The Baby Boomers graduated into the slow-growth, high-inflation economy of the 1970s and early 1980s; so you might have thought that they would have shown greater sympathy when the 2008 financial crisis threatened their own children. Yet when the Great Recession struck, the Boomers—who had become America’s policymakers and corporate leaders—consistently made decisions that favored their own interests at the expense of younger Americans.
Indeed, one of the most profound results of the 2008 crisis, writes Joseph Sternberg in The Theft of a Decade: How the Baby Boomers Stole the Millennials’ Economic Future, has been the divergence between the economic realities of Boomers and their heirs, the Millennials. This divergence, says Sternberg, was enabled by three long-term policy shifts encouraged by the Boomers: (1) a focus on short-term gains over long-term investment; (2) a shift away from on-the-job training; and (3) the diversion of capital from investment in businesses into investment in housing. But “the worst Boomer theft of all,” concludes Sternberg, “would be to deny us [Millennials] an opportunity to solve our own problems.”
Joseph Sternberg is a London-based member of the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, where he writes the “Political Economics” column. He joined the Journal in 2006 as an editorial writer in Hong Kong. He holds a B.A. from the College of William and Mary.