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The Pinch Closes Down Baby Boomers' Justifications

David "two brains" Willetts has been lending both of his brains to exploring a new political split: not between left and right, but between old and young. In his new book "The Pinch" he lays out in scary detail the problem I outlined last year in my post "Generation Poor Y Me". He argues that the baby boomers are systematically ripping off the younger generation. Here are some highlights:

  • Housing: The over 45s have more than six times as much property wealth as the under 45s: £5.8trn versus £0.9trn.The rapid inflation of property prices is a huge windfall to the baby boomers and a burden to the younger generations. The young can not get onto the housing ladder, so are forced to stay at home ("boomerang kids") prompting derision from the older generation.
  • Environment: baby boomers will let the next generation deal with the challenge of global warming, thank you.
  • Education: University education used to be free. Now graduates emerge with a degree and an average of £23,000 of debt, which may change their attitudes to the value of government greatly.
  • Pensions: baby boomers have the index linked pensions; the new generation must pay their own way.
  • Taxes: the explosion of government debt is spending by today's generation. We will kindly let the next generation pay our debts off for us. The government is spending £4 for every £3 of income it receives. Try that with your family budget and see how long you can last.
Against all this the baby boomers have some pretty thin arguments:
  • "We went to the moon, invented the internet and iPods". Not true for 99 per cent of us who were not walking on the moon and were not inventing iPods.
  • "We have paid our taxes so we deserve a good retirement". The data shows we have not paid nearly enough for all the care and pensions we expect.
  • "We worked hard". Not true: annual working hours are at an all time low: around 1600 hours compared to 3,200 hours in the Industrial Revolution. With later entry and earlier exit from the workforce the baby boomers may be the idlest generation in all history.
  • "We had our ideals, our hopes and dreams". True maybe, but ideals do not pay the bills and have not stopped the baby boomers with their rip off.
David Willetts is a conservative MP. He knows the electoral arithmetic. The ageing baby boomers are keen voters and are set to become 24 per cent of the electorate. No sane politician will take away their free bus passes, free television licences, free health care, winter heating subsidies, pensions and all the other perks of retirees. The Pinch is not going to go away, it is going to get much worse as the baby boomers take a sudden interest in the welfare of pensioners -- themselves.

If you want a depressing but insightful read on the way to work, The Pinch is a good start.

(Pic: revolution cycle cc2.0)

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