Birth of the American Middle Class
I came of age in the age of thunder. It was a wild, swinging, war torn, short dress, free sex, campus protest, pot smoking time called the 1960s.
Our fathers and mothers saved the world from the horror of Nazis, 1941 through 1945, then came home and built the American Dream, 1947 through 1959. I grew up through a time framed around General Motors: "What's Good for General Motors is Good for America!" and the enlightened universe of General Electric (GE). Our new world took shape around new cars and new homes. It was the birth of the American Middle Class.
Big cars, fast cars, cheap gas, suburbs, jobs, new wealth, homes, schools that worked for a new population wave, were the boundaries that defined my transition from youth to manhood (1960 through 1969).
Nixon made many of us crazy with his double down hard approach to our generation who wanted more than the Vietnam War for future. Many Baby Boomers, those born after the end of World War II, fought back. As a generation, some of us were mad at the official establishment. In the streets, the cries were "Don't trust anyone over 30."
The 1960s was a time of social and cultural chaos. Yet, somehow, we grew up and became young adults.
It was a wonderful time for many of us who went on to higher education, got jobs where our skills were needed, formed political allegiances, and found mates for starting families.
The Baby Boomers Grow Up
During the 1970s the Baby Boomers lost their political innocence with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the man many of us believed would carry the torch of his slain brother, John F. Kennedy. Riots, a televised war and the embarrassment of the Chicago Democratic Convention convinced idealists that their dreams of bigger things were not to be. The Boomers bought their first homes, made families, and joined churches.
The Presidencies of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter seem to be just holding places. During these times, Baby Boomers lived good lives.
It was in the 1970's Baby Boomers, in the peak of their earning capacities, and the new kids on the block of economic change, became the ultimate consumers. With new found money from good paying jobs, millions of us bought things. Stuff made us feel good. Much of our purchases were items we didn't need for our daily survival. We just wanted new cars, new clothes, new houses, and new personal computers. Baby Boomers were early adapters of the latest "newness" in technology.
Republican President Reagan threw cold water into our faces. He introduced us to "government cuts and social agencies death" The decade of the 1980s were hard years as the American economy went through complex and confusing economic stalls, redefining wealth centers, and retrenchment of American society.
Democratic President Clinton embraced us during the 1990's. Clinton moved us into a new sense and spirit of once again being happy with our shopping power. Boomers had jobs and money flowing throughout the American landscape of malls and stand alone retail shops. We had no global wars. Life was good, as our sons and daughters were on the edge of becoming young adults, ready for college.
Republican President Bush II brought in the new years of a new century, 2000. It was not a good start. The Bush vs. Gore election that wound up in court deepened the divide that began with the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
We live in terror
As the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon burned, we began the Age of Terror. We began to refer to America as The Homeland.
From 2001 through 2016, a foundation of long term war is defining how America will enter into this new century. Our national military and national security budgets have grown by 50%. America now has a forever war in the Middle East, where the shooting never seems to stop. The establishment in Washington these years built a national surveillance and security industry of over one million professionals.
Democratic President Obama came after Bush II. After eight years of his watch, we as a country are still not settled upon a course of peace in the Middle East or how to rebuild the basic infrastructure of American cities and rural regions. From 2008 up to 2016, Republican leadership in the US Senate has practiced a "scorched earth legislative strategy" in which every major wish and program of President Obama has been blocked or defeated.
Retirement Future Shock
One of the realities of this new age that Baby Boomers face is the feeling we are no longer the target audience for the American consumer marketplace.
The American economy, on a daily basis, hitches its future earnings to the buying habits of 70% of our population. Within this mix of just over 200 million Americans are the increasing market forces of Generation X (born from 1972 to 1982) and the Millennials (born 1982 through 2003). These are the shoppers buying new cars, trucks, and houses.
The white male dominated Baby Boomers are experiencing future shock. Now in our sixties and seventies, an older Baby Boomer society is finding that retirement has become a series of economic traps. Home values for most have fallen. Health care costs have exploded. The reality is that this is the price of living instead of dying.
Health care in the hospital has save millions from dying of whatever, fill in the blank. It is the cost of this life extension that has engulfed most Baby Boomers with a profound cocoon of mounting debt to their retirement. Many retirees take anywhere from 7 pills a day up 17 or 20 pills a day. Hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and pill factory companies are making trillions of dollars of profit off this life extension.
In retirement we Baby boomers have become our parents. We are concerned about the health and future of the country. Many of us now live in the age of card caring conservatism. Retirement is no longer the "Golden Age" for seniors. We have been reduced to fighting for our place in the sun.
We have been pretty bad at this battle.
For years, post World War Two generation has been settling further and further down. We believed Now, in retirement, we are paying for that frame of mind and thinking. Those we trusted with national leadership sold us out to the very mega corporations that now serve us pills, heat and air conditioning, food, medical care and insurance.
Many of the Baby Boomer generation just want to retreat backwards in time to that age when we ruled. The future that will await the Baby Boomers will not be friendly at the political polling place. Once again, Boomers must face mega battles over the soul of America, much like they did in the 1960s.
The trouble is that now we are our parents and we are the status quo.