Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Debts of the Spenders: Boomers Apologize For Destroying Nation

One of the most selfish generations in history is starting to do a round of apologies. And these are not just small Joe Blows either but influential politicians and industry leaders. Unfortunately, these words sound like meaningless platitudes to those of my age.

If they really felt sorry, they can start leaving their jobs early and let the next generation of recent college graduates (such as yours truly) take over. The unemployment rate is soaring but is further obscured by lack of jobs for new graduates which are not counted in government statistics. In fact, Generation X and Y are going to get their revenge against employers in a few years when the demographic crunch forces hiring managers to pick up labor. And it will be a classical case of supply vs. demand.

Emphasis my own.

WSJ(6/10) Boomers To This Year's Grads: We Are Really Sorry

(From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL) By Douglas Belkin

In 1969, baby boomers took podiums at college graduations around the country and pledged to redefine the world in their image.

Forty years later, they have, and now they are apologizing for it. Their collective advice for the class of 2009: Don't be like us.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, 60 years old, told the graduating class of Butler University last month that boomers have been "self-absorbed, self-indulgent and all too often just plain selfish."

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, 55, told Grinnell College graduates in Iowa that his was "the grasshopper generation, eating through just about everything like hungry locusts."

And Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, at 44 barely a boomer himself, told seniors at Colorado College that the national creed of one generation standing on the shoulders of the next was at risk "because our generation has not been faithful enough to our grandparents' example."

But their apologies fell flat with some students, who wondered why the speakers weren't urging their fellow boomers to do more to clean up the mess they created.

"They have been pretty selfish, but they're still going to be around," said Ben Slaton, a Butler graduate. "They need to do their part."

The speeches, which were tailored to their audience of early 20-somethings, understandably dwelled on what younger people could do to help fix the country's problems. And no matter what this year's crop of speakers said, they were likely to encounter skepticism from students entering the worst job market in decades.

In his address at Colorado College, Sen. Bennet, a Democrat, used three figures to make his point about boomers' failures. Since the beginning of the decade, annual median family income in the U.S. declined by $300; health-care costs climbed by 80%; and the cost of higher education jumped 60%.

"We have limited the potential of future generations by burdening them with our poor choices and our unwillingness to make tough ones," Mr. Bennet said.

That theme echoed around the country. At Texas Tech University, CBS "60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley, 51, told graduates: "I know you're looking up here at my generation and you're thinking, 'Great, thanks, just when it was our turn, you broke it." Speaking at the Boston College commencement last month, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns compared the divisiveness of this era with the Civil War period. In an interview, he said the boomers' tragedy was to "squander the legacy handed to them by the generation from World War II."

Julie Meador, who just graduated from the University of Kentucky and listened to the speaker at her commencement apologize for the financial mess her class is inheriting, said she isn't thinking about saving the world just yet. The 21-year-old marketing major is earning $7.50 an hour as a part-time sales associate at the Gap while looking for a position that allows her to put her degree to use.

"Right now what I'm thinking about most is finding a good job," she said. "My plate is pretty full."

(END) Dow Jones Newswires
06-09-09 1856ET
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