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BUSLER: Are baby boomers leaning right or left?

Written By | Apr 19, 2014

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2014 — For the large number of Americans born between 1946 and 1964, choosing a political party to support is difficult. One party is too far left, the other too far right. At election time we identify the most crucial issues of the day and then support the candidate with the best solution regardless of party. The problem is that we are then saddled with the rest of the candidate’s often unwanted positions.

Although many register with an affiliation to a specific party, most of us are really independent, as we have been since our late teens, when we first voiced our independence. Back then, many of us came from modest backgrounds, although we didn’t realize that until we were teenagers and became acquainted with higher income people. My immigrant father said that in America we have the opportunity to have more. Although only a high school graduate, he said that I should get the best education I could. That would enable me to have more.

My college peers were becoming very vocal on social issues. We generally identified with the Democrats, who seemed more concerned with the welfare of the lower classes. We supported the social programs and we welcomed their support on social issues that allowed us to express our freedom and live a guilt-free lifestyle. We chanted, “Make love, not war.”

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After graduation, we realized that those social programs transferred income away from the people who earned it and towards the people who didn’t. In our youthful passion for social justice, we supported those programs, but as income earners, we became somewhat resentful that so much of our hard earned income was being taken from us and given to those who did not earn enough to support themselves. Being compassionate, we were pleased to share until the share we gave put the lives we’d worked to achieve out of reach. We wondered whether it was worth all those years of college, all the part-time jobs we needed to support ourselves, all of the hard work.

Today most baby boomers lean to the right on economic issues and to the left on social issues. That might change when we retire and become dependent on the federal government for our Social Security and Medicare. We lean right on economic issues because we understand the importance of self-reliance and the value of “earning” what we have.  As such we generally favor lower tax rates, a much smaller role for government and market-based solutions to economic problems. On foreign affairs, we favor “peace through strength.”

On social issues we tend to be more tolerant and more liberal. Because science can not definitively tell us when ensoulment occurs, we tend to go along with the current laws that allow a woman the right to choose abortion until the 20th or 26th week of pregnancy. Since many of us — including our president — experimented with drugs in our youth, we generally favor legalizing marijuana.

Our dilemma is that if we go with the low tax, small government, market-based solutions party that favors our foreign policy views, we lose our social freedoms. If we go with the liberal and tolerant party that supports our social views, we will likely be taxed to death, and then our heirs will get less of our estate than the government gets. We will also have a foreign policy that is constantly turning the other check, even when both sides have been slapped repeatedly.

This represents an opportunity for each party. If the Republicans can be more liberal on social issues, they would come out ahead. If the Democrats toughen-up and stopped over-taxing and over-providing, they could come out ahead.

Let’s see which party is really interested in our support.

Michael Busler

Michael Busler, Ph.D. is a public policy analyst and a Professor of Finance at Stockton University where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Finance and Economics. He has written Op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 35 years.