Why are Boomers so Cranky?!

  • On a beautiful Florida day, at a spring training baseball game, I approached my row and apologized for inconveniencing everyone who had to stand to let me in.  The very large Boomer taking up the end seat responded: “If you want to get to your seat, why don’t you just say so!” and wouldn’t get up to let me in until I threatened to sit on his lap..
  • I placed an upbeat comment to a Huffington Post article about Boomers doing more volunteer work, to which a fellow Boomer responded “You’ve been hitting the bottle too much…”
  • Of all the age groups, from our kids to our parents, we seem to have the lowest threshold for civil discussions, particularly around issues facing the nation/politics; too many of us become quickly “enraged” “appalled” – blaming and unwilling to listen let alone speak calmly to anyone who doesn’t full agree with us.

angry boomerWow, what happened to us?  Are we really that unhappy, disenfranchised, pessimistic?

Yep.

But this is not new.  Boomers were a pessimistic lot even in our “flower power” groovy youth.  It wasn’t optimism, but pessimism that drove our protests, sit-ins, and marches; we didn’t trust “the man” or anyone over 30 for that matter; we believed the earth was being polluted beyond repair; our young women were fed up with “male domination”…

Now, 40 years later, add the stressors of career, paying off the kids’ college loans, tanked 401K’s, and aching joints, and you have a bunch of over the top grouchiness.

Plus, extremism is one of our generational characteristics (think “latch-key” kids on the top of the age-range of Boomer parenting, “helicopter parenting” on the younger end – different approaches, both approaches extremes).  So when we do something, we take it to the max.  Our generational rebellion included extremes like:

  • refusing to “dress up” like our parents did so we became the first generation to go to church or out to dinner in jeans & t-shirts;
  • refusing to accept authority to the point of feeling justified in being rude;
  • living the “better life” our parents raised us to believe we were owed via spending beyond our means, procuring “McMansions” for a family of 3 and ever more “things” (including excessively expensive cars) to show our worth.

Put these two dynamics together, pessimism + extremism, and you get a volatile brew.

This matters greatly because, beyond our sheer numbers (we are 26% of the US population), we are this country’s leaders:

  • 58% of the US Senate & 79% of the US House of Representatives are Boomers,
  • 82% of US Governors are Boomers,
  • as are about 59% of Corporate America’s CEO’s.

This means that how we act determines social outcomes (as it did in our youth), what we feel dictates the mood of the nation.  Which at this juncture is…well, quite peevish, a tad intolerant, and reliant on extremes to:

solve what we perceive as social ills that are only ills because we no longer engage in them (a majority of those against medical use of marijuana or needle exchange programs to curb the spread of HIV, are Boomers who loved the snow and weed as youth);

balance budgets by decimating services we no longer need ourselves (“Support birth control clinics that prevent the spread of STD’s and unwanted pregnancies?  I don’t think so!  You go out and have unprotected sex, that’s your problem!” – we were the biggest users of these clinics, for those exact reasons, in our own youth) while preserving those that only we need (in a recent Pew poll, 63% of Boomers opposed raising the age at which we’d qualify for full SS benefits).

Ah…but there’s more.  Two extremely (had to say it…) essential elements that tie our testiness up in a beautiful bow of justification for bad behavior:

  1. we’re frightened, discouraged, disappointed – things aren’t turning out as we’d planned and we’re in trouble, particularly financially – at middle age that’s admittedly tough to handle, and perhaps too many of us don’t have the healthy coping skills to handle these feelings with even a modicum of grace;
  2. we’ve fallen into what numerous studies have shown to be an increasing tendency for Americans (and moreso older Americans) to refuse to fall prey to logic – even when faced with raw facts that dispute what we want to believe, we simply refuse to believe the facts so we can feel comfortable holding onto our position no matter how wrong it might be.

angry boomer manSo…. Must we be so irascible?  Can we possibly change our generational ways at this stage in our lives after so many decades of testiness gone wild?  Is our crankiness etched in indelible ink?

Well, as the old and very bad joke goes: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?  None…it has to want to change…

Imagine how much better this country would be, how much calmer and enjoyable to live in, how much more we could get accomplished, if we as a generation decided to discontinue the vitriol, talk with instead of at each other, operated from “us” rather than “me”….

I believe we can do it.  Call me an optimist.

