The major news story today seems to be that people born in 1960s and 70s will not have such a good retirement as their parents. If they receive a legacy from their parents then their world may look brighter.
In common with many newspaper reports it looks at just one facet of the story. Why do older folk have more cash?
They are children of World War II or just after. Too many of the population of the countries involved in war had been killed or severely injured. Perhaps the bravest and best. Towns were devastated, industry badly damaged. There was an urgent need to rebuild, and not enough people to do the work.
It was easy to get a job. In Great Britain (which was what we were then known as) we made practically everything. Our engineering skills were of a high standard, Sheffield steel, Birmingham Small Arms (which made much more than guns), a thriving iron and steel industry supported by coal.
My home town had 56,000 people, part of total population of no more than 56 million. The Bank Rate remained largely unchanged throughout that period, and bank managers knew their customers, and prospects, very well.
That demand suggested we need people, so in 1955 the 800 million people living in the British Empire were all granted British citizenship. Some came to England, often facing poor conditions, low-paid jobs and a recalcitrant population tinged with resentment.
We worked together until large corporations realised that products could be produced more cheaply elsewhere in the world. Why bring cotton to England, when the country in which it was produced had a subservient workforce, willing to work for much less.
Our workers realised their jobs were in jeopardy. There was resistance, strikes led to power and food shortages. The business world became more convinced that we were a difficult overpaid workforce, and they could do better elsewhere. So they went.
That was helped by the shipping container; it was easy to transport, difficult to damage, not easy to steal. Felixstowe, my town, broke the backs of Liverpool and London dockers. Today 400 metre-long ships can carry 13,000 boxes, or more.
In the 1980s a Conservative government knocked huge nails into the British confidence. Interest rates rose alarmingly. Mortgages became very expensive, population growth meant more demand. House prices rose dramatically.
Then came the belief that the private sector could provide better services at a lower price. In reality the efficiencies were obtained by sacking people, making those left behind work harder and reducing the quality of services provided. Prices never came down, any extra profit were absorbed by the new companies. We lost our pride. Jobs were no longer for life. We now live with uncertainty.
Allegedly our population was now better educated. Prime Minister Thatcher insisted that the service industries were our future, and so our manufacturing arm was allowed to slowly decay. Today there is not a major car manufacturer that is British owned. That picture is reflected across industry. Foreign companies are encouraged to ‘invest’. What happens is all of our expertise, often equipment and machinery as well, are shipped abroad, with the profit we make. If they are lucky the British worker becomes a wage slave, totally dependent upon the whims of a foreign (now international) board of directors.
Our workers became lethargic, fed-up, unmotivated and resentful. We worked in offices, not factories. Wore white shirts, had foreign holidays, fast cars and owned lots of gizmos. Getting totally plastered every weekend was as far forward as we looked. Our skills base was allowed to dissipate.
Now we are waking up. That ‘Never Had It So Good’ generation of Harold Macmillan of the late 1950s are retiring. These born in the growth years of 1960s and 1970s do not yet realise that to survive we must do more that stagger into work with a bad hangover, buy a lottery ticket, and know we will win X-Factor.
The large companies have grown. They are now international conglomerates, with turnovers bigger than many nation states. We look to the child we spawned, the USA for our entertainment, and the Internet is largely controlled by that country. These behemoths are now the real decision-makers.
The United Kingdom has yet to properly understand that it is in serious trouble. Our media concentrates upon irrelevancies. We are not asked to consider the consequences of our actions.
The English, as a nation, are largely disregarded. Our money is gathered in and spent on supporting others. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland make money out England. Most government departments are based in these countries, as they provide income and support. The disadvantaged (and cheats, thieves and the lazy), the newly arrived immigrant, can expect more encouragement than an English peasant. We’ve been conned into thinking it will always be cushy not realising that our government were selling the family silver to anyone with a few bob, money they could spend on short-term projects.
England is just the cash cow, who can be milked dry by everyone. Our governments: national and local, seize every opportunity they can to squeeze more cash out of us. Little comes back to us, and when it does it is loaded with caveats: yes, you can have a business loan says my local office. We will give you £25,000 provided it is no more than 20% of the total project cost – and we need to see your money, not benefits in kind, not a skilled workforce, not the equipment you have purchased already. Another scheme will give money to a company if it has certified profits in excess of half million pounds.
Considering that even multinationals will struggle with that last demand, as most are now domiciled in cosy tax havens, and don’t pay much UK tax, then we are scuppered.
All stand for the National Anthem. Officers will salute, the rest of you stand to attention. The British ship is now sinking, taking with it our wit, intelligence, creativity, schools, hospitals and all health and safety officers.
One consolation may be that our political leaders will also suffer, but that is very unlikely.