Department of the obvious

This is one of the reasons I get so pissed off when young people start attacking boomers. They don’t get that our wages fell steadily for the past three decades while we were supposedly living high on the hog:

Many Americans are being forced to put off retirement thanks to mountains of debt and lower wages, a feature in today’s Wall Street Journal asserts. Because wages have barely kept up with inflation over the past 35 years, Americans have been borrowing more money and saving less. As of 2008, a whopping four of every five households headed up by 60- to- 64-year-olds didn’t have enough savings to pay off their debt without touching their retirement accounts.

Mortgages are the biggest culprit. Last year 39% of households with heads in their early 60s still had primary mortgages to pay off, and another 20% had secondary mortgages—up from 22% and 12% respectively in 1994. And thanks to the housing downturn, those would-be retirees can’t just sell their house at a fat profit as many had long planned. “I imagine I’ll be working until I’m 70,” laments one 59-year-old minister buried under mortgage and credit card debt.

14 thoughts on “Department of the obvious

  1. I once complained to a friend in finance that we were being scolded for carrying debt which we were encouraged to get into by buying all the new adult toys (bigger house, fancy car, luxury vacations, etc.) at the same time we were being scolded for not saving enough (which we could only do by not buying the super adult toys). We were damned if we did and damned if we didn’t. She agreed with me.

  2. If you look at the charts like this one ( you can see that things like hourly wages and general income equality got to their best points in the mid 70’s. After that decade incomes for working people stopped going up, and the rich cut themselves loose from the rest of us and started siphoning up the accumulated wealth created by the workers of American industry over the previous 25 years. They started closing the factories, merging the great companies and plundering them for cash, then laying off workers and shutting them down too. Union contracts were re-negotiated with wage cuts. Women had to go to work to make up the income, and I think that this may have helped to create some of the anger from the next generation who felt deprived.

  3. This is one of the reasons I get so pissed off when young people start attacking boomers.

    Has this been documented? I’ve never experienced this.

  4. Well, for another perspective, consider this. Boomers have been voting since about 1965, and ever since. All of the changes since then happened because a majority of boomers assented. If more boomers were like you Susie, we wouldn’t be in this mess. But they aren’t like you.

    If you’re younger than a boomer, chances are, your boss is a boomer. And the way things are looking, your boss always will be a boomer because they aren’t going to retire. In my experience they’re selfish and only focused on short-term results. Moreover, rather than keeping solidarity with younger workers, they’ve made deals with management to keep their positions of seniority, while newer, younger workers get paid half as much and don’t get benefits. Consider academia, where adjunct professors are getting to be in their forties, and still paid $25,000 per year. Or consider blue collar jobs where the boomers get to keep their jobs and benefits, but new workers aren’t unionized and are called “irregulars.” Whose work is going to pay for their pensions?

    College was an expensive privilege for the few baby boomers who could afford it. Today’s kids are graduating with $80,000 in debt and going into minimum-wage jobs, if they’re lucky to find them.

    Now a bunch of baby boomers is considering cuts in Social Security. But those cuts won’t take effect until later. How convenient. This is their political climate, not younger peoples’. They are in charge, not thirty-somethings. And they never, ever acknowledge the many messes their generation is responsible for.

    Younger generations have many, many shortcomings. They are lazy, distracted, and medicated or self-medicated. But they are underpaid. They are actively discouraged at every turn from deviating from systemic control, particularly at school. They have little or no chance for advancement. And But their futures will mostly be filled with poverty, despair, and finger-wagging from boomers. Is that what you thought your life would be like in 1970?

  5. Jay — I would love to retire and let someone younger have a job…. but then I’ve been unemployed since Dec, 2008 and they never refilled my position so that job is probably gone. And if I ever get the chance of working again, I’ll have to work for a good 10 years (passed 70) to make up the damage my unemployed period has done to savings and 403B. I would LOVE to retire, but I always had lower paying jobs, never in a company with a pension plan and when I finally had a higher paying job, it was taken from me. Oh, and when I joined the workforce in 1973, it was during a downturn and salaries had begun stagnating. There was at a downturn in the 80s and another in the 90s. So not all the boomers have had it easy.

