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No Bills for Baby Boomers

By SARAH KARP
State Capital Bureau

January 17, 1995

JEFFERSON CITY _ Baby boomers turned 18 years old with a bang. At the time, no one questioned what these crazy kids wanted.

It was obvious they desired the right to vote. Many sought to end the Vietnam War. They slammed the draft. They pushed for civil rights.

But now baby boomer icon Jerry Rubin is dead. His peers look with dismay into mirrors reflecting heads of gray hair. And the spotlight seems to be switching off of this post-war generation.

Today, baby boomers comprise one of the largest groups of the voting population, yet in Missouri, little legislation is targeted specifically for them.

In a society with children toting guns, baby boomers might seem to be the generation falling through the cracks.

Missouri's representatives and senators say the reason there is a lack of bills that focus on baby boomers is clear _ the "boomers" have no clear agenda like they did a quarter of a century ago.

When asked how he caters to his peers, Rep. Craig Hosmer, born on the tail end of the baby boom era, responds with a long "hmmm."

"That is a tough one," he said.

"You can't isolate issues," said Hosmer, D-Springfield. "They do not have a complete agenda."

Some legislators suggested that baby boomers are at the age where instead of asking for things from the government, they should be shouldering responsibility. After all, throughout the lives of baby boomers, society has changed to suit them _ suburbs sprang up, schools were expanded and laws were altered.

Now, baby boomers should concentrate on working and paying taxes to help those older and younger than them, said Rep. Thomas Marshall, D-Marshall.

``I don't see them as a group with a particular issue...I can't think of anything,'' he said.

But Hosmer did say that as parents of rapidly growing children, baby boomers would be interested in the affordability of education. He cited the $250 million bond issue passed by voters in November _ about half of which will be used to pay for capital improvements on college campuses as a measure that will help control the cost of college.

"If a parent is going to pay their child's way through college, then something like the bond issue will alleviate some of the burden," Hosmer said.

Rep. Todd Akin, R-St. Louis, said a smoldering issue is the quality of education.

Through the process of helping his 17-year-old son look at colleges, Akin said he has come to the realization that unless he can send his son to a prestigious school, he will wind up paying for graduate school.

"These days elementary and secondary education is so abysmal, that colleges spend a lot of time doing remedial work," Akin said. "This waters down the value of the undergraduate degree.

"It means I will have to pay for graduate school," he said, sighing.

Not only is Akin worried about how much his son will cost him in the future, as a baby boomer he is concerned about Social Security. From Akin's vantage point, Social Security is a system of unfair coercion.

"If baby boomers put the 6 percent they pay for Social Security into the Dow Jones stock market, by now they could have $2 million," he said. "Baby boomers are looking at Social Security and they are not buying Big Brother taking their money."

Baby boomers will not be afforded the same type of Social Security and benefits that todays older people receive, Marshall said. The shear number of baby boomers is going to put tremendous pressure on the Social Security system and force it tighten up in order to continue, he said.

"People who are now in their middle ages or late middle ages are just beginning to realize what impact they will have on the Social Security system when they reach 65," Marshall said. "But most people are only interested in what affects them immediately, not in the future."

One issue that is currently demanding the attention of people in their middle ages is health care, said Rep. Rita Days, D-St. Louis. As baby boomers get older, they are facing a myriad of health problems, and they are pushing that society deal with those problems.

This is especially for women because there has been a dearth of attention to women's health issues, Days said.

"In the past many insurance companies didn't cover things like Pap Smears and they considered mammograms elective," she said. "Today women want more preventative care covered."

A bill has been introduced by Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis County, that would force insurance plans to cover breast cancer treatment, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant.

But Republican Akin insists baby boomers will never buy into socialized health care. Baby boomers are products of the Cold War in communism was always presented as the enemy, he said.

"They know socialized medicine never worked,'' he said. ``It is lousy.''

To illustrate his point, Akin pointed out it was largely baby boomers that handed Republicans political victories in November. One of the things this vote clearly indicated is that baby boomers were tired of handing over their money to the government, Akin said.

Baby boomers are especially frustrated because they think their money is funding government waste, said Rep. Rex Barnett, R-Tarkio. Barnett frequently does door-to-door campaigning.

Barnett said he finds that people are concerned about how welfare is spent.

"They see all these TV shows that show people living the good life off welfare and people want to see it stop," he said. "They think there is waste out there."

After pin pointing welfare as a prime issue for baby boomers, Barnett pulled out a laundry list of generic issues that he said baby boomers are interested in.

"Crime is probably the No. 1 concern across the board," he said.

Crime, health care, education, the welfare system _ those are the issues Missouri lawmakers cite as special concerns for baby boomers. But they also are the dominate issues in Missouri's 1995 legislative session.

That, in of itself, may be an indication that a generation identified by protest against the power structure now is the power structure _ able to make their generation's issues the central issues before government.