2009-04-15 / Editorials

Boomers Face Reality


A Baby Boomer friend recently stated how nostalgic he has become. In his eyes was an obvious longing for a past that is only memories. Looking backwards, the pains confronted are forgotten for the joys that seem so alluring.

Many of us are romanticizing the past. The present woes are affecting us. The economic security that seemed a guarantee has vanished, leaving behind the whispers of our parents' tales of life during the Great Depression.

The Boomers came of age in conflict with the limitations that restricted their parents. Savings and aversion to risk defined our parents. Their lives were constrained by their fears. Boomers believed the price they were forced to endure due to the fears of their parents was a burden denied by the reality of the good life America offered.

Becoming parents, Boomers determined to reward their children with the benefits they were forced to do without. The excesses lavished upon our children removed responsibility and obligation from their lexicon. Our children knew they were owed, collected expectantly and transformed mutual commitments into the "Me" generation.

Boomers were gratified by the excesses deemed the rights due their children. Giving and offering ever more became the measure of success. Little attention or concern was spent on the implications and costs of creating an all-consuming generation of self centered adults who would never contemplate loss, threat or limitation.

Boomers adored their children, placing them on pedestals. These foundations were built upon quicksand subject to shifting economic circumstances. Now that the house of cards has fallen and the Emperor is exposed as naked, the world Boomers believed they had sculpted no longer exits.

Boomers are terrified and exposed to a life of peril. Their time is limited to regain the losses that have seen home values drop significantly, stock prices down nearly 50 percent, unemployment as possible and retirement a dream that has been destroyed by the facts and the Bernie Madoffs of the world.

Boomers no longer have a base under their feet. This world is not known or understood. Questions and doubts abound without answers. The only sure thing is that nothing that was remains and that which replaces the institutions depended upon is unknown.

In large measure, the crisis that has changed our world will be looked back upon as necessary and good for the nation. Boomer excesses were a crude interpretation of the American Dream. The arguments and fights raised against increasing the retirement age as a result of extended life expectancy will receive little opposition if employment opportunities are expanded, securing a floor that establishes a basic standard of living. Restructuring medical benefits that conform to costs that can reasonably be paid for by the nation will replace demands for an ever-increasing and selfish system that has no limits.

Igor Panarin, dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Academy predicted, "The divisions within American society and the narcissistic pathologies of consumer society will cause an implosion. The people of America will turn against one another."

It is not a happy time for America. It is more unhappy for Boomers facing retirement. Hopefully government action will stabilize the marketplace, removing the fear that is paralyzing Boomers. Even the best of solutions will see the Boomers less well off than they were. Realizing the extent of the upheaval, nostalgia makes sense.

In the end the Boomers laid the foundations for the debacle that has traumatized and altered their lives. Their children will change from princely recipients to an industrious and cognizant people aware of limitations, much as their grandparents were. The U.S. will revert to doing what can be done, denying politicians the means of making promises that will bankrupt the nation. Edward Horn Edward Horn is a frequent contributor of Op Ed columns to the Gazette.

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