Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Shit pensions for all!"

The right-wing solution to old age poverty

This blog felt the need to come back from the dead, if only as a one-off, courtesy of some of the most annoying red herrings that are floating about in the run-up to the public sector strike scheduled for November 30 across the UK.

I’m not talking about the typically contemptuous and shallow remark you often hear from the Tory right (as voiced on last Thursday’s BBC Question time by reptilian Tory MEP Daniel Hannan), which consists of tarring all public sector workers as “unproductive”, to which the obvious riposte should be: hope you never need your arse wiped by an “unproductive” carer or social worker in your old age, Mr Hannan, or that your house never needs “unproductive” firemen to put out a fire. And so on.

But that’s all by the by.

What is absolutely essential that we all stand up to, is the laziest (and, you will excuse me, most dim-witted) bit of criticism as thrown at the strikers. That is, “how dare those ‘privileged’ public workers stage a mass walkout and disrupt the country when most private sector workers are condemned to worse pension schemes”.

Leave aside the trite lie of “privileged pensions” in the public sector (the average being £7,800 - see this). Also, leave aside the fact that there’s nothing wrong, and everything right, in fighting to uphold the contractual conditions that public sector workers had signed up to in the first place.

What we should focus on is the warped logic according to which, because millions of people in the private sector are getting supremely exploited and taken for a ride with pension schemes ranging from very poor to non-existent (65% of all private sector workers have no pension at all – how’s that for a ticking bomb?), the right whingers’s solution isn’t to try and improve everybody’s pension.

No, they tell you, glaze-eyed, that the straightforward way out is simply crappier pensions for all.

They don’t think we urgently need to tackle head-on a future packed with even more millions of impoverished pensioners who will live longer, but with looser safety nets, less assets and even more deprivation than today. No, they just demand that the shrinking chunk of the population who still enjoy some protection for when they’re old and frail relinquish that too. Perhaps with a round of lashings before bed to beef up the penance.

Except, would they apply the same yardstick to any other walk of life? I don’t think so either.

They wouldn’t demand that people who expect decent treatment on the NHS stop acting like spoilt brats because what about those unluckier souls who catch MRSA in their hospital bed…

They wouldn’t tell you off for demanding the right to good schools just because some other people have to put up with crap ones…

And they wouldn’t give up their mansion because it’s not fair that the majority live in lesser places but still have to pay the same (and sometimes) more council tax so that the rich can enjoy their comforts better.

They wouldn’t do any of that. Because it would make no sense.

But, mainly, because this perverted race-to-the-bottom logic of “shit working conditions for all” instead of “better conditions for all” can only lead to one place – and with a series of socially devastating long-term consequences.

The sooner Tory brains cotton on to it, the better for everyone.