The Apocalyptic Tyranny of Middle Class Boomers

The Apocalyptic Tyranny of Middle Class Boomers

Taji Amani

April 7, 2020 / 6320 AFK

Some Baby Boomers seem to be under the impression that, because I’m a Millennial, the self-esteem movement gave me an inflated ego and that I want to be in-charge and skip straight to the top. Not true. While I do see that democratic business is a vital next step for an empowered worker class, as a job seeker in corporate America, I’ve never cared about where in a corporate hierarchy I would be placed. However, I do expect to be paid enough to live. The Boomers who look down their noses at younger generations seem to confuse this with an undue sense of entitlement. If wanting to be paid enough to consistently meet one’s basic needs is entitled, then these Boomers have fully bought into capitalism. They’re like eager peons who believe that capitalists – actual capitalists, not just "middle" class and poor people who are sold on the idea – are entitled to exploited labor. The only rationale that I have to explain their condescension, which I personally experience, is that not only have some Boomers adjusted to being exploited themselves, but they have internalized their oppression to such an extent that they would expect – even demand – that younger generations do the same thing. “When I was younger, I worked for ten paperclips an hour. What’s wrong with you all?” Congratulations. Of course, this classic self-adulation is devoid of even a general idea of how inflation works. Heroically surviving on a yeoman’s salary of $5 per hour in 1970 is the equivalent of earning $34.12 per hour in 2020 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. So miss me with that Horatio Alger noise. If I had taken my brand new humanities degree and three internships to a job interview and asked for $35 per hour, I would have been shot.

Even with the relatively better wages that they had, Boomers still have very little reason to be drinking the capitalist Kool Aid, let alone pushing it. The same attitude that normalizes working so hard for “so little” may be one reason why most of their generation is either unable to retire or aging into economic deprivation. The Stanford Center for Longevity published research saying, “One-third of baby boomers had no money saved in retirement plans in 2014, when they were age 58, on average, leaving them with little time to start saving for retirement. Even for those with positive balances, the median was only about $200,000… Boomers were inadequately prepared for retirement, even prior to the Great Recession.” PBS reports that, “Nearly half of Americans nearing retirement age (65 years old) have less than $25,000 put away, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual survey. One in four don’t even have $1,000 saved.” According to Forbes, in 2013, black families had just 15% of what white families had in their retirement accounts.

What is fascinating is that despite decades of hard work culminating in a financial cliff, many middle class Boomers continue to vote the same way and even scoff at my generation’s inclinations toward socialism or even watered-down capitalism in the form of democratic socialism. Perhaps they simply lack the self-love or self-esteem to understand that they too are entitled to a living wage, to meeting their basic needs, to a dignified elderhood, to clean air and water, to a livable planet and to uninhibited access to healthcare. So, they just take their lumps, say thank you, vote for the same ideas and somehow, it's the younger generations that are impractical. Well if getting beat up by the same corporate and political ideologies one decade after the next isn’t impractical, then I don’t know what is. But Boomers have no basis for chiding us when we make the obvious choice not to emulate them.

Black, middle class Boomers cannot be held as culpable for the status quo as their white peers because they and their families have been racially excluded from certain income opportunities, wealth accumulation opportunities, positions of power and because of their smaller proportion of electoral power. Nevertheless, many of them have chosen political and economic assimilation into liberal capitalism over their own self-determination and the forward-looking movements being led by their children. They’ve even decided that Barack Obama’s presidency was progress for black people. His black excellence is practically religion and he can do no wrong. This Boomer in Chief can go to Flint, Michigan and publicly downplay the water crisis, which remains unrectified today. He can invite a bigoted cop to the White House for a beer and then sit on the sidelines of the Black Lives Matter movement. (For elected, black Boomers, black lives only matter when the white liberals who control the Democratic Party say so.) He can remain tepid about poverty and the precipitous decline of black households' financial wealth, except for suggesting that $10.10 per hour be the new limit for poverty wages. He can expand a profit-centric healthcare system. He can engage in two (additional) undeclared wars in Libya and Syria. He can bomb brown communities across seven countries to the tune of thirty-four airstrikes per day, upping his predecessor significantly. He and his Secretary of State can promote fossil fuels domestically and abroad. He can permit torture and punish the truth-tellers. And black Boomers will continue to venerate him. They’ll even blaspheme the legacy of Dr. Martin King, Jr. by portraying Barack Obama’s face next to his as if they had a comparable impact on the state of black America. (C’mon y’all, there are warlords and then there are freedom fighters. There’s Pharaoh and then there’s Moses. Don’t be so thirsty to see black skin in high places that you don’t care what it’s doing.) Obama was the antithesis of King who opposed US militarism, capitalism and systemic racism. But many black Boomers don't know the difference because, as Dave Chappelle warns, sacrificing the moral compass of good-and-bad for a lower bar of better-and-worse makes people easy to control.

Boomers have been listless in the face of existential crises. This, combined with their poorly hidden contempt for the generations who insist on fundamental change, has led us to where we are today.

Today, there are nine years left to stop irreversible ecosystem loss due to greenhouse gas pollution and the planet is becoming unlivable. A mass extinction of species is under way. The US is dropping thousands of bombs and waging war at the cost of approximately $750 billion every year. Black household wealth is headed toward $0. Three billionaires hold as much wealth as the poorest half of America. The US is incarcerating 25% of the global prisoner population (and in racist disproportions). Millions of people are in debt because they got sick or went to school. Now that the unthinkable is reality, Baby Boomers are experiencing an awakening. Finally, they’re starting to see that they, all people and the planet are entitled to decency. They're seeing that livable wages, a healthy planet, an end to imperialism, a systematic confrontation of racism, a health system – NAHHHT. Boomers still want Donald freakin’ Trump and Joe freakin’ Biden. These intransigent drones are in total denial of capitalism’s, literally apocalyptic, consequences and its victimization of their own, not-so-golden years. Don't wait for them to take their heads out of the sand. Many of them don't think that they'll be around long enough to personally benefit from any major changes and they have a hard time thinking further into the future than that. Our generation and future generations will have to resist, reverse and heal the Earth shattering damage of Boomers' economic and political arrangements just to have a shot at ecological or economic survival. Revolt.