Monday, February 27, 2017

Trumpism Is White Baby Boomer Generational Warfare

For pretty much all of my adult life I have seen generational warfare afoot in this country, but never on the level of Trumpism. Trumpism is white baby boomer generational warfare at its most acute, as Trump's recent budget proposal proves.

This budget would add tens of billions of dollars to the defense budget, a military buildup likely to lead to a war (they always do) where the youth of America will be sacrificed. At the same time, social and environmental spending will be slashed, while Social Security and Medicare will remain untouched. The elderly white middle class will thus retain their entitlements and be protected unto their deaths, which will likely happen before the effects of mass pollution take hold for everybody else.

The aging white population came out for Trump in a big way. They are basically fine with making everyone else suffer as long as they are protected. Back in the 1980s, Reagan had also figured this out. He too sheltered Medicare and Social Security while slashing away the parts of the safety net that helped the young and poor. Reagan was a shrewd enough politician to know that his free market hocus pocus didn't wash with the great masses. He also knew that middle class white people would support him if they knew that other people were getting nailed harder than they were. It's a tale as old as time in this country, my friends.

Those of us below a certain age will likely find out that the tiller is empty when we come to collect our retirement. In the meanwhile we'll be breathing polluted air and watching the thermometers rise. That's been par for the course for the older generation, of course. They grew up with a robustly supported education system that made it cheap to attend public universities. At the same time, they could get good jobs still without higher education. Then, once they reached adulthood, they decided they'd rather not pay the taxes their parents did, and made public universities insanely expensive right as they became more essential for entry into the middle class. They were the first generation and in fact the only generation to benefit from the post-New Deal state from the cradle to the grave.

The generational war is over now, and those of us not fortunate enough to be on the winning side are going to have to face a bitter defeat who consequences still can't be foreseen.


Terry said...

I have to speak up here. I'm a baby boomer, and I'm on Social Security and my (small) retirement fund, both of which I worked for my whole life. You're right, it was a lot cheaper to get a good education in the 70s, but it was not the baby boomers who jacked up the prices. We were still paying off our college loans and trying to get our careers started - it was The Greatest Generation who were still in charge - a bunch of old white guys for the most part - who decided they didn't like to see all the riffraff getting that education and those better jobs. I loathed Reagan and all of his ilk from the get-go. I worked very hard as a single parent all through college and grad school, using loans, grants and part-time jobs to support myself and my son. Once done with school, I worked in medical research for ten years before I finally landed my dream job - working for the state in water quality and wetlands protection. I did that for 20 years. Believe me, neither of those jobs paid much. But I felt like I was contribution something to the world, and it was never about the money.

I guess my main gripe is that baby boomers are really getting a lot of shit now because subsequent generations don't have it as good as we did as young adults. If it had been up to me (and everyone I knew), all college would be free and open to anyone who wanted to study hard to learn their chosen fields. I'm not blindly in love with my generation - the promise of the 60s rebellion melted quickly once some formerly protesting grads found out they liked money better. And I've never liked some Boomers' tendency to belittle subsequent generations. The kids are all right! Maybe this generational mutual detestation party was part of the Man's method to keep us all divided and conquered...?

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

What you're saying here is a good corrective to generational thinking, which I agree can be pretty sloppy. (And I am guilty of that.) While folks my parents' age weren't running things in the Reagan era, they definitely voted those people into office, though.

To be more precise, I guess I would say that Trump's policies appeal to those folks in your generation who'd rather look out for themselves even if that means others suffer. There's plenty of folks like that in my generation, too.