We are entering a period where, in order to survive, young people will have to ditch the older generation.

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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, May 4, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

War of the Generations

I seem to be in a pivotal cultural position in re old age.

I just turned 62, first year of eligibility for Social Security benefits (I was born January 8, 1946 - the baby boom generation is reckoned to have begun January 1 of that year).

Remember the old days, when people looked after their aged parents? (Or, if you don't remember those days, did you ever see a movie about them?) You still see sixty-year-olds looking after 80-90-year-old parents sometimes on TV specials. But I worked in senior care facilities and, as guilty as it made people, they generally ended up warehousing their parents there.

I also live in New Jersey, the state with the greatest indebtedness. We currently have over $30 billion in debt. What is more alarming is the $50+ billion in unfunded pension obligations for state employees courtesy of the last two governors, Whitman and McGreevey.

We elected as governor Jon Corzine, a liberal democrat of my era whose qualifications include formerly chairing investment firm Goldman Sachs. Unlike me and my fellow New Jerseyeans, Corzine can comprehend a billion dollars - he made a few of them for his firm and himself.

Corzine proposed doubling tolls on state roads every few years as a way to attack our debt obligations. Neither fellow Democrats nor Republicans supported him and his approval ratings are at historically low levels. So he recently abandoned this effort - which other politicians and citizens don't seem to be as worried about as he is (which worries me even more).

When I talk to younger adults, their typical response is, "Why should I pay for the wasteful expenditures and failure to pay for them of past generations?" Why indeed - to do so will reduce their own standard of living as a result of decisions they didn't make and benefits they didn't receive.

Which returns us to my being the crest of the baby boomers moving into Social Security and Medicare ages (no, I haven't applied!). According to Roger Lowenstein of the New York Times, this will mean a doubling of the number of people claiming such benefits, with a smaller number than at present of people working and paying into the system. Projections are that Medicare and Social Security benefits will at some point consume the entire budget. The problem is, according to one analyst, so "overwhelming, none of the candidates feel they can tackle it."

Now we're beginning to talk about real conflict! With incredible real estate costs, taxes (New Jersey, for example, has the highest property taxes in the nation), food and fuel prices rising in never-ending spirals, and what not, things might get tough down the road! And what do you think the younger generation will think about carrying us oldsters on their backs?

Could get ugly, you know.