Selasa, 22 Oktober 2013

The war of the old on the young

The old have declared war on the young. Few dare say this, but the other day Alan Milburn did just  that. This is an emotive issue and there are bound to be strong and passionate feelings. But this blogger, who is himself more in the old category rather than the young,  is in agreement with this premise.

Alan Milburn,  a former UK government minister and an advisor to the current government,  has said that there is a fairness deficit between generations. He thinks that the elderly should lose some of their benefits to make life easier for the young.  It might sound callous, but if you sit back and reflect, there is much merit in what he is saying.

In the West, much of the budget deficits and the debt problem is because of  disproportionate spending on the elderly. Health care costs which are largely consumed by the elderly, are a huge burden on the economies of most nations. Ditto pensions - promised very liberally a long time ago. Medicare and Social Security are the greatest ticking time bombs in the US - and both mostly concern the elderly. Same is the situation with the NHS in Britain. Pensions are a millstone around the neck in France and Germany. Unionisation  and labour laws in Europe protect and coddle the existing workers (mostly older) and keep out the prospective workers (mostly younger). And where do the cuts come ? On education, on infrastructure, on employment - all directly affecting the young. All this while, the debt burden of countries keeps getting ratcheted up which our children have to pay back some day. We are now a civilisation that cares for the elderly and cares two hoots for the young.

Consider the vexed issue of pensions. We are blessedly able to live longer. We all seem to have appropriated pension schemes long ago, that pay out pensions based on the last drawn salary when in service. This is then adjusted for inflation. None of it is funded from our savings - its all funded out of the contributions of the young who are currently working. Frequently we draw more in pension than we drew when in service. If you think this is a particularly European phenomenon - think again. The pension for government and public sector retirees in India follows the same pattern. And after the person dies, his or her spouse continues to get it. If you retire at 60 and die at 90 and your spouse outlives you by 5 years, then you draw pensions for some 35 years. You didn't even work that long in the first place.

Its not just pensions or medical care. All sorts of boondoggles are given to the elderly. Free bus passes. Subsidised transport. Higher interest on savings, discounts and freebies of all kinds. And if you ask them just to work that bit longer before retiring , there is such a furore that governments are terrified of even thinking so.

The future of any civilisation depends on the investment it makes on its youth. Each succeeding generation must build and improve on the previous generation. For the first time, we are faced with a generation which might actually have a lower quality of life than the earlier one.And why is this so ? Simple. Because there are more older people and they vote. Try even making a small cut in benefits to the old - the government will fall. The young ?? Who cares about them. They don't vote en bloc and bring down governments. Many of them don't even have the right to vote - they are not yet 18 or 21. They are old enough to take a crippling debt to go to college but not old enough to vote.

So, we the elderly, ought to pause and reflect rather than continuing to corner all the money. We should provide for old age ourselves - save and create a nest egg for pensions and health care when the time comes when we are too old to work. Fund our own pension schemes  and  not depend on the government to give handouts. We should politely return all subsidies and ask the government to spend it on the young. We have had our time in the sun - let the youth of today enjoy a better quality of life. And pray that the Good Lord will take us into his lap in a timely fashion, and not let us live till 100. When I go to my grave, I would rather go with the knowledge that I sacrificed to make life better for the children, than with the curse that I appropriated all the goodies and left the children to rot.

I know its harsh. But think about it.
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