Generational hypergeneralization is the last refuge of the pundit. I get the feeling that even the playful Michael Kinsley half-knows that he's been snookered into pitching his political-economic views as a generational manifesto. This is what comes of standing pat conceptually as we move into the sixth decade of Baby Boom blather. Generation talk gussies up a position that, in my view, is part righteousness (restoring the estate tax) and part fetish (deficit hawkery).
"The indictment against the Baby Boom generation is
familiar, way oversimplified, and only partly fair," Kinsley writes--and
proceeds to speed through his own yellow light. Self-indulgent
spendthrifts to a man and woman, he says, "the Boomers ran up huge
public and private debts." But soon enough, he's giving himself the
back of his other hand: "Boomers are not primarily responsible for
America's debt crisis. Blame goes mostly to the World War II generation,
which in this regard was not so Great." Hmm.
It's just as well that Kinsley momentarily interrupts the oh-so-easy generalization about the water-walking achievements of the Boomers' parents. Is Ronald Reagan, who spent the war making movies, to be honored in the same breath as his age-mate John F. Kennedy, the commander of PT-109? How easy it is to congratulate the Greatest Generation while averting one's eyes from the fact that a good many of them, just a few years earlier, were isolationists who opposed a foreign policy that might have helped stop Hitler in the Rhineland, in Austria, or in Spain. Don't get me wrong: No one dares underplay battlefield sacrifice, not to mention Rosie's riveting. The elders rose mightily to the occasion--as did the undrafted women--to help save the world. But their political wisdom came a bit late, and was largely forced on them.