By Mariola Sophie Yansverio
It is no secret that Boomers like to blame current problems on the younger generation with stigma such as spoiled, lazy, phone addicts, and whiny know-it-alls who have no idea about the “hard” struggles of life. Derogatory rhetoric like that has reduced the youth capacity to be involved in a substantial manner into public discourse. The reason I’m writing this piece is because I simply believe that “Ok Boomer” has been taken out of context, and is not a sufficient defense against the economic catastrophe as well as jeopardizing the future of this planet by ignoring early signs of global warming which puts us now in a climate crisis (Romano, 2019).
Before I continue my “whining”, it is necessary to classify who constitutes a boomer. Baby boomers are people born between the periods of 1946-1964 (Yu & Miller, 2005). The baby boom phenomenon is often linked with the postwar optimism and surge of economic growth (Van Bavel & Reher, 2013). After the war ended, the dominant spirit was to enter a new peaceful and prosperous world. The Boomers were passed down a hopeful world and have failed to do the same for the next generation (Gibney, 2018).
Unlike previous generations, Boomers are now still very much alive, relatively an affluent group, and generally dominate the electoral vote. In short, they’re powerful, both directly and indirectly. Directly, they fill up strategic powerful positions by dominating political seats, they are the majority of corporate leaders, and are generally a well-off group. Indirectly, they dominate the number of electoral voters, and in a democracy that is power (Illing, 2017). Since they maintain to put themselves in powerful decision-making positions which affects our livelihood, it is paramount to discuss their actions. Although there are many reasons to shade on Boomers, in this essay I would like to stress on two important points: economic insecurity and the climate crisis.
For those of you who fail to understand about what economic troubles we are facing, it’s time for you to step out of your bubble, and see the structural violence in the world. In analyzing the economic anxiety experienced by the post-boomers generation, I’m going to emphasize two points: The Great Recession, and the housing crisis. The aforementioned issues led to deep generational wealth inequality among Boomers and the generations that came after them.
The Great Recession of 2008 did not only affect Wall Street, it brought down the world’s financial system (The Economist, 2013). However, it affected the youth (at the time) in a specific way: a collapsed job market. Credit Suisse stated in their 2019 Global Wealth Report that Millennials have not been a lucky group as they were deeply affected by the Great Recession in a vulnerable age which was detrimental to their job prospects (Credit Suisse, 2019). During those years finding a job was extremely difficult, anyone was lucky enough to find one (NBC News, 2020). Most of the fresh graduates at the time had lousy first jobs. This then becomes detrimental to their future, since a first job determines the second and third and basically long term income (NBC News, 2020) .Compared with Boomers, Millennials starting salaries were 20% less at the same age (Cramer, 2019). It is also important to note that we have yet fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and generations after Millennials are also struggling financially (The Economist, 2019). Until today, global youth unemployment is a serious problem. The ILO reported in the Global Employment Trends for Youth 2020 that around 267 million youth are not in education, training, or work, and for those who do have jobs remain in extreme or moderate poverty.
Next, the housing problem. The problem with the housing market is that there’s a lack of supply because Boomers bought a lot of properties and are unwilling to sell (Kupiec & Pinto, 2020). They were born in a post war economic boom world where the price of property and their wage did not have a significant gap (Bristow, 2015). The bureaucracy for mortgages was easier which then led to the property bubble, subsequently the 2008 financial crisis and stagflation. Aside from a lack of supply there is also a problem of low purchasing power among the younger generation because of the financial insecurity they continue to face because of such economic crises. Credit Suisse reported that around the world there are high house prices with low interest rates and low income, making it difficult for the younger generation to become homeowners and accumulate wealth (Credit Suisse, 2019).
Baby boomers bear a generational responsibility for the catastrophe of the 2008 financial crisis and its lingering effects, which deeply impoverished the generations that came after them (Bristow, 2015). We need to emphasize that the 2008 crisis was not a tsunami, it was preventable (go watch The Big Short). Oh, and we’re not even fully recovered from this one, I can already smell another recession coming as the economy is going to a bust thanks to COVID-19.
