Monday, April 09, 2012

It’s Not a Fight, It’s a Family.

Part 2 of our response can be found here: Uniting Generations with the Facts

In the April issue of Esquire magazine, an article entitled “The War Against Youth,” by Stephen Marche emerges as the latest attempt to incite generational warfare while offering no constructive policy recommendations. As a result of the attention this piece has received, Generations United is issuing the following statement. 

Recent attempts in the media to fuel intergenerational conflict are a disservice to our country. This is particularly true in the midst of a polarizing political climate that threatens to cut critical safety net programs for children, youth, and older adults. Rather than pitting generations against one another, we should be working together to address our country’s most difficult challenges while still investing in each generation of our society. 

Marche’s article unjustly blames the baby boomer generation for our country’s problems and insinuates that generation’s callous indifference will forever stint the human potential of today’s youth. This narrow view devalues the capacity and contributions of both older and younger generations. To address the needs of our country, we must forge stronger connections among generations and engage the strengths unique at every age.

Old and young Americans form a community of interest. It’s called family. According to Pew Research Center, 76% of adults report that family is the most important element of their life. And in these family units we demonstrate how much we care about each other.

Take grandparents, for example. A survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute found that two-thirds of grandparents provided an estimated $370 billion in financial support to grandchildren over a five-year period. This averaged out to $8,661 per grandparent household. They did this not out of duty, but out of concern and love for their young family members. Grandparents step in to provide child care, as well. According to the Census Bureau, among the 11.3 million children younger than five whose mothers are employed, 30 percent are cared for on a regular basis by a grandparent.

Too often, Social Security is referred to as a retirement program. Tell that to the nearly 7 million children and youth who today receive a critical part of their family income from Social Security.  In reality, it is a family protection program. It covers almost every child in America should they lose a parent to death or disability. Moreover, two-thirds of Americans support paying more for Social Security instead of reducing benefits.  Most importantly, Social Security is fully funded through 2036. With modest changes to strengthen the program, it can be solvent for generations to come.

Marche asserts today’s youth are on their own; he sees young people returning home as a negative. But that’s what families do: take care of their own in times of need. Today, more than 51 million—or one in six—Americans live in multigenerational households, including grandparents raising their grandchildren.

Young people are not the only ones moving in with relatives. A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 66% of adult respondents living in a multigenerational household reported that the current economic climate was a factor in their family becoming a multigenerational household, while 21% reported that it was the only factor. Most of the respondents expressed positive feelings about their new arrangement. In fact, 82% agreed that “My family’s multigenerational household arrangement has enhanced bonds or relationships among family members.” If anything, our country is moving into a time when families are realizing once again we are interdependent and need each other. It’s not a sign of weakness but a tribute to enduring strengths of families.

A recent study by the MetLife Mature Market found that respondents—across the generations—feel a sense of strong responsibility and obligation to:

  • save enough for retirement to avoid having to ask family members for assistance
  • have a parent live with them if they need help due to a major health or financial issue
  • make sure a spouse or child would have enough money if a financial provider dies unexpectedly
  • Help to pay for a child’s college education
  • Provide strong and consistent emotional and non-financial support and contact

That doesn’t sound like a country whose generations are at war with each other.  The majority of Americans care about each other. They strongly believe, as we do, that “It is not a fight, it is a family.”

Caring for and supporting people of every generation shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. We need to ensure our policies and programs benefit all Americans, whatever their age.


We encourage intergenerational advocates to take action on this latest attempt by some to fuel intergenerational conflict.  Here’s how you can help:


Share our statement. 

“Like” our statement on Facebook.

Post a comment on Marche’s blog.

  • “The War Against Youth” article unjustly blames the baby boomer generation for our country’s problems and insinuates that generation’s callous indifference will forever stint the human potential of today’s youth. This narrow view devalues the contributions of both older and younger generations and is an unfair accusation.
  • There is not a “Young America” and an “Old America”.  Falsely separating older and younger people into age-graded silos makes each generation more vulnerable and hurts our economy.
  • The  best way to put our country on a more productive path is to forge stronger connections among generations, engage the strengths unique at every age and address the needs of each.

Part 2 of our response can be found here: Uniting Generations with the Facts


Kristin Bodiford said...

This following statement is so powerful! To address the needs of our country, we must forge stronger connections among generations and engage the strengths unique at every age.

Thank you for your leadership in drawing our attention to strengthen our relationships with each other and build upon our strengths. I will repost this statement and other key points to get the word out.

Bruce said...

Ms. Butts--

As one of America's oldest Baby Boomers (1/22/46) and a student of the impact of the Baby Boom on the U.S., I know that much of what Mr. Marche writes is true, if a bit confrontational. Simply pushing him back with equal zeal seems like the wrong approach. Perhaps a better approach would be to admit where we Boomers could do better, promise to support policies that level the playing field where appropriate and push back on only those of Mr. Marche's assertions that are bogus.

The Baby Boom didn't create its numbers, our parents did. We are an extra large cohort by accident of birth. Therefore, we cannot take blame for our size. Nor can we be blamed for the extension of life created by the epidemiological miracles of science and medicine since mid-20th century. It fact, many Boomers helped in that regard.

Nor can we be blamed for the creation of a Social Security system designed in 1935 when the average age of death was 59.

We can take partial credit for the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, programs that reflect the best of human intentions.

As a cohort, we can be blamed for turning a blind eye to the realities wrought by our size, advancing age and demands.

Social Security is the entitlement that has the easiest fixes but engenders the most vitriolic response from Boomers when any modifications are suggested. "I paid in and I want it all back now that I'm qualified." The fact that many will get back much more than they put in is often met with, "So?" If you then offer to give them all that they put in plus a reasonable interest rate and then stop the payments when their input amount is satisfied, the howls are extreme. Most Boomers want it both ways. This seems greed to me, pure and simple.

Medicare and Medicaid are the elephant in the Capitol Rotunda. The problems isn't so much that we spend on end-of-life-care to the point of bankruptcy, it is that both systems are captives of the American healthcare system, a truly bizarre collection of for-profit treatment silos. If the Baby Boom really wants all the care they deserve, then the Baby Boom has got drop any ideological blinders about reforming American healthcare. The ACA was a baby step not a solution but many Boomers, calling from the right, even want that repealed. Madness.

Boomers have a diminishing chance to meet these challenges and become a Great Generation through clear-eyed self-sacrifice for the good of the Republic. Even so, none of the sacrifices will require us to storm the beach at Normandy or Iwo Jima under withering fire as our Fathers before us.

Elaine said...

Mr. Marche makes some interesting and disturbing points in his article. What bothers me most is the inherent polarization of the generations which is a strong theme in his article. Anytime we blame someone else, an individual, a group, a community, a generation, we dis-empower ourselves. If I don't own part or all of the problem, I can't own part or all of the solution. These times call for unity not blame. I work with parenting grandparents who are raising their grandchildren because their parents can't or won't. These grandparents who are parents for a second time make enormous sacrifices to ensure a future for their grandchildren. Their commitment to this Millennial Generation is deep and unwavering. Building bridges between the generations is not that hard to do, and that is what we need to do if we are going move our country forward by making a place for everyone to feel important, and by committing ourselves to making decisions of integrity which reflect the greatest good. Elaine K. Williams

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