The Magazine

Generation Vex

The (really) long goodbye of the Baby Boomers.

Nov 5, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 08 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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Thus reported the Associated Press on Tuesday, October 16, 2007:

The nation's first baby boomer applied for Social Security Monday, the start of an avalanche of applications from the post-World War II generation. . . . Kathleen Casey-Kirschling . . . was born one second after midnight on Jan. 1, 1946, making her the first baby boomer--a generation of nearly 80 million born from 1946 to 1964.

O rend thy garments, America! Heap ashes upon thy head. We, the generation of generations--triumphant in our multitudes, invincible, indomitable, insufferable--have come into our inheritance. Hereby we claim our birthright. Give us all your money.

The pittance that is a current Social Security payment was intended to maintain the doddering retirees of yore in their accustomed condition of thin gruel and single-car garages. Such chump change will hardly suffice for today's vigorous sexagenarians intent on (among other things) vigorous sex, in places like Paris, St. Bart's, and Phuket.

How can present Social Security allotments be expected to fund our sky-diving, bungee-jumping, hang gliding and white-water rafting, our skiing, golf and scuba excursions, our photo safaris to Africa, bike tours of Tuscany and sojourns at Indian ashrams, our tennis clinics, spa treatments, gym memberships and personal fitness training, our luxury cruises to the Galapagos and Antarctica, the vacation homes in Hilton Head and Vail, the lap pools, Jacuzzis, and clay courts being built thereat and the his and hers Harley Davidsons?

And we haven't even touched on the subject of Social Security's civil union life partner, Medicare. It won't take much sky-diving, bungee-jumping, hang gliding, and white-water rafting before we all require new hips, knees, elbows, back surgery, pacemakers, and steel plates in our heads. And the expense of these will be as nothing compared to the cost of our pharmacological needs. Remember, we are a generation that knows drugs. From about 1967 until John Belushi died, we created a way of life based almost entirely on drugs. And we can do it again. Except this time, instead of us trying to figure out how to pay for the fun by selling each other nickel bags of pot, you the taxpayer will be picking up the tab. And did I mention that we'll expect to be airlifted to the Mayo Clinic every time we have an ache or a pain? Nothing smaller than a Gulfstream G-3, please.

So just give us all the money in the federal, state, and local budget. Forget spending on the military, education, and infrastructure. What with Iraq, falling SAT scores, and that bridge collapse in Minneapolis, it's not like the military, education, and infrastructure are doing very well anyway. Besides, you don't have a choice. We are 80 million strong. That's a number equal to almost two-thirds of the registered voters in the United States. Do what we say or we will ballot you into a socio-economic condition that will make North Korea look like the clubhouse at Pebble Beach.

And that's the good news. Beggaring government is the least of the damage that we baby boomers intend to inflict over the next 30 or 40 years. What we're really up to is something more diabolical. Our generation is going to do what our generation has always done best. We're going to shape the American social fabric to our will and make the entire nation conform to our ideals, judgments, and tastes. It will be like the Clinton administration but much, much worse. (An interesting little irony since in '08 we're probably going to get a Clinton administration that's much, much worse.)

We're going to make all of you old like we are--old and dumpy and querulous and fuddled. We're achieving it already. Look at the hip young men walking around in their high-water pants, wearing stupid bowling shirts buttoned up to the collar. A bunch of 28-year-olds are going to Starbucks dressed as their grandpas. And what about teenage droopy drawers? That's gramps's other fashion-forward look, perfect for a weekend of crab grass killing and mulching the hydrangeas. Great big cushy, ugly sneakers--be they ever so expensive or young-athlete-endorsed--are nothing but the dread "comfortable shoes" that have been worn by the geriatric for eons.

We have rendered mere school children as dependent upon Ritalin as we are upon Lipitor and Levitra. And watch those kids go out and play. They can't so much as hop on a bike without being swathed in helmets, knee pads, shin guards, and elbow cushions. It's like seeing John Kerry skateboard. Then there's the Segway, which is nothing but a device to make an able-bodied person in the prime of life look as pathetic as if he were in a walker.

Traffic jams are everywhere, but it's not because of too many cars or too few highway lanes. It's just slow driving in the famous old-age mode and with on-board navigation systems to provide someone to have a grumpy argument with even when you're alone.

What else do oldsters do besides drive slowly? They watch TV. Flip through the cable channels and compare what you see to what was seen 50 years ago: I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Burns and Allen. When it comes to fuddled, is not the whole entertainment industry drooling in its second childhood?

We baby boomers are growing old--but growing old with a vengeance. Our hands may be palsied and arthritic, but we hold America's fate in them. And America's fate can be summed up in one word: Youthanasia.

P.J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.