A recent Op-ed that has been making round along the internet is titled “”Welcome to the new dark ages, where only the wealthy can retire”. That Op-ed, however, is nothing more than a badly researched rant against economics and experts with a sensationalised title to draw in clicks. It claims that retirement is quickly becoming a myth thanks to the “madness of neoclassical economics” and that combined with austerity is going to cause retirement to only be available to be the rich. This is then followed a by a rant about the evils of austerity and the free-market which makes little sense to anybody familiar with the topic but feeds the persecution complex of many.
The first claim in this “Op-Ed” is that “We’re now told that the real question is no longer when we will retire but if we will retire” and cites articles detailing the plight of poor retirees, another detailing the increasing amount of elder workers and a quote from a director of a pension service. Poor Retirees have always existed and they are not some new phenomena but instead the increasing visibility of previously hidden phenomena.
As you can see from the above graph, the poverty rate of elderly(Pensioner referring to all elderly) has is far lower than the population as whole due to a large amount of social spending even in the age of austerity.The largest fall took place under “Neo-liberal” new labour government which the columnist here blames for rising elderly poverty.
The quote that the columnist cites as proof the death of retirement is from a business school director who expresses concern for the lack of saving many people have. The first problem is that business school directors are not economists and are trained to work with firms which work on completely different scales and options than countries. A company pension and a country pension work completely different and trying to compare them is a bad idea bound for failure. The second problem is that while low saving rates are a concern, they aren’t easy to fix without massively unpopular policies with mandates saving of up to 30% of a person’s income.
The columnist then continues to rant the evils of neoliberalism, economics and austerity claiming that they want to “shove a frail 75-year-old back into a cut-throat service economy” while New Labour, Tories and the Lib-Dems supported Triple lock a policy aimed at stopping this from happening at all costs which mostly fall on the young. No mainstream political party that is going to get into power is going to campaign and try and implement policies that achieve that because old people vote and pensions are the one issue where they don’t mind the government interference. The columnist also ignores demographics as an explanation for a greying workplace as despite population the Uk as a whole is getting older as the median age in the UK is currently 40 up 7 years from 33 in 1974. It’s pretty obvious that if a country as a whole is getting older than so will the workplace.
The rest of the op-ed is nothing more than a generic far left criticism of our current economic regime complete with a misinterpretation of what quantitive easing and claiming that the goveremtn spent trillion of dollars on banks instead of making a profit like they did in reality. He turns Human Capital Theory into a strawman that claims “then there isn’t really any place for retirement” instead of it being a model for adding up all the parts that go into every moment of work. It then claims we need an alliance for economic equality claiming that treatment of the elderly is backsliding instead of being better than the rest of society like in reality.
There are legitimate problem with our current system of wealth distribution that affects both the young and the old but sensationalist rants such as these will only discredit those seeking to address problems and embolden opponet. This op-ed is asking for both a genorus pension system for the elderly as well as no payments and scarafices required on the part of the youth which is not possible long-term and the policies this op-ed espouse will lead to nothing more than an economic disaster.