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After the Baby Boom Leadership Fail

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By Larry Harris, Jr. on July 28, 2011

For people roughly my age — that is, around 32 — commenting on the Baby Boom Generation is a tricky matter. Let’s start with the fact that our parents are Baby Boomers. The ultimate boss at our place of employment is likely a Boomer. Many of our school teachers and college professors were Boomers. In fact, the Baby Boom Generation has pretty much had the run of the land since the Civil Rights Era. And, while I love my parents and appreciate my upbringing a great deal I have to say that I’ve run out of patience for the leaders of their generation. I see Baby Boom leadership as the antithesis of what Millennial Generation leadership should be. So, for everyone who has had their fill of Baby Boom cynicism, partisanship and greed let me be the first to say: Baby Boomers, stop screwing us over. It’s been a long time since Civil Rights. I don’t mean to be rude, but have you checked in on the news? The wheels are falling off the bus in the United States, and you are driving the bus…toward a cliff.

Baby Boomers (born: 1946-1964) came of age just as the United States was giving Civil Rights to black people and women. They cut their teeth in debates over Good vs. Evil. Boomers gained wealth in the ’80s learning from Ronald Reagan to manage our country and homes with debt financing. Boomers loved the 80’s. The cocaine and cash was plentiful. They loved the ’80s so much, in fact, that they long for it today. Isn’t the prevailing fiscal idea of the day still “cut taxes?” Having been a happy child in the ’80s I can understand the sentimentality. But, I grew up. I’ve analyzed American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I’m totally over the ’80s. It is time to move forward. So, in the spirit of moving forward, I paraphrase a great song that Boomers loved in the ’80s: Boomers, what have you done for us lately?

Call me a hater, but facts are facts: Presidents Clinton, W. Bush and Obama are Boomers. Ken Chenault (CEO of American Express), Lloyd Blankfein (CEO of Goldman Sachs) and Ben Bernanke (FED Chairman) are all Boomers. Rupert Murdoch is too old to qualify but Bill O’Reilly, Chris Matthews, Glenn Beck, Gwen Ifill and Rush Limbaugh are Boomers. And, the youngest owner of any NBA franchise, Mark Cuban, is a very young Boomer. So, here is my brief and unscientific analysis of some top-line issues and how we fared on those issues under Baby Boom leadership:

1. Dot Com Boom: The Dot Com Boom fueled the largest economic growth in modern U.S. history during the Clinton administration. That was the “get rich quick” era marked by stories of 30-year-old millionaires on paper and secretaries with high-end luxury cars. The Dot Com Boom obviously had both positive and negative effects on the world. However, the boom’s bubble was so big, and its bust was so widespread, that it had a crippling effect on the economy. The stock market crash from 2000-2002 wiped out $5 trillion of equity. And, worldwide brands such as Time Warner, Global Crossing, Cisco, XO Communications and Corning all fell victim to the shifting financial forces of the day. While many of the Dot Com pioneers ultimately losing business ideas were members of Gen X, the high-rolling venture capitalists with the money to finance the whole operation were, in most cases, Baby Boomers.

2. Wall Street Crisis: Since the Clinton administration, when the Glass-Steagall Act was dismantled, the banking industry has won consistent and significant rollbacks in government regulation that left the big banks unchecked. In addition, mass encouragement of home sales led to risky behavior by home buyers and lenders creating the housing bubble, which inevitably busted. President George Dubya Bush pretty much handed the big banks on Wall Street $700 billion, and President Obama rolled over nearly all of the people that put that bailout deal together into his own administration. Greed is to blame all around here — greedy bankers gambling with investors’ money and selling financial products too complicated for them to understand themselves, home buyers biting way more than they could afford to chew and government regulators looking the other way in order to pave the way for a safe landing in a cushy job down the road on the corporate side of financial litigation.

3. War in Iraq, aka the biggest mistake in U.S. history: The Bush administration led the public to believe that Iraq was both harboring Weapons of Mass Destruction and aiding a worldwide terror plot against the United States in order to gain support for an unnecessary war. Trillions of dollars later, Iraq is still unstable. In all likelihood, there will still be 50,000 troops in Iraq when we all die, as there are in Germany today. Additionally, the U.S. economy is in its longest period of stagnation since the Great Depression, and the national debt is the largest ever. However, while Boomers did authorize war in Iraq the Millennial Generation voted in record numbers in 2008, electing Obama, who pledged to end the war.

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