Monday, March 16, 2015

Baby Boomers - From Anger to Action

by Dr. Ellen Brandt

Are they finally afraid of us?

You might think so, judging from the latest frenetic and increasingly silly barrage of anti-Baby Boomer rhetoric from  Usual Suspects in the "Boomers Are to Blame" cadre. Among blaring headlines the past couple of weeks:

A Better Name for Baby Boomers: "The Laziest Generation" (The New Republic) - Baby Boomers are castigated for not using E-mail enough - I kid you not - while the young author somehow believes John McCain, who is 78, and Orrin Hatch, who is 80, are Boomers.

Why Baby Boomers Shouldn't Start Businesses (Washington Post) - Argues that older entrepreneurs "clog the engine" of the small business economy - meaning, perhaps, that we tend to hire our peers and are patronized by our peers, rather than the very young. Boomers are urged to participate in entrepreneurship as "investors," not practitioners - which most, of course, can't afford to do. In the sterling tradition of Mashable and Reddit, this story is accompanied by a photograph of a shriveled gentleman in a ratty cardigan sweater, who looks at least 95.

South Korea's Wages Depressed as Baby Boomers Delay Retirement (Reuters) - Boomers are to blame for low youth employment, stagnation in wage growth, and the "dampening of consumption," despite the fact that the Boomer-operated companies featured all seem to be thriving.

Intergeneration Report Recommends Killing All Baby Boomers (SBS, Australia) - This last, despite its shock value, is a semi-spoof, but it details an Australian think tank's call for less legislation geared towards helping people over 50 and more geared to the tidal wave of youngsters grasping for jobs, homes, and their place in the sun.

Generational clashes like these are occurring throughout the world now, of course, especially in the developed world (plus China), where the population over age 50 is poised to rise from 2/5 of the citizenry to close to 1/2, as Gen-Xers join Boomers and those older than Boomers in the plus-50 cohort.

We'll talk more about changing demographics - and what they imply - in the next blog in this new series.

But first a word about why I've decided to start a new blog  about and for Boomers and why I've chosen this title.

While the ongoing series Ellen Impromptu - a grab bag of stories on various topics - and Destitute Ivy Leaguer-Will Work For Change - the blog attached to our Bring Back the Meritocracy! project - will continue to feature some pieces with Baby Boomers as their focus, this new series will include only articles about Boomers.

Here are some topics upcoming stories will tackle:

*** The "Boomer Market" for goods and services - and why today's crop of marketers can't seem to crack it.

*** What kinds of paid work - formal jobs and otherwise - Boomers are clamoring for, don't particularly relish, or are simply neutral about.

*** How our government and its agencies should get involved making Boomers' lives better - and where they are now going wrong.

*** New kinds of communities and other housing options which could appeal to Boomers.

*** How the extraordinary statistics about single Boomers - fully 1/2 are divorced, widowed, or never married - impacts our status as workers, consumers, voters, and citizens.

*** Why so many Boomers are disgusted with the Internet - and the so-called "MSM" in all its manifestations - and what needs to be done to change this sorry state of affairs.

*** Is it high time for the emergence of various kinds of "Boomer Collectives," in which groups of professionals and creatives of all kinds can band together for collaborative, productive, and profitable effort?

And, as an historic election cycle heats up:

*** Is Boomer political activism, far from fading away, about to experience a true revival, perhaps rivaling that of the 1960-1980 period?  

I believe the latter is true, which brings us to the title of this blog, a contrast to my previous - and popular - former series, Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation.

Many Boomers are still angry, mostly on economic grounds. We feel the propaganda that the U.S. economy is "doing well" is largely based on government statisticians measuring it incorrectly.

They're failing to include as seeking work - or more precisely, needing hard cash - the army of people over age 50 who've been unceremoniously booted out of the workforce the past couple of decades.

They're also improperly acknowledging the numerous Boomer-owned small businesses and professional firms which have fallen on hard times, exemplars of the "struggling Main Street" phenomenon that still plagues this nation.

But real Hope may lie just ahead.

We believe that Boomers - who are overwhelmingly Centrist politically, whether we identify ourselves as Republicans, Democrats, or Independents - played a big part in the national and state elections just past and are poised to play a key role in the coming election cycle, as the proportion of the population over age 50 increases and passes the 40th percentile mark just about the time Americans head for the polls in 2016.

Both politicians and the media are not only ignoring this phenomenon, they're still misreporting what is actually going on, focusing way too much on very young voters, when it will almost certainly be older voters, finally feeling our oats and raising our voices, who will determine the essential fate of this country - and the rest of the developed world (plus China) - for several decades to come.

Boomers - the largest part of the over-50 population - are going to be reckoned with, because we have to be reckoned with.

No more malicious rhetoric. No more burying of heads in the sand. And on the part of Boomers, no more allowing a few self-designated "thought leaders" to pretend they have our best interests at heart - when they don't - and making decisions for us, the best-educated and most sophisticated generation in human history, when it's incumbent on us that we make those decisions for ourselves.

The next blog in this series will focus on demographics - Boomers' growing, not waning, importance within the U.S. and world population - and how it will impact both economics and politics.

Ellen Brandt, Ph.D. is Founder of the Bring Back the Meritocracy! project, an ambitious and broad-ranging non-profit, non-partisan, non-controversial effort to help the "Highly-Educated But Under-Employed" in the U.S. and abroad.