The worst generation?

Ruth Ann Dailey delivers a scathing indictment of those protesting the efforts by Scott Walker and Republicans to restore some fiscal sanity to Wisconsin’s budget.  The Greatest Generation that preceded the baby boomers now demanding irrational entitlements and pension plans fought Hitler and survived the Great Depression.  The next generation instead invents Hitlers and insists on putting future generations into economic servitude:

Our parents survived the Great Depression, then donned uniforms to fight the Good War and save Western Civilization. We call them “The Greatest Generation.” We use capital letters to honor their achievements and spirit of uncomplaining self-sacrifice.

But they gave birth to us, the cohort born between 1945 and 1964, and they gave us everything they never had. Since fate has demanded little of us, we spoiled “baby boomers” are, as former Clinton adviser Paul Begala (born 1961) has written, “the most self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation” in U.S. history.

That epic selfishness is on full display in Wisconsin’s budget battle.

A former union member and the wife of another, Dailey writes that private-sector unions inevitably have to deal with economic realities in negotiations with management.  However, public-sector unions use political clout gained through mandatory union dues to collaborate with politicians to stick succeeding generations with outrageous bills:

The problem isn’t unionizing, per se; I am a former, proud member of The Newspaper Guild and the wife of a grateful musicians union member. Unions exist to get the best possible contracts for their members, but private sector unions — unlike the public variety — have to respond to market forces. To reality.

Instead, those who sit across from public sector unions, negotiating on taxpayers’ behalf, are politicians — of both parties — who are only too happy to accept endorsements and donations today while sticking future generations with the bill.

If Democrats succeed in stalling the bill, Walker will have little choice but to conduct a wave of layoffs throughout the state bureaucracy in order to solve the budget shortfall.  Guess who will lose those jobs?  Under current union rules, most of that pain will be borne by younger workers, in the last-in-first-out structure of the contracts.  The boomers will be the most secure.

Of course, not all boomers are to blame, and even those who are blameworthy are hardly alone.  The people who set up these structures of public-sector unionization and entitlement programs were hardly the boomers; many of them preceded the Greatest Generation as these were put in place from the 1930s to the 1960s.  Boomers didn’t gain significant political power until the 1970s, and it’s telling that we have only had three boomer Presidents — and Obama’s status as a boomer is at least debatable, with his 1961 birthdate putting him at the far end of the baby boom. Obama (and I) are closer to Gen-X than boomer, having come of age in the Reagan era and at the end of the Cold War.

However, the boomers haven’t exactly led on entitlement reform either, which would have to impact that generation most if reform is to be effective.  Instead of sacrificing for the next generation, the boomers as a rule want the next generations to sacrifice for them. As a group, they have used their political clout to keep significant reform of entitlements and public pensions off the table until now, when it’s almost too late to fix any of them.  That may not make them the “worst” generation in America — with a few moment’s thought, one can come up with better examples — but it’s hardly a worthy successor to the generation that liberated half the world and worked for more than 40 years to liberate the other half.