Monday, November 15, 2010

Feeling Pinched

David Willetts is the closest the ranks of senior Tory politicians have to a bona fide intellectual - his nickname is "Two Brains".

His most recent book is The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future – And Why They Should Give It Back. The basic premise (touted amid much fanfare before the Election) is that the Baby Boomers had it pretty good - free education, rising house prices, a golden economy (not to mention all the fun and games of the Sixties). Their combination of large numbers (the Baby Boomers, born 1945-65, were originally the children sired by servicemen returning from World War 2), control of the key positions in society and a high propensity to vote has enabled them to fashion the political economy to their advantage.

But those of us coming along behind are having to pick up the pieces. Huge debt - both national and personal to pay for those houses - and the need to pay for the pensions and spiralling health bills mean that the younger generations are having to pay for cleaning up the Baby Boomers' party. House pricing is essentially an inter-generational wealth transfer (the Boomer sat in the house whose value multiplied many times over and then first time buyers have to raise, and finance, the mortgage to pay for it). Life for young people - combining high levels of debt, poorer employment prospects and faltering youth-facing public services - is getting tougher.

A very clear argument - and one that deserves more discussion.

Especially when the recent spending review essentially left pensioner benefits untouched, explicitly did not touch the NHS which is increasingly important as people get older, but massively increased student fees. The argument goes that student fees are essentially a middle class perk (and under the arrangements proposed those on lower salaries post-graduation will potentially be better off than under the current deal) and there is some truth to this. But surely even more so for wealthy retirees are non means-tested pensioner bus passes, heating allowances and free TV licences. So the priorities of the spending review (especially if you add back restoring the earnings link to pensions) have played to the political power of the greying generation (who, of course, have very high voter turnout).

One would have thought that David Willetts might have made a stand on this? Except that he is now the Minister of State for Universities and Science. In charge of the new student fees arrangement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hello there thanks for your grat post, as usual ((o: