Baby Boomers Are Killing the American Dream
Millennials often get the brunt of the blame, but older generations set the current course.
Millennials have become the object of much criticism and ridicule, and oftentimes they deserve it. But while Millennials may whine and complain as they enjoy the fruits of the free market, there are serious structural issues facing them, the blame for which lies at the feet of previous generations — specifically, the Baby Boomer generation.
The Baby Boomers are the children of the Greatest Generation. That generation scrimped and saved and struggled through the Great Depression, only to be thrown into an existential global crisis with the effort to defeat the military juggernaut that was the Axis powers of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and fascist Italy, who sought to enslave the world.
In stark contrast, the Baby Boomers grew up enjoying unprecedented wealth, freedom, and privilege. And they rewarded future generations by ruining everything that made America great.
For example, under Boomers, zoning laws have gotten much stricter. While initially used to control population density as industrialization led people to the cities, there was a drastic increase in land-use restrictions between the 1960s and 1980s. Today, riding the peak of their political power, Boomers have used regulations for green space, parking, height limits, historic preservation, and so forth as a mechanism to artificially restrict new construction.
Limiting new construction drives up the cost of existing buildings, making it much more expensive for younger generations to obtain housing. When rents or mortgages are prohibitively expensive, or force younger generations into crowding living situations, the result is that they still live at home. They delay the transition into traditional adulthood events, like marriage and having children — which, ironically, endangers their retirement as there are fewer children who will become workers paying into Social Security and Medicare.
This problem is compounded by the explosion in licensing requirements under Boomers, where workers are required to have special licenses, degrees, or certifications in order to work. This drives up the cost of labor, making it harder for younger workers to obtain jobs. And while it may be reasonable to expect surgeons and structural engineers to obtain licenses and certifications, one is hard pressed to justify laws requiring 1,200 hours of training and $18,000 in tuition to practice African hair-braiding.
Like land-use restrictions, licensing requirements artificially raise the bar for entry into the workforce, restricting the number of people practicing a profession, artificially driving up wages for older, established workers while keeping out younger workers.
Also increasing the difficulty of getting a good job is the expanding number of jobs requiring college degrees, which have become ridiculously expensive and leave young workers burdened with enormous debt as they start their careers. New studies show that lifetime earnings are staying flat, even as the degrees get more expensive.
Add to that the skyrocketing national debt accrued under Baby Boomers, who have demanded ever-more expensive government programs for every conceivable problem, each with a large and growing price tag. Medicare and Social Security are the primary drivers of the national debt, yet it is political suicide to even contemplate reducing benefits for the Boomers who are the most reliable voting bloc.
Funded by payroll taxes from today’s workers, Social Security is projected to be insolvent in just 16 years, which means younger generations will spend decades paying into an entitlement program that will be bankrupt when they retire.
Just think how furious they’ll be when they learn that the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that they have no right to Social Security benefits, no matter how much or how long they have paid into the system.
Then there is the $22 trillion national debt that places an enormous burden on future generations, who will see more and more of their earnings swallowed up in federal spending. As of today, the CBO projects interest alone on the national debt will cost $389 billion this year, rising to $914 billion by 2028. This will take up an ever-growing portion of the federal budget, crowding out and forcing spending reductions on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, military spending, infrastructure, education, and the myriad of other things the federal government has its hands in.
As federal spending takes more and more of workers’ paychecks, it leaves less for state and local spending priorities, and leaves workers with an ever-shrinking portion of their paycheck for housing, food, transportation, etc.
If there is one sliver of hope in these dark clouds, it is that the situation is bad but not irreversible. The problem is caused by the Boomer penchant for spending money and controlling others.
With a clear-eyed acknowledgment of the seriousness of the situation, and the political will to change it, we can gut the mountain of regulations imposed by all levels of government, which will lead to an explosion of economic growth (indeed, President Donald Trump has already shown this can be done, slashing 22 regulations for every new one implemented). We can phase out wasteful, redundant, and inefficient federal programs, and privatize everything that is not directly authorized under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. We can stop subsidizing higher education and let the free market work to improve quality and bring down tuition. And we can make it a national mission to pay off the national debt, the fiscal equivalent of a moon landing.
In order to do that, though, the Boomers who voted for massive expansions of government, and entitlement programs that enrich them, will have to place the nation’s welfare ahead of their own.
The question is, then… will they?