27 January 2011

The state can alter the terms when it wishes

Of course all discussion about pensions these days is about who really ‘needs’ or ‘deserves’ anything. Of what relevance is it that some decades ago state pensions were supposed to be determined by contributions? Why should retrospective legislation matter anyway, nobody thinks it does now.

Such issues in themselves could easily take a book to deal with.

They like to increase state pensions, if at all, by reference to the CPI (Consumer Price Index) rather than the RPI (Retail Price Index). The RPI is more realistic than the CPI, but not much, because it leaves out much of what is really essential, such as servants, and going abroad to get things which in this country can only be got by exposing oneself to abuse by the medical ‘profession’. (A live-in housekeeper now costs £75K per annum.)

However, what makes the CPI even less realistic is that the cost of housing, renting or mortgage, is stripped out. Perhaps it is thought justifiable to use this index because ‘housing benefit’ is available to those who are prepared to expose themselves to the scrutiny of agents of the collective, and are able to prove to their satisfaction that they have no saved or inherited capital, etc.

Whenever a ‘benefit’ is provided by the state on abusive terms it can be ‘stripped out’ from the supposed ‘cost of living’ – meaning cost of keeping physically alive without being able to do anything.

So the cost of ‘medicine’ can be stripped out by those in charge of pension legislation, as well as ‘housing’, because you are supposed to find the NHS an acceptable substitute for what you might previously have been able to get by paying for it.

When the state pension became means-tested, the part you had of right, with no questions asked, started to fall in real terms, even more than it had been doing. In effect this meant that the ‘basic’ state pension itself became means-tested, since those pensioners who qualified for the new ‘benefit’ – pension credit etc. were also eligible for other ‘benefits’. So, in the eyes of those in charge of pension legislation, there was no need to consider, as part of the cost of living of un-means-tested pensioners, anything which they could get as a ‘benefit’ if they became ‘means-tested’ pensioners who qualified for other ‘benefits’.

The impact of increased fuel costs on pensioners is another cost which the pension legislators can disregard because those pensioners who qualify for the supplementary pension are able to go on the ‘social tariff’. (See earlier post.)

Another fuel-cost reducing ‘benefit’ for which those who qualify for certain other benefits are eligible, including those qualifying for the means-tested part of the pension, is a loft insulation allowance to cover the cost of insulating your house so that your energy consumption, and hence fuel bills, will be reduced. But those who only receive the ‘basic’ (non-means-tested) part of the state pension do not qualify for this.

The state pension was the only ‘benefit’ available ‘as of right’ once the qualifying contributions had been paid, and no doubt this fact was resented, and the intention was and is still to let it ‘wither on the vine’.

When the Crossman Scheme was introduced in 1970, the aim was supposed to be to provide a state pension of about half the average national wage. The average national wage is now about £25K, and if Charles McCreery and I were each receiving half of it, we would have £25K between us with which to continue working towards setting up our independent institution.

It would certainly grease the wheels better than the £10K we now receive between us, although it would not go far towards setting up and running an academic institution, in which to commence our proper forty-year academic careers.

When I was at the Society for Psychical Research in the early sixties, ‘graduated contributions’ were deducted from my tiny salary and I was sent pieces of paper telling me that I would receive so many pence a year extra (earnings-related) pension one day.

This certainly gave the impression that the eventual pension was supposed to be comparable with that provided by a commercial contributory scheme, as did the fact that businesses could only ‘contract out’ of the state pension system by setting up a really generous and well-run alternative.

What does it matter what impression was given, or even what statements were made? The idea lapsed long ago that an individual needed to know what was legal and what was not, so that he could plan his affairs in view of his own interests as he conceived them to be.

Arthur Seldon, discussing a 1957 report entitled ‘National Superannuation’, says:

The new graduated pension was not designed to have a financial fund, as those on which occupational schemes are based. Then what was to be the pensioner’s guarantee? ‘... confidence can be placed in the survival in perpetuity of a government in Britain.’ From a political scientist of Mr. Crossman’s stature, this is a claim that not everyone will accept ... ‘The State,’ said Aneurin Bevan in 1954, ‘is a sovereign body and can alter the terms of the contract when it wishes without asking anybody. It did in 1931, and it has done it over and over again.’ (Arthur Seldon, The Great Pensions ‘ Swindle’, 1970, pp. 67-68.)

The relevant departments of my unfunded independent university are effectively censored and suppressed. They have been prevented for decades from publishing analyses of the complex issues involved, while misleading and tendentious representations of them have continued to flood out from socially recognised sources. I hereby apply, for financial support on a scale at least adequate for one active and fully financed university research department, to all universities, and to corporations or individuals who consider themselves to be in a position to give support to socially recognised academic establishments.