was the claim.

      We couldn’t even pull it off~

      1. The Rev Kev

        Well there is also the US Semiquincentennial. Hmm, no. That is in only two years so not enough time. Making a bet here. Whichever party is in power then will make the celebrations all about them.

  16. The Rev Kev

    I think that there is a serious error in this post. Where it says-

    ‘Financiers like Druckenmiller have also been promoting the Social Security remedy of privatizing it. Imagine how much Wall Street would make by getting its greasy mitts on such ginormous assets.’

    I think that was actually meant was this-

    ‘Financiers like Druckenmiller have also been promoting the Social Security remedy of privatizing it. Imagine how much Wall Street would lose by getting its greasy mitts on such ginormous assets.’

    Wall Street is a rigged casino game at the best of times so is not the place where you want the social security of a nation kept. How would they use that money? Maybe by betting on AI investments? Or maybe even the next thing. But they would be nickle and diming it every step of the way for fees and commissions for their services, no matter how much of it they would lose. It is their nature.

    1. flora

      Heh. Except Druckenmiller seems less like a financier himself than like a financier’s well paid stalking horse. / ;)

      1. digi_owl

        That is why the PMC seems to take on much the same nature as the retinue/affinity of bastard feudalism.

    2. digi_owl

      “getting its greasy mitts on such ginormous assets”

      Not sure i want to admit what my mind conjured reading that bit of text…

  17. Paul Art

    I wonder if its the case of the Boomers being strong and regular voters and also being brainwashed by Cable and MSM that is creating the ‘correlation is not causation’ effect. But this begs the question – ‘then what about the millennials who put Obama in the WH twice?’. Maybe the media they consumed even though it was from Smartphones was still propaganda? What is needed is a very strong leader who tells the masses how they are being manipulated by the media. OMG, isn’t that what Trump has been doing?

  18. Carolinian

    Late to the party on this but I feel compelled to state my as always humble opinion that of course generational analysis is perfectly valid as cultural commentary. Generations have shared experiences that other generations don’t and so the notion that boomers may see some things differently than their successors is not some Soros conspiracy. Arguably it’s the whole reason why history is cyclical and the “one funeral at a time” view of social change carries weight.

    Meanwhile biologically we are all much alike but those of us who advocate that view believe that behavior is also learned and that too is part of a natural model. I don’t think putting all this in strictly economic terms is very helpful because money is just an abstraction.

    Of course arbitrary divisions of generations–born during WW2 or just after–don’t mean a lot. But in broad strokes it is a valid way of looking at things because our social circumstances are constantly changing and those, along with biology, shape who we are.

  19. Butch

    I don’t do well indoors very long, so never used my college/ grad school education for employment very long. As a 64 year old carpenter, a tail end boomer, I damn sure would not have a home mortgage if not for the GI Bill.

  20. Phichibe

    Excellent analysis. The idea that WS privatization would benefit people ignores the increased beta. A few would be better off. Most would be worse off. And WS would be best off of all.

  21. Sadie the Cat

    Generational hatred, along with racial hatred, are cooked up by the ruling class to ensure we are at each others’ throats, not theirs. It has worked so far.

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