June 4, 2014

Boomer representation in major political bodies

Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to '64) as a percentage of big-time political office-holders (current figures for the U.S.).

President: 100%

Governors: 78%

House Reps: 75%

Senators: 63%

Supreme Court Justices: 56%

And the majority of the non-Boomers are not X-ers but Silents -- the hidden generation that has tag-teamed with the Boomers in bankrupting and destroying Western economies and polities (a topic for an upcoming post).

By this point, the fix is in -- why bother voting? I've been old enough to vote since the '98 elections, and have cast it exactly once -- for Nader in 2000. (Not terribly different from Buchanan -- populist leftie vs. populist rightie.)

The Millennials are starting to become more numerous than the Boomers in the general population, after the aging process has winnowed out a fair number of Boomers, and as the echo boom has worked its way into the 20-something age group. The baby busters of Gen X tried holding up the fort the best they could while they were vastly outnumbered, so now it's on the Millennials to launch the attack on the Boomers.

True, they're introverted, awkward, and bratty. But awkwardness just means they won't make change in a face-to-face, storm-the-castle kind of way. They could still pull a lever in the cocoon of a voting booth.

And just maybe their brattiness can be harnessed to defund the preposterous and unsustainable entitlements for, e.g., prescription drugs through Medicare -- AKA, Boomers stubbornly continuing to eat junk food like children, getting diabetes and metabolic syndrome broadly, and wanting healthy younger people to foot the bill. And all without having to alter their diet, as a token of good faith and atonement, but feeling entitled to binge on carboholic junk until they drop dead.

And all those later-in-life health consequences of debauchery when they were young. Think of how much poor health, especially cancer, is the sum of all sorts of cryptic STDs and lingering side-effects of hard drug use. "Hey man, it was the Seventies, we didn't know any better... now pay our Medicare bills -- or don't young people have a sense of responsibility anymore?"

Gen X likes to rag on how lame the Millennials have turned out, but politics makes strange bedfellows, and as usual the future will prove to be an interesting time indeed.

26 comments:

  1. Robert the Wise6/4/14, 11:43 PM

    "The baby busters of Gen X tried holding up the fort the best they could while they were vastly outnumbered, so now it's on the Millennials to launch the attack on the Boomers."

    My whole life, I've felt that I was cleaning up someone else's messes, especially the Goddamned Boomers. Now I know it's true and I know why.

    Wasted eight years of my life in the US Army so these fuckers could retire on my dime. Can't wait to smash in their lazy, selfish, irresponsible faces.

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  2. I'm a Gen X and I don't think Millennials suck. I think they've been screwed even worse than we have. There was a time a few years ago where I looked at my 401K balance, where I'd been contributing since the mid-90s when I got my first professional job, and I realized I had less money than if I'd just stuffed it under the mattress, and I wanted to nuke the whole Boomer generation.

    But at least I was able to graduate college before the final, unsustainable runup in college costs, when jobs suddenly became scarce. Some of us Gen X'ers were able to grab at the bottom rung of the ladder as the Boomers were yanking it up into their tree house, but not the poor Millennials. And the kids now in junior high and high school? Where does that leave them?

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  3. Barack Obama is technically a Boomer, but he's on the cusp of Generation X. People born in the early 60's don't have a great deal in common with those born in the late 40's.

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  4. "Wasted eight years of my life in the US Army so these fuckers could retire on my dime. Can't wait to smash in their lazy, selfish, irresponsible faces."

    I don't know what kind of revolution you're looking for, but I'm not part of it.

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  5. what can we do to dethrone the Silent Generation? I can't even imagine how to become a political activist.

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  6. A.B. Prosper6/5/14, 6:56 PM

    Me either but we may get that revolution anyway with a nasty bit of outright race war added for extra flavor.

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  7. I really do like to rag on millennials.

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  8. Everything the late Silents and Boomers wanted, they got: social laws were liberalized as they reached reproductive age and so on for everything else. Bent to their will.

