Why Is It Hip To Mock Boomers?
By Richard Goldstein
It’s been a rough time for Saturday Night Live. The pandemic has made being funny very hard. There’s only so much juice you can wring from the carcass of Donald Trump, and only so many laughs you can get out of Joe Biden’s stumbles. Wokeness has banished jokes at the expense of women, queers, and transpeople, which were once a staple of SNL. Sex scandals abound, but they won’t fill a 90-minute slot. So, what’s a show that dines on being hip to do? The answer is a skit that aired last week, targeting one of the few groups it’s cool to mock: Boomers
They are wasteful, sybaritic and duplicitous — that’s the image SNL is playing off. Like many stereotypes, this one hides the bigotry that underlies it, because at this point Boomer is another word for old people. Agism is often obscured by elaborate shows of courtesy, but now, it seems, the veneer of tolerance has been eroded by the stress many young people feel, and no one will cancel you for mocking the elderly. They are physically weak, but politically potent — a combination that provides a handy outlet for resentment.
SNL took advantage of the chance to bash Boomers, with a hip-hoppy musical number full of falsities so evident that some of them are Q-Anon-worthy. It’s amazing to me that young people who are so sensitive to oppression could believe such bullshit, but the lyric I’m about to deconstruct drew six million likes on Twitter.
Baby boomers, greatest generation
Got all the money, now we got the vaccination
Crash the economy three whole times
But when it comes to the vax, we the first in line.
Voted for Trump but just for the taxes
Don’t believe in COVID, still got the vaxes”.…
We comin’ first like we always do
We jumpin’ in front of you and you and you.
Boomers were not eligible for the vaccine because of their undue power, but because they are the most vulnerable to serious illness. Eighty percent of Covid fatalities have occurred in people over 65. Immunizing them is crucial to maintaining the healthcare system. (If you need a hospital bed for any reason, don’t you want one to be available?) Second, Boomers did not crash the economy: brokerages did, and the average age of a hedge fund manager was 39 when the Great Recession of 2008 struck. Reckless Gen-Xers played a major role in that crisis. And finally, there is nothing unique about older voters’ support for Trump. Seniors have voted Republican ever since 1968, when Boomers were just beginning to flex their political muscles.
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You whine and cry while we dine inside
We run the world since 1945!
Boomers were born between 1945 and 1965. They didn’t run the world from their cradles. and most of them didn’t grow up wealthy. By the time I entered college, my family of four lived on $6,000 a year (about $54,000 in today’s dollars).
Low mask in the store, nose poking out.
CDC data show that the elderly are more likely than young people to wear masks and practice social distancing. Boomers did not overrun Miami Beach for spring break, dancing cheek to naked cheek. Boomers did not pack the beaches of L.A. Boomers haven’t danced the night away at secret raves. Young people did all that.
But we still on fire
The young are more attuned than their elders to the reality of climate change, but only 7 percent of old people think the issue is a hoax. This should be no surprise, since the modern environmental movement was created by Boomers. The first ecology best seller, Silent Spring, appeared in 1962, and was snapped up by Boomers. They also created the first Earth Day, in 1970.
We out here, spending your inheritance…
Retirement funded, a hundred percent
Nearly half of people over 65 live off social security alone. If those benefits are cut, where will the money go? To the struggling young, or to the 1 percent who are the major beneficiaries of inequality? Take a guess. And which generation is adding to the imbalance by evading taxes while making a fortune from tech? Jeff Bezos is not a Boomer; nor are Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, and that bearded dude who runs Twitter. The robotic revolution they are ushering in will mean that jobs are even harder to find than they are today. That’s not just the result of Boomers’ greed. Half of the world’s billionaires are younger than 65.
Got a job out of college, no student debt
I got a job fresh out of college (actually, journalism school), but my pay was $20 a week. I took it because I wanted to write for a newspaper, not because I wanted to be wealthy. It’s true that I got a free college education at a public university, and I graduated debt free. Today I teach students who fork over $300,000 for a four-year stint, and that horrifies me. But my generation didn’t set up the system that caused this carnage. The architect of deregulation was Ronald Reagan, who certainly was no Boomer. Reaganites used federalized loans to salt an industry that flourished on the debts of the young. Among his heirs was Paul Ryan, born six years after the Baby Boom ended. As head of the House Budget Committee, Ryan tried to slash student loans and eviscerate the Pell Grant program. On the other hand, the two most progressive presidential candidates in 2020 do qualify as Boomers. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both favor free public college and a cancelation of student debt. Where does your favorite young Republican stand on that?
Stop by my house
Give my grandkids a hug
Now get the f — — out
I’m tryna have fun
Fun was cheap when Boomers were young. People did not spend big money on rock festivals. In 1967, a ticket to Monterrey Pop cost $2.50. (At Woodstock, Boomers tore the fences down.) All that has changed, due to profiteering. In 2017, a 29-year old producer rooked his peers at the ill-fated Fyre Festival, charging $49,000 for a round-trip flight from Miami and dinner with the performers — who never showed. Boomers don’t buy fabulous products endorsed by influencers. The major expenditure for most people my age is healthcare, not Kardashiana
Pzifer, Moderna, I know you wur-na
Get one, but you gotta wait your tur-na
I get to the vax site, get what I want son,
You get what’s left, bitch, Johnson & Johnson!
More and more states are allowing all adults to be vaccinated. There have been glitches with the J&J vaccine, and it’s a bit less efficient than the others, but it’s 100 percent effective at preventing serious illness. So, getting that shot doesn’t make you a bitch. It makes you safe.
Why have a cow about a skit on SNL? Because that show survives on its ability to reflect the attitudes of the young. This bitter little ditty reveals a resentment that could prove dangerous if it leads to denying the needs of old people. Myths have consequences. It’s ominous that the image of Boomers as greedy, perverse, and hyper-powerful is similar to beliefs once applied to Jews.
Unlike anti-Semitism, however, this bias has an element of truth. As a whole, Boomers really are richer than the generations after them, because their investments, their real estate, and their savings have grown exponentially in value. Many young people lack the capital to begin that process, and their living expenses are much higher. Now they must contend with a pandemic that has stymied their ambitions. Putting your life on hold in order to preserve the lives of your elders is a terrible burden, and most young people have borne it. But their anger is palpable, and it’s a fatal error for old people to ignore it. Still, railing at the old is bigotry, and bigotry is an easy answer to the wrong question. The right question isn’t why Boomers are flush, but why their grandchildren are not.
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