Other Half and I were watching Ten O'Clock Live [new series just started on Wednesdays, channel 4 at - guess what - 10pm] a couple of days ago. It is one of those programmes of which I am never sure whether I like it or not! Certain of the presenters [Lauren Laverne, David Mitchell, Charlie Brooker, Jimmy Carr] are amusing/informative/cleverly satirical - others are cringe making imo!
The guests are of course another story. Some weeks I have yawned through the 'discussions' [in inverted commas because they often degenerate into shouting matches, as this week], other weeks I have become really engaged and sorry when it finishes.
This week's 'discussion' looked promising: Janet Street-Porter, always interesting and combative; Shiv Malik, co-author of Jilted Generation, suggested an interesting 'new' [in inverted commas as the book was published in 2010] point of view and Peter Stringfellow [two out of three ain't bad] - chaired by David Mitchell.
The discussion started with the premise that State Pensioners should share in the austerity cuts that the rest of the country are undergoing, especially the young. A couple of things wrong with that. Austerity cuts are not affecting rich of any age group [as Peter Stringfellow pointed out ad nauseum he may be old but he is rich. Disgustingly rich. Or just disgustingly anything] In fact the rich could be said to be benefiting from this 'austerity Government' as the tax cuts have favoured them. Cynical, moi?
Would our two Pensioners on the show give up their Fuel Allowance? Peter would - after all he probably spends more than £100 regularly on an evening meal with his mates. Janet wouldn't because she has paid for it heavily in taxes over her working life. Peter was cheered by the younger-than-him audience, Janet wasn't. But who was more representative of the 'average' pensioner? Well obviously not Peter Stringfellow. And probably not Janet Street-Porter. They both have income levels considerably above mine [just over £107 pw state pension] But then they pay tax as they are in the taxable income bracket and I'm not. And that's what so many commentators seem to forget. If a pensioner is 'rich', s/he will be paying tax and therefore paying back any "pensioners' perks" that younger commentators are griping about.
And during pensioners working lives we paid our taxes and national insurance dues and were promised that we would be looked after in our old age. If £107 pw, a bus pass, £100* per year winter fuel allowance, free prescriptions, free eye tests, discount on poll tax and a free TV licence once we reach 75 years old for a 'standard pensioner' [i.e. one not on any additional benefits] is really 'looking after'. Not a lot really but I am not complaining - just saying that we are already on the austere side of the austerity, so asking us to take additional cuts seems a little unfair.
Obviously pensioners should not get any rises in their 'pay'. We should have saved a lot more during our working lives. Forget the promises made to us by governments that we would be safe in our old age because we were paying those taxes and other dues that ensured we would be fine. Those of us that bought houses would also be able to sit back in the luxury of our later years, in the glow of home ownership. Of course that was before mortgage rates spiralled and lots of us lost our houses because we couldn't keep up the new repayments or cannot retire because there is just a chance that if we keep on working [if of course the jobs are still there] we may almost have cleared the debt by the time we die.
And some of us were clever enough to take out private pensions. So we would be OK. Until the private pensions went down the toilet with all our money and that apparently was our fault too for not taking the right advice or something. Nothing to do with the urging of whichever government thought we were doing the right thing at the time. And what about those with wonderful company schemes into which a good percentage of their wages were put ever pay day. No need to save when one's money was being so carefully looked after. But what's this I read in the newspaper? The company has gone into administration and with it my money which was in the pension fund. If I am already a pensioner and that part of my pension has disappeared how am I going to cut down on my already depleted budget? Perhaps the government will help? Apparently not.....
Take away the bus passes. Well this will obviously hurt the pensioners who use the buses. It will also hurt the bus companies who are paid by local councils who pay for each trip a pensioner takes using the free pass. For those living in rural areas like mine this could lead to the loss of some bus services. Social isolation could cause more problems for some pensioners and the need for more intervention from the social services. But hey, those rich greedy pensioners will not be getting away with a perk, will they!!
Oh, and the winter fuel allowances. Well, that is obviously a good thing to cut. Because those fuel allowances won't now be spent on heating homes and putting up the profits of fuel companies, most of which are foreign owned and making so much profit that their share holders are very happy. What a shame those fuel companies are not state owned so that any profits could be ploughed back into capital investment, giving work to the unemployed and possibly keeping profits down. Oh they were once were? So when the pensioners were working - paying taxes - something which they already owned [nationalised industries] were sold off? And now they are to be "rewarded" by not having nearly enough income to pay the high charges the new fuel company owners see fit to charge?
And the TV licences. Again not a problem. Most pensioners in the forthcoming Brave New World will be out in the fields working all day to make up their income and in bed as soon as it gets dark to keep warm as the only way to survive the austerity cuts the younger generation seems to think they deserve.
I hope I don't sound bitter. I am a really sweet old lady. I smell of lavendar water, suck peppermints and sit in a shawl knitting and talking to myself because I am so deaf I can't hear that I am thinking out loud. Oh no - that was my Grandmother who was so glad that her grandchildren were not going to live the sort of lives that she and her forebears had, hard lives with their old age only made comfortable by the generosity of their children. I am just an older woman who wants her grandchildren to inherit a world that cares for its elders, respects the promises it has made and lives to the values of the slogan popularised by Marx:
From each according to his ability, to each according to his need[s]
However, many take this suggestion back to an earlier source, the Bible, with this quotation from the Acts of the Apostles, 4:32:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
Two good suggestions to follow. A bit better than Dirty Dave's 'We are all in it together'. The first two quotes were by those who really meant and believed what they said.
This Bank Holiday - be nice to a pensioner. It could be me!
*£200 if only one pensioner in a household, £300 if the pensioner attains the age of 80.
Photograph above is of Williton, W.Somerset Workhouse, now developed into private dwellings. Please don't relegate us back to the Workhouse league......