You have to hand it to Boomers, they’ve won the economic generation game
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Any time I eat smashed avocado, it’s a nutrient-rich reminder of how my generation endures a litany of compassionless cliches while government policy seems determined to ensure we remain asset-poor and, worse, opportunity-poor.
The latest burden we’ve been lumped with is the suggestion that Millennials and younger generations should help foot the aged-care bill for relatively prosperous Baby Boomers. No amount of dukkah sprinkled on my avo will make this possibility easier to stomach.
Succeeding generations confront the cost of aged care. Credit: Dominic Lorrimer
It may be modern Australia’s biggest accounting disaster. We’re living longer, but we stop working decades before we die, and successive governments have failed to plan for how we’ll pay for our greying population’s retirement. It’s estimated we’ll need to boost spending on aged care by $10 billion a year to implement the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
And if Hollywood wants inspiration for an epic doomsday movie, Canberra just delivered one after the government warned “the Baby Boomers are coming”. I’m already shuddering. Not because we Millennials don’t (mostly) love our parents’ generation, but because we’ve had the short end of the prosperity stick our whole lives.
The government’s new aged care taskforce is reviewing fee and funding arrangements, and one commissioner is keen to introduce an aged care tax levy of 1 per cent of everyone’s taxable income.
Just so I’m clear on the facts (before I share my emotions on TikTok Live because I’m triggered), we might be taxed to fund the dotage of the generation that – with the help of free university degrees – enjoys the highest rate of home ownership while it uses superannuation tax avoidance like a local Cayman Islands?
And how can I forget franking credits, John Howard’s tax loophole to snag retirees’ votes? Shareholders who were basically paying no tax got a cheque from the government as a tax credit. You don’t even need to ask who helped themselves to the biggest slice of this magic pudding.
I get it. Boomers were a significant voting bloc and influential in policy considerations, but now Boomers and Millennials each make up about 20 per cent of the population.
Millennials, also known as Gen Y, continue to be treated like a pesky portion of the population that just needs to mature and become responsible. But guess what? We’ve grown up and have battle scars to prove it.
For as long as I can remember, Millennials have been told to stop whining about house prices and university fees and show some grit and resilience. We’re continually reminded that we’ve had it “easy” relative to our predecessors who’ve lived through war and economic turmoil. We just don’t understand what it means to do it “tough”.
So what constitutes tough? Is a global pandemic not tough enough? Not the highest inflation in 30 years? An impending recession? Burgeoning university fee debt? Can we agree it’s super tough to buy a house when they currently cost 13 times average full-time earnings? Which helps explain why Millennials have some of Australia’s lowest rates of home ownership, a rate that worsens with successive generations.
I’m not sure what else we need to forgo before we get the street cred we deserve. Perhaps Millennials need to stop drinking turmeric lattes to win the respect of parliamentarians?
I’m not here to argue against quality aged care provided by a fairly paid workforce. And of course, some Boomers are not home owners. Some have not flourished. But I am here to argue that the days of Australian economic and policy debate preferencing Baby Boomers must be over.
To expect Boomers’ descendants to pay the price for their care is grossly inequitable, yet it seems policymakers have morphed into Maleficent: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, which generation will foot the aged care bill for them all?”
The government has established a task force and asked it to consider the big unanswered question: How will we afford to pay for sustainable, quality aged care. I’d suggest it put that question to Australians who are mostly likely to have time on their hands and a portfolio of options: Baby Boomers.
If the task force fails to come up with an equitable plan, I want tips from Boomers on how they still manage to get younger generations to pay for their privilege. I’m open to learning from their lived experience. It needn’t be formal. They could post voice memos or video reels from the comfort of their negatively geared holiday homes. Joining becomes tempting when you can’t beat them.
Antoinette Lattouf is a broadcaster, columnist and author. She is co-host of The Briefing podcast and co-founder of Media Diversity Australia.
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