TOM UTLEY: To the young (like my sons) who think we baby boomers are pampered, selfish, racists, here's why you're all SO wrong
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/artic ... wrong.html
Are you a baby boomer like me, born in the post-war breeding period from 1946 to 1964? If so, you stand accused by increasing numbers of millennials of being a pampered, selfish racist, incapable of coherent thought and not to be trusted with the vote.
Don’t take my word for it. This is the finding of charity workers concerned with the welfare of the elderly.
At a conference in London this week, they warned that, since last year’s EU referendum, there has been an upsurge of ageist prejudice among the resentful young, who feel hard done by and betrayed by their parents’ generation.
Said Kate Jopling, the former head of public affairs at Help the Aged: ‘[After Brexit], there was a casual use of demonising and divisive language, the bandying around of stereotypes about who older people are, about their economic circumstances, their motivations and even their ability to form rational judgments.
‘Baby boomers used to be talked about as the generation that would change everything. Now it is almost a term of abuse.’
As a 64-year-old father of four — and a Brexiteer to boot — I feel I’ve been on the receiving end of more than my fair share of such demonisation from my own Remainer sons. So on behalf of my fellow baby boomers, I’d like to take this opportunity of entering a plea of Not Guilty to every charge on their generation’s indictment.
I am also tempted to lay counter-charges against my sons’ own age group, which strikes me in general as being more pampered and selfish than mine, less capable of independent thought — and, yes, less to be trusted with the vote.
According to speakers at The Future of Ageing Conference, millennials’ resentment of baby boomers focuses on three main areas: tuition fees, housing and, of course, the Brexit result. The idea is that we had everything handed to us on a plate — free higher education and affordable homes — and are too selfish to care a damn about how much they suffer.
To rub salt into the wounds of the young, surveys suggest some 60 per cent of us 50 to 65-year-olds voted Leave, while almost three-quarters of 18 to 24-year-olds voted Remain. Thus, we stand accused of wilfully ‘stealing the future’ from our children, who ascribe our decision purely to stupidity and racism. Many add that since they are the ones who will have to live with the long-term consequences of Brexit, they alone should have decided the matter.
Let’s take tuition fees first. Before I go any further, I must admit that I was one of the lucky ten per cent or so of baby boomers who went to university in the Sixties and Seventies, with our tuition fees paid by the state and — in many cases, including mine — a generous maintenance allowance thrown in by our local councils. Indeed, all my life I’ve felt grateful to the miners, welders, street-cleaners and check-out girls who made my higher education possible through their taxes (though, in my defence, I must say I’ve repaid the state many times over since).
But the point is that 90 per cent of my generation didn’t share my good fortune. For when universities depended overwhelmingly on the Treasury for their running costs, places were restricted. Most of my fellow students came from comfortable, middle-class backgrounds, while a hugely disproportionate number of them had been privately educated, as I was.
Contrast this with the position today, after the introduction of tuition fees made possible a rapid expansion in the number of places available, with the proportion of school-leavers going into higher education more than trebling since my day.
What’s more, the student loan system — under which repayments begin only when graduates earn a decent income, and debts are written off after 30 years — has had a dramatic effect on the social composition of the university population.
Though the Left warned it would deter poorer teenagers from applying for places, the opposite has proved true. Indeed, a report this week from the Centre for Global Higher Education finds the proportion of students from families in the bottom fifth of income groups has doubled since fees were introduced in 1998.
Are resentful young graduates really saying the system was fairer all those decades ago, when universities had to compete for funding with every other Whitehall department — forcing them to turn 90 per cent of baby boomers away?
Or do they simply believe in Jeremy Corbyn’s magic money tree, whose fruits will somehow fund free higher education for all — on top of free everything else — while relieving them of all their debts? If so, who’s being stupid and selfish now?
On housing, I have to admit our young antagonists are on firmer ground. Undeniably, it is much harder for them to get on to the ladder after years of mass immigration and marital breakdown, in which supply has failed to keep up with demand.
But to the charge that ‘I’m all right Jack’ baby boomers don’t care about this crisis, I plead an emphatic Not Guilty. We feel the pain acutely — not least, those of us stuck with twentysomething offspring on the premises, treating us to lectures on our selfishness as they tuck into free grub earned by the sweat of our brows.
Indeed, politicians need have no fear of losing older voters’ support if they embark on a mass programme of house building. For most of us, it can’t come too soon.
Then there’s Brexit, the biggest bone of contention of them all. Somehow or other, three-quarters of millennials appear to have run away with the idea that the EU is an earthly paradise of free trade, prosperity, democracy and brotherly love. In their view, it seems, anyone who thinks otherwise must be a thick, pig-headed racist.
I ask them only to consider the facts. How can they think Brussels a guarantor of prosperity, when they see the rampant youth unemployment imposed on southern Europe by the eurocrats’ politically inspired folly of the one-size-fits-all euro?
How can they think the EU stands for free trade and friendship between nations, when, in fact, it erects savage tariff barriers against some of the world’s poorest countries, preventing them from developing in order to protect its own inefficient farmers and industries?
Take African cocoa. The EU is happy to exempt imports of raw beans from all charges. But in a relic of colonialism, it imposes import tariffs of 30-60 per cent on finished products such as chocolate bars to protect European processors. No wonder the shops are full of overpriced Belgian chocolates, while Africa suffers.
There’s nothing touchy-feely about this aspect of the monstrous, protectionist cartel that is Brussels.
Yet despite its efforts to protect its own, the EU’s share of world trade has shrunk every year since we joined. Indeed, it’s bewildering how milliennials can think Brussels represents the future.
As for democracy, it doesn’t get a look-in, as unelected officials blithely impose laws on 500 million citizens who have no power to get rid of them. No wonder neo-Nazis and Communists are rearing their ugly heads again, on a continent falling apart at the seams.
Meanwhile what, pray, is racist about demanding an end to the free movement of unskilled, mostly white Europeans, so that we can welcome the skilled workers we need from the rest of the world?
No, you millennials. We baby boomers voted Brexit because we have your interests at heart, to save you from sinking aboard the bureaucratic Titanic.
As for the claim that we were pampered in our youth, millennials are the healthiest, most widely travelled generation in history — with more holidays, clothes, sources of entertainment and an infinitely more exciting diet than most of us could dream of, in the days when roast chicken was the height of luxury.
So why don’t the young lift their eyes from their smartphones, pull those earphones from their lugs, stop whingeing — and start thinking before they vote?