But it's not a pretty picture for the first boomers who are crossing the senior line in 2011. Their prospects look grim and they feel betrayed. That should sound an alarm: "Hello Houston, we have a problem: Washington's payload is ready for launch but the boomers are coming and they're mad as hell."
The vibrant America they were instrumental in building over the last three decades is slipping away. The promised golden years are looking tarnished, and may turn out to be a mirage. Their home values have collapsed, they have scant savings, high debt, and diminishing 401K's as they draw on their retirement funds to pay for their children's education and other expenses. Others can only shudder over threats to their pensions as municipalities declare bankruptcy. And the boomers are right to worry about losing their jobs as the recession lingers and more and more jobs are shipped overseas. While economists tell them they may have to work till they drop they wonder how that will play out, even if they choose to continue to work, when over 9% percent of the population is unemployed and unemployed workers over age fifty are the least likely to find jobs.
Back in Washington, politicians and policy makers are proposing changes in Social Security and Medicare with cuts that include raising the age for Social Security eligibility, cutbacks in services, elimination of coverage for some medical procedures, higher deductibles and co-payments, means testing for Medicare eligibility, sharply lower reimbursements to doctors and hospitals that will surely force hospital closings and the withdrawal of many physicians from the system, which will severely reduce the availability of medical services, and a plan to privatize Medicare. Policy makers and pundits are also questioning the cost effectiveness of end of life care--starkly stated in the grisly title of an article in Newsweek: "The Case for Killing Granny."
So what will the boomers do? For sure, they will not play dead. It's not their history and it's not their style. More predictably they will invoke the Rostenkowski factor. In July 1989 after Congress passed a catastrophic medical coverage bill that was introduced by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Congressman Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois seniors cheered at first. But when they deciphered the small print and discovered a surcharge on Medicare beneficiaries for the coverage they went ballistic. On August 17, 1989, the scene of seniors yelling "coward," "recall," and "impeach" while chasing Rostenkowski as he left a meeting in Chicago and struggled to flee the scene was played across America on the evening news. The images of seniors rioting, making threatening gestures, and venting rage terrified legislators. The bill they had passed by a three to one majority was swiftly repealed.
Those feisty defiant seniors were from the generation of the boomers' parents and grandparents -- elderly who were assumed to be submissive and fearful of authority and government. But when pushed they literally came out swinging -- and the terrified politicians frantically ran for cover.
If that generation of seniors struck back, what can we expect from the aging boomers? Keep in mind that the boomers will be the most educated seniors in history, they have high expectations for comfortable living, are computer literate and are adept in social networking.They know how to "work the system" (they were the system), will vote in greater percentages than any other age group (as senior always have), and they carry an impressive resume of protest and noise making.
All this screams out: Politicians beware -- the boomers are coming. Like drill sergeants you may bark your marching orders and expect unchallenged compliance. But this army will march to its own drum beat.
So stay tuned. For in the words of old time comedian Jimmy Durante, "You ain't seen nuttin yet!"
The reality is that the "Promise" that underpins western democracies canot be kept. The few young cannot afford to pay for our healthcare or the pensions that we expect and promised to ourselves.
But we Boomers are many and we vote and we can get organized. So we are on a collision course with ourselves. Politicians that try and cut back will be attacked and then some.
But the facts remain. We cannot afford the promise.
So what to do? There can be no easy way out at the political level. We will fight our selves to keep the promise that canot be kept.
But the money cannot be there. So I fear that much that we might do collectively cannot be done. So the truth will come too late and the pain will be at the maximum.
So what to do? Set up your own life to depend as little as possible on the "Promise"