First they came for the squirrels now it’s granny’s free bus pass… Or that is the hope of the Institute of Economic Affairs… in respect of the whether the baby boomer generation most responsible for the national debt, should fairly share the responsibility for paying it off.
The economics of the IEA case are quite sensible; broadly state pension reform, and removing a series of universal benefits and age-related tax exemptions. Over £15bn per year could be saved. More if we include public sector pension reform. Where poverty is an issue benefits should be simple and targeted.
The politics of the case are what Yes Minister used to call “courageous”. The median age of those who vote is over 50. To persuade grandad not to borrow money from his grandchildren, is not an easy platform on which to win an election.
The last comprehensive review then deliberately protected benefits and services for the elderly (NHS, linking state pensions to wages) whilst reducing them for the young (tuition fees, child benefit, national insurance). Most youthful protests against that were based around wanting to get on the derailed gravy train rather than sharing the load of carrying the current passengers or asking them to walk.
It’s not obvious then what trigger events or political incentives are going to change to encourage politicians to take intergenerational justice seriously. Even the Liberal Democrats, who do relatively poorly amongst the elderly are wedded to the stitch-up.
Meanwhile the rather modest reforms suggested by the IEA have provoked a stream of abuse including a death threat. Underestimate the grey terror that shuffles amongst us at your peril…