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Home » Why boomers are set for intergenerational payback as Australian millennials look to square the ledger – ABC News

Why boomers are set for intergenerational payback as Australian millennials look to square the ledger – ABC News

Why boomers are set for intergenerational payback as Australian millennials look to square the ledger
Democracy is a lovely concept – particularly when you're in the majority.
Every decision is gilded with that warm sense of moral authority when it's approved by 50 per cent plus one of the group.
Sure, we duly consider alternate views but where we arrive on that journey is what *most* people want.
But if the same people keep benefiting from the decisions and the same people find themselves on the losing side of that democratic process it becomes a tyranny of the majority.
And the millennials (and their younger cousins gen Z) have a lot to feel aggrieved about.
School leavers are channelled into university at a rate like no generation before but our most recent graduates have an average student debt like none before.
The latest tax office figures show the average HELP debt has grown to $23,685.
Worryingly, almost one in 10 people with a HELP debt owe more than $50,000.
This debt is racked up even before many have entered the full-time workforce. Contrast that with their parents or grandparents.
The boomers and older gen Xers who entered university between 1974 and 1989 paid no tuition fees — nothing.
Then there's the debt involved in buying a home.
Property prices have risen across the eight capital cities by 23.7 per cent in just the past 12 months.
That's on top of the incredible growth in the past 25 years.
Once again, boomers and Xers have enjoyed staggering increases in the value of their biggest asset; even better if they own an investment property or two.
You can argue until you're blue in the face about the cause or the blame — low interest rates or overly generous provisions for negative gearing and capital gains tax — but whatever the explanation, no one has offered real solutions for today's first home owners as they scour the online listings and shift their expectations out suburb by suburb.
Home ownership rates among 25-to-44-year-olds have declined sharply between 1986 and 2016.
What about national debt? It approaches $1 trillion.
This needs to be paid back by tomorrow's taxpayers.
Sure, analysts don't believe it's an unmanageable level but there is an opportunity cost to that $1 trillion.
It's not there to be used for any future shocks.
Then there's the question of whether it was spent wisely in the first place.
The ABC reported last year that at least $4.6 billion in Jobseeker wage subsidies went to businesses whose profits actually went up during the pandemic.
And then there's climate change.
Just this week the Federal Court overturned an earlier ruling that Environment Minister Sussan Ley had a duty of care to protect young people from climate change when assessing fossil fuel projects.
The group of eight children who launched the class action may appeal against the decision in the High Court but in the meantime it's obvious the feeling is that not enough is being done to halt the impacts of climate change.
How do we think younger Australians will exact their revenge?
Easy. Democracy.
Today's students and voting minority are tomorrow's political leaders.
As the massive boomer generation slides through the age scales and off into a long retirement, the next big cohort, the millennials (who already outnumber baby boomers in the US), will assume the reins of power.
It's not far off. The average age of an Australian parliamentarian is about 51.
So we're talking less than 20 years until millennials are that age.
When they flip through the books of the federal treasury, what will they think of all those perks some sectors of society received?
How generous might they be towards those that came before them?
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You might argue about what was fair and reasonable but if you find yourself in the minority, sitting on stacks of cash and mounds of equity, it could be hard to avoid a dose of intergenerational payback.
Think increased taxes on once-generous super schemes, assets tests on the value of the family home, changes to capital gains tax and negative gearing.
Of course, these future politicians will couch it in the most rational of terms and under the cover of popular appeal, but the ledger will be squared.
As we head to the polls in the next couple of months, we can start thinking about what is best not just for Australians right now, but for those generations to come.
And if you can't think of them, think of yourself. Because there is likely to be a reckoning.
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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