An intergenerational con game of Orwellian proportions

The topic of extending adolescence for health care purposes generated some extensive (and even heated) discussion in Glenn Reynolds' post -- much of it occasioned by a piece by Michael Barone ("The price of perpetual adolescence") which I found grimly ironic, as well as true. Here's Barone:

An article in the New York Times examines the trend toward prolonged adolescence. It notes that an increasing percentage of people in their twenties are living with their parents, and that's with pre-recession data; presumably it's higher today. Also, "Adults between 18 and 34 received an average of $38,000 in cash and two years' worth of full-time labor from their parents, or about 10 percent of their income," with a link to this study.

All of which got me thinking about the much ballyhooed provision of the Obamacare bill that allows parents to include "children" up to age 26 in their family health insurance policies. This is said to be wildly popular among the Millennial Generation, those born after 1980.

OK, right there I think I maybe see a clue as to what's going on. Votes. Obama and the Democrats want to shore up the youth vote, as well as the Baby Boomer vote, and this move (they hope) will be a twofer. Something to make the self-indulgent Baby Boomer parents happy as they satisfy their kids with a nice freebie, and of course something to make the kids happier about Obamacare. After all, it's tough to ask healthy young people to pay into something that most of them don't see as conveying a direct benefit.

From a political standpoint, it's a smart move. Satisfy as many voters as possible with as much of everyone else's money as possible. As to who will have to pay later, who cares?

Barone voices a very reasonable objection, grounded in the most basic logic:

I think it's appalling, on several grounds: people aged 26 are not "children," they for the most part don't have substantial health care expenses (aside from pregnancies and births) and they should not be encouraged to remain dependent on parents for extended periods. In that spirit, let me suggest that the Obamacare bureaucrats, in order to hold down health care expenses, may have to set some terms and conditions for "children" aged 21 to 26 who remain on their parents' health insurance policies.
With that as a starting point. Barone goes on to list the terms and conditions which ought to be imposed on the "children" by their parents.

What we're talking about here are the baby boomers' kids. For many years now, I have heard the baby boomer generation derided as spoiled, immature, self-indulgent, etc. And now it's their kids' turn. One spoiled and immature generation has begat another. Etc.

Can we all get along?

(Or maybe that should be "Can we all grow up?")

What worries me is that this comes right on the heels of the "Going Galt" movement. It strikes me that if this country is to have any productive capacity at all, parasitism of any kind should be discouraged, not encouraged. (My point is not so much to condemn or praise any generation so much as to observe that because people will do whatever is in their interests to do, it is not wise for the government to deliberately create incentives to encourage parasitism.)

As to the "terms and conditions" Barone goes on to discuss, the Boomer parents themselves have no real economic incentive to impose them, as it's not their money. It's all to come from a vast, government-mandated pool, in which all of us will soon be swimming unless something is done to stop Obamacare.

Barone's argument that parents should mandate terms and conditions for children -- "if you want to sponge off mommy and daddy's health insurance, you may be subject to kiddie rules" -- while meant to chide the Boomers in a household context, is chilling in its ultimate logical implications.

Because like it or not, we are all part of that sickening dysfunctional family of perpetual "children," only the terms and conditions won't be coming from Baby Boomer mommies and daddies, but from the government.

I don't want to live under such a communitarian regime.

Yes, regime. That's the only word for what's coming.

And the fact that it's being sold to the voters through the use of manipulative and emotional intergenerational divide-and-conquer tactics (packaged as a "win-win for everyone" by tricking parents into thinking they're "giving" their children something they're not) only makes it more sinister.

This is an awful, profoundly Orwellian scam.

I should probably be glad I didn't have kids.

posted by Eric on 06.16.10 at 11:14 AM


Eric,my question is this, do I have to pay for my daughter,(22) and my grandson and her husband (24)? I thought when they got married (3 yrs ago) I was off the hook. how about my 19 yr old son and his new daughter, and wife?
This "plan" doesn't take effect until 2014 but if you do the math I'm still on the hook for insurance for my kids. Who is going to pay if my son joins the USMC this Summer? God these people are horrible, just my 2c,

Bobnormal   ·  June 16, 2010 1:35 PM

This post upsets me, not because of its opposition to certain healthcare mandates, which is at least expected and internally consistent to some degree, but because it buys into the whole myth of "extended adolescence" that is used as a slur against my entire generation.

I see household after household where twenty-somethings life with their parents, mooching and lounging around the house doing just about nothing all day. Oh, wait, that's actually completely untrue. Most of them are either (a)in school full time so that they can get a job someday which pays enough to live on, (b)working a full-time job which does not pay enough to allow them to live on their own, (c)desperately trying to find a job where practically none exist.

Basically, every generation builds on the work of the previous generation. The downside of this is that each consequent generation has to climb further to start their own work. My grandfather began working when he was still in grade school. My father started his life-long career right after high school. I left a four-year college to find... that I had the choice of low-paid, no-benefit labor or going back for my masters. My biggest fear is that, when I finally get that degree, and reach the light at the end of the tunnel, there will be someone there to say "Oh, a master's? Sorry, that doesn't cut it any more. You need a PhD if you want to make enough to cover a mortgage."

(I do realize the above is an exaggeration, it is for comic effect. The underlying social and economic realities, however, are essentially true).

So, to wrap up, oppose Obama's healthcare and other entitlement policies all you want, but please don't point the finger at my generation. We're only trying to survive in an economic landscape to which the previous generations have laid utter waste.

P. Aeneas   ·  June 16, 2010 2:14 PM


Ah, yes. More boomers blaming everyone but themselves for the wreckage they leave in their wake, and now whining because their kids, the ones they repeatedly claimed had a golden future are finishing college and finding that the gold is paint over a turd.

This has been going on for a while. I'm - technically - Gen X, the one boomers deride as cynical and materialist. Oh, and I "freeloaded" off my parents through college and after - except I didn't. I was running the place (cooking all the meals, keeping the grocery list, doing the laundry etc) while I went through college and after while I applied for every job I could possibly apply for, did part-time where I could and generally tried to avoid sitting on my behind doing nothing (I had the good fortune to graduate as a geologist in the aftermath of the 1987 stock market crash, when Australian new geology hires were next to non-existent).

I kept trying - first teaching, which came very close to killing me - then computer science. While I was living with my parents, I was either paying board, managing the household, or both. I certainly wasn't infantilized.

Now, when three productive degrees (all of which I paid for, using my miniscule part-time earnings) aren't enough to get employment because there are at least ten people applying per job opening, you don't blame the people applying.

Unless of course you're a boomer. After all, things really started going down the tube after the boomers started moving into the positions of power.

They had the golden ride, not any of their successors. Take a look at Tea Party demographics. They're my generation. The X-ers. We've held on this long on the hope, that faintest of threads, that the boomers would eventually retire and we could fix things properly. Instead, we've seen the spoiled bastards trying to take the whole thing down with them because they can't stand the thought that anyone might succeed where they failed.

That is where the true parasites lie. There are exceptions, but even the exceptions usually look at us when we explode and wonder what set that off. The idea that the people after them went through schools that were at best shell-shocked and into economic systems wrecked by the selfishness of their cohorts doesn't seem to have ever occurred to most boomers.

I pity their kids. Those kids have been fed a fairy tale all their lives, and the worst most of them did was to do what their parents told them was the thing to do. Now not only is the dream evaporating, their parents are trying to screw them over for their own benefit.

Gen-X bitter and cynical? The boomers ain't seen nothing yet.

p.s Present company excepted, of course. This topic wouldn't have been raised otherwise.

Kate   ·  June 16, 2010 2:50 PM

I didn't think I was "buying into the whole myth of 'extended adolescence' that is used as a slur against [an] entire generation" so much as I was opposing a provision in Obamacare which by its very terms encourages extending adolescence. That people would avail themselves of it is to be expected, but I think they're being bought. I oppose extending adolescence, and I oppose treating people like children. Whether they're Baby Boomers, the X-ers, or anyone else.

