- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 31, 2007

Few political topics induce boredom more quickly than Social Security reform. There’s a reason few candidates make the issue a centerpiece of their campaigns — it’s one notch below sorghum subsidies on the Al Gore Dullness Scale.

Despite this, Christopher Buckley has managed to craft a thoroughly entertaining book on the subject. Granted, he did so by creating both a character who advocates mass suicide as a response to the increasing burden Baby Boomers are placing on the economy, and an America in which riotous youngsters set about destroying golf courses as a way of showing displeasure with their elders. It may not be the most realistic scenario, but as far as modest proposals go, Mr. Buckley’s is a doozy.

“Boomsday’s” America is crippled by stagflation, caused in no small part by entitlement programs for our senior citizens who, thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, are living far longer than ever before. Into this morass swoops the young Cass Devine, an Ayn Rand-reading member of Generation Whatever who uses the tools she grew up with (and the tricks she picked up in the field of public relations) to fight the mounting indignities being heaped upon her age cohort.

Following the passage of a 30 percent payroll tax “augmentation,” Cass fires up her computer and takes to the blogosphere, rallying readers of her Web site, CASSANDRA, to take “actions against gated communities known to harbor early-retiring Boomers.”

Riots break out in Florida, Cass is thrown in federal prison, and voila, the story is in motion. With the help of an ambitious young senator (with whom Cass has a scandalous history), she proposes her radical idea to the American people: Why not pay baby boomers to kill themselves?

“Under Devine’s plan,” a news broadcast explains to a skeptical public, “the government would completely eliminate estate taxes for anyone who kills themselves at age seventy. Anyone agreeing to commit suicide at age sixty-five would receive a bonus, including a two-week, all-expenses-paid ‘farewell honeymoon.’”

Needless to say, not everyone is thrilled with the idea. The religious right, given form in the guise of Southern reverend Gideon Payne, takes exception to “Voluntary Transitioning,” as the suicide plan is known. The White House is not a fan either, as the administration sees the proposal as little more than political posturing by a possible opponent (the aforementioned senator, Randy Jepperson). “Boomsday” culminates with a presidential election in which the defining issue is (you guessed it) Social Security reform.

Mr. Buckley’s complete and utter contempt for his generation is startling and hilarious. “You know what the Boomer concept of sacrifice consists of?” Cass asks her boss (who just so happens to be a Baby Boomer himself). “Three-day ground instead of overnight air delivery on your fifty inch plasma screen high-def TV.”

Earlier, Cass tells a reporter exactly what she thinks of her elders: “Our grandparents grew up in the Depression and fought in World War Two. They were the so-called Greatest Generation. Our parents, the Baby Boomers, dodged the draft, snorted cocaine, made self-indulgence a virtue. I call them the Ungreatest Generation. Here’s their chance, finally, to give something back.”

Cass’ generation does not get off scot-free, however: They are apathetic, iPod-addicted malcontents whose first foray into political discourse as a group results in massive riots and the mobilization of the National Guard. Nor do they live the healthiest lifestyles:

“She showered, changed into comfy jammies, ate a peanut-butter PowerBar, and washed it down with Red Bull. She unscrewed the safety cap of her bottle of NoDoz, hesitated. If she took one, she wouldn’t get to sleep until at least four. Unless she popped a Tylenol PM at three. She wondered about the long-term effects of this pharmaceutical roller-coaster ride. Early Alzheimer’s probably.”

Mr. Buckley’s attempt to spark interest in the subject of Social Security reform is admirable, if a tad quixotic. Odds are, America’s political elite will greet this book with a reaction similar to that of the president in “Boomsday” — “Jesus Christ on a pogo stick. No one can do anything about Social Security reform! It can’t be done. Period.”

Instead of heeding the author’s advice to craft a creative solution to this growing problem, elected officials’ fear of AARP’s political clout will almost certainly lead to higher taxes on the young to pay for the retirement of the old. Tensions between the generations will mount, rash words will be written on the Internet, and, before you know it, golf courses will be in flames. Welcome to Boomsday.

Sonny Bunch is an assistant editor at The Weekly Standard.

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