|The News Line: Editorial
Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Pensioners being lined up for Tory austerity attack
A NEW report by The Resolution Foundation think-tank on pensions and pensioners is nothing more than a clarion call for pensions to be cut and pensioners to be driven down to the same level as those workers forced to survive on benefits or scraping an existence on low wages.
Under the pretext of examining ‘issues of intergenerational fairness’ and that its recommendations are designed to ‘strengthen the intergenerational social contract’, they are calling for pensions to be cut in line with the cuts in wages forced on the working class in the name of capitalist austerity. They report that for the first time pensioner households are now £20 a week better off than households with people of working age.
This contrasts dramatically with the situation in 2001 when pensioners were £70 a week worse off – all this the result of wage freezes and pay cuts introduced to pay off the debts of the bankers. In fact the report is forced to admit that this picture of wealthy pensioners does not apply to the vast majority but only relates to those who are fortunate enough to have an occupational pension, own their homes outright and who still work past retirement age.
In fact they admit that there exists a very sharp divide between the wealth of the top fifth of pensioners and the rest. In other words 20% of pensioners could be considered as not doing too badly. When we take into account that amongst this 20% are those managers and bankers who have stashed away millions in their private pension funds and manage to cling onto their highly paid jobs in the City well past retirement age, this figure becomes totally misleading.
The reality is that 20% of all pensioners are totally reliant on the state pension of about £130 a week for which you have to have 30 years of National Insurance contributions. For the rest, those fortunate enough to own their homes are more and more being forced to support their children. Last August, figures showed that one in five pensioner homeowners were re-mortgaging their properties to pay for university fees, rental deposits and other necessities for their children and grandchildren.
A report by the Prudential found that nearly 40% of pensioners are supporting family members and dependents with the cost of everyday items such as food and travel with the average retiree supporting two people, in some areas of the country this figure goes up to four. Millions of young and even older children are forced to live at home with their parents, unable to afford sky high rents and house prices.
While entire generations are only surviving due to the solidarity and sacrifice of pensioners, the Resolution Foundation report is in effect labelling them as the new scroungers on the state. This was made clear by the executive chairman of the Foundation, the Tory peer and ex-Conservative minister Lord David Willetts.
Speaking on BBC Radio yesterday, Willetts blamed the ‘triple-lock’ pension policy of successive governments for the scandalous situation where pensioners are not suffering enough. The triple-lock guarantees that pensions rise by the same amount as average earnings, or by the increase in the consumer price index or by 2.5% whichever is the highest.
It has been a policy championed by the Tories in the belief that pensioners represented the bedrock of their electoral support, but no longer as Willets made clear saying the triple-lock ‘is a very powerful ratchet pushing up pensions at a time when incomes of the less affluent half of working households are barely rising at all’ and insisting that the policy needs ‘reviewing’.
Willetts is calling for fairness not by wage increases, currently capped at 1%, but for pensions to be cut – levelling down pensioners to the poverty endured by workers. The Tory attack on pensions will establish in practice the solidarity between pensioners and workers who face the common enemy.
The only way to defend pensions and living standards of every worker today is by bringing down this Tory government through the organisation of a general strike and going forward to a workers government and socialism.
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