ONE BABY BOOMER’S CONFESSIONAL
I AM CONSCIOUS ENOUGH TO KNOW WHERE WE HAVE FAILED AS WELL AS WHERE WE HAVE SUCCEEDED
I am proud of being a Baby Boomer. Why? Because it was me and my generation of liberal activists and street protests who brought the nation Earth Day and the EPA. Ramped up the Civil Rights Movement. Founded the Women’s Movement that culminated in the Equal Rights Amendment. Exposed the lie that was the Viet Nam War although we couldn’t end it. (That took another decade.) It was by and large we then-students who were able to accomplish these pretty damned important changes in American society. We were a minority group working against a far larger majority of Americans – older for the most part and what Nixon called “The Silent Majority” – but we succeeded. Beyond our wildest dreams if you want the truth.
But I’m also embarrassed about us. Why? Because I know very well that most of my Baby Boomer cohorts don’t agree with my liberal, progressive views. These are the folks in my generation who voted for Ronald Reagan, something I could never have dreamed of doing. And Nixon before him? Forget it. We hated him but the “The Silent Majority” elected him twice. We were no fans of Johnson either (“Hey, Hey, LBJ, How Many Babies Did You Kill Today?”) and it was not until the rise of Bill Clinton that we were more or less satisfied. Unfortunately, Bill Clinton’s Presidency also saw the rise of the Newt Gingrich, Jerry Falwell and Karl Rove brand of killer politics with conservatives taking hold over our political social and economic agendas that continues to this day.
Also, I know that it was by and large my Baby Boomer generation who elected Donald Trump. Plus maybe some Generation X-er’s too. And throw in a few Millennials judging by his audiences at his campaign rallies. We are all complicit.
But, as a result, there are those of us Baby Boomer liberals and progressives – former SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) members – who along with Millennials and Generation X-Ers who are leading the resistance movement. Of this I am proud.
But I confess that I don’t know what motivates my cohort generation who have consistently voted against their own self-interests (except for those who are wealthy) since the 1980 election of Reagan right down to November 8th 2016 when they put Donald Trump into the White House. I am deeply troubled and embarrassed by this. Are they just too dumb to understand the reasons why America’s working and middle classes have been so crushed over the past three decades? Are they too busy to take the time to figure out that Republicans and conservatives don’t give a flying fuck about them? (To say nothing of Donald Trump.) Do they not understand the difference between propaganda and factual information? And why do they listen to Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and watch Fox News for their “real world” information? They don't know that it's fake? Misleading? Untruthful? Why did they not see that Trump was conning them? Is conning them? Why is it that we liberals and progressives see it but they don't? Or is it that they just don’t they care?
This, to me, is the biggest Baby Boomer generation mystery. Now, I too am in favor of tax cuts. Hey, anytime I can pay less in taxes it’s all good! But don’t working and middle class folks realize that what they get are pennies on the dollar compared to what the already wealthy get? I even “get” the rationale – the wealthy are investors and job creators. But this too is bullshit. Having been in the top 10% of wealthy Americans at one time in my life, after the three cars, three houses and the five or a dozen Armani suits, the rich don’t keep on buying cars and houses and suits. They invest their money. In stocks and bonds. And while this might help to employ Wall Street brokers, in no way does this generate jobs for the rest of America.
It all goes back to Ronald Reagan. “Cutting Taxes Creates Jobs.” “Government Isn’t The Solution, Government Is The Problem.” “An Unfettered Free Market Economy Is Best.” There may have been a few more but these homilies were the main threads of the Regan economic dogma. These are the very same policies that we are suffering from today. And we are about to be slammed once again with another round of these society killing policies by Donald J. Trump and his Wall Street and Big Bank cronies.
Wanna’ know why China, Japan and Europe have super fast, super efficient and super sleek train systems? Or why China and Japan have near 300 mile-per-hour maglev trains and we don’t? Europe, China and Japan consider pubic transportation a commonly held public good, increases national prosperity, and their governments invest heavily in the development, construction and operations of their rail systems. Here in the richest nation on the planet? Government support of public anything is anathema. We leave it up to the private sector and since there is no profit in public transportation, we have a rail system that just like our electrical grid, highways and bridges, is crumbling and dangerous.
Why are we the only Western nation who doesn’t have a health care system that serves everyone? Once again, it’s because our health care system is driven by the private sector, the health insurance and drug companies. And in this sector, there are plenty of profits to be made. Between 2010 and today, the stock market has gained 135%, a pretty solid gain. But health insurance stocks have gained 300% over the same period. UnitedHealth, the biggest of the managed care companies, with a market capitalization that is now more than $160 billion, returned 480%, dividends included. An investment of $100 in the company’s stock when Obamacare was signed into law would be worth more than $580.50 today.
Aetna reported $734 million in profits in 2016 on $15.8 billion in revenue for the three months that ended Sept. 30. Aetna is the nation’s third-largest health insurer by revenue. According to the Fortune 500, which shows the ten largest health insurers' profits as $8.3 billion in 2008 and $15.0 billion in 2015. So while health insurers' profits have risen more than 80 percent, this compares to the real median American household income in November of 2008, when Election Day hit in the middle of the recession, was $57,899. By December of 2015—six and a half years after the recession ended—it had actually dropped, to $57,701. So far last year (as of August), it has dropped another $321, to $57,380 and the continual drop in median income includes several tax cuts voted into existence by Congress over the same period.
I don’t know how we get out of this mess. Forget the Republicans. They haven’t a clue. Nor, apparently, do they care. The Democrats? I don’t know what they’re doing. By the time they figure things out it’s gonna’ be 2020. But there is a “democratic populism” out there they might want to take a look at. More Americans favor Obamacare than do not. More Americans favor Comprehensive Immigration reform than do not. More Americans are in favor of justice system reform than do not. More Americans are in favor of environmental protection than do not. More Americans favor Planned Parenthood than do not. More Americans are in favor of net neutrality than do not. More Americans favor the development of alternate sources of energy than do not. More Americans believe that climate change is real than do not. More Americans favor taxing the rich than do not. And the list goes on.
A little, anyway. There can be no question who actually has been setting our national agenda for decades: Republicans, Conservatives and American Business. They, natch, have not noticed that it’s been a failure of epic proportions. And there’s no need to take my word for it. Facts, data and statistics clearly show what’s happened. Of course, one does have to believe in – or let’s say “accept” – facts for what they are. This is apparently a bridge way too far for Trumpettes to cross.
Me? I’m thinking that we just have to toss them off that bridge of lies and propaganda and get on with our journey!