Monday, May 21, 2012

Labour gives up

Labour's election policy of raising the retirement age (after they've all got theirs, of course) was one of the stupidest moves of the election campaign. Presumably, it was meant to signal fiscal credibility - "Labour tackling the big problems which National are afraid to face" or some such narrative. Instead, it signalled that Labour was giving up on social solidarity, and wanted to impose another student loan scale intergenerational inequity (and on the very same victims, to boot).

So naturally, David Shearer is pushing it again:

Labour leader David Shearer has revived calls to raise the pension age and is calling on National to support the policy.

In a speech due to be delivered today, Shearer said the existing pension age of 65 was unsustainable and the Government should be "straight up" with people about that fact.

"Labour will be straight - the status quo is unsustainable. We need a genuine cross-party solution that ensures a fair outcome for everyone, especially those who need to retire earlier and as we move to a gradual rise in retirement age."

Of course, its only "unsustainable" if you rule out policies such as increasing taxes now to pre-fund retirement costs (which is what the Cullen fund was supposed to do). But expecting Boomers in their peak earning years to pay more of the costs of their own retirement would apparently be unfair. So we have to further punish their children, already denied the education and healthcare their parents received, by expecting them to work longer to fund their parents in their twilight years.

(As for "sustainability", Labour might want to think about the political sustainability of that plan, and what it does to their values of social equality and solidarity to set up a straight-out intergenerational conflict like that).

Again, as noted when Labour first drank this kool-aid, longer life-expectancies provide a moderate argument for a slight increase. Against that, we have significant ethnic disparities in life-expectancy (meaning: Maori will be expected to pay for a benefit they will never receive), plus the above-mentioned intergenerational inequities. If Labour really wants to confront this issue, it needs to put all the policy options - including higher taxes and pre-funding - on the table. If they won't, then they've basically given up on the entire left-wing project. And in that case, I don't see any reason for anyone who believes in equality, in progressive taxation, in generous social services to vote for them.