    A couple things. We are disproportionately descended from those who were somewhat decent. Sure, our parents likely divorced with one of them saying something like, "I need to find myself(and a bigger, better stud)" or "I got married too young (and I really want to fornicate...a lot)" and that's just the beginning BUT, "Hey, they're not crazy Aunt Susan, or compulsive liar Uncle Mike, or that spinster Aunt Carol who had a knack for shacking up with weird guys like that one she came home to once wearing her dress and makeup".

    I've often wondered what Millenials power would look like, especially as they've been hit the worst financially. Unlike Boomers and Silents, Millenials are more racially diverse and this will be radically more so with the generation following them.
    I loosely conceptualize it as the Boomers/Silents who were most liberal chose to have themselves replaced with lower class people of color. Not conscientiously, of course, but through their actions, inactions, and priorities.

    At some point I believe the salient feature people will use to align themselves will be race, not age. After the Boomers leave taking so many white liberals with them?

    Boomers are dying younger for the reasons you gave. The Great Liberalization has acted like a buzzsaw upon my mother's mostly Celtic side of the family. I don't think a single one of the five kids will live to be elderly and four of them were above average in intelligence with my mother having very superior intelligence.
    My German relatives were mostly unscathed except for loss of faith and meaning; they'll live well into old age.

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  9. Boomers stubbornly continuing to eat junk food like children, getting diabetes and metabolic syndrome broadly, and wanting healthy younger people to foot the bill. And all without having to alter their diet, as a token of good faith and atonement, but feeling entitled to binge on carboholic junk until they drop dead.

    And all those later-in-life health consequences of debauchery when they were young. Think of how much poor health, especially cancer, is the sum of all sorts of cryptic STDs and lingering side-effects of hard drug use.


    Aren't Gen X at least as bad with their diet? As young people Gen X were pretty into drugs and promiscuity right, and any advantage over Boomers in this in old would be attributable to the more boring modern times (and the Gen X as adults being more lame and dull people in them).

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  10. Kevin B. MacDonald professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach may have a different opinion.

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  11. "Aren't Gen X at least as bad with their diet?"

    Most of the low-carb / paleo world is Gen X and late Boomers. When I order burgers without the bun, the Millennials working at Wendy's are aware of low-carb, and are as often as not to remark to each other, "Yeah, I should start eating better..."

    A common joke among X-ers and Millennials is seeing someone eating a whole boatload of carbs and saying sarcastically, "Would you like some diabetes with your lunch?"

    The whole anti-fat, anti-meat, low-cal, low-cholesterol hysteria began with the Boomers during one of their intermittent great awakenings, in the late '70s / early '80s, along with the jogging craze. These food taboos remain as forceful today among them because they were the outcome of a hysteria.

    X-ers went along with it, but never thought of it in taboo / purity terms, and have come to eat more meat (the bacon craze), whole milk, and other fatty animal foods that their non-fat yogurt and granola-eating elders couldn't stomach.

    The youngest X-ers could've done some drugs and slept around when they were young, but it's the cumulative effect that counts in old age. Boomers did drugs and slept around well past college age.

    Most of those risk behaviors among high school students began falling no later than the early 1990s (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey). By the mid-'90s, the kids in My So-Called Life were already way less active than 15 years earlier in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (who were late Boomers).

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  12. AIDS was mostly a Boomer thing, too, along with some of the earliest X-ers.

    Boomers are so much more likely to have Hepatitis C virus that the CDC recommended that all of them be screened for it. They are believed to have picked it up in the '70s and '80s, when transmission was highest.

    And those are only things that we already know about and can pinpoint. Who knows how much else among flagging Boomer health is due to the same way of life when they were young? What there is, is always more than what is known.

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  13. If they had shown any sign of wanting to atone and redeem themselves, we might feel more forgiving. But they're so unrepentant and unwilling to be held accountable for their actions.

    The nanny state is just supposed to swoop in and foot the bill for their "medical care" -- AKA lifelong damage control for lifelong irresponsibility. How else are they supposed to "have it all"?

