Apparently retirees are now better off than working people in Britain: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/feb/13/pensioners-now-20-a-week-better-off-than-working-households. I’m not surprised. Most of us have good occupational pensions, unlike the next generation. (I would have, if half of it were not going to my ex-wife.) We’ve paid off our mortgages. The children have fled and are (mainly) self-sustaining. We get free bus rides. We don’t need so much, at our age; and what we do need the good old NHS will provide. (Up to now.) And for ten years the Tory government has carefully sheltered us against rising ‘austerity’, in the belief that (a) we oldies are more likely to vote, and (b) we’re more likely to vote for them. So it’s not a bad life, in Theresa’s Britain; if you’re old enough to enjoy it.
Of course this is unfair on our children’s generation; but then we post-war oldies always have been the lucky ones. I count myself extraordinarily lucky, to the extent that I can’t really credit any of my achievements, such as they are, to my own efforts. I missed the War, and then missed – just by a few months – post-war military conscription. I was nurtured early on by free school milk and orange juice, and kept alive (literally, in my case) by the spanking-new NHS. My parents could afford to buy a house, while they were reasonably-priced; as was I, forty years later. Thereafter, already installed on the ladder, we merely profited, when house prices escalated. I got a good – privileged – secondary education, without having to pay for it; which fed me through to a prestigious university, which again I didn’t have to pay a penny towards. The State even contributed to my living expenses. There was full employment. Social democracy was firmly established, and improving year by year, even under Conservative governments. Above all, perhaps, we had hope. (See my piece here on 1956: https://bernardjporter.com/2016/02/28/1956/.)
Then of course it all came to shuddering halt, as the Conservatives re-discovered their old Victorian roots, and started eating away at the ‘molly-coddling’ – the ‘nanny state’ – that was supposed to be stifling our ‘get-up-and-go’. In fact I genuinely believe that I would never have got up and gone anywhere useful and productive, if it hadn’t been for the State. If, that is, what I’ve done in my life has been useful; or more so than if I had been forced to struggle in thankless jobs for money, or to march up and down in my ‘National Service’ years, or even to keep alive, without free health care, as a child.
And now, having had this extraordinarily fortunate life so far, the privilege is being extended into old age. It really is unfair. Seeing my children striving for what came effortlessly to my generation fills me with very real guilt. But then I suppose it could well be making them into better people than I’ve turned out to be. Per ardua…