Friday, 21 August 2015

Stop Berating the Baby-Boomers

I am rather tired of hearing these persistent myths about the affluence of the Baby-Boomer generation, and the comparative poverty of their children, so-called Generation X. It's true that for the small minority  -  5%  - who went to university in the post-war era there were no fees, and if you came from the working class you got a minimal grant to live on. (Most middle-class students got less than the full grant.) But what happened after you left? You were faced with far higher rates of taxation and far higher interest rates than today. Credit cards were hard to get and harder to pay off, until the Blair era. People still saved.
Under Harold Wilson in the 1970s the top rate of income tax on earned income was 83%. 

Under the Heath government, the top rate of income tax was cut to 75% but most ordinary people still paid a far higher percentage of their income in tax than any other generation before or since. John Lennon sang "Power to the People" from his cosy tax-exile abroad.

Generation X has never seen anything like it. Tax started as soon as you earned £10 per week and anyone earning over £10,000 p.a. was liable for supertax. Even under the Thatcher government, tax was slow to fall. A top rate of 60% prevailed for a long time, well into the 1980s. 

So home-buying was no picnic, particularly when you reflect that interest rates on mortgages stood at 17% for most of the time that the baby-boomers were struggling to pay for their homes. Contrast that with 1% in recent years. And let's face it, some of the baby-boomers are still paying off their first and only mortgage now, in their sixties, because they were so hard up they had to get the interest payments added to the bulk of the capital loaned. 
There was unemployment in the 1970s and 1980s on a scale unknown since the 1930s. People on the dole or "between jobs" as it was politely known, didn't have an easy time, and even those with jobs didn't get to buy large, many-bedroomed houses by the age of forty, as some strange people imagine. Luxuries like mobile phones, computers and foreign holidays which Generation X take for granted, were only for those who got a lucky break.
The baby-boomers paid 15% of their lifetime earnings into National Insurance, expecting a pension from age 60  - only to be told now that they cannot get it until they are over 65 and the amount they eventually receive is a miserable one, not enough to live on. Age Concern says there are 2 million pensioners now in the UK living in serious poverty i.e. they haven't got enough money to meet minimal day-to-day needs of food, clothes, heating, and cleaning. A lot of their money was squandered by the Blair government with its benefits bonanza and endless wars. A lot more went on the bank bail-outs, euro-bail-outs and other extravagances. Generation X got paid benefits by the government even while still in sixth form!!! The baby-boomers meanwhile are not getting the basic pension they earned and deserve.

I am happy to read in the Daily Telegraph that "a recent report, compiled by Ready for Ageing Alliance, rejects the idea that there is a "lucky generation" preparing to take life easy amid unprecedented levels of health and wealth at the expense of those coming afterwards....It argues that far from being the lucky generation, many baby boomers are still enduring the effects of soaring interest rates in previous decades and wide inequalities in health and pension provision while shouldering some of the biggest caring responsibilities in society." Quite so. Will Generation X please quit the moaning forthwith.

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