Young v. old (5×8 – 6/25/12)

The widening of the generation gap, how much kindness is too much kindness, is downtown Minneapolis safe, rosary or jewelry, and the end of the line for a great tortoise.

The Monday Morning Rouser:


As the concern over the federal debt has been increasing, the generation gap in America is coming more into focus. Baby Boomers have started retiring, and the burden of paying for them falls increasingly on a younger generation. Throw in a generation burdened with the debt of higher education loans for a degree that’s not getting them work and the cocktail is mixed for an old-fashioned generational war.

The line between young and old is too little discussed, David Leonhardt writes in the Sunday Times. The young are losing out to the old.

Over all, more than 50 percent of federal benefits flow to the 13 percent of the population over 65. Some of these benefits come from Social Security, which many people pay for over the course of their working lives. But a large chunk comes through Medicare, and contrary to widespread perception, most Americans do not come close to paying for their own Medicare benefits through payroll taxes. Medicare, in addition to being the largest source of the country’s projected budget deficits, is a transfer program from young to old.

Meanwhile, education spending — the area that the young say should be cut the least, polls show — is taking deep cuts. The young also want the government to take action to slow global warming; Congress shows no signs of doing so. Even on same-sex marriage, where public opinion is moving toward youthful opinion, all 31 states that have held referendums on the matter have voted against same-sex marriage.

Over the long term, obviously, the young have a distinct advantage: they’re not going away. So one of the central questions for the future of American politics is whether today’s 20- and 30-year-olds will hold on to many of the opinions they have today, a pattern that would be less surprising than glib clichés about aging and conservatism suggest. Until recently, as the presidential results from the 1970s through the 1990s make clear, Americans did not grow much more conservative as they aged.

This should stoke the flames a bit. It’s a December 2010 study that shows that Baby Boomers are about to receive the largest wealth transfer in the history of the country.

Among those receiving an inheritance over their lifetimes, the median amount is $64,000. The distribution of inheritances is highly unequal. Conditional on receiving anything, the mean amount received over a lifetime is $1.5 million for households in the top wealth decile, compared with $27,000 for those in the bottom. But even within wealth deciles, the distribution of receipts is highly unequal, and the medians for the top and bottom deciles are $335,000 and $8,000, respectively.

A commenter in the New York Times article points out that the time is right for the young to make a difference:

I’m now 74 and still in active full-time independent practice with no plans to retire, never thought much about differences between me and the next generation (the leading-edge baby-boomers) until a recent conversation at LAX on my way home from a conference. A man who was with his family and, seeing what I was reading, introduced himself as a fellow professional. He lamented that, now in his early fifties, he was burned out. I said that I was not, didn’t even understand the term, and I suggested that he might do some writing, as I have.

His response demonstrated what I think is the difference between our generations. “Because I might like it?” he asked. “No,” I replied. “Because you might create something of value.”

Said slightly differently, my generation seems to have accepted, as the generation following has not, the Churchillian wisdom that most of the world’s accomplishments have been made by people who were not feeling very well at the time.

Related: Local school officials say college debt cost hike overblown (Fargo Forum)


People have a way of spoiling good stories. Last week, we told you the story of the bus monitor in suburban Rochester, NY, and the outpouring of donated money on the Internet from people appalled by the bullying she took at the hands of four 13-year-olds on the school bus. People donated thousands of dollars in a nice gesture. But where is the line between a nice gesture and foolishness?

The original idea was to give the woman a nice vacation, with a goal of raising $5,000. The Internet has now raised over $634,000 for her, which should make for a nice vacation.

Too much? It’s debatable, but this next part really isn’t. People started raising money for the person, Max Sidorov, who started the online drive to raise money for Ms. Klein. As of yesterday, it had reached more than $5,830 of a $2,500 goal.

