Blame the Boomers

“What the Greatest Generation handed down to us — the richest, most powerful, most self-sufficient republic in history, with the highest standard of living any nation had ever achieved — the baby boomers, oblivious and self-indulgent to the end, have frittered away.”

Pat Buchanan, who penned the riff from which the above quote was taken, is an enigmatic man: one moment a ranting xenophobic psycho, and the next an insightful social critic.

When is the last time you heard a politician criticize the baby boomers? The boomers are off limits because they are a hugely powerful voting block. But there is, I believe, much truth in Buchanan’s statement above. The boomers have had their time in the sun, and we are now beginning to reap what they sowed. Who else is there to blame?

But true to the Buchanian style, there are some choice inconsistencies in the piece as well:

“What we are witnessing is the collapse of Gordon Gecko (‘Greed Is Good!’) capitalism.”

A pleasure it is to hear that from the likes of Buchanan, but of course he doesn’t dare take it any deeper and question whether or not “greed is good” capitalism is the inevitable destination of an economic system grounded in the invisible hand of the free market. Never mind all those angry lefties who for decades have been pointing out that the operative economic ideology will shape moral character.

“‘Government must save us!’ cries the left, as ever. Yet, who got us into this mess if not the government — the Fed with its easy money, Bush with his profligate spending, and Congress and the SEC by liberating Wall Street and failing to step in and stop the drunken orgy?”

Cliche anti-left straw man aside, Buchanan’s examples of how government got us into this mess are embarrassingly self-contradicting. What his examples actually attest to is that the “government is the problem” ideology has gotten us into this mess, because Republican policy from Reagan onward has led to a weakened and incompetent government incapable of functioning as a effective check on corporate excess.

And my, how conveniently Buchanan seems to forget that the uber-nation his revered “Greatest Generation” handed off to the boomers in the latter part of the 20th Century owed much of its success to New Deal-era policy. That is, policy that reigned in laissez-faire capitalism by enabling government intervention and allowing strong labor unions. (Psst, Pat: Evidently the Greatest Generation had a penchant for socialism.)

But then here’s the sane Buchanan, back in fine form once again:

“An unelected financial elite is now entrusted with the assignment of getting us out of a disaster into which an unelected financial elite plunged the nation. We are just spectators.”