Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Stakes For Generation X

On October 17th, Martin Longman, the talented proprietor of the excellent community blog, Booman Tribune had a post entitled “Romney the Destabilizer”. His post referenced recent reports that Romney was encouraging CEO’s to scare their employees into voting for him. Longman was particularly focused on how the post-New Deal consensus between employers and workers that helped nurture the middle class had broken down and the danger Romney represented to our civil society. I posted the following comment in response to Longman’s fine piece:
“Liberalism at its most effective is the indispensable alternative to revolution and reaction. At its worst liberalism is a temporary place holder to extremism like the Provisional Government after the fall of the Czar in 1917 before Communism's ascendancy or the Weimar Republic in Germany when it preceded National Socialism.

What's scary about our country in this moment in time is that Obama whether he wins or loses may be the last finger in the dike before the tsunami that comes next.

What makes Obama's position even more fragile is that his political survival required he be co-opted by some of the same institutional forces that has disintegrated the consensus you described above. When that consensus was stronger such compromises could be more easily finessed as Clinton demonstrated. But not anymore. The stability we were taught in Social Studies class way back when is long gone and Humpty Dumpty can't be put back together again.

Obama is a good man and I hope he wins but through no fault of his own, win or lose his ability to stem the tide is fragile. Romney of course would unleash a tsunami immediately. Alas, that is America's choice in 2012.”
I have second guessed my response in recent days and believe the trajectory of this election as well as our country’s future is not merely a choice between Romney’s tsunami or Obama’s fragile hold on America’s equilibrium. Win or lose, America’s future is in the hands of my age group, Generation-X which at its best is represented by Barack Obama and worst by Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan.

Generation X is unique because our collective memory includes the experience of our parents and grandparents when a strong middle class existed and the gap between rich and poor was not as grotesque as it is today. We came of age following a post-80s hangover and early ‘90s recession, rode the boom until 2000 but also reaped the whirlwind of union busting, tax policy favoring the hyper-wealthy and deregulation of Wall Street.

In today’s politics we’re largely ignored even with a Generation X president and vice presidential candidate. Much of the focus is instead on preserving Social Security and Medicare for folks over fifty-five or lamenting the bleak future of today’s Millennials.

I do not overlook the importance of preserving a safety-net for seniors or establishing upward mobility for our young people. Indeed a whole lot of our seniors served in World War Two, Korea and Vietnam while our twenty-somethings risked their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of my peers are stretching their diminished resources to raise children of their own as well as take care of their parents and grandparents. We all want upward mobility and security for our young people and folks who have worked hard their whole lives.

Nonetheless it irks me whenever I hear Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan utter assurances that people over fifty-five “have nothing to worry about” with respect to Social Security or Medicare. I’ve managed to more or less be steadily employed since 1991 and paid FICA taxes into the system the whole time. Conceivably, if I’m healthy and remain employed, I can contribute another twenty plus years of FICA taxes into the system.
Should that not count for something? Or is my generation chopped liver?

It also irks me when hard working people in my generation with kids to support and aging parents to take care have their jobs callously tossed aside, outsourced, lose their pensions or are forced to live in trailer parks due to plutocrats like Romney and shenanigans on Wall Street. They exploited their influence to enrich themselves at the expense of our fiscal solvency, gorged themselves while claiming to worship at the holy temple of job creators and proceeded to undermine the livelihoods of millions of wage earners. They do this even while wrapping themselves in the false piety of morality and patriotism.

America has an abundance of wealth that was misappropriated. And the agents of these thieves, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to “reduce the size of government” for the same reason thieves want less cops on the beat: so their friends can commit even more crimes.

A civil society cannot be maintained with that trajectory. The end result ultimately means more gated communities and police intimidation to preserve the wealth stolen by the top from what used to be this country’s middle class as well as the poor. That is the trajectory we are on and it’s the very young and senior citizens who will be the most vulnerable if civil society breaks down.

Demographically, seniors are more inexplicably inclined to vote for Romney and Ryan. Young people while they favor Obama obviously will not turn out with the same enthusiasm as 2008. Much of the get out the vote efforts in this campaign’s final days are understandably focused on undecided women voters. Yet I suspect get out the vote efforts with those Generation X voters inclined to support Democrats that is really the X-factor for both the presidency and down ticket races.

Win or lose in 2012, it will also be Generation X that determines our destiny. If Obama wins he and the Democrats will need to be empowered and supported by Generation X to restore the balance between capital owners and wage earners and not give in to Tea Party crazies or greed mongers. Otherwise even with a second term President Obama will be little more than a fragile finger in the dike against Generation X plutocrats like Paul Ryan.

And if Obama loses, Generation X will have to stand up for itself and demand not to be trodden on behalf of ourselves and generations to come.  Young people are still finding their way in this world and our parents and grand parents have done all they can.

It’s up to us.

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