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    Replies
    1. Most of the boomers I know who had much to atone for have done so to varying degrees. The crash of 2007-8 was the turning, humbling, point for most of them. My mother apologized about a year ago to me and my sister for the family breakups and I'm glad, but mostly I'm so thankful to have her more involved in our lives.
      My sister has a harder time, in fact she called me yesterday with news that her elderly dad (nearly 50 years older than her) was turned down for cardiac stents. She began crying: about him being alone and how to this day, almost 20 years after their divorce, she still holds out hope that our mom would marry him again even though she's always known, rationally, it will never happen. The heartbreak never ends.

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  14. depends. it seems like some kinds of maladies, like controlling obesity, you really need assistance for. and I don't believe anybody should get punched in the face.

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  15. Bill Clinton?

    I'm not sure what the archetypical Baby Boomer is like.

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  16. The whole anti-fat, anti-meat, low-cal, low-cholesterol hysteria began with the Boomers during one of their intermittent great awakenings, in the late '70s / early '80s, along with the jogging craze. These food taboos remain as forceful today among them because they were the outcome of a hysteria.

    OK, but there's stuff like this -

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121101100118.htm

    Using data from the National Health Survey, Ms Pilkington compared Generation X in 2008 to boomers at the same age, in 1989 ... "At the same age, Gen X males have nearly double the prevalence of obesity: 18.3% compared with 9.4% for boomers. There is a smaller but still significant difference in females, with 12.7% of Gen X women being obese in 2008 and 10.4% of boomer females obese in 1989.

    On meat, Boomers have more "meat and two veg" people and less vegans, but they're also of the age where they're being bombarded with low meat med establishment conventional wisdom and are more worry free and secure about authorities compared to the Gen X, where Alex Jones style conspiracy theorists are a big generation archetype (true since Gen X began as a media force). NHANES would have data on this for the USA.

    But it seems like Gen X's actual food choices at the same ages seem to lead to more obesity. Stuff like the bacon craze and umami burgers seems more to do with the food scene and rockstar celebrity chefs being big in our cocooning time, where the Boomers were more into music and socialising.

    On alcohol abuse - http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.04055.x/abstract - shows like some evidence Gen X seem like heavier drinkers, comparing one slice of Gen X to a slice of late Boomers. Other hard drug abuse, I dunno, Google didn't turn anything up quickly that which broke abuse rates up by generation.

    STDs and related health damage I can believe being lower, since promiscuity should be lower in Gen X, simply due to Gen X being cocooners for more of their lives compared to the Boomers.

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  17. Re: Boomers as political office holders, OK, that's how it is now, but are the Greatest Generation (who you've described before as a kind of proto-Gen X from the earlier cycle) responsibility free? What happened under the watch of Johnson, Nixon and Reagan?

    With the Boomers and the welfare state, the biggest mark I'd place against them wouldn't be youthful debauchery. It would be having such Baby Bust that they totally failed to demographically support themselves in old age.

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  18. Life wasn't so bad under the Greatest Gen presidents. The main thing that government does -- collect taxes and provide public goods for citizens -- was cruising along. Inequality kept falling.

    Once the Silents and Boomers began taking over, taxes were slashed, immigrants flooded in, and the only public goods are being provided to the Silent/Boomer in-group -- e.g., prescription drugs through Medicare. Compare to the "goodies" that X-ers and Millennials get -- financial aid for higher ed, AKA $40,000 of debt strapped to your back once you turn 21. Students loans are not grants, and don't buy anything in the job market. Prescription drugs are basically free and provide tangible lasting results for well-being.

    The Reagan / Bush I era had Greatest Gen presidents, but I suspect there was a rising tide of Silents in the legislative branch. Had to have been. Who was 40 to 60 in 1986, who could've pushed through the immigrant amnesty? Those born between 1926 and '46 -- Silents.

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  19. Boomers' cumulative of hard drugs up to, say, age 30 or 40 was way higher than it has been for X-ers. Same reason as with STDs -- they lived more of their youth and middle age during a drug-using climate. Cigarette use -- even more dramatic. X-ers hardly smoke, and Millennials seemingly not at all.