Now, not only are we facing a problem economically, we’re also facing a climate crisis. I think it is clear why this was heavily influenced by Boomers. Climate change is not something that comes up out of the blue. It is a gradual process and for the past decades it seems like there was barely any action to stop it. The Boomers’ focus on economic growth rather than economic sustainability have led the rise of carbon emissions and global temperature. The global interdependence on oil for energy disrupts the earth carbon cycle and has brought us a climate emergency (Vox, 2019). Carbon levels today are the highest in 800,000 years (Lindsey, 2020). Ever since the 1980s scientists have already warned about global warming but there was just no political will to address this issue (NBC News, 2019). Boomers as decision makers for so many decades have ignored the importance of environmental sustainability. Now, the current annual growth rate of carbon is at 2.3 ppm, in contrast to the 60s which was 0.1 ppm per year (Lindsey, 2020). As the youth, we are the one that has to pay for their ignorance and inaction, we are the one facing a future full of gambles. Boomers enjoyed economic growth while the younger generations got to enjoy the planet’s decay. Is that not wonderful?
I understand how this can seem like a hatred manifesto against Boomers. However, I do feel like we need to address our shade against Boomers substantively. In this piece I did point fingers on a specific cohort. Boomers did great things as well for human civilization. Nevertheless, I believe that it is justified to hold them accountable for the problems mentioned above. Sincerely, a bitter college student who is worried about job prospects and how we’re on the brink of extinction.
Bristow, J. (2015). The boomers as an economic problem. Baby Boomers and Generational Conflict, 115–146. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137454737_6
Cramer, R. (2019, October). The emerging millennial wealth gap. Retrieved July 19, 2020, from New America website: https://www.newamerica.org/millennials/reports/emerging-millennial-wealth-gap/the-emerging-millennial-wealth-gap-opening-note/#:~:text=Louis.
Credit Suisse. (2019). Color gradient or image placeholder thought leadership from credit suisse and the world’s foremost experts. Retrieved from https://www.credit-suisse.com/media/assets/corporate/docs/about-us/research/publications/global-wealth-report-2019-en.pdf
Gibney, B. (2018). Generation of sociopaths : how the baby boomers betrayed America. New York: Hachette Books.
Illing, S. (2017, December 20). How the baby boomers — not millennials — screwed america. Retrieved July 19, 2020, from Vox website: https://www.vox.com/2017/12/20/16772670/baby-boomers-millennials-congress-debt
International Labor Organization. (2020). Technology and the future of jobs X global employment trends for youth 2020. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_737648.pdf
Kupiec, P., & Pinto, E. (2020, January 5). Opinion: Are baby boomers ruining the housing market for everybody else? Retrieved July 19, 2020, from Los Angeles Times website: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-01-05/are-baby-boomers-ruining-housing-market
Lindsey, R. (2020, February 20). Climate change: Atmospheric carbon dioxide. Retrieved from www.climate.gov website: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide#:~:text=Carbon%20dioxide%20concentrations%20are%20rising
NBC News. (2019). Greta Thunberg to congress: “I want you to listen to the scientists” | NBC News [YouTube Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vznT5nVOZgw
NBC News. (2020). Millennials: The Unluckiest Generation In Modern History? | Think | NBC News [YouTube Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikp0Qfgxmkc&t=85s
Romano, A. (2019, November 19). What does “OK boomer” mean? The meme, explained. Retrieved from Vox website: https://www.vox.com/2019/11/19/20963757/what-is-ok-boomer-meme-about-meaning-gen-z-millennials
The Economist. (2013, September 7). Crash course. Retrieved from The Economist website: https://www.economist.com/schools-brief/2013/09/07/crash-course
The Economist. (2019, July 10). Smashed like avocados: How young people are treated by their elders. Retrieved July 19, 2020, from The Economist website: https://www.economist.com/open-future/2019/07/10/smashed-like-avocados-how-young-people-are-treated-by-their-elders
Van Bavel, J., & Reher, D. S. (2013). The baby boom and its causes: What we know and what we need to know. Population and Development Review, 39(2), 257–288. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1728-4457.2013.00591.x
Vox. (2019). How humans disrupted a cycle essential to all life [YouTube Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOht6qmuG-k
Yu, H., & Miller, P. (2005). Leadership style. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 26(1), 35–50. https://doi.org/10.1108/01437730510575570