Level playing fields

Most playing fields are level, just not with each other.“OK, Boomer.” The phrase is meant to express youthful disdain for us so-called Baby Boomers – we whose parents went off to war, then returned, victorious in battle, to create the boom of babies that resulted in humungous profits for the cookie-cutter housing industry, and a plethora of job opportunities for soldiers returning from war knowing how to follow direction and willing to trade a rifle for a hammer.

The phrase was recently written by a young college student who made the point that, unlike when we Boomers were young, there is no level playing field for the current generation of young people. We are, the student declared, “grumpy and old” while the youth of today are “walking around changing the status quo.”

It is true college is expensive and homes are expensive. Ever they have been, and ever they shall be.

My parents groused about the cost of the college I did not have the grades to get into. My brother did, and the parent units went in debt to send him. A few years later, our youngest sister was ready for college, and again the complaints about cost, and about how certain “financially comfortable” parents had installed a new swimming pool, thereby creating a family debt that allowed their daughter to qualify for government loans.

Meanwhile, my folks thought the lake outside our kitchen door was sufficient swimming pool. (I agreed, and still do, but that’s another column.”)

I took their word for the cost of college; the 17-year-old me didn’t care about going anyway. At that age, I’d never been concerned with the cost of my next meal, but I was very interested in visiting some of the places I’d read about in the library of books I had consumed. I joined the U.S. Navy.

I was not yet into photography, but I did lust after a Harley-Davidson Electro-Glide such as one  driven by a local gentleman a generation or two my senior. It was a glorious white and light green machine with a throaty rumble to stir the juices of a would-be rider as it traced the two-lane around the far shore of the aforementioned lake.

I learned the motorcycle had a price tag equal to a healthy down payment on a house. All these decades later, I can confirm this year’s version of the same model Harley still carries a price tag equal to a down payment on a house.

In 1969, I bought my first new car – what my dad declared was “an expensive sports car” – a $4,500 Volvo P-1800 two-seater with a 4-speed shifter that made insurance even more expensive for a young man who had not attained his 25th trip around the sun.

A similar vehicle in the 2020 lineup would cost north of $60,000. On the other hand, back in my early earning years, I thought $100 a week was pretty good pay.

I remember well the early 1990s when a young couple with two middle-teenaged offspring could not qualify for a home loan even though they were paying monthly rent more than the mortgage would have been.

On the other hand, an advantage to being the younger generation is the ability to look at what the oldsters did that they shouldn’t have.

We have a silly way of measuring economic “growth.” We pretend what matters is the increase in our paycheck or the rise in the stock market, but when our rent and the cost of our groceries also skyrocket, we have not gained much, if any, financial ground.

On the other hand, there are different playing fields, all of them level – just not with each other.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please share.

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