Whilst the crisis continues to push people of working age into unemployment or into ill-paid and insecure part-time and casual work, pensioners are now being told it is they who are a useless burden on society. Cash-strapped hospitals are under pressure to delay or withhold treatment from those deemed to be too old to matter, whilst the responsibility for the shortage of available beds is pushed onto elderly ‘bed-blockers’.
The bottom line under capitalism is clear: if your labour cannot be profitably exploited, then you are a waste of space.
Now that the ‘pension burden’ on the state is being reduced by making people pay more, work longer and get less at the end, voices are being raised to suggest the logical next step. Why not treat pensioners the same as people of working age? Why not make them work for their pensions? And if they refuse, why not take away their pensions and let them starve, along with all the chronically-ill (and therefore unproductive) victims of Atos?
This modest proposal has been made by former Benefits Agency chief and House of Lords scrounger Lord Bichard. As funding for daycare centres and luncheon clubs is slashed and residential care of the elderly increasingly run by profit-hungry private businesses, this gallant Knight of the Bath opines that “We are now prepared to say to people who are not looking for work, if you don’t look for work you don’t get benefits … So if you are old and you are not contributing in some way or another, maybe there is some penalty attached to that … Are we using all of the incentives at our disposal to encourage older people not just to be a negative burden on the state but actually be a positive part of society?”
The message is clear: behind the Big Society lies the Big Stick. Anyone who is serious about creating a society where people genuinely look after each other, the old and the young respect and support one another, and everyone has a share in building a decent life for all, should take inspiration from socialist countries like Cuba and the DPRK, where the welfare of the people and not private greed determines policy.
Meanwhile, it’s time to tell the noble lord where he can stick his Order of the Bath and get stuck into the fight for our pension rights. The one really useless burden that society carries on its back is capitalism; it’s high time we got it off our backs and into Engels’ “museum of antiquity”.