  6. This same argument raged in the 70’s and the Greatest Generation won the battle. It was a ridiculous argument then and it’s an even more ridiculous argument today given the demographic numbers. It’s a divide and conquer tactic being used by the oligarchy to try and strip SS and Medicare benifits from the young. The Republicans are the most evil human beings to ever walk the earth. And that is an understatement.

  7. Lazy? Jay, look, I know you’re trying to be on our side, but really, go and fuck yourself. I see progressives on progressive blogs talking constantly about how an entire nation has been reduced to piece work, to freelancing and temping and part-timing and covering. But nobody over thirty seems to understand what that means to the entire generation starting their careers in this unsustainable labor market. The Millennials’ halcyon age was the tail-end of this long downward spiral you keep talking about. We fantasize about pink collars. We yearn for the shortening boom cycle. You can’t be lazy in an economy that refuses to offer you a job, all right? Younger people work just as hard as boomers, if not harder; they just see less benefit from their work.

  8. To the boomer bashers — May I suggest that your problem is with CORPROTIST and Republican free-marketeers who are the ones really making employment decisions and suppressing working people while taking mega-compensation for themselves.

    Making this fight us (boomers) vs. them (your age group) isn’t going to solve the problem of jobs. I mean, I need to eat and pay rent as much as any one else.

  9. Hey Piny, thanks for the shout out. Please see my comments above about the under-thirties:

    newer, younger workers get half as much and don’t get benefits
    going into minimum-wage jobs, if they’re lucky to find them
    little or no chance for advancement
    futures will mostly be filled with poverty, despair, and finger-wagging from boomers

    My comments about laziness are anecdotal, your milage may vary. One thing’s for certain: at the pay they’re offering, it doesn’t light a fire under anyone’s ass.

  10. You repeat one goatfucking Republican talking point….

    Yeah, well, all of the boomers I know are doing just fine, so I don’t know why all of you are complaining. Your employment prospects may vary. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree about the impact of pension privatization on the elderly. I’m just telling you what I’ve seen, okay?

    I don’t care if you meant it anecdotally, casually, facetiously, or in any other way meant to imply that you really didn’t intend to talk out of your ass. You’re carrying water for the people who insist that the unemployed and underemployed simply don’t want to work. You’re doing tangible harm, making it that much easier for the useful idiots to believe that they simply don’t care about family wages and health benefits. That they’re too lazy to appreciate a decent job. I also don’t care what you believe you’ve seen. The truth is that young people who aren’t working can’t work. The new status quo is trying to cobble together a full-time living from a handful of part-time positions. And although it is demoralizing and exhausting, it doesn’t condition anyone into laziness. Helplessness, maybe, but any labor progressive should be well aware of the difference. In other words, you should know better.

  11. 1. I’m not a boomer.
    2. I’ve been out of work since 2007 and want to work.
    3. I have no job prospects. The industry I worked in is practically kaput. I worked for practically nothing doing internships at multimillion dollar corporations, contributing quite a bit to their bottom line. Then they sold, things went downhill, we got has-been boomer business consultants who milked the companies and fired anyone who was competent.
    4. If you think I repeat Republican talking points you’re seriously mistaken.
    5. Pensions haven’t been privatized . . . they start out as an employment agreement. Then the company reneges on funding, giving the money to the CEO or as dividends, then declares bankruptcy and the PBGC takes over, where the Federal government pays pension recipients pennies on the dollar — everyone else gets screwed. Beginning to sound familiar?
    6. I know you don’t care what I said, what I meant, or what I’ve seen. The inferences you draw therefrom are thus your own.

  12. “Lazy” is a Republican talking point. And it’s really not anything else. And that’s not inference, either. That’s exactly what you said. “Younger generations have many, many shortcomings. They are lazy, distracted, and medicated or self-medicated.”

    There is no evidence for this. If anything, the “productivity gains” we’ve all been afflicted with will have had the opposite effect. Younger generations are not lazy. They are out of work.

    And I sympathize, but your own problems with this economy have nothing to do with your willingness to trash other people facing the same problem. I’d be just as angry at a senior who accused other seniors of laziness. Are you lazy? Do you suffer from some sort of cultural incompetence when it comes to doing actual work for some sort of actual salary? No? Clearly not? You “want to work?” Why, then, would you want to hang that on anyone else?

    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this crap on supposedly progressive blogs, either. You’d think we’d never heard that David Brooks was a moron.

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