Boomsday by Christopher Buckley. Twelve, 318 pp.
For American satirists, their country presents a wealth of raw material that demands attention. Christopher Buckley first established his reputation as a satirist of the first rank with his book, Thank You For Smoking. While his style may lack subtlety, his ability to hit his target is beyond question.
When considering the subject matter of his latest foray into satire, it is hard to forget the author’s pedigree; he is the son of the conservative commentator, William F Buckley. Boomsday lies at the very heart of the debate raging in the U.S.: how to deal with unfunded entitlements.
Buckley’s approach follows Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, in which Swift suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. Using a similar satirical hyperbole, Buckley comes up with an outrageous solution to the coming crisis in the Social Security system.
The novel’s protagonist, Cassandra Devine, is the victim of her foolish father. A brilliant student, she discovers that he has lost her tuition money in an ill-considered business deal. Her only choice to pay for college is to join the Army. After the Army, she sets up shop in Washington D.C. as a public relations specialist. During the evenings, she blogs against the excesses of the baby boomers. Her message resonates and attracts a strong following.
To make the point that this is warfare, Buckley has an early scene where the losers (in the generation struggle) attack a gated, golf course community by hurling Molotov cocktails over the protective fence. As I mentioned, subtly is not Buckley’s strong suit.
Cassandra’s solution is shockingly simple. She suggests that baby boomers be given financial incentives to kill themselves by the age of seventy-five. The final years of boomers will be merry, due to government largess, but more importantly, short. Therefore, they will not be a continuing burden on the federal budget.
At the heart of Boomsday is a very serious issue. Buckley draws attention to the looming inter-generational war between the now-wrinkled baby boomers, who want Social Security to look after them in their old age, and the younger generations who will be stuck with the bill.
Buckley is one of the baby-boomers, having been born in 1952. Like the rest of us (yes, me too), boomers have lived a charmed life. You would expect Buckley to be on the other side of the barricades, but the author is clearly on the side of the younger generation who are burdened with crippling loan debts, a job market that is tight and high taxes. In the coming war of the generations, Buckley is a turncoat!
It seems that nothing is written in America these days that is not partisan. Those with a Republican or Libertarian bent will love this book. For Christopher “Cassandra” Buckley, this book is his contribution to the debate on the unaffordability of the U.S. Social Security system. This new book is a good deal more palatable reading than the speeches by Republican politicians or the listening to the screeches of the right-wing radio jocks.