Who’ll weep for the Boomers?

The reality for Baby Boomers nearing retirement is most of them know that if they lose their jobs today, they’re done; they’re never going to get another halfway-decent job in this economy, and they’re not eligible for Social Security yet.

The jobs they might get are the ones previously held by far younger people just trying to break into the workforce, a situation that might explain the lingering resentment of Boomers.

“The guy flipping burgers at the fast food joint where I eat is my age. Same with the bagger at Whole Foods and the clerk at Wal-Mart,” freelance writer Tom LeCompte notes today in his essay on WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog.

Some will have no sympathy for the plight of the unemployed boomer. After all, they got us into this mess: The spoiled offspring of the “Greatest Generation,” whose parents lived through the Depression and won World War II, who grew up weaned on television and a sense that an increased standard of living was their birthright. They became “Yuppies,” failed to learn the lessons of the Savings and Loan crisis and the dot-com bust, then went on to speculate in real estate.

Such thinking may offer some moral gratification, but it does nothing to really explain or solve the problem of chronic joblessness and underemployment in this country. Comparing the predicament of unemployed boomers to unemployed college grads or unemployed inner-city youth only serves people who profit from divisiveness.

My father’s generation didn’t succeed because they endured more privation, worked harder or were more patriotic. They succeeded because there were jobs available for anyone who wanted to work. Part of this included policies instituted to insure the suffering of the Great Depression wasn’t repeated — things such as Social Security, public projects, the G.I. bill and labor unions — policies that came into being because of a national outcry for relief.

An issue doesn’t become real until it becomes personal, and for me this issue has become personal. My guess is that it has become personal for a lot of people.

  • ARondeau

    Interesting that this post has no comments. The plight of Boomers in this economy is frightening, and has made me aware of how precarious a career can be. I am GenX and have seen Boomers laid off of well-paying jobs and struggle for years to find a job that pays half what they earned previously. It is heartbreaking. I don’t blame Boomers; I blame the staggering wage gap that gives few riches and the rest mediocre pay. I assume things will be just as bad for me at that age, and am not assuming I will see pay increases as my years in my field increase.