Eric Scheie   ·  June 16, 2010 5:27 PM

I'm certainly a boomer. I'd have no problem in principle in having my 24-y/o son on my health insurance policy.

He's out of college three years now and found himself work in Hollywood two months after graduation. After his rent, though, his next highest expense is health insurance. His work is mostly serial short-term contracts and the employers don't offer insurance. He has to pay for it himself. I consider it a great success that he understands that health insurance comes before concerts.

But I'd be pleased to pay something extra on my policy to cover him as I'm in better financial shape than he, even though I'm retired. I paid out hundreds of thousands for his education; I'm willing to pay out more to make his life easier. Is this now a crime against humanity or some sector thereof?

John Burgess   ·  June 16, 2010 8:45 PM

I paid out hundreds of thousands for his education; I'm willing to pay out more to make his life easier. Is this now a crime against humanity or some sector thereof?

Did I say it would be? My objection is to using the power of the state to force insurance companies into social engineering schemes -- especially when this is being done to get votes.

Eric Scheie   ·  June 16, 2010 10:15 PM

I fully understand your objections to both government intervention in major service industries and the dispensing of favors to lure voters, I just think that those arguments can stand very well on their own without buying into a meme like 'extended adolescence' which carries its own share of social and emotional baggage.

The 'extended adolescence' idea by its very name points to the assumption that the inherent problem is one of maturity, when in reality the problem is economic. I don't think we're necessarily at odds here, we're just looking at the problem from different angles.

Your argument seems to be that reducing the penalties (or costs) of remaining dependent on one's parents will encourage that behavior, which makes economic sense. The policy will likely have that effect, even if only in marginal cases. However, I would also add that the increase in dependence of twenty-somethings has its own economic roots, namely the increase in penalties (and costs) of being independent, and a reduced ability to meet those challenges.

P. Aeneas   ·  June 16, 2010 11:49 PM


I completely agree that policies which penalize independence are a bad thing. At the same time, I'm looking at where this is coming from - the same self-centered, self-important clique that started their 'time' in power with the mega-layoffs and mega-mergers of the late 80s (actions that disproportionately hit the then over-50s and made it much harder for the new graduates of the time to get work), moved into the dodgy accounting that led to the Enrons and Worldcoms - which, again, failed to benefit mostly their generation), ruined the entertainment industry, introduced PC, and all the way blamed everyone else for anything they didn't like.

The real benefiaries here are those boomer Mommies and Daddies desperately trying to keep their pensions, their medicare, their medicaid and their social security even if it means killing any chance their kids have - if those twenty-something kids aren't on someone's policy and being paid for, their Mommies and Daddies don't get their health care, so let's force them to pay in and call them lazy and grasping when they can't get work and need to live with their parents.

The whole sickening "Get me mine, screw you" mentality is being legislated in - not least because guess who are the CEOs of the companies that are big enough to buy their own political arrangements?

Unfortunately, it is a generational thing. The boomers as a whole (not all of them, but enough of a majority that the exceptions such as yourself got - and get - lost in the noise) were the most spoiled generation ever - and remain so. They were the only generation to have the luxury of choosing 'fulfilling' work, the only generation for whom play time was guaranteed when they were children, and the only generation that was allowed to remain emotionally children throughout their entire lives.

In every other age group, the majority of people face/faced some kind of ugly reality. Not so the boomers - it's hardly surprising that now the bubbles are bursting in every direction so many of that generation are trying to get anyone else to take responsibility for the mess. These aren't merely people who don't want to be responsible. They don't know how.

Yes, these are very broad generalizations. Yes, there are exceptions. The rule, however, holds.

Kate   ·  June 17, 2010 7:10 AM

Has anyone looked into how many people this might actually affect? If 1/4 of white males in the age group are living with their parents, that would be a start, but do these parents even have insurance? In the cases I know where the kids in this age group are living at home, the parents don't. Also, is this limited to certain types of insurance, such as group, employer provided policies - employers that have above a certain number of employees?

L. Fry   ·  June 17, 2010 8:45 AM

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