I think three major factors are at play in the decline of our economy after the mid-60’s.
First, the baby boomers are the first generation of leisure teenagers. Previous to the 1940s, Children were expected to help out on family farms or in family shops; whereas policy changes prior to the mid-1940s through the late 1950s, thanks to financial and labor reforms enacted during the Great Depression, resulted in unprecedented prosperity in which a single earner could support a whole household comfortably.
This phenomenon had real ramifications in terms of the social and brain development of baby boomers.
Previous to Post WWII America, infants, young children and adolescents were viewed as a precious resource of the family. But once economic reforms were realized in postwar America, middle class America was awash in disposable income.
Prosperity tends to create emotional distance within family and social groups. So, when families began to be created after the war, that emotional distance was evident in childrearing practices.
For instance, in infancy, the Baby Boom babies were suddenly expected to become independent at an early age. Newborns were suddenly expected to “sleep in their own bed” and to “sleep through the night.”
Additionally, germ theory of disease was being developed, further distancing people from their families. The healthy and bonding practice of breastfeeding was all but eliminated; it was thought of as “unsanitary ,” and thus, it became regular medical protocol to inject a post-partum mother with drugs to “dry up their milk,” so that they didn’t have to bother with breastfeeding; and instead, they bottle-fed their babies formula. This reduced the bond between mothers and their children, and had very subtle but very real impact on the personality development of Baby Boomers as they entered childhood.
That bond was further severed by lack of real need by their parents to employ their own children to maintain the household. Baby Boom children grew up largely idle, watching TV and socializing with their peers.
So, even though their predecessors were valued as members of their family, Baby Boom adolescents became largely unmoored from the family and societal structure they were designed to support.
Adolescence is a period of serious brain pruning and specialization, in addition, it is also a period of exquisite physical strength and endurance. Teenagers are supposed to be picking up the slack that older family members and younger family members cannot perform, they are also learning to become part of a larger group by working to support the family unit; and baby boomers missed out on an important feature of that specialization, which is physical and mental preoccupation with family and community survival.
The second major feature shaping the generation of baby boomers is media marketing. They were the first generation to be a marketing demographic.
This further changes the developing adolescent brain. Previously, adolescents had been largely viewed as workers or helpers or apprentices. They were looked upon as not quite finished human beings, and therefore were subject to the experience and wisdom of older people.
But in such time of prosperity, with marketing techniques that singled out teenagers, the teenagers were made to feel more important then there more experienced elders. Again, this creates brain connections that become much less malleable toward the mid 20s. The modern day right-wing disparaging term, “special snowflake,” could well apply to the entire generation of baby boomers.
The third major factor contributing to Baby Boomer Sociopathy, is also a result of that short period of middle-class prosperity during the 40’s and 50’s: Opportunity.
Baby Boomers received unprecedented access to economic and educational opportunities; college was either free or VERY affordable; housing was still indexed to prevailing wages; mortgage lending was strongly regulated and curtailed the forces that eventually, after de-regulating the mortgage industry in the 1980’s and 90’s, caused the bust of the despicable derivatives market created by shady accounting practices that created the housing bubble of the previous two decades.
Additionally, consumer goods were very affordable all the while wages–thanks to labor unions–were livable, for even the least skilled entry-level jobs.
Baby Boomers were handed a golden economy on a silver platter, and without the work ethic and sense of belonging to their families and communities that earlier generations had, they took it all for themselves and didn’t bother to save anything for future generations.
Being born 5 years after the Baby Boom, I had a front row seat to this carnage. My siblings who were born before me, they paid very little for college tuition, maybe a couple hundred dollars a month; their rent was another couple hundred, and food, gas, and other items, were maybe 500 per month. A pretty decent life could be financed on a waitress wage until the late 80’s, as Baby Boomers moved into management and policymaker jobs, and they began changing the prudent policies throughout the 80’s and 90’s, taking our economic and labor protections back to pre-Depression America.
As it stands now, the children of Baby Boomers are totally screwed.
Many young working men and women live together in groups, in cramped small apartments or housing units, and they still can’t get ahead.
College tuition is not affordable even by upper middle class standards, and thus, now college students can expect to pay back their student loans for decades after they graduate.
Food and other consumer goods are so high priced that you can tell a person’s level of income by the quality of their diet.
Many Millenials have no access to health care, and therefore are developing diseases and conditions in their 30’s that their parents could likely have headed off with a trip to an affordable medical provider.
The children of Baby Boomers are largely constrained to mind-numbing service sector jobs–such as call centers–which produce unhealthy, depressed workers. This is specifically because once their parents–the Baby Boomers–took over, they began to dismantle the very systems which gave them their own prosperity.
Finally, instead of following the evolutionarily proscribed dictums of their forefathers, Boomers have shirked their responsibility to their own grandchildren, forcing their children to pay astronomical prices for child care services so they can work.
Our ancestors’ only reason to live beyond their 40’s or 50’s was to take care of their grandchildren while their children went off and worked. That is THE REASON we humans live as long as we do–caring for the young’uns.
Instead of doing that, Baby Boomers may occasionally entertain their grandchildren for an afternoon, while the children take a much-needed mental break, but rarely can the children of Baby Boomers lean on their parents for any kind of daily support–financial, childcare, or otherwise. In fact, Baby Boomers are LITERALLY spending their golden years squandering all the money they stole while they were working and making policies which screwed the succeeding generations.
Yet Baby Boomers have the nerve to chide their children for being “entitled.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Milennials and Generation Z–of which my daughter is a part–are the ones who will have to piece back even the most rudimentary aspects of civilization, such as clean water, transportation infrastructures, and worker protections, for future generations.