Baby boomers: better than pond scum

Article Highlights

  • Assessment of baby boomers dims as they reach retirement years

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  • Walter Russell Mead: "The Boomer Progressive Establishment in particular has been a huge disappointment to itself and to the country."

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  • Walter Russell Mead writes that the baby boomer backlash has already begun

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The baby boom generation was destined to be powerful culturally, economically and politically because of its disproportionate numbers—and because of its own high self-regard. In the late 1960s baby boomers, still plagued by acne, were featured on newsmagazine covers as the most wonderful generation ever; in 1969 Wellesley College valedictorian Hillary Rodham got national news coverage for a vaporous graduation speech which started off with condescending remarks to the outside speaker, Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke, and his G.I. generation.

Now baby boomers are heading into their retirement years and the assessments are no longer so glowing. Baby boomer Walter Russell Mead has a characteristically brilliant essay on his American Interest blog entitled, “Listen Up, Boomers: The Backlash Has Begun.” His conclusion seems to be that boomers are better than pond scum, at least on balance. Here’s an excerpt:

“But at the level of public policy and moral leadership, as a generation we have largely failed.  The Boomer Progressive Establishment in particular has been a huge disappointment to itself and to the country.  The political class slumbered as the entitlement and pension crisis grew to ominous dimensions. Boomer financial leadership was selfish and shortsighted, by and large.  Boomer CEOs accelerated the trend toward unlimited greed among corporate elites, and Boomer members of corporate boards sit by and let it happen.  Boomer academics created a profoundly dysfunctional system that systemically shovels resources upward from students and adjuncts to overpaid administrators and professors who by and large have not, to say the least, done an outstanding job of transmitting the cultural heritage of the past to future generations.  Boomer Hollywood execs created an amoral morass of sludge — and maybe I’m missing something, but nobody spends a lot of time talking about the towering cultural accomplishments of the world historical art geniuses of the Boomer years.”

You (especially Mead’s and my fellow boomers) should read the whole thing. The good news, I’ve been saying for some years now, is that the baby boom generation will die out. The bad news is that I’m going to die at about the same time.

Michael Barone is a resident fellow at AEI

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