Can the Boomers Save America?
A debate on The Atlantic’s October 2010 cover story

Self-absorbed and self-indulged, the postwar generation is leaving a bitter legacy: crumbling infrastructure, crushing public debt, and a reflexive cynicism about all institutions, from churches to Congress to the media. It’s time for redemption, argues Michael Kinsley in the October issue of the magazine. Kinsley urges fellow Boomers to cough up some cash—say, $14 trillion—to fix the mess they’re leaving.

We invited seven experts from a variety of fields—economics, demography, sociology—to comment on the essay. We’ll present their reactions, along with responses from Kinsley and other Atlantic bloggers, on this page over the next two weeks.

See also: Editor’s Note, by James Bennet

How Boomers Left Us With an Ethical Deficit mugley/flickr

How Boomers Left Us With an Ethical Deficit

Eric Liu

Even worse than the trillions of dollars of debt America's burdened with is the country's self-centered culture. Boomers should focus on moral repairs even more than fiscal fixes.

Michael Kinsley

Thanks for a Great Debate

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.…

James Galbraith

Since When Is It Nice to Raise Taxes and Cut Benefits?

A reply to Maya MacGuineas and Michael Kinsley, both of whom want to make it harder on everyone who's not rich

Michael Kinsley

At Last, Someone Nice!

A reply to Maya MacGuineas—and Jamie Galbraith

Maya MacGuineas

Let's Get 'Unreal' to Stop From Drowning in Red Ink

Proposals to pay down the national debt by expanding the estate tax or means testing Social Security are mocked as political non-starters. Have any better ideas?

Todd Gitlin

Don't Turn the Deficit into 'The Passion of the Boomers'

Why does Michael Kinsley focus so much on a danger that's rather mild compared to something like global warming?

Michael Kinsley

Of Course We Should Paint the Boomers With a Broad Brush

A response to Todd Gitlin

Todd Gitlin

Damning a Whole Generation to Make a Policy Point

It's not fair to blame every Baby Boomer for driving America into a ditch of massive debt and then ask them all to pull the country out by paying more in taxes

James Galbraith

Spending and Taxes Are the Gas and Brake Pedals of the Economy

What Michael Kinsley doesn't understand about deficit spending

Michael Kinsley

If Deficits Are Totally Harmless, Why Have Any Taxes?

A response to James Galbraith

James Galbraith

Why We Don't Need to Pay Down the National Debt

Today's red ink isn't at a record high—and it's not a threat to prosperity. In fact, the greater danger comes from trying to balance the federal budget.

Michael Kinsley

Testing Supply-Side Economics: Will a 0% Estate Tax Promote Early Death?

A response to Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley

No One Likes a Deficit Bore

It's fine for some Baby Boomers to talk about taxing their inheritance to pay down the debt—but that's all we've had for the last 30 years: talk

Michael Kinsley

Gen X Can't Afford to Wait Until Boomers Are Out of Power

A response to Lisa Chamberlain

Jeffrey Goldberg

Sen. Michael Bennet on Michael Kinsley's Atlantic Story

Congress should be patriotic and tackle unfunded liabilities

Lisa Chamberlain

Gen X: The Boomer Clean-Up Crew

Boomers haven't shown the brave leadership that's needed to demand sacrifice from the country to save us from financial ruin, like raising taxes. Why it's time for them to move aside and let the next generation take charge.

Derek Thompson

Hey Michael Kinsley, Don't Tax My Inheritance!

An interview with the author of The Atlantic's new cover story

Michael Kinsley

Why Boomers Should Be Forced to Share Some Wealth

A response to Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett

Hey Boomers: Leave Some Money to the Government

The reigning generation should pay their debts, but using the estate tax to make them do it is a bad idea. How should it be done? Allow the Treasury to take tax-exempt charitable donations.


Twitter's Take on #theboomers