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Boomers find their inner grouch

We baby boomers begin to turn 65 this year, which gives us a new excuse to be grumpy.

As if we needed a new one.

The aging of boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, is significant mainly for two reasons: We're important and we're expensive.

Yes, everything that boomers do is important. Just ask us. We'll tell you. We are the self-absorbed generation. We learned that from the marketers, advertisers and news media whose undivided attention helped make us that way.

The "Buy me! Buy me!" community chased us with every fad -- from Hula-Hoops, Davy Crockett caps, Mickey Mouse Club ears, Barbie dolls, G.I. Joe action figures, bell-bottom jeans, tie-dyed shirts, love beads, BMWs, Gordon Gekko suspenders, Botox, 401(k)s, Viagra and everything else that can make us feel important or forever young -- for a price.

Now we are poised to become expensive in another way: the government programs that the high voter participation of our elders won for us.

Thanks, preboomers. You're the greatest.

By the time the youngest boomers turn 65 around 2030, federal officials say, the number of seniors and disabled Americans enrolled in Medicare is expected to almost double to 80 million from 46 million today.

By then, the number of taxpayers funding those benefits is expected to drop from 3.5 workers per recipient to only 2.3. Sorry about that, kids.

An AARP poll of Americans turning 65 this year found 82 percent are optimistic about the future, and almost that many said they were satisfied with how their lives are going.

But a gloomier outlook showed up in a Pew Research Center poll that included younger boomers born as recently as 1964.

Eighty percent of overall boomers said they were dissatisfied with the way the country was going, compared to 60 percent of those between 18 and 29, 69 percent of those age 30 to 45, and 76 percent of those age 65 and older.

And even drearier news comes from two sociologists, Julie Phillips of Rutgers University and Ellen Idler of Emory University, who have found an unexpected rise in suicides among boomers since 2000.

Boomers are experiencing the blues that other middle-agers have run into: a period of being sandwiched between taking care of kids, looking after aging parents and dealing with the stresses of life at a time when youthful aspirations run into often painful realities.

One looming pain for boomers is demographic: a shrinking percentage of working-age Americans to pay for our future Social Security and Medicare costs.

Yet, as much as it gives the far right queasy stomachs every time they hear it, most Americans love Social Security and Medicare. They love it too much to let politicians go anywhere near it without protests.

And, as much as Republicans talk about "repeal and replace" of Obama's health care overhaul, they haven't said much about what they would replace it with. As much as Republicans have demonized ObamaCare, its various provisions already show more popularity than the overall package does. If Republicans want to improve it, fine. But let's hear their ideas.

That's why I get a kick out of my fellow boomers who make up most of the protesters I have personally seen at tea party rallies. It is ironic to see my generation, many of whom protested the Vietnam War or served in it -- or both! -- now protesting high taxes in the 2000s. Our elders told us that there's nothing free in this world. Now we're finding out.

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