    Alcohol isn't clear. Boomers were not binge drinkers, but I think they drank more liberally than X-ers. The GSS used to ask a question about drinking and drinking too much, but they stopped awhile ago, so we can't compare X-ers to earlier gens.

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  20. Age-period-cohort look into the U.S. obesity epidemic:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782961/

    Figure 4 compares cohorts broken down by sex and race. No trends in obesity by cohort among white males. X-ers are a bit fatter than Boomers among white females. Most of the difference between generations comes from racial make-up, as black men and especially black women are way fatter among X-ers than Boomers.

    But most of the rise in obesity is due to "period" effects, i.e. living during the fat-phobic climate rather than the Midcentury era of red meat, eggs, and aspic.

    "Results from hierarchical age-period-cohort (HAPC) models confirmed that period effects are principally responsible for the U.S. obesity epidemic. However, HAPC models also demonstrated that birth cohort membership is influential. Independent of age and period effects, the predicted probability of obesity at age 25 increased by 30% for cohorts born between 1955 and 1975. Our results also showed that age, period and cohort effects varied by race/gender and educational attainment. For instance, increases in the predicted probabilities of obesity were particularly sharp for recent cohorts of Black females."

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  21. My guess is something similar is going on with those Australian results. Gen X wasn't much fatter than Boomers among females, but was way fatter among males. Perhaps male-biased immigration from people who can't metabolize carbs as well as Europeans can, or among their citizen offspring.

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  22. Life wasn't so bad under the Greatest Gen presidents. The main thing that government does -- collect taxes and provide public goods for citizens -- was cruising along. Inequality kept falling.

    As Presidents, the Missionary and Lost Generation (Harding through to Eisenhower) seem to have been in charge during the falling inequality era. The Greatest / GI Generation seems to have stalled out the falling trend, maintained the current level briefly for about 10 years (no rises or falls) for a time, under Kennedy and Johnson, then presided over the beginning of transition to rising inequality. Presidents maybe do lag older than other legislative positions I think.

    In terms of character, the GIs grew up during falling inequality, and then benefited from large expansions of education falling the GI Bill education benefits.

    So it would seem natural to me that they'd preside over rising inequality. They're conditioned by their upbringing to be complacent about falling inequality (they've much more naive about the social division from violent union unrest and red and black flag terrorism), and to see accumulating more education to get advantages over others as a positive thing (anyone who isn't a "college man" must be a lazy bum).

    Re: immigrants, it was the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that began the opening of the floodgates, right? At least that's the impression I get from Sailer . That one's hard to pin on Boomers, or even Silents. Although I bet there were still some Lost around then.

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  23. The 1965 act was a harbinger, but didn't open the floodgates -- there was just more than compared to the '30s, when it was non-existent. In the wake of the '86 amnesty was when the Mexicans flooded over the border.

    I've been looking into older gens in the GSS, and the Greatest Gen do behave like Silents and Boomers in some key attitudes about individual vs. collective welfare. However, Gen X and Millennials stand way out from the others.

    Greatest Gen grew up when status-striving was starting to turn down (and inequality some time afterward). They wouldn't have remembered the Gilded Age, How the Other Half Lives, The Jungle, red light districts, etc. Not too keenly, anyway, unlike Eisenhower or Roosevelt.

    Gen X and Millennials have only grown up in an increasingly competitive and fractured economic-political climate, and -- at least in attitudes -- have always remained apart from all earlier generations from the Greatest to the Boomers.

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  24. More than most generations the GIs changed ideologically, particularly on economic issues, they were very left wing until about 1970 when they became much more conservatives. Compare Ronald Reagan in 1948 to what he later became.

    One of the things that people forget about the 60s is how liberal the GI gneration was during that time, almost all the left wing legislation was passed before any baby boomers could vote.

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  25. Generational theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors of The Fourth Turning, define the Boomer range as 1943-60, which makes a lot more sense to me. You'll find that most of the Silents said to be Boomer allies were born in the early- mid 40s. Almost all of the 60s rock stars for example.

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