For those who have seen the opening episode of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, one of the first things that typically comes to mind is the line: “You are a member of the Worst, Period, Generation, Period. Ever, Period!”
In an elitist diatribe about millennial political apathy, protagonist Will McAvoy, a news anchor played by Jeff Daniels, tells a quixotic college sophomore quite tersely that she is a member of the “Worst. Generation. Ever,” and that her question of “what makes America the greatest country in the world?” belies factual evidence.
If you haven't seen the show, I highly recommend it.
Now, while it may be tough as an American to face the fact that there is little to nothing that proves America is the greatest country in the world, I still loved what The Newsroom had to offer. Like everything Aaron Sorkin puts out, it was informative, entertaining, and sorely missed once it ended—mostly because Sorkin's research and writing abilities are second to none. And even though Aaron Sorkin turns the student’s question regarding what makes America the greatest country in the world on its head in the final episode of the first season—despite any change in the variables or attributes commonly used to classify a country's standing in the world—I think it’s more important not to focus so much on this area of inquiry but rather who, really, are the worst generation of Americans? Or at least, who are the worst that are still alive today?
Many like to complain that Millennials and Gen Z are creating a society of cancel culture, fueled by entitlement, demanding counterintuitive reforms like "Abolish the Police" and asserting that they are the ones that have been aggrieved—all while failing to enter a voting booth. But to me, the real embarrassment are those who generally do the complaining: the Baby Boomers. When it comes to generational achievement, the Baby Boomers arrive just short of abject failure—and there are more than enough data to back that up.
From cutting taxes to grease their 401(k)s, to running up deficits during economic expansions, failing to invest in the future workforce, and leaving infrastructure to crumble under their grandkids’ feet, the Boomers are more entitled than even their worst depiction of Millennials. They have failed every generation that will follow them—all so they could have low taxes during their working years and full Social Security benefits during their multi-decade retirement.
But what is so interesting is not that the Baby Boomers have raped and pillaged Social Security to the point that the Social Security trust fund is scheduled to go bankrupt just as the Boomers are projected to die, or that, as a political class, they possess all the signs and characteristics of sociopathic behavior, but rather that the most prominent Baby Boomer, President Joe Biden, is doing everything in his power to rectify the sins of his generation.
President Biden’s policies—ones dedicated to reducing inequality, making long-term investments in infrastructure and education, and raising taxes to pay for a much more expansive and responsive federal government—are a subtle way of saying, “we, the Boomers, are, and have been, the problem.”
The President has never overtly condemned his generation’s actions, but he has made it quite clear that he will not be encumbered by the pressure to reduce fiscal deficits or rollback the social safety net because he is dedicated to doing something his generation of politicians and voters have never done: invest in the future of the country.
Sure, President Biden has always been in favor of policies that do more to address the needs of the country rather than the country's near-term fiscal position, but the fact that he has not in any way weakened his stance on these issues since taking the oath of office just shows how dedicated he is to his mission of reversing his generation’s political malevolence.
And even though most of today's problems are correlated with Boomer political apathy, I doubt President Biden will ever blame any of today’s ills on the Baby Boomers explicitly—there are simply too many votes that fall into that demographic, and he needs many of those votes to get reelected. But if he follows through and delivers on his policy priorities, he will have done more to counter the political sociopathy of the Boomers than any of his predecessors, and he will have put the United States on a better path to regaining the title of the Greatest Country in the World.
President Biden may be a member of the real Worst. Generation. Ever, but he far from represents their values. To a generation that consumed copious amounts of drugs and dodged a major war, it might be unnerving to Boomers that they are now being led by someone who is nothing like them: a sober leader who is spoiling for a fight.