Denver Bar Association
June 2000
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Will Boomers Hit the Beach?

by Doug McQuiston

I just finished reading Tom Brokaw's book, The Greatest Generation, about ordinary men and women thrust into extraordinary circumstances during World War II, and their heroic responses. Our fathers' generation hit Normandy in swarms of landing boats to fight those who would destroy freedom, not because they wanted to, but because they had to. They dreamed that if they won, maybe their own sons would not have to fight such a war ever again. They did win, not only that war, but the Cold War that followed, and their dream came true.

But what is to be our test? The baby boomers are now creeping into middle age; what have we accomplished? Our fathers gave America Jack Kennedy. We gave it Bill Clinton. In the '60s, the generation rejected the wisdom of its fathers and corrupted the country with its hedonistic pursuit of pleasure. In the '70s and '80s, boomers discovered money, embracing its accumulation, not for the good it could do, but for the toys it could buy.

Too many in our generation then had children, but refused to raise them. Awash in money, the boomers figured why do it themselves when they could hire it done? Day care centers, once rare, are now on every corner. With both "parents" working 60 hours a week to pay for the suburban mansion, dual Lexuses, Vail condo and golf outings to Hilo, there "just wasn't time" to pay attention to the kids. After all, just because they had children didn't mean they had to be responsible for them, did it? Isn't that what the schools were for? From Kip Kinkel to Klebold and Harris, the fruits of our generation's pursuit of bliss are everywhere.

Even now, in their middle age, boomers still see themselves as children. They see wrinkles, fading vision and joint aches as unfair attacks on their continued youth. There's Vioxx for the nagging shoulder pain, laser surgery for the fading eyesight and liposuction to do what a thousand sit-ups could not. Even the most intimate encroachments of age need not be accepted gracefully, with Viagra putting us only a $50-dose away from our lost youthful vigor.

It can't last. Sooner or later, we won't be able to take the easy way out. Ready or not, our test is coming. It won't be accompanied with bullets and bombs, but it will require a sacrifice. By the time our generation hits 65, if we're lucky, there will be about two wage-earning, taxpaying citizens for every one of us waiting for our Social Security checks. If nothing changes, in just 10 years tax revenues will fall precipitously just as expenditures explode. Our children will be faced with punishing tax rates to keep the giveaway going, leading to draconian cuts in their standard of living. If we don't answer the call today, or very soon, the boomers will leave behind one final, pathetic legacy of the generation's refusal to put anyone's interests ahead of their own: they will bankrupt their children.

The way I see it, our D-Day is here. President Clinton and the rest of Washington can talk all they want about "saving Social Security," but it is beyond hope and we know it. There's enough to pay for our fathers and mothers, (and maybe even our older brothers and sisters), but there will never be enough to pay for us.

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