Klein: Baby Boomers Ruined The Government

The U.S. can lay the blame for its current political mess at the feet of my generation

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Charles Dharapak / AP

President Barack Obama listens while speaking about the the budget and the partial government shutdown, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, in the Brady Press Room of the White House in Washington.

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I am not saying the baby-boom generation caused the government shutdown, but we've presided over an era during which public trust in government has been demolished. We allowed the influence of concentrated money to corrupt our democracy. We allowed the gerrymandering of congressional districts, especially the racial gerrymandering that became legal after the 1965 Voting Rights Act, to make it less likely that politicians would run in districts with a centrist majority. We were brilliant at marketing, which plays to our niche differences. All of which conspired to make the political parties ideologically coherent rather than confusing regional coalitions. Those coalitions allowed a system where compromise was easier than confrontation. There would have been no New Deal without Southern Democrats, no Medicare without Northern Republicans.

We are far from that now. My generation has done wonderful things--increased equality across racial, gender and orientation lines; rock 'n' roll; The Sopranos; Whole Foods--but we have made a hash of government. We failed to bring our democracy into the information age; instead we brought it to a precipice. We allowed lobbyists to fester, turning every major piece of legislation into an encyclopedia of contradictions. There is some polling evidence that the millennial generation will be different, more collegial. I certainly hope so. Our sell-by date has passed.

TO READ JOE'S BLOG POSTS, GO TO time.com/swampland

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