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Are You a BSer! Words of Wisdom from a Crotchety Boomer

October 30, 2011

Updated September 25, 2012

Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m talking about a topic completely different from what you may have inferred. To my peers, Baby Boomers, I’m taking out the whacking stick. Gens X and Y: sit back (grab a beer), relax and enjoy. Then get pissed off.

So what’s a BSer?

Simply put, we Baby Boomers have been the biggest borrowers and spenders (BSers) in human history.

We grew up in arguably competitive labor markets, in contrast to our parents (the Greatest Generation, also called the Silent Generation), but we also benefitted from massive – and I mean MASSIVE – growth in consumer credit.

Credit became the addictive crack that fueled our economies, contributing to rapid growth in what we economists call aggregate demand. Without that escalating growth during the past 50 years, Americans and Canadians (along with Western Europeans) would not be enjoying their current standards of living.

We live in an age of immediate gratification. “Holy crap, I need the newest __________.” (fill in the blank). If you don’t get it, how about Ipad, BMW, Porsch, Bose stereo, Panasonic, Alienware computer, Kitchen Aid appliance….

Gen Y, are you paying attention?

There seems to be a collective assumption in Canada and America that our standard of living is an entitlement, that somehow it got to where it is through divine providence.

Back – waaayyyyy back – when my peer Boomers and I were in diapers or just mere sparkles in our parents’ eyes, our parents and grandparents were working their asses off. My immigrant dad worked fulltime until age 72. He helped build Canada, as did my Scottish grandfather.

They were no exceptions. That was how it was. Sacrifice – big-time!

There was a fellow by the name of Franklin D. Roosevelt, in my opinion one of America’s greatest presidents.

FDR was far from perfect. But he had a vision, could see the big picture, plan and then execute. NO ONE since his time can come even close to his accomplishments.

One of his greatest achievements was the Civilian Conservation Corps, America’s most effective nation-wide mobilization of civilians to serve the good of the country during the Great Depression.

How soon we forget. Current and past presidents and prime ministers piss away taxpayers’ money on useless “stimulus” schemes.

Yet we Boomers just can’t seem to get enough.

Consider this in the context of an aging population: For every $4 spent on seniors in the U.S., a mere $1 is spent on those under age 18.

How about early childhood education?

Canada’s no shining light when it comes to investing in its children. However, what’s happening in the United States is becoming a travesty. Witness what’s going on in states such as Arizona (which nuked its pre-kindergarten program) and Iowa (which almost killed its program, save for the governor’s last-minute appeal). For an insightful look into this growing trend, read The Preschool Wars (TIME, October 10, 2011)

One in four third graders who have lived in poverty and are not reading at grade level will drop out or fail to graduate by age 19, a rate more than six times the one for proficient readers.

(TIME, October 10, 2011)

Moving up the age ladder to young people who are beginning their career development, skills training (something traditionally ignored in Canada) is getting hammered by the Obama administration. Already, $140 million has been cut from vocational training (despite the crying need from industry for trained technicians and journeymen), with another 2% cut on the way.

In this week’s TIME, students across the U.S. are profiled on their crushing debt load. Owing $60,000 plus by graduation is common; some students owe over $100,000. Canadian college grads also owe obscene amounts of loans to the federal government.

I seem to be getting Gens X and Y’s attention as current or soon-to-be parents.

Gen Y, are you now getting motivated to start voting? Because if you’re not, we Boomers will become more demanding from government as our joints give out, as our tickers fade and as our demands for public services soar.

Oh yeah. You haven’t seen anything yet. Boomers know how to whine and receive.

We may have Gens X and Y age kids (Sue and I have four), but we really don’t give a crap about you. It’s always been about us.

So Gen Y (Gen X is probably beyond hope since it’s climbing the management ladder and getting comfortable in suburbia) it’s up to you to start paying attention to politics and making your voice heard. Take a lesson from repressed young people in dictatorial Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, etc.

Because if you don’t, we BSers will eat your lunch.


It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.

– Thomas Jefferson


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