Friday, October 28, 2016

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Without The Older Generation, There Would Be No Society

Mick Hall @ Organized Rage speaks out in defence of older citizens who are now being vilified by the Tory government.

The Tories have turned blaming one section of society for the ills they have inflicted upon us into a fine art. In the 1980's it was single mums who were smeared in this way. Since 2010 the unemployed, the sick, and the disabled have been targeted in this way. Now senior citizens are in the Tories' malignant sights. As always the mainstream media have been leading the charge. The whole purpose of the raft of articles which have been published of late is to nudge nudge people into believing Tory lies.

When I was a child the old age pension was a pittance until in the 1950s the trade unions began a successful campaign to force employers to introduce an occupational pensions. Sadly following the anti-trade union legislation introduced by the Thatcher governments, and criminally kept on the statute book by New Labour, occupational pensions declined and in the current period have all but disappeared as Employers raided their pension funds. Culminating with BHS retirees having their pensions robbed by their own CEO, the scoundrel Philip Green.

Just how one sided employment and pension law has become is best demonstrated by the fact that despite Green having pocketed £580 million of his employees' hard earned money, he hasn't even been questioned by the police let alone been placed before a court of law.

Today one in seven British pensioners rely on the State pension alone and with the demise of occupational pensions this number will increase as far fewer people are saving into a company pension plan than at any point for the past 60 years, fuelling fears that millions of Britons will be forced to carry on working into their 70s or live life on a pittance. This will mean in my lifetime the pension wheel will have turned full circle.

Only a radical overhaul of the system of the type Corbyn Labour is proposing will give British pensioners the respect they deserve. As Jeremy said here:

Currently, nearly two million pensioners live in poverty. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said last year that the minimum income standard for a single pensioner was £182.16 per week. That is some way above the £144 per week touted for the single tier pension from April next year ... So we need a flexible pension age that allows people to work for as long as they want to, while also recognising that for many people the nature of their work, their health, or their disability may not allow that. Increasing the basic pension for all pensioners by just £1 per week costs over half a billion pounds, so increasing the single tier pension to the minimum income standard might cost an extra £22 billion ... This agenda for older people also means we have to talk about tax. The basic rate of income tax was 25 per cent a generation ago; now it’s 20 per cent. For most of Mrs Thatcher’s time in office, higher earners were paying 60 per cent; now even the super-rich only face a 45 per cent rate. After 18 years of Thatcher and Major’s Conservative governments corporation tax was 33 per cent. If George Osborne has his way it will be just 18 per cent by 2020 ... If we want dignity for all in old age, then it has to be paid for. That’s why I believe Labour in opposition should establish an Older People’s Commission to create a new deal for older people, with funding options that can be discussed throughout the country in advance of 2020. Honest, straight-talking politics demands open and democratic debates to resolve difficult issues.
British State pension are already below the European average, that the British government is even considering to reduce them or hold them at the current rate,  tells us all we need to know about the type of wretched society the UK has become. Theresa May's promises when she first came into office aren't worth the paper they were written on.

Stewart Dakers writing in Society points out without the older generation, there would be no society:
Elizabeth has become a fan of the new prime minister and was extolling her virtues after bingo. “A more equal society, I like the sound of that.”

“Really?” Charlie was in there in a flash, “And where do you think she’s going to find the savings to pay for it?”

Cecil is unusually on Charlie’s wavelength, but he replies: “From us – the bus passes, TV licences, index-linked pensions, blimey, there’s a whole industry devoted to giving us goodies.”

By the end of the conversation there was an uncomfortable consensus that we were indeed an unwelcome factor in social inequity. It is a view which has of late been gathering public subscription, with some heavyweights using inflammatory language about our being “the gravy train brigade”. There is real danger here and it has to be taken seriously.

The case against us crumblies is that we occupy space, property and, crucially, hospital beds and NHS resources disproportionately while enjoying benefits to which we are not entitled, through favourable treatment from successive governments. Our response to date has been to plead that we have contributed throughout our working lives and are therefore entitled to these benefits.

And we have a strong case. We have made a massive difference. It was the product of our working lives that generated an explosion of economic growth, accompanied by a major redistribution of wealth and with it an enlightened social contract.

It was our generation that got its hands dirty at the sharp end in poor neighbourhoods. That is where social justice has been engineered through a real investment in social capital, with excluded people taking ownership, with buddies, mentors, citizen advocacy, parent partnerships, credit unions, key workers, outreach, mediation services, citizens’ advice bureaux and multi-agency working.

In the wider world, the hungry are getting seeds, the thirsty wells, the naked sewing machines, the imprisoned advocates, the poor fair trade, disabled people a more level playing field. All these initiatives have been the instruments of empowerment, of giving a parochial hand up in place of the patriarchal handout. That is all the work of our generation. They were our initiatives.

And more. It is also our generation whose youthful activity pioneered remedial action for an abused planet, which dragged us out of the gender dark ages, which started to make cracks in the glass ceiling, which began the process of cultural diversity. We are the generations that brought ages of deference to an end and have enabled today’s generations to hold the director class to account.

And we are still at work. Without the crumbly generation’s engagement, the social cloth would disintegrate. The vast majority of charities, voluntary agencies, community initiatives, fetes and clubs, youth and disability groups would simply cease to operate without our input. The same holds true of the care services, which can only manage their workload because grandparents look after great grandparents and grandchildren, and elderly partners attend their ailing, failing relatives. Finally, the small charities, the Rotaries, the Lions, the golf and bowls clubs, which tirelessly raise funds for good causes, all depend on a crumbly membership.

By all means, include us in a programme of redistribution, but unless it is done judiciously – and graciously – there is a real risk the social fabric will unravel and our humane society collapse.