Thursday, July 18, 2024
HomeCulture WarThe baby-boomers – some myths corrected

The baby-boomers – some myths corrected


WE always appreciate articles by Laura Perrins in TCW Defending Freedom. But, Laura, we simply must take issue with your jibe at ‘baby boomers’ yesterday.  

Here are a few truths regarding the ‘baby-boomer’ generation about which many (especially the young) seem to be unaware, or which folk conveniently ‘forget’ when they whinge about the so-called ‘plight’ of today’s young people and mistakenly claim that our generation ‘never had it so good’.
First, education. Critics complain that many of today’s young people have university debts to repay. How lucky they are to have the chance to go to university, as the majority of the ‘baby boomers’ never even had the opportunity. Compare statistics of numbers obtaining degrees:

1966: 39,090
2011: 545,070
Work and unemployment: Very few young people had such an opportunity to study – we went straight from school at 16 or 17 to earn money in mainly physically demanding manual work, working long hours – I worked 44 hours per week in the early 1970s; the average now is 37. And there is a myth that there was work aplenty – in fact, in the early 1970s unemployment levels were about the same as today, at 4–5 per cent, but the later ‘boomers’ (those born in the early 60s) suffered unemployment rates of 12 per cent by the early 1980s.

Economic good times? When were those ‘economic good times’? Our generation suffered the following:
Early 1970s: strikes galore, blackouts, three-day weeks etc
Early 1970s: oil crises
1973–5: banking crisis
1972-82: inflation averaged 15 per cent
Early 1980s: recession
1987: Black Monday
Early 1990s: recession
Early 2000s: recession

Not to mention, throughout the 1980s, mortgage interest rates of around 15 per cent.

Housing: Many talk of the housing problems faced by today’s young people, saying that it was easy for the ‘baby boomers’. However, it was no different in the early 1970s when many were house-hunting. Mortgages were scarce (one had to have saved regularly for a long time with a building society before they even considered lending you money), and you had to have a salary (which usually excluded wage-earners). Even then, if there was no money around, you had to wait for times to improve. Lending was usually confined to 2.5 times the income of just one earner. We struggled and saved for years – my wife and I didn’t go out for three years of our engagement while we saved for a deposit. Because most lads left school at 16 or 17 to start work, we built up ten years’ extra capital compared with today’s ‘late starters’, most of whom don’t enter the workplace until their mid-twenties, and instead of earning take on student loans. While building up capital in those late-teenage years, we had very little to spend it on: only records and clothes – no electronic gadgets – so we saved and put it towards housing. The dramatic rise in house prices from the early 1970s onwards was partly due to women entering the job market; two-income families enabled couples to borrow more, with mortgages based on two salaries instead of one, and that in turn pushed up house prices.

Recent high immigration levels, too, have meant that hundreds of thousands more folk are now entering the country each year, putting huge demands on the housing stock and inevitably pushing up prices.

Post-war hardships: Folk never mention the many hardships suffered by the post-war generation – scarcity of almost everything, drab surroundings outdoors and in, few household goods that we take for granted today (washing machines were too expensive for newly married couples, as were TVs, cars, radios, house-phones and many other things taken for granted by today’s young people).

A generation of suffering: Through all these drab years, we paid high taxes and high interest rates to pay our way through life. What’s more, we saved for the few things that we wanted and that were available. If we have our own homes now, we deserve them, for we struggled to pay for them through decades of high interest rates, with (mainly) men working at manual, dirty and often dangerous jobs from a very young age. Few folk worked at the comfort of a computer desk.

Ours was the truly ‘green’ generation: We kick-started an awareness of environmental issues. We put an end to the life-threatening smogs and pollutants of the 1950s, we started the vogue for recycling, started country parks, tree-planting, nature reserves and many other environmental issues that we take for granted today.

And today? Well, in return for our struggles, our meagre savings in older age are worthless, earning almost zero interest in the bank, while we have struggled all our lives to pay mortgages with interest rates in double figures. And we, as a generation, are mistakenly maligned by those who have never bothered to check the facts for themselves. So, to sum up, today’s younger folk have never had it so good compared to the so-called ‘baby boomer’ generation, who have struggled all their lives to earn what they have, and are certainly not going to tolerate moaning young people who today have much more than we ever did.

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Ken and Gill Burnley
Ken and Gill Burnley
Gill Burnley has been a homemaker for over 50 years: Her husband Ken is a writer and retired college lecturer.

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