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Why so much angst from the younger generation about the Boomers?

Started by Sam, January 23, 2019, 06:52:14 PM

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 If your parents are part of the boomer generation, shouldn't you be happy that they are the wealthiest generation in history rather than experience angst? After all, you get to inherit everything of theirs once they pass.

What's going on here?



I think the generation war stuff is way over done on both sides, but you got me a little curious about the numbers, so I ran some back of the envelope calculations. I didn't want to do ranges, so I set "going to college in '75" as a prototypical boomer and "going to college in '08" as a prototypical younger generation. Not all numbers were available every year, so that wasn't 100% consistent. Should be good enough for back of the envelope. Everything is inflation adjusted to 2018 dollars.

For where the angst comes from, I think there's a sense (fair or not) that the cost of college is "determined" by the older generations, and that a degree is basically necessary in the modern economy, so that stepping out with your diploma is where the previous generation's responsibilities basically end. All debatable, but I think it's roughly where critics of the boomers are coming from. We could also look at things like nonrenewable resource consumption, or gdp change over time, etc. but this is just a quick calculation to get a sense of whether there's anything at all here. 

The average college-bound boomer graduated at a cost of $2,100, and had $13.6K in "Per Capita National Debt" already rung up in there name. = $15.6K

The average college-bound millennial graduated at a cost of $32.5K and had $48K in national debt = $80.5K

The median boomer has around $209K in net worth (including house). It's fair to point out that I divided the national debt fairly among everybody rather than saying "the rich owe more of it", but I'm taking the median (because even if 5% of the young generation has nothing to complain about, you're hearing complaints from a large swath of the population). So it goes, this is all a rough calculation.

Average boomer had about 1.7 kids, so call it $130K in inheritable wealth per child. We'll give them credit for the $30K the pair of parents started started out with, and we get a $80K credit to each Boomer as of today.

So, the question becomes, will the average boomer generate $80,000 in bills living out there retirement and using public resources above what they put in (medicaid, medicare, unfunded social security)?  If yes, then they'll have "run up a bill" and left the younger generations to pay for it.

Now, start throwing in infrastructure projects, technology and inventions by boomers, gdp change, net greenhouse gas emissions, net resource usage, etc. etc. etc. and you can come to a wide range of conclusions. Or you could quibble with the use of median, or blame millenials for college costs or whatever. But there's a case to be made that the median boomer took more from the previous and next generations then they gave back. Which, fine, that's going to happen. Tops have to top somewhere. But there's also a perception (fair or not) that they generally won't acknowledge culpability in this, but instead blame the younger generation. It "Feels" like being arriving at a party where the pizza was already eaten and then being told it's your fault the pizza is gone and you should pay extra.

Not saying it's the right way to think about this, but if you want to understand where some young people are coming from, it's roughly where I'd start. Most of us don't think we're getting a dime from our parents. Quite a few of us will end up helping them out in there twilight years. And when we look at national debt/unfunded medicare/medicaid/SS liabilities, high college costs while boomers are cutting there own taxes (while debating if college students are paying enough taxes) we can get a bit snippy with "what a great generation we were" talk.

Or the more simple answer: Generations blame each other for things. Same as it ever was.

Edit: I'd also note that just like congress is perpetually hated but incumbents are usually re-elected, a lot of people love there parents/children/grandchildren but 'the rest of that generation!'. Or will look at macrotrends (high national debt, or unfunded liabilities) and say 'well that's not my fault'.