27 October 2012

Lord Bichard: Old People Need To Work For Their Pensions (Even If They Already Have)

"Among all the emotions, the rich have the least talent for love. It is possible to love one's dog, dress or duck-shooting hat, but a human being presents a more difficult problem.

The rich might wish to experience feelings of affection, but it is almost impossible to chip away the enamel of their narcissism. They take up all the space in all the mirrors in the house. Their children, who represent the most present and therefore the most annoying claim on their attention, usually receive the brunt of their irritation.

Lewis H. Lapham

In response to Baron Bichard's proposal that old people be required to do community service or lose their pensions, Robert Oxley of the Tax Payers Alliance said, "it's a bit rich from a civil servant who was able to retire early to lecture us on working during retirement."

In related news, Baron Bichard has been selected as first recipient of the Dolores Jane Umbridge Award for a lifetime achievement in bureaucratic vindictiveness and petty hypocrisy.

Does anyone else notice a trend here amongst the self-righteous elite of the English speaking peoples? What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine as well, but I might allow you to keep a bit if you fall in and toe the line.

Guardian UK
On Pensions, Listen to the Technocrats
By Richard Seymour
26 October 2012

Retired people should work for their pensions, says Lord Bichard. The fact that pensioners already have worked for their pension, by definition, doesn't detain him. Pensioners are a "negative burden" on the state, who need to be "incentivised" into doing jobs that young people could do for a wage.

The interesting thing about Bichard is that he isn't some rabid Tory. He is a cross-bench peer, a technocratic former senior civil servant who worked closely with the last Labour government. His suggestion was raised in the context of discussions between politicians, bureaucrats and Bank of England experts on the state's response to demographic change.

And while his specific proposals may have been off-centre, they point to a consensus among policy-making elites. In general, the consensus is that British capitalism will find its way out of crisis and restore global competitiveness by squeezing more work out of the labour force. In terms of pensions, the consensus is that people will have to work longer, for less.

Part of the rationale for this consensus is that the "old age dependency ratio" is going to change dramatically, with a growing elderly population relative to the working-age population. By 2051, just under a quarter of the population will be over 65.

According to a simplistic inference, pensions would therefore have to be paid for by raising taxes on the working population. However, labour migration counteracts this tendency, meaning that the "economic support ratio", the ratio of the working population to the dependent population, will either remain static or any fall will be compensated for by increased productivity. The demographic rationale is therefore a red herring.

Madam Undersecretary Dolores Jane Umbridge
The real issue is how the growing pensions system will be managed. The orthodoxy among civil servants and politicians alike is that salvation lies with "thrift" and private sector provision. This means relying on a costly complex of financial entities to provide coverage, while grinding down public pensions.

This explains the Tories' introduction of the workplace pensions scheme. The result will be inequality and greater poverty in old age.

Bichard admits that forcing pensioners to work will be hard to sell to the public. But then, as he puts it, "so was tuition fees". There is a lesson in governance here.

Senior civil servants and technocrats formulate many of the policies or underlying policy goals that governments try to gain public support for. Formally neutral as far as the party system is concerned, they are the permanent administration of the country...

Read the entire article here.