by Jonathan Lee
“New pension plans to work till you die are no cause for alarm” says arch-Tory overlord Ian Duncan Smith. A recent report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the Tory think-tank which brought us Universal Credit, has recommended the government raise the retirement age from 65 to 70 by 2028, and to 75 by 2035.
The Tories are not content to simply make workers’ lives as miserable as possible through underfunding schools, unaffordable housing, food poverty, and the greatest devaluation of wages in modern history. They now seek to steal the last golden years of life from the majority of working class people who cannot afford a private pension in order to retire early.
Actually, is anyone surprised at anything anymore?
Is anyone honestly surprised? Actually, is anyone surprised at anything anymore? Honestly – Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister. We are less than ten weeks away from crashing out of the European Union, with next to no provisions made by the government to mitigate the damage this will cause. Cuts and privatisation of public services continue apace. Black British citizens are being deported. By 2020 they will have slashed a projected £44 billion from the NHS budget. And it will also be for sale by then too, with Donald Trump being the highest bidder.
This is certainly not the first, nor the most scandalous, policy to come out of a Conservative led government. In fact, it’s not even the first pension related scandal. The Tories already stole years worth of pension payments from women back in 2011 when they raised the pension age for women to parity with men. As part of George Osborne’s “you’re all in it together” programme of cuts, the government raised women’s retirement age to 65 much more rapidly than they had repeatedly promised. “No sooner than 2020” was brought forward 2 years with the pension age equalised for men and women in 2018. The changes affected 2.6 million women, of which 300,000 had an additional 18 months added to their retirement age (which had already been increased back in 1995).
Many had to rearrange lifelong financial plans put in place with the expectation of retiring at the age they were promised. Aside from being forced to work longer than they had planned for, these women were essentially robbed by the government. An extension of your working life does not mean an extension of your actual life. Also the size of their pension pot did not increase with the extra years of work. The extra years which those women paid national insurance towards will not be paid back to them. For some women born in the 1950s this amounted to six years of retirement being taken away, whilst they were still compelled to pay the extra six years in National Insurance payments. The theft amounted to £40-50,000 per woman.
The move was part of a raft of measures the Coalition Government implemented under the guise of lowering the budget deficit. Specifically, they claimed it was in response to the “pressures of an aging population”. Both reasons are lies. Austerity measures were implemented ideologically, not because of any economic or demographic pressures, but for the purpose of pulling off one of the greatest transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich in modern history.
Conservatives convinced us that our rate of borrowing was sky-high and that living within our means was the only way to cut our way to growth. The thing is, our borrowing was not actually particularly high and public cuts do not induce economic growth. Whilst the Tories did reduce the rate of borrowing (the deficit), they did so at the expense of workers’ wages and by slowing economic growth through cuts. The gap between what we borrow and what we have is smaller because we are producing wealth at a slower rate, so the level of debt we incur is actually rising quite fast. Austerity is not just a transfer of wealth; it is a transfer of debt, and the burden of this debt is placed squarely on the working class. Austerity is also as much about privatization as it is about cuts, and this makes the wealth transfer all the more permanent.
Not only have the Tories increased the national debt, they have also overseen the greatest stagnation in real wages this country has seen in a century. In fact, relative to the cost of living, wages have actually shrunk whilst the economy has grown. At the same time, the richest 10% in the country have literally doubled their wealth. Britain is now one of the most unequal countries in Europe and the whole deficit crisis has now apparently been shot out of the proverbial cannon, with the government increasing borrowing by 60% so far this year in the face of a No-Deal Brexit.
The Tories treat pensioners and their payments as wasted income. This is as economically corrupt as it is morally corrupt.
The recent proposal by the CSJ to increase the pension age to 75 is just another example of the state theft which this government calls “austerity”. The Tories treat pensioners and their payments as wasted income. This is as economically corrupt as it is morally corrupt. Pensioners spend a lot of money. They have a lot of time on their hands and they use that time spending money in their local economies on hobbies, social causes, grandchildren, etc. Though they are no longer working, pensioners directly contribute to their communities by spending and stimulating economic growth, as well as providing free social services like child care, which in turn frees up economically active adults to go out and work.
Apparently the idea of ordinary people having a decade off without working infuriates the Tory mind. A retirement age of 75 would force people to work past their healthy life expectancy, meaning most would be unable to enjoy their retirement in reasonably good health (if they are fortunate enough to make it that far). Working in physical jobs until the age of 75 is just not feasible, and would shorten the lives of any working class people even further. For a lot of people this is sadly already the case. Out of control regional inequality in the United Kingdom means that many people in deprived areas are already working ‘til they drop. The average healthy life expectancy (the number of years lived in good health) in Swansea, the city where I grew up, is 60 years for men and 63 years for women. Most people there will not receive a pension until they are at best 65, at worst 68, by which time many will likely be unfit for manual jobs anyway.
If this proposal is made into policy, it is foolish to trust that the Conservatives will respect the proposed dates for implementation. It will no doubt be brought forward a few years to deal with “the pressures of Brexit and an aging population” or some other such nonsense. Then, those years of pension payments will be taken by the government, with no compensation paid to the people who paid in, and turned into tax cuts for the rich. After all, they did it before and got away with it. Why wouldn’t they do it again?
Featured image via Shutterstock
The Norwich Radical is non-profit and run by volunteers. All funds raised help cover the maintenance costs of our website, as well as contributing towards future projects and events. Please consider making a small contribution and fund a better media future.