I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Meanwhile, Across the Pond...

The Brits are struggling with pensions just like we Yanks are:
Projections suggest that these reforms could save the taxpayer £67bn over 50 years. But many in the public sector are angry, believing they have been cheated, while private sector employees are fearful because many have next to nothing in the pension pot.
The divide and rule policy that appears to be a government tactic, pitting private sector taxpayers against public sector employees (who also, of course, pay tax), distracts from an unavoidable truth: shamefully, UK pensions are among the worst in western Europe, across the public and private sectors. In 2009-10, for instance, said the Hutton review, a local government worker received an annual pension of £4,052; a civil servant £6,199 and a teacher £9,806 [$15863 US -!!!]. Hutton found that only 1% of workers (mostly NHS doctors and consultants) received pay outs of £37,000 or more a year.
In the 19th century, "the man from the Pru" would knock on a working man's door to collect what he could afford as insurance against (often brief) old age. Today, that habit is rare.
Sweden in the 1990s faced similar problems: an ageing population and insufficient pension funds. It is now mandatory to contribute 18.5% of income; those who are unable to do so are helped and employers play their part. It's a system that took a decade to design and another two to implement. It isn't perfect, but it has what the UK system so far lacks – a grown-up acknowledgement that once this current financial crisis is past, affordable, equitable and adequate pensions for all are an essential part of a socially just, cohesive and productive society – but they don't come cheap. [emphasis mine]
The UK is being taken over by the same right-wing nuttiness that has infected us for the last 30 years. David Cameron is as big a teacher basher as you will find, but that just makes sense: the entire "reform" movement is about diverting attention away from the failure of elites to serve the rest of society while they continue to amass big piles of wealth for themselves. The UK and the US are no different in having to confront the mess conservatives have left us.

The fact is you can't give people decent health care, good jobs, and retirements with dignity unless you tax the wealthy at reasonable rates. The experiments that Reagan and Thatcher started in oligarchy have ended in miserable failure; it's time to wrap them up and get back to being real societies that actually take care of their citizens again.

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