Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - January 26, 2014

Brian Gongol

Podcast: Updated weekly in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning. Subscribe on Stitcher, Spreaker, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or iHeartRadio

This week:

In a couple of weeks, Jay Leno will (once again) be the former host of the "Tonight Show"...and Jimmy Fallon moves in. Jimmy Fallon, and his replacement at "Late Night", Seth Meyers, are both within a stone's throw of my own age, so I'm quite sensitive to the talk about the passing of the late-night torch from one generation to the next. I think we'd all be better off if we just quit talking about "generations" altogether.

That's probably too extreme a request to be practical...but it's really not far from what would be good for us. I fully realize that there are generational differences, built largely upon (a) what was familiar from your childhood, (b) the social rules in effect when you came of age, and (c) what the job market looked like when the world smacked you on the rear and sent you off into adulthood. I really do get that. But other than those influences (and a lingering soft spot for the pop music of our high-school years), generational differences are generally better-off left filed under "novelties" rather than "things we should obsess about". I say this because I think it leads to sloppy thinking, which leads to sloppy voting, which ultimately leads to us living less happily than we otherwise would.

I enter into evidence Exhibit "A": Any song that talks about how special young people are. The Who sang "My Generation" in 1965. I love the song "Land of Confusion", but when Phil Collins sang in 1986 that "My generation will put it right", he might just have been "making promises that we know we'll never keep". And when someone even floats the idea of a Justin Bieber generation, it's time to handcuff me before I hurt someone.

The ultimate problem with this generational stereotyping is that it makes it much too easy for young people to wish that they'll be brilliant enough to solve all of the world's problems without even trying. And a dream without a plan is just a wish. Similarly, the generational obsession makes it too easy for older people to fall into that lazy line of thought that there's "something wrong with today's youth." (It's a common enough refrain that it's been used for millennia...Socrates supposedly complained about the lack of respect from "kids today" back around 400 BC.)

Let's blow up the generational notion and get serious about what it might really take to make life better, not just in the short term but in the long term:

Let's start discussing all of our public spending in per-capita terms

Let's put everyone through a serious course in money. Economics, personal finance, and business (especially small and family business).

Let's enforce a pay-as-you-go approach to everything but infrastructure spending.

Let's make sure our pay-as-you-go rules include setting aside money today for promises made today that are payable tomorrow.

Let's take seriously the idea of a rainy-day fund. Household, business, and government alike. Government should set aside just enough to stimulate without borrowing -- which in turn means getting more for the taxpayer's dollar.