Debt is central to the lives of Generation Y, while their parents had fun for free. Photo: Flickr/Eden, Janine and Jim
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Shouldering the cost of the Baby Boomer legacy is destroying my generation's prospects

It's time for young people to fight inter-generational injustice – and it may be that top-down bureaucracy is one way to do it.

It’s always nice, when you suspect that you may be being screwed, to have it confirmed officially by those in power. It just helps firm things up a bit, mentally.

Being a part of Generation Y (also known in newspeak as the “fuck it”, or “lost” generation, which consists of “millennials”, or people born roughly between the early Eighties and the early 2000s) naturally means facing a parade of regular headlines to that effect, but confirmation has now been received.

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s FSR report has offered said confirmation by informing us that UK debt is snowballing with terrifying momentum and that it is the young who will be hit hardest.

This is, essentially, because baby boomers keep making fiscal promises to themselves which their children will be required to shoulder. The gap between the UK’s assets and liabilities grew, in the last five years as of March 2014, to £1,852bn. If you include unfunded state pension liabilities, you can add another £4,000bn to that.

The report confirms one released by the Centre for Policy Studies earlier this month entitled “Who Will Care For Generation Y?”, a question I ask frequently while kneeling on the floor and gesticulating at the empty sky above. And yet, still no one answers.

If you’re a member of my generation and you’re reading this, you don’t need me to tell you that we have enough on our plates without spiralling debt as well. We’re already facing a housing crisis that feels like a waking nightmare, with rents and house prices rising well past the point of absurdity (the average rent in London hit £1,500 a month for the first time just two days ago).

Then there’s student debt, which we all try not to think about because opening the letter to discover that you’ve only made enough money to cover the interest and that the sum of monies owed remains the same is a crushing experience like no other (stop opening the letters, is my advice).

And that’s before we even get to talking about the weird, fragmented careers that so many of us are saddled with, comprising zero-hours contracts, low-paid, unreliable work and jobs tutoring the children of Russian oligarchs.

The Centre for Policy Studies says we’ll be the first generation to be worse off than our parents, but still, we’re expected to foot the bill. They call it “inter-generational injustice”, but you don’t need me to tell you that what it actually represents is a total shitshow.

So what do we do about it? The CPS is today recommending that an Office For Inter-Generational Responsibility be established. At the moment, prospective legislation must be accompanied by an impact assessment analysing its costs and benefits, but assessments that look at the impact of legislation on young people, who are future taxpayers, do not exist – and they should, for obvious reasons.

The Office For Inter-Generational responsibility would co-ordinate these impact assessments. It all sounds highly bureaucratic but what it ultimately means is that a body will exist that has a fiduciary duty towards future taxpayers as well as current taxpayers. What it all comes down to is the need for those in power to take some time to consider the impact of their decisions on future generations; something we can all agree that previous governments have not been doing enough.

Politicians are known for pursuing short-term goals, a tendency that is not helped by pressure from self-interested lobbyists, nor the fact that young people are less likely to vote or engage with the political system.

The CPS report has several ideas for how we go about reducing the financial burden on the young, including reducing tax reliefs, but the one I’m perhaps least convinced would work is that we “embrace digital democracy” by starting an e-petition asking for our own designated minister. Certainly a Minister for Younger People is a very good idea, but could we actually garner a million signatures?

Perhaps I’m jaded because the one I signed to legalise space cakes has yet to come to fruition, but I just can’t see a million people signing up for something so BBI (Boring But Important). And yet, more than that tuned in for the season six premiere of Made in Chelsea. It’s a bleak state of affairs.

But it’s worth a try. We’re obviously in need of a vocal, galvanised political movement of young people, one that isn’t made up of university debating society tosspots, but real people. Perhaps Russell Brand could take it on – young people love him, apparently (though clearly not enough to back Ed Miliband). I’d like to see Owen Jones write a book about inter-generational injustice – he’s done Chavs, and the Establishment, could we have one on Boomers next?

Or perhaps I could transform my personal anger towards the “Escape to the Sun” generation into some kind of furious national movement? I like my parents but the rest of them, with their free university educations, buy-to-lets, sexual liberation, top quality drugs and Cash in the Attic have caused me no end of trouble. Thanks, guys. Really. Much appreciated.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is a writer for the New Statesman and the Guardian. She co-founded The Vagenda blog and is co-author of The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media.

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Why do the words “soup, swoop, loop de loop” come to mind every time I lift a spoon to my lips?

It’s all thanks to Barry and Anita.

A while ago I was lending a friend the keys to our house. We keep spare keys in a ceramic pot I was given years ago by someone who made it while on an art-school pottery course. “That’s er . . . quite challenging,” the friend said of the pot.

“Is it?” I replied. “I’d stopped noticing how ugly it is.”

“Then it’s a grunty,” she said.

“A what?” I asked.

“A grunty. It’s something you have in your house that’s hideous and useless but you’ve stopped noticing it completely, so it’s effectively invisible.”

I was much taken with this idea and realised that as well as “grunties” there are also “gruntyisms”: things you say or do, though the reason why you say or do them has long since been forgotten. For example, every time we drink soup my wife and I say the same thing, uttered in a strange monotone: we say, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop.” How we came to say “soup, swoop, loop de loop” came about like this.

For a married couple, the years between your mid-thirties and your late forties might be seen as the decade of the bad dinner party. You’re no longer looking for a partner, so the hormonal urge to visit crowded bars has receded, but you are still full of energy so you don’t want to stay in at night, either. Instead, you go to dinner parties attended by other couples you don’t necessarily like that much.

One such couple were called Barry and Anita. Every time we ate at their house Barry would make soup, and when serving it he would invariably say, “There we are: soup, swoop, loop de loop.” After the dinner party, as soon as we were in the minicab going home, me and Linda would start drunkenly talking about what an arse Barry was, saying to each other, in a high-pitched, mocking imitation of his voice: “Please do have some more of this delicious soup, swoop, loop de loop.” Then we’d collapse against each other laughing, convincing the Algerian or Bengali taxi driver once again of the impenetrability and corruption of Western society.

Pretty soon whenever we had soup at home, Linda and I would say to each other, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop,” at first still ridiculing Barry, but eventually we forgot why we were saying it and it became part of the private language every couple develop, employed long after we’d gratefully ceased having soupy dinners with Barry and Anita.

In the early Nineties we had an exchange student staying with us for a year, a Maori girl from the Cook Islands in the southern Pacific. When she returned home she took the expression “soup, swoop, loop de loop” with her and spread it among her extended family, until finally the phrase appeared in an anthropological dissertation: “ ‘Soup swoop, loop de loop.’ Shamanistic Incantations in Rarotongan Food Preparation Rituals” – University of Topeka, 2001. 

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt