Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When "We" Boomers are "They"

Today in The New York Times, columnist David Brooks writes about "The Great Seduction." Money. Wealth. Debt. He writes:

The United States has been an affluent nation since its founding. But the country was, by and large, not corrupted by wealth. For centuries, it remained industrious, ambitious and frugal.

Over the past 30 years, much of that has been shredded. The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The country’s moral guardians are forever looking for decadence out of Hollywood and reality TV. But the most rampant decadence today is financial decadence, the trampling of decent norms about how to use and harness money.

Brooks cites a new report by the Institute for American Values and other think tanks called, “For a New Thrift: Confronting the Debt Culture.” He points out that our debt culture has made millions for many, and made the less fortunate more vulnerable.
Social norms, the invisible threads that guide behavior, have deteriorated. Over the past years, Americans have been more socially conscious about protecting the environment and inhaling tobacco. They have become less socially conscious about money and debt.
Blame gets placed just about everywhere: the federal government, Congress, the White House, state governments (lotteries), payday lenders, credit card companies, Wall Street and so on. Brooks also points readers to another article, "A Nation in Debt" by Barbara Whitehead, that summarizes the report.

What strikes us in all this is the people in charge of all of those institutions over the last 30 years haven't been Boomers. But "we" Boomers are now considered the "they" running all of those institutions now. It's going to be up to us to fix these things.

Unfortunately, our track record to date has been poor. Fareed Zakaria, an author and editor for Newsweek, in a story about "Getting Back to Growth" quotes David Gergen:
“With the end of the cold war, we saw a new, destructive kind of partisanship,” says David Gergen, who has worked in Republican and Democratic White Houses. “And for much of the past decade, we’ve kicked the can down the road on our big problems.”

Some of this is because of the narrowcasting of American politics, a process in which the extreme ends of the spectrum have been magnified and the center gets lost. Part of it, Gergen argues, is generational. “I have a distinct memory that the World War II generation really put country ahead of party. That is simply not the case with the generation in power now."
He's talking about Boomers. So are we going to do anything about it, or simple move aside?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Long gone are the days of "Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best" and we have heard this before! But what is very troublesome is that we have lost the emotion of being a humanitarian. We really don't care about our brothers and sisters and they don't care about us; we care only about ourselves and it will be our demise caused from greed. We will have a racial revolution or at least a tax revolution or a revolution between the "have nots and the the haves." It is already setting up. The middle class will be gone.
Yes most will poo poo these thoughts but if we really stop and think it is setting up and we ALL will pay the price from our attitude of GREED and selfishness.
It is too little too late and politics will only speed up the process.
See you on the other side.

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