(here’s a link to a pew research/census gathering of statistics on “why Boomers are so Bummed…” posted on the show’s website)

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Boomers use…then oppose…”recreational” drugs

Cannabis Smoke

Cannabis Smokis

A radio show in CA recently asked their listeners to weigh in on the legalization of marijuana that will be on the State’s ballot tomorrow.  Amazingly, many Boomers were against it…and of course, that was after having enjoyed it themselves in their youth….none having been harmed by it, all now sounding a bit like the proverbial “reformed whore”…

For being the most educated generation in our nation’s history, we have a tendency to minimally use the fruits of the tens of thousands of dollars our parents spent on that higher education.  I say this because all the reasons these call-in opponents gave for keeping marijuana illegal –

  • it’s stronger today…
  • Mexican cartels will take over CA…
  • it’s a gateway drug…
  • it’s another way for drivers to be under the influence –

are the precise reasons it needs to be legal.

What’s mind-boggling to me is not their hypocritalism (is that a word?), but that they don’t recognize their reasons as what in fact make legalization an imperative.

Once legal, cartels go away, type/strength of all pot is regulated and use is controlled/age-limited, and drivers who will operate a vehicle under the influence will do so no matter what is legal…or not…so that argument goes out the car window.

If they want a cogent argument, it would be that legalizing pot may be a gateway to legalizing other presently illegal mood altering substances, like cocaine and heroine.  Which would lead to…you guessed it, regulating/controlling those drugs as well…

History shows conclusively that the prohibition of alcohol did not work as a deterrent, but did work to create a huge underground criminal element, increase violence thus requiring a significant increase in money for law enforcement, and in fact the most compelling factor for finally overturning it (for better or worse), caused the loss of millions (billions in today’s dollars) of tax revenue.

I ask my fellow Boomers to do your research – opt for brain-jolt  rather than knee-jerk, before you decide matters of such weight, let alone make your thoughts public.  After all, we want our children and grandchildren to make informed choices… let’s lead by example.

The Extremists & The Rest of Us…A Fairy Tale…

Once upon a time, in a land that was the mightiest throughout the world, the people in charge known as “Boomers” became very disgruntled and returned to their roots of activism; well, actually, only a small number of them did, but the media made it seem like it was lots & lots of them…

Yes, the protestors, on both sides of the political divide, became very ugly…ooops, uh, vocal… about their unhappiness with many things the rulers of the land were doing, things like:

  • Passing “health care reform” where the peoples’ money was to be used to keep lots & lots of loyal subjects from, well, dying because they couldn’t afford care
  • Or not passing any reform on the practices of big entities called “greed factories”…oops, sorry again, “financial institutions”]
  • Or not addressing a problem called “illegal immigration” whereby millions of people from other lands could sneak in without permission & get work, a  place to live, healthcare, and generally act like they belonged there…

The most well known protestors were called “tea partiers” (not because they were much for partying or tea…but that is another fairy tale for another time) and they were lead by a beautiful & vapid princess called “Sarah” who brought them to frothy heights of discontent with beautiful images of mustached tyrants, bucolic concepts of “reloading” as in guns,  and “death panels.”  And they were portrayed by the mainstream media as representing what most people of the land believed.

But low and behold, the tea partiers were actually:

  • only 24% of all registered voters, including the Boomers
  • overwhelmingly White & male
  • retired or semi-retired so they had lots of time on their hands
  • or unemployed so they had lots of time on their hands and they were really cranky…

These subjects’ main complaint was that government programs designed to help the people of the land, are bad…except the ones they use (as, alas, many of them were on a thing called “Social Security,” a government program designed to help the aging people of the land…or something called “unemployment compensation,” a government program to help people pay their bills while they’re out of work…).

And they vowed to take their revenge on any of the land’s leaders who voted for any new such programs like health care reform, which they didn’t believe to be needed since most of them would soon be eligible for “Medicare” – another government program providing medical coverage for older subjects…

But alack, what about the other 76%?  Where did they stand?  What did they want?  Why were their voices not resounding out across the land?  Where were the women?  The non-White ethnic groups?  The non-retired & employed?

Unfortunately for the mighty land, based on a type of governance called “democracy” whereby it was the peoples’ votes and knowledge of the issues that the rules of law were made, as it turns out the majority of its subjects didn’t vote, got there “issue knowledge” from 2 minute “sound bites” designed to inflame more than inform, or just stayed silent in their own discontent about the discontented minority.

Then there were things called “polls” whereby subjects were asked what they thought about things.  And one such poll in a part of the land called “FloriDUH” showed that most subjects were against the new healthcare reform.  Alas, the poll had what was called a “margin of error” (how likely the poll sampling reflects the rest of the land’s views) of 15% – a credible poll has a margin of error of no more than 3%; 10% is considered highly unreliable – which meant that the poll reflected the actual views of… those polled….  And they lived in a State where subjects regularly re-elected legislators who polluted the environments on which the main source of income was dependent (tourism), decried “government spending” while grabbing their share of it, and balanced their budget by giving their big businesses lots of tax breaks while decimating all the programs for their most vulnerable subjects (from the developmentally disabled to abused/neglected children).

