Gail Collins is starting to understand why my generation is so upset:
In 1972, The Times’s Russell Baker noted that the people he had always thought of as “the kids” did not seem to be reproducing. Baker decided that the Woodstock generation was conspiring to cut the birth rate so they would always be in the majority and could “go on being the kids for the rest of their lives…”
My own personal theory is that we’re witnessing a defense mechanism triggered by the current economic unpleasantness.
Since it appears that nobody is ever going to be able to afford to retire, we’re moving into an era in which having your car fixed or your tonsils removed by a 75-year-old will need to seem normal. Meanwhile, young people are going to have to stay in school and keep their heads down since their elders have no intention of creating any job openings in the near future. So it’s better if we readjust our thinking and start regarding everybody as 20 years younger than the calendar suggests. Then you will feel much better when the 80-year-old postman delivers your mail and it includes a request for money from your 38-year-old offspring doing post-post-post-doctoral work at Ohio State.
To every Baby Boomer who wonders why my generation is refusing to “grow up,” I say: We are stuck in perpetual adolescence because it is impossible to mature as society needs us to do. Baby Boomers are uninterested in retiring, so we cannot move up the corporate ladder and obtain jobs that would let us afford children and mortgages. We are stuck pursing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the expensive hope of obtaining such a position anytime soon. Since we cannot settle down, we choose to have fun, travel, and live life for ourselves. There is nothing else we can do. And we cannot pay our student loans and other debts until we are better off.
And it is partly the fault of the Baby Boomers, who have generally become known as the Selfish Generation. They did not have enough children of their own (presumably because they did not want to sacrifice as much), so now there are not enough people in my generation to pay into Social Security and Medicare to keep the programs solvent. Now the Baby Boomers hope of retirement seems to be a distant dream. In Anya Kamenetz’s “Generation Debt,” she reports a statistic: When Baby Boomers were asked if they would sacrifice their own economic well-being to help their children, a majority said “no.” So that’s that.
But there is a lot more. Read my prior essay.