Bill Keller, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, talks to boomers one-on-one in this recent piece. And though he opened it with these words, “If you were born before 1946 or after 1964, you are free to go… I need a private moment with my fellow baby boomers,” I took a peek at what he had to say.
He starts out with a view of the current boomer-bashing landscape: according to Keller, in just one month, and on one page of op-eds, “we children of the postwar demographic have been blamed for turning religion into an indulgent free-for-all, for giving elites a bad name and for making greed respectable, or at least acceptable.” Harsh words, yes?
Don’t rush to point a finger of blame though. Keller’s research seems to show that the negative opinion of boomers is equally distributed among conservatives and liberals, and believes some of the attacks were “intended as a wake-up call” rather than a judgment call.
Keller eventually moves into a discussion about our federal entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, stating this concern: “By 2030, when the last of us boomers have surged onto the Social Security rolls, entitlements will consume 61 cents of every federal dollar, starving our already neglected investment.” (This 61 cents of every dollar is compared to the 14 percent of federal dollars spent on entitlements in 1962.)
I may only be in my 30s and am not exactly optimistic about Social Security or Medicare being around when I’d qualify for it, but standing around doing nothing will accomplish just that — nothing. That’s why I pay attention to these issues, and why I surprised the Obama campaigner who came to our door a few weeks ago. After I told him I was unsure about who I’d be voting for in the upcoming election, he asked if there were any special issues that I’d like to know more about, or issues of importance to me.
“Senior issues,” I said, simply.
“You don’t look that old,” he responded, with a laugh.
No matter where you stand politically, and regardless of whether or not you believe boomers are a selfish generation, I believe we should all be concerned about the stability of these federal programs, which are currently the only real safety net for low-income seniors. (As an aside, if there are others, besides the sacrifice or generosity of family, friends or charitable organizations, let me know; I am willing to be educated and stand corrected). Boomers or not, we all have a stake in what happens.
AARP’s “You’ve Earned a Say” campaign may be targeted at boomers, but if you have an opinion about Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, I encourage you to voice it. (Read more about this initiative, and what’s at stake, here.)
Talk back: What do you think of the current state of federal entitlement programs? What’s the best direction for the future, in your opinion?