Thus, over a short period of time, and with help from the entire range of main stream media, it appeared that a minority of the land’s subjects would be able to dictate what the majority would get & what they “should” believe.  Why did the majority put up with this?

Would they remain silent no more, understanding that so long as they did, the country would not be “majority ruled” any longer?!

We don’t as yet know the answer, but the moral of the story is:

In a land where the majority rules, and that majority is a “silent” one because they are either apathetic or “too busy to get involved,” the many will see their fate sealed by the will of the few…and in any other land, that is called “dictatorship.”

The Real Issues for Health Care Reform

Boomers face the highest levels of unemployment since our post college days, which, of course, includes loss of medical benefits – none of us yet qualify for Medicare.

So, reform is crucial for us, particularly at our age (we need insurance more to stay healthy).

Yet some of us remain vehemently opposed to this legislation, purportedly because it unacceptably adds to the federal deficit, and/or does too little to impact change that is significant enough to matter.

Both objections are founded in specious reasoning (or for some, no reasoning at all, unfortunate for the most educated generation our nation has ever had…).  According to the CBO, the bill will reduce the deficit, and the elements of the bill clearly provide long overdue protections, some immediate.

The issues, it seems, are not those on which Boomer objectors have based their lack of support.

They are:

  • How the insurance companies will respond to the legislation… Will they increase their prices as soon and often as possible?  And what protections exist for that scenario?
  • What else is needed to ensure consumer protection in a capitalist system where businesses, designed to make an impressive profit for their shareholders, are key players in our health care.  And, in the case of health insurance companies, they can do so without regard for their impact on the lives of those they “serve”

So I ask my fellow Boomers to concentrate on all the ways we can make this legislation better, and more cost efficient – including Medicare Advantage plans which pay for member perks by charging all Medicare recipients – meaning the majority who don’t use/get those perks (since in as little as one year, this will impact us)

We know this process is far from over, so let’s make sure that by 2014 we have something really excellent.

We Americans, all of us (particularly our children and grandchildren), deserve it.

RE: "An Open Letter to Obama" by Lou Pritchett

This letter, originally written to the NYTimes by businessman & author Lou Pritchett, but not printed there, has been recently picked up by bloggers in search of material to keep their base “mobilized” and as a result, email-forwarders…which is how I learned of it. 

So…here is my take in the hope of providing some needed perspective, on Mr. Pritchett & his letter.

On Mr. Pritchett’s “living legend” status:

Lou Pritchett did write a very successful book, and has made a fortune as a result, but that doesn’t make him the “living legend” he is purported to be.  By all accounts by the giants of commerce, the true legend of American innovation and business management is Peter Drucker, known as the “father of modern management” – to support this:

“The world knows he was the greatest management thinker of the last century,” Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric Co. (GE ).

“(Drucker) was the creator and inventor of modern management,” said management guru Tom Peters. “In the early 1950s, nobody had a tool kit to manage these incredibly complex organizations that had gone out of control. Drucker was the first person to give us a handbook for that.”

Adds Intel Corp. (INTC ) co-founder Andrew S. Grove: “Like many philosophers, he spoke in plain language that resonated with ordinary managers. Consequently, simple statements from him have influenced untold numbers of daily actions; they did mine over decades.”

Now, on to Pritchett’s fears:

You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.

A simple search on Webcrawler brings up 3 pages in information on Obama the man, the Senator, the Pres, etc. – much more w/a basic Google search – and that doesn’t include two well published books he wrote about his life & beliefs, which no other modern President did prior to holding office – the only thing missing is an invitation to dinner…there is just as much, actually more, information about Obama as there is/has been for any other President, living or dead – so we all know no less, and in fact more, about Obama as we did other Presidents

You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.

Go to http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/money.asp for all the information you want on how he paid for everything;

You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American

The first 6 years of his life (considered to be the most formative by any psychological standard) were spent in Hawaii; he spent 4 years (from age 7-11) in Indonesia, and the rest back in Hawaii – Hawaii is still a State in our Union last I heard…in comparison, John Quincy Adams spent 8 years in France & Russia with his father, Barry Goldwater was born in an AZ territory that at the time was not part of the US, & John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone Y there has still been no resolution as to whether that makes him a “natural born citizen”.

You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.

Neither did Ronald Reagan…

You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don’t understand it at its core.

Neither did Clinton (who the military loved…),  Roosevelt (FD) Hoover, Coolidge, Harding, Wilson, Taft, Cleveland, VanBuren, JQAdams, and John Adams, the man without whom we would not have attained American Independence when we did.

You scare me because you lack humility and ‘class’, always blaming others.

