In his "remarkable" (Men's Journal) and "controversial" (Fortune) bookwritten in a "wry, amusing style" (The Guardian)Bruce Cannon Gibney shows how America was hijacked by the Boomers, a generation whose reckless self-indulgence degraded the foundations of American prosperity.
In A Generation of Sociopaths, Gibney examines the disastrous policies of the most powerful generation in modern history, showing how the Boomers ruthlessly enriched themselves at the expense of future generations.
Acting without empathy, prudence, or respect for factsacting, in other words, as sociopathsthe Boomers turned American dynamism into stagnation, inequality, and bipartisan fiasco. The Boomers have set a time bomb for the 2030s, when damage to Social Security, public finances, and the environment will become catastrophic and possibly irreversibleand when, not coincidentally, Boomers will be dying off.
Gibney argues that younger generations have a fleeting window to hold the Boomers accountable and begin restoring America.
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About the Author
Bruce Cannon Gibney is the author of A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America. A venture capitalist and writer, Gibney began as an attorney specializing in securities litigation and financial regulation. He was an early investor in PayPal, and later joined Founders Fund and co-founded Carmenta Management. He and his colleagues have funded Facebook, Spotify, Palantir Technologies, SpaceX, Lyft, AirBnB, Coupang, and DeepMind.
Table of Contents
1 The View from 1946 1
2 Bringing Up Boomer 13
3 Vietnam and the Emerging Boomer Identity 27
4 Empire of Self 52
5 Science and Sentimentality 71
6 Disco and the Roots of Neoliberalism 96
7 The Boomer Ascendancy 116
8 Taxes 131
9 Debt and Deficits 155
10 Indefinitely Deferred Maintenance 176
11 Boomer Finance: The Vicious Cycle of Risk and Deceit 193
12 The Brief Triumph of Long Retirement 215
13 Preparing for the Future 239
14 Detention, After-School and Otherwise 258
15 The Wages of Sin 282
16 The Myth of Boomer Goodness 301
17 Price Tags and Prescriptions 326
A Note on the Numbers and Conventions 365
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a fun, fascinating - and somewhat depressing - read, offset by the author's witty humor and thorough research. With such a bold title, I was curious how Gibney would make the case. As he sees it, it's not that every Boomer is a sociopath, but rather that as a generation, the Boomers have overseen a series of personal and policy choices that have systematically benefited themselves at the expense of the younger generations in a sociopathic manner. After finishing it, I'm convinced that the Boomer generation took things off the top and are responsible for much of our country's tepid grow and ballooning debt. The first third of the book is a brief history of the a Boomers from birth to Vietnam, and Gibney lays out the case that the America the boomers inherited, while still deeply flawed (conditions of blacks and women, anyone?), was essentially great and getting better. By 1965, when the first boomers were graduating from college, the country had widespread prosperity, voting and civil rights, and a bright future ahead of it. Then what? Gibney argues, the boomers. I was less persuaded by some of his data on the personal characteristics of the boomers, but the policy data is just stunning, and the case Gibney makes is hard to refute: from the late 1970s forward, most major fiscal policy choices benefited the boomers at the expense of others. California's Prop 13 (and similar property tax caps in other states) have permitted long-time property owners (e.g. Boomers) to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes, and those rates must rise overall and be collected from newer (e.g. younger) homebuyers to make up the difference. That's right, the boomers living across the street from you may be paying 1/4 the property taxes you are for the exact same house. And Gibney nails it: it's an inter-generational transfer from the young to the old. Much of the rest of the book is a topic-by-topic breakdown of how the boomers have reaped inter-generational transfers at every turn, in education, environment, science and research, pensions, and perhaps most critically, Social Security and Medicare. The former, Gibney explains, is actually as a legal matter a form of insurance and NOT an entitlement - it was intended to be for the truly destitute, not to help pay for a winter home in Boca Raton. And as Gibney explains, little wonder our boomer politicians have had no interest in reforming it - the well won't go dry until the mid 2030s when most boomers will be dead. As for Medicare, Gibney notes that the average Medicare beneficiary's annual costs were close to $12,500 in 2015 and will rise roughly $1k per year. And of course, because the boomers had the lowest savings rate of any generation, many will be heavily dependent on these programs and steadfastly refuse reform. Was it a mere coincidence that about the only policy issue Clinton and Trump (both boomers) agreed on during the election was no reform of these programs? Gibney's case is strong in other policy areas as well. While public university tuition was essentially free for the boomers, it now averages around $13,500 for today's students, and student loans (for the young) have made up the difference at a rate that is now double our country's credit card debt. Overall, a funny, insightful, and thoroughly well researched book.
Finally an Argument that makes sense.
Born in 1960, I was surprised to learn a few years ago that I was a Baby Boomer. 1964 is the last of the baby-Boomer years. I don't recall stealing from the next generation. I've worked hard and paid my taxes. My retirement savings were decimated by the Great Recession, which Alan the Vainglorious Greenspan had earlier dismissed as a bit of "froth" in the housing market. No, it turns out it was an astonishingly well-organized program of placing people (especially brown people) in housing they could not afford at above-market mortgage rates. The criminality was as rampant on Main Street as it was on Wall Street. And none of this could have been accomplished without the cover of the ratings agencies (Moody's, etc.), which gave their highest ratings to derivative securities that eventually blew up the American and global economies. And now it turns out that because of my age I bear responsibility for Congress stealing from the Social Security and Medicare trust funds these last few decades. Since Congress played fast and loose with the payroll taxes that Baby-Boomers deposited into government week after week, year after year, I suppose the only fair thing to do is to deny Social Security and Medicare benefits to Baby-Boomers. And of course we need to triple our defense spending. I don't feel safe unless the USA can bomb every country on the planet out of existence at least a hundred times over.