Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Jul 11th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Could Boomers Still be the ‘Greatest Generation?’

tom_honig_sAs the 1960s ended and the ’70s began, the baby boomers stood tall and arrogantly proclaimed that the previous generation had made a mess of things, and this generational bulge of humanity was going to set things right.

Now it’s 40 years later and what do we boomers have to say for ourselves? Look at the Wall Street bankers who almost brought down the entire world economy. Look at a broken political leadership in Washington (and in Sacramento). Look at Santa Cruz County with 12 percent unemployment, gridlocked traffic and not enough water.

After writing a book about the boomers’ predecessors, “The Greatest Generation,” newsman Tom Brokaw took on the next generation in his book, “Boom.” USA Today reported that some wondered aloud whether the boomer book would be called “The Worst Generation.” Brokaw wrote that he assured “my Boomer buddies that I don’t think they represent the worst—far from it—but I also teased that I didn’t think any of them were as great as they thought they were.”

But the boomers aren’t done yet. As the leading edge of the baby boom generation prepares for Medicare, its impact on the rest of the population is huge. The potential for disaster is huge. But so, maybe, is the opportunity for us boomers to live up to our potential.

By this time, nearly everyone knows about the widening federal deficits—and the potentially cataclysmic debt. But the news is actually worse than what you see—because of the aging baby boomers.

Smart observers have been warning for years of what will happen when boomers go on Medicare and collect Social Security. Essentially, here’s the scoop: by 2040 all our federal tax revenues will add up to cover exactly two things: interest on the debt and Medicare/Medicaid costs. Everything else – education, building roads and dams, welfare, defense, Social Security – is unfunded.

The most recent—and perhaps the best— writer to explain the scope of the problem is David M. Walker, former head of the General Accounting Office, in his book, “Comeback America.” Walker argues that unless something dramatic is done, the United States will be something less than it is today. A child who is 10 years old today has the following to look forward to, says Walker: “So much of their money will be devoted to keeping government afloat that they’ll have relatively little for everything else in life. Their homes will be smaller and drabber. There will be less to spend for cars, vacations, dinners out and big TV sets, which their parents took for granted. … They will have less to offer their children, including less educational opportunities. … I am embarrassed by the mess we are passing on to them.”

Walker is unlike some observers, in that he sees solutions. I wish I could be as hopeful. In this space two weeks ago, I pointed out that the wrong people – elected officials – are in charge of the health-care debate. The wrong people are in charge of our budgets, whether in Washington or Sacramento. The electorate is falling prey to the electeds’ mass-produced talking points. Special interests are wielding far more influence than the general voter.

But just maybe there’s an opportunity here for the boomers. Maybe, finally, as we age we can just cast our selfish eyes on the next generation. For the last 40 years or so, we’ve demanded a lot from our government: lower taxes and more services.

Now is the time to demand something new: a better world for the next generation. Imagine if politicians could get votes for acting responsibly and spending on things that matter in the future. Politicians will only do that if the general public starts demanding more.

Boomers—and that means interest groups like AARP—will have to change their focus. We can’t advocate solely for ourselves anymore. Face it: most older people are wealthier than their younger counterparts, and it’s time to readjust entitlements in order to reflect that reality. When public officials propose cuts or increased revenues, it would be nice if occasionally it could be greeted with something other than knee-jerk protests.

Perhaps it’s even time to change the two-party system. Republicans won’t allow more taxes; Democrats refuse to restructure social spending. Maybe it’s time for a good third-party candidate. But who could do it?

Hmmm. Maybe now that Santa Cruz City Manager Dick Wilson says he’s retiring, he could move to D.C. and take up the challenge. After all, he’s kept Santa Cruz afloat all these years.

Comments (1)Add Comment
...
written by Ron Slak, February 09, 2010
Tom,
i applaud your words this week, especially since you have stated that we need to think about more than ourselves and our own comforts. We were the first spoiled generation, and we raised a more spoiled generation.

Our economy and our educational resources are going in the wrong direction. The wrong people are making decisions, and that is evident. We, the people must activate as we once did, but in a different manner. Not to protest, but to find solutions. Pointing our fingers just worsens everything. Just look at Congress. They can accomplish nothing of significance. We need to work from the center out.

So for me the answer lies within the community I live. We need to take better control of our destiny and not rely on outside entities. We use those entities as we can, but we rely on ourselves.
For the baby boomers getting ready for retirement, forget it, roll up your sleeves, and giving help of your time as it is needed, and where it is needed. Use what your learned over a lifetime and apply it our community. Give us your resources. We need them more than ever. Join boards, becine a volunteer, fund raising. Donate some of your time to organizations you love, who need volunteers, or they will close.

Tom, thanks for your words. Let's not demand anything from deaf ears. We need to do the work ourselves , right here in SCC.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Weird that Works

The Santa Cruz Fringe Festival mixes misfit art and mass appeal

 

Scarab Solar Festival Full Moon

We continue to be under the influence of Cancer (Ray 3, sign of liberty and freedom). Cancer is the gate through which spirit enters matter. Cancer grows new life in its warm waters. Cancer is the crab living in water and on land. Cancer represents our home, family, upbringing, how we nurture and are nurtured. Cancer is our conditioning, influencing all life choices.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

One-Track Mind

Flawed, but fun ‘Snowpiercer’ makes a hip action flick out of a bizarre sci-fi parable
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Shake Down

Wine and soul music, local menu highlights, brewery wins and ice cream for Aptos 

 

What do you think when you hear 'Santa Cruz Fringe Festival'?

Santa Cruz | Travel Agent

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Pinot Worth Celebrating

Looking for a fabulous wine to star in your Fourth of July weekend? I recommend treating yourself to the 2008 Pinot Noir from the Corralitos Wine Company.