Generational war has broken out in Britain, as many younger voters feel betrayed by older Brexit voters.
Twitter and YouTube are awash in angry millennials who want their Europe back. Influential media outlets are fanning ageism. The New York Times ran an opinion piece, “Brexit and Europe’s Angry Old Men.” GQ Magazine ran, “We Should Ban Old People From Voting.” The headline, “Don’t Let Old People Vote,” captured a popular theme in British media:
“There’s a decent argument to be made for denying suffrage to anyone old enough to collect Social Security.”
— Fiona Zublin, Ozy.com
“In a couple of decades, most of those voters will be dead. But the consequences of their actions will resonate far beyond the grave.“
— Felix Salmon, Financial Journalist, Fusion.com
Mind the Generation Gap at 45 years old.
People under 45 overwhelmingly voted Remain, while those over 45 voted Exit. 45 is also the age when British citizens cross from paying in to the British tax and benefits system and start getting benefits (on average). Meanwhile, typical pay for Brits in their 20s fell by 12% between 2009 and 2015. Their path from school to work is narrow and difficult.
“The new prime minister might not be able to give the young what they want on EU membership, but they can give them reason to believe that Britain isn’t just a country for old men.”
— David Willetts and Torsten Bell, Opinion piece, The Guardian
Ageism is an accepted prejudice.
Substitute the word ‘old’ for ‘black’ or ‘gay’ for the word old “and there would be total uproar,” wrote one commentator. Ageism is the accepted prejudice of our time.
The generation gap is real in US politics.
In the US, the “Big Story” in the Associated Press this week is the generation gap among supporters of Hillary Clinton. To younger voters, electing the first women president is not a big milestone, even though it’s never happened.
Economists have long predicted that retiring boomers would drag down the US economy, as Medicare entitlements ballooned. This has become prevailing wisdom. The myth is strong, even though more boomers continue to work into retirement.
Generational war could spark over US entitlements.
When Medicare is insolvent in 12 years — as CMS predicts — it’s easy to imagine a generational war coming to US politics. There is already a call for boomers to give back entitlements like social security:
“Boomers must do the right thing and agree to affluence testing and the indexing of entitlements to their rising longevity.
— Ken Dychtwald, CEO AgeWave
Deficits in social security, rising entitlements, national debt and the accumulated costs of ongoing wars were all supported by Boomers and GenX voters. An opportunistic politician could fan ageism. The costs and fairness of boomer entitlements could be the next wedge issue.