Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bigoted Boomer Bashing

The editorial in the Financial Times read: “Young, gifted, poor” with the tag line “There has never been such a great time to be 60 years old” followed by this ‘letter’

Dear Mum and Dad,

If you've been reading the papers this week you might have noticed a thought-provoking finding. Apparently, nearly half of all young Brits are now relying on their families for help with scraping together the money for a deposit on a house, up from 10 per cent in 1995. That sounds about right.

To my generation, the property listings are a bit like a celebrity gossip magazine; exciting but utterly unattainable.
When I talk to my friends abroad, they're trying to borrow cash from their parents too. Property prices in Dublin or New York are sky high, and in the US my contemporaries are struggling to pay for health insurance on top of it all. Yet I'm told that US government spending on healthcare is higher, per person, than in the UK. I guess it's expensive to subsidise drugs for seniors.

You'd think that the wealthy baby boomers would be paying high taxes to provide all that healthcare, but a lot of it seems to be funded by issuing debt instead. I wonder who will deal with the repayments.

Anyway, I'm writing to congratulate you on Dad's generous early retirement package. I know he'll be wondering what to do with himself all day, but I'm sure the final salary pension will stretch to a few luxury cruises. The final salary scheme at my employer closed before I was hired, but once I've put together the deposit for a bedsit, I'll try to save for my own pension - if the mortgage repayments allow that.

I wouldn't be so cheeky as to ask you for help with that deposit. I know you're worried about your central heating bill. The special low rate of tax on domestic fuel must help you a bit. It also encourages carbon emissions, warms the planet, and so may lower my own fuel bills in the future. It's a weight off my mind, it really is.


I did want to ask something, though. The old saying is that rather than inheriting the planet from our ancestors, each generation borrows it from their children. If that's true, could I please see some collateral on the loan?

Yours affectionately, Junior

This is typical of ‘”let’s blame all on the Boomers” type of articles that are increasingly popping up in the UK and US. Brent Green recently wrote about it his blog (Boomer Bashing on Steroids).

If you are going to write such an editorial it might be an idea to at least get your facts right! In normal circumstances I would never write about generational norms but what’s good enough for one generation is OK for the others. What follows is Mum & Dad’s response. I appreciate it is written from a UK perspective. I am certain your own national examples could be easily substituted.

Dear Junior

Nice to know that you are back from your second gap year travels. The photos of Sydney and New York looked fantastic, although we are worried to see that you haven’t kicked your binge drinking habit. It would be nice to think that one day we might visit these places, rather than gazing at photos attached to the occasional e-mail asking for another few quid to keep you partying.

Your mum and I were reminiscing about the “gap week” we had between leaving school at sixteen and starting work. It seems strange to think that only 6% of us then went into higher education, unlike 43% of today’s school leavers.

Those were the days - 2 weeks holiday a year and no excuse for not having a job.

That brings me to your sister. Afraid she is still one of the 1.3 million Neets (not in employment, education or training) generation. I can’t understand how she finds it so hard to get a job when none of those lovely young Pole and Czech youngsters appear to have any problems. One bit of good news, she should be starting her drug rehabilitation classes in the next few weeks
I thought your degree in media and origami would have given you a smattering of basic economics. But no, from the mistakes in your letter it looks like you will need to attend one of these remedial classes that employers are forced to provide for their new graduates. Five minutes using Google would have avoided these silly mistakes.

Only 44% of health spending in the US is funded by the government compared to 72% in OECD countries. Where did you get that nonsense about them having to subsidize drugs for seniors?

Our dear Mr Blair has created an extra 900,000 jobs in the public sector, all with nice fat final salary pensions. I know you don’t necessarily want to be an ‘outreach worker’ or a ‘coordinator’s assistant’s assistant’ but there are still plenty of final salary pensionable jobs about if you want one. So not so much snipping about my ‘early retirement package’ – that is corporate speak for redundancy.

Your biggest gripe is about the cost of housing. There you have a point. The affordability of housing today is around the same level as it was back in 1989. You were only were only four so you will not remember what happened next – the property crash. Be patient. What goes up can come down, and normally does!

Don’t be so gloomy. I am sure if you lost some weight, stopped smoking and didn’t drink so much, the world will look a lot better. I am sure your mates’ stag nights in Prague and Barcelona will cheer you up.

I had better get back to writing the umpteenth job application. Not much fun trying to get re-employed when you are 50-plus.

Mum and Dad

I will be returning to this subject. Dick Stroud

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