Today, on a brilliantly sunny Fourth of July weekend, I am more than a little frustrated, trending to anger.
Why? I really shouldn’t be. I have a business that is doing reasonably well, considering I took a lot time off, I am beginning a major new project on Friday in Washington, DC, all of my children and grandchildren seem to be successfully getting on with their lives, and I am pretty healthy for a guy who travels a lot, who works too much, and who has to force himself to eat more sensibly and be consistent with an exercise routine, especially on the road. So, the negative side of the ledger aside, life is good. As I watch friends struggle with failure, addiction or a disease that takes their life prematurely, I gratefully count my many blessings.
So why the frustration?
I guess I have been reading too many newspaper and magazine articles documenting our political paralysis and sociological meanderings. Through all of this reading I have come to believe that we are a stumbling nation populated by people who want what they want, when they want it – a characteristic of the Baby Boomer, aka the Consumption Generation – that population cohort that seems to be infected with more than its share of selfish, arrogant jerks who have a new moral compass that does not include a heading for “the common good.” It seems that if you believe in that quaint little concept, you are a naive sucker.
Lest you feel that I am being unduly critical of my generation, the Consumption Generation is not alone, nor their selfish practices new. This behavior has been around since the dawn of time but is today taking on more sinister, paralyzing consequences brought on by following the rules we want to follow, that is to say those that afford benefit, not those that cause us inconvenience or discomfort. For the ‘smartphone’ generation, this combination of technology and a new values blueprint is pushing us to a new sociologic detour – instant gratification.
There has always been a segment of society that was incapable, or unwilling, to follow the basic every day rules of work and play. I am not talking about the biggies – thou shall not rob at gunpoint, assault or kill. I am talking about the every day stuff like following the rules at work, home and at play.
I believe that in this digital age where technology is rapidly changing our lives, a growing number of people feel that some rules no longer do apply, or are at least less important. This “ignore the rules if they are too inconvenient or deny me from gaining something I want” is pervasive. From sports (doping) to business (front-running the stock trades, wire fraud, and lying about protecting a customer’s financial interests), we have come to believe that it is OK to ignore established procedures in virtually every industry. It has become the new normal baseline for value and integrity.
The other day I got a letter from the AARP. I am currently a member seriously considering their value proposition since I already have auto and life insurance, etc. They wanted me to sign a petition that essentially said tell Congress to back off from making any changes to Social Security and Medicare. In other words, protect the status quo.
OK, I get it – they are acting a little bit like a senior’s union trying to protect their members from feeling any pain that might come from a near-term solution to the nation’s growing deficit. But the fact of the matter is that these two entitlements are the biggest drivers of deficit spending. So arguing against any change, the AARP is asking me to support a course of action that will, in the end, destabilize, perhaps even destroy, the very programs they are asking me to protect.
Social Security is the easier fix – raising the retirement age and adopting a reasonable means testing formula – Warren Buffet really does not need to collect Social Security. Medicare is the bigger – much bigger – problem because even while AARP digs in their heels, healthcare costs are on the rise and with a new Baby Boomer added to the entitlement roles every eight seconds, there is an unavoidable fiscal collision that will occur inside of 10 years. Healthcare providers are at the Nexus of this mess.
I will continue to believe in, and argue for, sacrifice and the common good for our nation and for my grandchildren. That said, I am absolutely convinced that the Baby Boomers who dominate Congress will kick the can down the road until the younger generation – those who will have to PAY for our desire to want what we want when we want it, even if it means ignoring the rules – kick back.
Right now most of them are ignoring the problem. They are too busy texting and posting selfies to Facebook and Instagram.
To the Millennials working among us: wake up, you are getting hosed. It is time to put down your cell phone and kick back.