Jim Taggart

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Are You a BSer? Words of Wisdom from a Crotchety Boomer

So what’s a BSer?

Simply put, we Baby Boomers have been the biggest borrowers and spenders (BSers) in human history.

We grew up in arguably competitive labour markets, in contrast to our parents (my folks were part of the Greatest Generation), but we also benefitted from massive growth in consumer credit. It’s what has propelled the industrialized West.

Credit became the addictive crack that fuelled our economies, contributing to rapid growth in consumer demand (accounting for over 60 percent of Canada’s aggregate demand, and almost two thirds in the U.S.). Without that escalating growth during the past 60 years, Americans and Canadians (along with Western Europeans) would not be enjoying their current standards of living.

We live in an age of immediate gratification. “Holy crap, I need the newest __________.” (fill in the blank). If you don’t get it, how about an Ipad, BMW, Porsch, Bose stereo, Panasonic, Alienware computer, Kitchen Aid appliance….

Gen Y, are you paying attention?

There seems to be a collective assumption in Canada and America that our standard of living is an entitlement, that somehow it got to where it is through divine providence.

Back – waaayyyyy back – when we Boomers were in diapers or just mere sparkles in our parents’ eyes, our parents and grandparents were working their asses off. My immigrant dad worked full-time until age 72. He helped build Canada, as did my Scottish grandfather.

They were no exceptions. That was how it was. Sacrifice so that your children would be wealthier and have more opportunities.

There was a fellow by the name of Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of America’s greatest presidents.

FDR was far from perfect. But he had a vision, could see the big picture, plan, and then execute. No one since his time can come even close to his accomplishments.

One of his greatest achievements was the Civilian Conservation Corps, America’s most effective nation-wide mobilization of civilians to serve the good of the country during the Great Depression.

How soon we forget. Current and past presidents and prime ministers piss away taxpayers’ money on useless “stimulus” schemes.

Yet Boomers just can’t seem to get enough.

Consider this in the context of an aging population: For every $4 spent on seniors in the U.S., a mere $1 is spent on those under age 18.

How about early childhood education?

Canada’s no shining light when it comes to investing in its children. However, what’s happening in the United States is becoming a travesty. Witness what’s going on in states such as Arizona (which nuked its pre-kindergarten program) and Iowa (which almost killed its program, save for the governor’s last-minute appeal).

One in four third graders who have lived in poverty and are not reading at grade level will drop out or fail to graduate by age 19, a rate more than six times the one for proficient readers.

Moving up the age ladder to young people who are beginning their career development, skills training (something traditionally ignored in Canada) was hammered by the former Obama administration. And students across the U.S. are facing crushing debt loads from. Owing $80,000 plus by graduation is common; some students owe over $200,000. Canadian college grads also owe obscene amounts of loans to the federal government.

Gen Y, are you now getting motivated to start voting? Because if you’re not, Boomers will become more demanding from government as their joints give out, as their tickers fade, and as the demand nursing homes increases.

Boomers vote (as does the Silent Generation, 73 years-plus).

So Gen Y (Gen X is probably beyond hope since it’s climbing the management ladder and getting comfortable in suburbia) it’s up to you to start paying attention to politics and making your voice heard.

Because if you don’t, we BSers will eat your lunch.

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
– Thomas Jefferson (U.S. President, 1801-1809)

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