I learned a great number of things from reading Boomsday, the latest political satire offering from Christopher Buckley (Thank You for Smoking). Not the least important of which was that blogging can be hazardous to your health – not to mention the health of the entire “boomer” generation.
In his latest novel Buckley tackles the looming collapse of Social Security. The story takes place a few short years from now. As more and more “boomers” enter retirement age, living longer due to (insanely expensive) advances in healthcare and technology, the burden to support these loafers falls evermore on the shoulders of America’s young people. In a vain effort to try to bridge the Social Security spending gap, Congress passes tax hike after tax hike on the nation’s youngest professionals. And, needless to say, that has the under-thirty crowd seeing red.
Cassandra Devine is a public relations worker by day (spinning for the lowest of the low) and a fire-breathing activist blogger by night. Her late-night criticism of the government’s inability to fix the Social Security crisis has garnered her an enormous following among the “U30’s.” After yet another tax hike on her generation, she issues a call for her readers to “take action” against golf courses and retirement communities nationwide. When they actually do, it lands her in a bit of hot water with the FBI. She becomes an instant celebrity and tries to find new ways to use her voice to force Washington to deal with the crisis.
Then it hits her….
She never thought her proposal that boomers voluntarily kill themselves at age 70 would get any real public support. Nor did she think that anyone would take seriously her idea for the government to incentivize “voluntary transitioning.” But she especially didn’t anticipate Representative Jepperson sponsoring the Bill before Congress, or adopting her plan as his running platform for the upcoming Presidential election.
Boomsday is an interesting look into the world of politics, public relations spin and social activism. But more importantly, it manages to bring the topic of Social Security reform to the forefront of conversation. The book’s heroine uses an absurd proposition in order to spark debate and encourage public dialog on an important issue. The brilliance – or irony – of Buckley’s writing is that he uses an absurd story to do exactly the same thing.