The new class war pits boomers against millennials

The new class war pits boomers against millennials, by Nick Cater.

We have known for some time that the dominant political fault line is no longer left versus right, rich versus poor, or city versus country. It is the division between a professional-managerial elite, who are drawn to the inner cities, and the rest.

Between the two is what the American writer Joan Williams recently labelled “the class comprehension gap” in which the behaviour and attitudes on one side utterly bemuse the other.

Age adds a new dimension, as a tertiary-educated cohort of bright young things takes over rejuvenated suburbs, where their lifestyle and prejudices prevail. Hence the world looks very different viewed from Sydney’s inner-city Chippendale and Redfern, where millennials outnumber boomers five to one, than it does from, say, Lithgow in the Central Tablelands, where there are twice as many boomers than millennials. …

We should therefore think carefully before agreeing that a prime minister “panders to the right” by exercising caution. He would be pandering — if we must use such a condescending term — to an electorate that is far more conservative than the professional media elite is prepared to recognise. …

The politics are complex. Managing the differing expectations of boomers and millennials, while avoiding offending social pieties, presents leaders with a new and difficult challenge. …

The Coalition must be mindful of five million or so millennial voters, aged between 18 and 34, who make up almost a third of the voting population. Their numbers roughly equal the boomers, those aged 60 and older, but their interests diverge. They differ on social issues and on economic policy at a time of fiscal contraction, or what would be fiscal contraction if the government could work out how to contract without offending our sense of entitlement.

A decision between restricting the aged pension entitlements and raising student loan obligations, for example, is a choice between favouring one generation and penalising another, making the politics of generational envy treacherous ground. The intergenerational class war, like any other, reduces to a simple question: which side are you on?

hat-tip Stephen Neil