Generation Wars: Are ‘Boomers’ fleecing ‘the kids’? SIGNS THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT into law on August 14, 1935. Standing with FDR from left are: in a gray suit, North Carolina Rep. Robert Doughton, the Democrat in charge of House Ways and Means; in a black suit, New York Senator Robert Wagner, part of FDR’s “Brain Trust”; in the moustache, Michigan Rep. John Dingell Senior, who later would be succeeded in office by his son; the one woman was Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, who also championed the Civilian Conservation Corps; in white suit, Mississippi Democratic Senator Byron Patton Harrison, head of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee; and in black at right, Maryland Democratic Rep. David John Lewis, the man credited as the statistical mastermind behind the legislation.Are Baby Boomers poised to fleece younger generations?

Sailing is my family’s favorite summer pastime, but we never go as often as we would like. Sometimes I envy the retirees who spend the entire summer sailing the Great Lakes. Whenever I say that to a retiree-sailor, I always get the same response: “Keep working! We need you to keep paying our Social Security!” We all laugh, but there’s a certain irony in this response.

How true is it? Are Social Security and Medicare aiding older Americans at the expense of the young?

Or, to put it bluntly as Thomas A. Firey of the conservative think tank Cato Institute did a decade ago: Are the baby boomers fleecing the younger generations? “They’ve paid less of their earnings into Social Security than we Gen-X/Yers, yet they’ll receive more in benefits than we will and we’ll pick up the tab. And when we retire, there will be no money saved in Social Security to pay for our retirement, unless we pull the same scam on our children that the Boomers are pulling on us.”

Social Security and Medicare are on the chopping block in the Washington budget battles. Actual or even possible changes to these programs can only exacerbate the tensions between the generations. But are these tensions well founded? Is it correct to think of competition among the generations, each pursing its self-interest at the expense of the other?

In a national poll taken last year by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Generations United, eight of ten American agreed that politicians sometimes pit generations against one another “to limit public support for government funding child care, healthcare, Social Security or other programs.”

If you’re a boomer, do you feel you are entitled to these programs?

If you are younger, do you feel taken advantage of?

Is one generation against another?

Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email