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The real failure of the baby boomers

We have heard much talk of something called the ‘Big Society’. This in essence is a set of ideas being promulgated by David Cameron and the less hard edged supporters of his Government. As such it is something of an improvement on an infamous intervention by Margaret Thatcher, who said “there is no such a thing as society”. So in some respects we should be grateful that the modern day conservatives have moved beyond the idea of laissez fair individualism. After all, look at the mess that has got us all into.

So what is this ‘Big Society’? At one level, since many of Mr Cameron’s own supporters don’t appear to know, it could be as vapid and meaningless as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton’s ‘third way’, an oxymoron for a retreat from traditional social democracy to an acceptance of a more sweetly wrapped neo liberalism. That was all very well during the boom years, and has a continuing attraction to the Market Leninists in Beijing. I’ve recently been asked to explain what it all means to the Congress of the Mongolian Socialist Party in Ulan Bator.

But I think I have rumbled Mr Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. It is code for a retreat by the State from responsibility, the idea being that individuals take on responsibility for much that the State was wont to provide, paid for by our taxes. But since only “the little people” pay taxes, and since the productive base of the British economy was auctioned off years ago, and since the bankers completed the job of pulling the plug on the economy, there is not a great deal left to fund those things that we all believed were ours for ever; decent pensions in old age, public libraries and local services. Now we are told that the deficit is so huge that the State cannot afford to do very much anymore – although I will be somewhat surprised if the super rich feel any pain, or that Britain won’t continue to pour money into unwinnable wars and new nuclear submarines, whose missiles are aimed at imaginary threats.

No, the baby boomers have singularly failed us all. They want us to feel the pain of the banking crisis, they want us to make the sacrifices, to work longer for less and look forward to shrinking pensions. They cannot even offer us any hope that the ‘Big Society’s medicine will make us any better, because they are not bold enough, or clever enough to realise that we need to spend our way out of recession and spend money wisely on rebuilding our shattered productive economic base.

These arguments just as equally pertain to America, currently experiencing record levels of unemployment, and grotesque disparities in wealth. A country where working people increasingly can’t find work, but who are whipped into a frenzy by the Murdoch  media and the Tea Party lunatics into believing that elementary universal health care is some kind of Communist plot.

The baby boomers in both Britain and America were ironically the greatest beneficiaries of the post war Labour Government’s welfare state and Roosevelt’s New Deal. They had the benefit of state sponsored higher education, free dental care and much else besides. They have kicked the ladder away, claiming that we can no longer afford the sort of cradle to grave support that now allows the baby boomers an age expectancy beyond their parent’s wildest dreams. And to cap it all, the true believers in the post war reality of a big, generous, society, built the new Jerusalem from the shattered ruination of war and deficits that make our current financial difficulties pale into insignificance.

What a pathetic indictment of a generation that had it all, and now insists that successor generations live out their lives amongst the ashes of broken dreams and promises.

Shame on them.

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  1. Gordon Gibson says:

    Jeez. That is a new twist. We baby boomers are responsible for it all now! Nothing that the b-b generation was at the heart of bringing about many of the significant social gains of the 60s and 70s and most of whom are now victims of the banking crisis like everyone else. Starting with the plundering of our pensions. We may be old farts but that hasn’t stopped us being front line campaigners. Stop this nonsense and fight alongside your allies. Writing off a whole generation to the other side really is quite pathetic. If one was so inclined one could argue that it us ‘Thatcher’s children’ (my own children) that are the problem, in failing to lead the fightback. Let’s not even go there, just get on with the united resistance.

  2. Gordon Gibson says:

    If one was so inclined one could blame ‘Thatcher’s children’ for failing to lead the fightback. Let’s not go there. Just get on with it and unify the fight against these regressive policies.

  3. Tim Pendry says:

    Nice one, Mark – had to be said …

  4. What a lot of tosh from Mark Seddon! Here I am living on less than £14,000 a year and I find out it’s all my fault! Never mind the bankers, never mind multi-billionaire speculators, never mind corrupt politicians, it’s all down to my generation who by and large turned their backs on the grasping self-serving ethos promoted first by Thatcher and then by Bliar! Of course it’s our fault that no one took any notice of us when we warned what was coming. Excuse me while I go and beat myself up then donate all I have left to the cause of bailing you bastards out!

  5. Mark Seddon says:

    Richard, Gordon, my attack is on the political class baby boomers – and boy do they need it!

    I thought that might have been fairly obvious..

  6. Bryce Webster says:

    You are incorrect about the baby boomers’ part in the debacle in America, nor did they receive the largesse you speak of. The World War II generation, that Tom Brokaw disingenuously referred to as the Greatest, was the recipient of all that. In the states, Boomers are and will continue to be worse off than any other cohort because of the meltdown. They are too close to retirement to recover financially, too old to find new jobs. They have been taxed most highly (the middle and working classes) of any US generation to fund the excessive retirements of the so-called Greatest, who even now refuse to give up one cent for their kids or grandchildren. They, not the boomers, primarily comprise the reprehensible Teabaggers.

    American boomers were trashed by their parents to a far greater degree than were, as far as I can tell, UK boomers. US boomers had the college funding rug pulled out from under them, right after their fathers had finished using it via the GI bill. Vietnam vets were treated like junk…by the Greatest, who are now (along with a few government boomers) doing the same and worse for Bush’s war’s veterans. The so-called Greatest took every penny and, as they were in Congress-not boomers–they voted themselves the greatest entitlements the US has ever known. They are on national health, known as Medicare, because they are retired (boomers are not yet) and are denying health care to everyone else fearing it would diminish their own take one tiny bit.

    I realize it is not exactly the same in Britain as in the US, although there are some similarities. But here, the WWII generation was generous, despite having suffered, and started the national health, and so on, and expanded schools.

    In the US, the WWII generation created Medicare for itself only, and will substantially scrap it for boomers and beyond. The US already had extensive public schooling, which the WWII generation failed to expand sufficiently for their enormous numbers of kids (the boomers), and utterly refused to pay school taxes for their grandchildren. They are a scurrilous bunch, those WWII creeps. They claim that they saved Europe. I say Bull. Americans did relatively little; the British public and European public took the brunt; British troops and European resistance did most of the winning. Americans batted cleanup, as they say in baseball, no more. And yet, the WWII generation crows like they saved the universe.

    Sorry, my friend, but boomers are only marginally to blame for the current mess in America facing upcoming generations; blame it on the greedsters from WWII who Brokaw put on a pedestal they do not deserve.

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