Celebrate their vitality, and especially their variety — a generation that spans the Beatles and Springsteen, that crusaded to end a war and stop the spread of nukes, that powered an explosion of new technology, fueled the feminist revolution and joined the battle for civil rights.
But recognize the challenges boomers foretell. This is a generation that has saved too little, eaten too much and borrowed beyond its means. This trifecta puts our health care system, our economy and the well-being of our children and our parents at risk.
We can choose one of two paths. One sets off generational conflict, requiring us to choose sides in future policy and budget battles: education vs. Social Security, children's health vs. Medicare, popular tax cuts vs. tax policy enabling people to work longer. At its extreme is the ugly confrontation forecast in satirist Christopher Buckley's 2007 novel, Boomsday. In the book, Cassandra Devine, a trendy 29-year-old PR whiz, touts a way to ease boomers' pressure on Medicare and Social Security. Give boomers incentives, she suggests — free Botox and no estate tax, for starters — if they agree to commit suicide at age 70. "Voluntary transitioning," she calls it, and it eventually inspires a presidential campaign. That in turn ignites fiery opposition from the religious right. And from boomers upset by demonstrations that block golf courses in their retirement communities.