The title is shocking but unfortunately shockingly accurate. A small percentage of boomers got many boomers to support policies that screwed themselves and the future generations. And this is no accident.
An article by Paul Buchheit titled “The Taking of Millennial Wealth by Rich White Boomers” lays it out very well as he lays out the absolute numbers. You cannot spin this stuff.
Ten years after the recession, most Americans, including Baby Boomers, are still struggling with finances. The Wall Street Journal, cheerleader for capitalist-driven recoveries, noted that Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Boomers are all still poorer than in 2007. But the incredible prosperity of about 10% of the Boomers is beyond dispute, as the numbers below will show. Most of those lucky people are older white males.
In the past eight years, the 1% gained $6.75 million each, the 2-10% gained $700,000 each, and the poorest 50% of American adults LOST an average of $3,000 each. The bottom 50%, which includes most of the indebted Millennials, saw their average net worth fall to about $8,000. That’s the average wealth of people in many developing nations. Part of the reason is the refusal by employers to pay a living wage. The wages of America’s poorest 50% have remained stagnant since the recession, continuing a 40 year trend.
He continues with a statistic that illustrates another form of generational theft.
Despite being better educated, Millennials are earning 20% less than Baby Boomers at the same age, in good part because “full employment” includes gig jobs that pay little more than half the wages of fulltime employees. In 2007 over 50 percent of college seniors had job offers waiting for them at graduation; ten years later fewer than 20 percent did. Planning for the future is generally out of the question. Two-thirds of 21- to 32-year-old Millennials have NOTHING saved for retirement.
As a result of all this hardship, more 25- to 29-year-olds live with their parents or grandparents than at any time in the past 75 years.
Writer Steven Brill describes the cunning ways of the well-positioned Boomers: “Ingenious financial and legal engineering turned our economy from an engine of long-term growth and shared prosperity into a casino with only a few big winners…They created exotic, and risky, financial instruments [that] separated those taking the risk from those who would bear the consequences…They were able to consolidate their winnings, outsmart and co-opt the forces that might have reined them in…The result is a new, divided America. On one side are the protected few – the winners – who don’t need government for much and even have a stake in sabotaging the government’s responsibility to all of its citizens…On the other side are the unprotected many.”
The richest individuals and corporations have benefited from 75 years of public funding for the technologies that are now replacing working people with robots. Amazon depends mightily on our infrastructure; Apple on our phone innovations; Google on our Internet. All the ‘modern’ apps have their foundations in the basic research that is still largely funded by our tax dollars.
This economic aberration is the reality the most boomers and subsequent generations are living with now. Unfortunately for many boomers, it was a result of willful ignorance that traded, marginally lower taxes at the expense of future economic prosperity for all.
It is clear that the generational theft cannot continue. In fact, the 10% of Boomers’ excessive wealth should be recovered and reinvested where it should have been in the first place.
Kathleen McKee says
The key word is “rich”. White Boomers have not stolen from Millennial’s. People in the upper 10% of wealth continue to do what they have always done, get richer. Boomers are working into their golden years because of 401 K market issues, companies who promised pensions going bankrupt, court decisions that companies can rid themselves of contract commitments. Boomers are well educated, we paid off our student loans thanks to lower interest rates and opportunities like the Peace Corps to lower the debt. Do not be blaming Boomers for the current situation. We are smarter than most and healthier than most and continue to be needed to make the nation’s corporations as well as government work productively. By and large we are the children of WWII families who experienced the biggest boom in economic growth and good life style changes. Personally, my pensions are taxed at an incredibly high level and I am clearly paying for many people receiving government services. I am a liberal Democrat and I hold no grudge, it is my duty.
Christopher Smith says
I would appreciate annual income numbers to help deliniate the 90% from the 10%. Net worth is difficult to ascertain where one stands. For example, where does $100k/yr. place one on this scale? $75k?, $50k?
Marjorie Bicknell says
I feel that this is just another, “Let’s hate the Baby Boomers” article. There are plenty of individuals from the Silent Generation, and even Generation X who fall into the category of financial types that spun the ridiculous financial instruments and helped to create this problem, which has grown over decades.
Also, please don’t tell me that Baby Boomers (of whom I am among the oldest) set these precedents in the ’70s and ’80s. Most of us were too young – in college or just seeking jobs – to have had the financial power to get this ball rolling. Played along later – maybe. But a tiny percentage. Even 10% is too large a number to be among those influential enough to make this happen.
My friends and I all had our college educations complete by the mid-70s (most boomers are younger than us – many as much as 15 years younger), yet we didn’t begin to buy houses until the mid-to late 80s. Also all my friends lived with their parents well into their late 20s. I was considered an early leaver, when I got my first apartment at the age of 28.
While a small number of my generation is probably complicit, plenty of others are two, including my parents – members of the “Greatest Generation” who along with all their friends voted for Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush and accepted their economic plans with alacrity.
Quite frankly, I am tired of being the generational punching bag. First – when we protested the VietNam war, we were spoiled and lazy. Then we were all grasping money grubbers when we worked extra hard to build our careers. Then we were both lazy and over-protective parents. Now we’re selfish, rich, overstuffed old people stealing from our children.
I don’t buy it. I also don’t like headlines that give the impression that most of us – who are hardworking people just trying to get along – are something else entirely. You have to know that most people will skip right over the 10% in your headline and claim, “all Baby Boomers did this.”
I am and have always been a progressive and have spend my life working towards a more equitable society. I take it as a personal affront, that my efforts and the efforts of a large swath of my generation have been and are no systematically ignored.
Michael Rudnin says
Sounds all too familiar, as The Atlantic tries to demonstrate how the wealthiest 0.1% have drained our economy with the complicit assistance of the top 10% … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hb28kAavh0M