It’s a good example of when money can corrupt an act of kindness involving kindness, reiterated when someone then started a fundraising campaign for the person who started raising money for the person who started raising money for the person who started raising money. (h/t: Ben Chorn)

Related: In Barnum, a family whose home was heavily damaged in last week’s flooding is trying to cope with two tragedies, WCCO reports. “Having a still born on Tuesday morning and then flooding on Wednesday, it’s just too much,” said Shallon Barber.


A few weeks ago, MinnPost criticized assertions that downtown Minneapolis has become unsafe, blaming the “perception” on the unrealistic fears of suburbanites.

Looking at crime maps of Minneapolis’ first precinct which covers downtown (and excluding Cedar-Riverside, which is really a residential area — and has less crime than I expected), I came up with a total of 16 aggravated assaults and 24 robberies for March this year and 14 and eight for March of last year.

Presumably, the higher numbers in 2012 were because of warmer weather that brought more people out on the streets. Or, conversely, there were fewer crimes last year because it was so abominably cold that even criminals stayed indoors. Many of the crimes occurred along Hennepin Avenue, but there’s no way to tell whether they happened at 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning.

The numbers in no way suggest that either downtown should terrify you. Yet people are still scared.

It’s a logical argument that appears to make sense. But a quote in today’s Star Tribune about a killing in the crime-familiar LaSalle parking ramp over the weekend jumps out, mostly because it doesn’t appear to be the work of someone who lives in the suburbs.

Charlie Aucapina, 21, of Minneapolis, a valet at the nearby Le Meridien Chambers Hotel, 901 Hennepin Av., said Sunday afternoon that a coworker found the woman lying in the ramp the night before as he parked a car. Aucapina said his coworker thought she was intoxicated and called ramp security, but later found out that she had died.

“It’s getting more dangerous in downtown Minneapolis the last few years,” said Aucapina. “It’s shocking that it happens right there. I’m [parking cars] there sometimes at 12:30 at night.”

Police say it wasn’t a random killing.

Four people, including the alleged shooter, were shot in the Warehouse District early this morning.


Star Tribune editorial writer Susan Hogan come close to saying a Coon Rapids teenager was lying when he claimed he was wearing a rosary to honor his ill grandma. His school touched off a debate when it ordered him to remove the rosary.

“When I asked him why he was wearing the rosary, he said it was because he thought it was cool,” an assistant principal told Hogan, who is a former religion writer. “At no point did he bring up his grandmother or say he was wearing it for his grandmother.”

Having concluded there was no religious or family reason for wearing a rosary, the columnist takes Jake Balthazor to task…

After hearing about Jake’s grandmother on the news, Madison (ed: an assistant principal) did what any compassionate school leader would do. She said she called Jake to check on him and his grandmother’s health. Did the situation change her mind about whether he should wear a rosary? No — and she’s on the mark about that.

While for school officials the primary issue is Jake’s safety, for me it’s a little more basic. It’s about respect for others — a lesson Jake and his parents apparently still need to learn. Prayer beads are used in many religious traditions. A little sensitivity is in order.


Where were you when a subspecies went extinct?

Lonesome George has died, the BBC reports

Tortoises were plentiful on the Galapagos islands until the late 19th century, but were later hunted for their meat by sailors and fishermen to the point of extinction, the BBC says.

Bonus I: In the mountains and backcountry of New England, authorities are noticing a troubling sign: Hikers are depending too much on their smartphones. “Being prepared for a hike does not mean having your cellphone charged,” Major Kevin Jordan from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, tells the Boston Globe.

Bonus II: How did organized labor lose a fight on a labor-bastion like the Iron Range? (Minnesota Brown)


The Senate last week passed a five-year farm bill that would eliminate most direct farm subsidies in favor of expanded crop insurance. Advocates said the changes were necessary to help reduce the deficit. The House is expected to begin work on its own version in a couple of weeks. Today’s Question: Should farms continue to receive federal subsidies?


I’ll be on the air this evening from 6:30 on for MPR’s (fiscal) year-end membership drive.