I’m guessing, then, that your fellow corporate CEO’s/CFO’s etc., like the Enron & Countrywide guys, also scare you, as they became famous for passing the blame and some of the classiest are now in prison or dead…

You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.

John Adams was considered a radical extremist by his fellow representatives in the Continental Congress, for having the audacity to insist on American Independence…

You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the ‘blame America’ crowd and deliver this message abroad. 

Humility, which includes admitting mistakes as Obama has done, is difficult for most of us, but here’s a few folks you’ll recognize who believe doing so is not only right, but expected by our highest power:
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
(Matthew 23:12)
Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
(Proverbs 27:2)
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
(Matthew 5:5)
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
(Matthew 23:12)

You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector. 

In fact, the only Western European country that has a government dominating all commerce (socialism) is….none…Eastern European countries rely much more on the old socialist style left over from their communist days, but they too are quickly changing to a Western (starting in Western Europe) economic system, based in capitalism.  Having a government run healthcare system, as does England & Canada for instance, does not logically translate to all commerce being government run….

You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one. 

That’s funny!  Adding to the humor of this one is that many of those polled who are against any health care plan under government control are on…Medicare…a “socialist” government controlled health care plan…or happily took (or will take) advantage of the GI Bill that offered government stipends & “unemployment funds” – government run…

You scare me because you prefer ‘wind mills’ to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.. 

It surprises me that someone who is known for thinking progessively, changing the way corporate America operates and which even more ironically is about change management, is holding onto energy producing technologies developed in the late 19th Century.  Taking carbon from the ground, and ultimately placing it in the air, makes as much sense as smoking, or inhaling fumes from a burning building – this is why people can kill themselves by turning on the car in a closed space…and waiting… The virtue of these energy sources (oil/coal/shale) is none more than “it’s how we’ve always done it” which not only flies in the face of his corporate thinking, but shows an unfortunate desire to stick with “technology” founded during a time when they also used mercury and lead to “cure disease”…

You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of living in the world. 

When he wrote this, we were in the thoes of the worst financial/economic melt-down since the Great Depression as a result of unregulated corporate shell games founded in greed that left millions losing their homes and jobs… and this is telling coming from a man who is a member of the 1% of the population for whom that goose lays those eggs (according to the most frequently used gauge of income distribution, the Gini coefficient, the top 1% of Americans take in 22% of all income, that figure was 7% in 1976; between 1967 & 2007, the lowest earners’ income increased approxmately 25%; the highest earners’ increased approximately 43%; the middle class fared the worst with an increase of approximately 24%).

The problem is not captalism, but captialism run amok, which is what Obama has stated clearly he wants to fix – this does not constitute elimination of it.

You scare me because you have begun to use ‘extortion’ tactics against certain banks and corporations. 

See “capalist goose” above

You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.

Gee, didn’t we say this about the Republican party when they were in power…which is why they were ousted by a majority of the US electorate?

You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people. 

Not considering and not agreeing are two very different things…he clearly considers…unless you include in this group of intelligent people the “birthers” and the “tea-baggers” and then most of us tune out, too…  In fact opposing points of view are aired and considered regularly, which is why the HC reform package did not go through when Obama wanted it to, too much opposition from both the Republican & “Blue Dog” Democrat representatives, and if you follow the progress of the bill closely, you will see the numerous changes made to the bill as a result of listening to these opposing views

You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.

You know, the saying goes that Caridiologists think they’re God, Neurologists and Bankers KNOW they’re God; from the economic facts before us with which we “common folk” must now live, it was in fact Pritchett’s fellow Corporate folks, particularly bankers & insurance company execs, who thought of themselves as God-like, making broad and dangerous decisions for us all, the price for which we all now pay dearly with our homes and incomes

You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do. 

I guess Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, The Free Republic, and the Washington Times, to name the 4 most recognizable outlets of the 34 most read/heard outlets (e.g. there’s many more on local levels, such as WGUL in Tampa Bay) don’t count as media…?

You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O’Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view. 

Wait…I thought the news media gives him a free pass?  And last I saw/heard, all of these individuals were soundly viewed/heard daily on their respective shows; Obama has spent little if any time speaking about these folks.

You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing. 

There is no such thing, as Republicans learned the hard way, as “controlling” much legislatively, particularly for the President – our Founding Fathers saw to that.  And Obama has a long way to go to match let alone surpass truly controlling behaviors like we see when health insurance companies refuse treatments just when folks need them, or cancel policies because a person has gotten an expensive diagnosis.

Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years. 

Finally, given the flack he is receiving from the extreme right (see “non-existent conservative media sources” above) after just 8 months in office, if Obama wins a second term, Mr. Pritchett and folks who agree with him will know clearly that their notions are not sustainable, so will have no need to write something like this…again.

Lou Pritchett 
Terri Benincasa