Of Course We Should Paint the Boomers With a Broad Brush

By Michael Kinsley

This post is part of our forum on Michael Kinsley's October cover story exploring the legacy of the Baby Boomers and what they owe the country. Follow the debate here.

So here is another one who seems enraged that I largely agree with him. If anybody were to make a list of prominent writers about the 1960s generation, Todd Gitlin would surely be on it. (That, no doubt, is why he was invited to participate in this discussion.) He has been both a keeper of the flame and a critic. So I'm not sure why he chooses to ridicule the notion of a Boomer generation now. Does it make sense to generalize about Boomers as a group? In a way, yes, and in a way, no. That's what Gitlin seems to say. That's what I say too. Taken as a group, in comparison with their parents' generation, should they feel they've not measured up? In a way, no, and in a way, yes. That's what Gitlin says. That's what I say too. What are we arguing about? Is it that I'm horning in on his territory?

As for the deficit, well, I disagree with Paul Krugman. Shocking, I know, and I do it with some sincere trepidation. Actually, I don't think I do disagree with Krugman on what to do next. He thinks we need more stimulus now, to put people back to work, then we can deal with the deficit later. That's fine. I would just like to see some acknowledgment that the deficit is a scary problem and the longer we wait before dealing with it--even if waiting is the right thing to do--the more scary it becomes. I'd also like some acknowledgment that "more stimulus" is painless medicine but "now pay up" will not be.
Can the Boomers Save America?
Let me ask Gitlin what I asked Galbraith: If deficits are harmless, why do we have taxes at all? Why not borrow the entire cost of running the government? And if there is some limit, what makes him so confident that we aren't near it now, with deficits larger than anyone could have imagined a few years ago?

The debate continues here.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/09/of-course-we-should-paint-the-boomers-with-a-broad-brush/63341/