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: New York Times Op-Ed columnist Ross Douthat about the 2012 presidential campaign. (Rebroadcast)

Second hour: How diversity and changing demographics will shape public life. (Rebroadcast)

Third hour: “The World America Made” author, foreign policy expert Robert Kagan< argues that the anxiety over America's decline is misplaced. (Rebroadcast) MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): TBA

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Every summer for more than 30 years, biologist George Divoky travelled to a remote island in arctic Alaska. He studies sea birds there and over time fell in love with the ice. Today’s show originates from the Aspen Environment Forum.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – NPR visits Buzzfeed to learn how websites are using new forms of social advertising.

  • Neil

    “Local school officials say college debt cost hike overblown”

    Well, they would, wouldn’t they?

  • BJ

    “I’ll be on the air this evening from 6:30 on for MPR’s (fiscal) year-end membership drive.”

    Which station? 89.3 or 91.1?

  • Andrew S

    The Baby Boomer / current generation debate is an interesting one. The Boomers were perhaps the most privileged generation in American history, coming from generally prosperous parents and being born into a postwar economic boom which we may never see equaled again. Neither of those is their “fault”; we should all be so lucky. Some Boomers seem to think that being born on third means they hit a triple, however, and in the great tradition of all elders everywhere they love to talk about how lazy the younger generation is. College age graduates lack many of the advantages Boomers had at the same age, and the skyrocketing costs of education in the last few decades mean many are entering the workforce (or trying to) with the equivalent of a car or house note.

    To complicate matters Boomers, generally, have not planned well for retirement. This means they will be staying in the workforce longer, often in highly compensated jobs. That does make it harder for the younger people to get in the door. Boomers when surveyed have also stated that they have little interest in leaving the type of inheritance which, as Bob posted, is due to be left to them. These factors make it easy to call the Boomers a “selfish” generation, but I’m not really sure that’s a fair characterization. They’ve been pretty lucky in life and, like a lot of lucky people, some like to think that their luck has only been proportional to their skill. It’s certainly interesting to look at.

  • Bob Collins

    // Which station? 89.3 or 91.1?

    91.1. Doing a pledge drive with Lucia is still on my bucket list, right behind “catch a foul ball at a baseball game.”

    Neither is likely to ever happen.

  • bsimon

    1) didn’t you have low rider on Friday?

    2) boomers are called the ‘me’ generation for a reason.

  • David Wilford

    I’d like to remind folks here that since 1983 workers have been paying extra into the Social Security Trust Fund to cover the retirement of said boomers, and that $2.7 trillion dollars is a pretty big transfer of wealth that’s already happened. Ahem.

  • Heather

    Bob, whoever schedules the member drive coverage should be falling all over themselves to get you and Lucia on the air together. You guys would be pure gold.

  • jon

    Very interesting lot of information…

    @bonus I

    Maps. It’s amazing how hard/expensive it is to get a good map of some back country areas. That being said; Maps save lives.

    When I was hiking in Yellow Stone I had a “Spot” with me (google it if you don’t know what it is) and only a mere quarter mile from our assigned camp site, exhuasted, and dehydrated, figuring out the options for getting me and my now wife safely out of the situation, I was torn between setting up camp out side of the designated sites (clearly Prohibited by everything you read when you get your back country camping permit) and pressing that 911 button… We ended up making it to the camp ground and setting up camp, getting some food and water in our bodies and some sleep and made it back down the mountain just fine… but having a device that claims to send help to any where you are at sure seems like an attractive option when you are uncomfortable, and clearly in trouble.

    I did bring my phone, it was in airplane mode, and was used for pictures, and got turned on occasionally to check for signal a top mountains (there was none) though I never thought I’d rely on the phone, or a rescue team to get me out of the back woods.

  • Joe

    I second Heather’s comment, it would be gold!

  • bj

    I would like you and mark w to do one.

  • beverly

    people who have to use iphones to navigate shouldn’t procreate

    how about collins, wheat and lucia-what a threesome!