17 september 2012, growing old

I have, this new year, been rather forced to consider the utility of the old; and indeed the fact that very slowly, but most surely, that adjective will one day be mine. Will I then be only a burden to my children and tax-paying society, guilty about everything I spend ? As a larger number of pensioners vote than any other demographic (youth are the worst; 2 pensioners use as many votes as 7 under-25s), they have disproportionate influence, and over time have redefined what was invented as a safety net against starvation, but is now more like a goodie bag that also, if not mainly, supports the better off. British pensioners, for example, regardless of income, get free tv licences, free bus passes and cold winter payments - even if they live in australia. Meanwhile a poor and freezing household without a pensioner gets nothing. Less than 2 workers to support every pensioner, down from 7, means, according to the european commission, eventual tax rises of 2% in italy, 4% in the uk and no less than 8% in spain. Already today, pensioners in the uk get a majority of all welfare payments, the country's largest single expenditure. It is not hard to argue that the system today is too removed from life expectancy and from benefits paid in. And someone pays for all this - silently but inevitably our children, taxed (albeit in the future) but not represented. Intergenerational equality has been the coming politics for a generation; it is time it arrived.