Congratulations, you have the worst pension system in Europe!

[Thursday]

Those who defend the British state, against the self-determination of the nations that comprise it, consistently make the case that working people benefit from this imperial construct and its ill-gotten gains and that without it they would be impoverished without.

But as it stands, senior citizens are struggling to get by as inflation grows, and the government isn’t too worried about the millions of senior citizens who will spend the last years of their lives struggling to survive on poverty pensions

The UK’s state pension system has been named as the worst in the European Union for the second year running in a survey by Aon Consulting.

British pensioners receive a pension equivalent to just 17% of average earnings, the lowest level in Europe, and well below the average of 57%.

Aon says the “inadequacy” of the UK’s state system is “beyond question”.

Here’s how the Morning Star covered it in a suitably angry editorial:

Stingiest in Europe
(Tuesday 13 November 2007)

IF Britain’s state pensioners were to be guaranteed a pension of 30 per cent of average earnings, they would imagine that all their birthdays and Christmases had arrived at once.

But that would still be on a par with the second-worst state pension in the European Union – the Netherlands.

First prize for stinginess goes, of course, to Britain, where the Tories, under Margaret Thatcher, broke the link between the state pension and average earnings shortly after being elected in 1979 and new Labour has steadfastly refused to honour its opposition commitment to restore it.

Pensions Reform Minister Mike O’Brien believes that this reality is misleading because our pensions system is “different” from other EU states.

He’s damned right that it is. The rest of the EU stood by its postwar welfare reforms whereas neoliberal radicals Mrs Thatcher and Gordon Brown have been dedicated to the twin dogmas of a slimmed-down state and individual responsibility.

And so, while senior citizens across the EU enjoy a post-retirement income of half average earnings, we continue to accept the shameful situation of 2.5 million pensioners living below the poverty line.

The government continues to blame imaginary phenomena such as a “demographic time bomb” for this scandal.

Far more accurate to blame new Labour’s refusal to make the rich pay their fair share of taxation, its fixation with handing over public funds to the private sector through privatisation and PFI schemes, its obsession with backing US-led imperialist wars or its clueless determination to waste billions on replacing its spurious nuclear “deterrent.”

How encouraging for pensioners who have to spend most of winter in bed to keep warm to know that, at least, they remain protected from invasion, courtesy of Britain’s weapons of mass destruction.

Of course, this deterrent won’t protect them or anyone else from the terrorist threat that has emerged in response to our government’s backing for illegal wars against Muslim countries.

If there is anything worse than our government’s attempts to persuade other EU states to back overseas wars, it is its proselytisation for globalised neoliberalism, the false religion that he shares with the White House and the EU commission.

This has already brought about a situation where other European countries have joined new Labour in an assault on previously agreed pension provisions.

Germany, France, Italy and Portugal are just some of the EU states that have seen mass protests and strikes against plans to defer workers’ retirement age and to reduce pensions entitlements.

Governments and employers chant the same chorus that workers’ rights, which were conceded when trade unions and left-wing parties were more influential, are no longer affordable.

Isn’t it strange, however, that the copper-bottomed final-salary pensions schemes that are enjoyed by MPs, High Court judges and company directors remain eminently affordable? The obstacle holding up a decent state pension for all is not lack of finance. It’s lack of political will.

The idea that Britain, the fourth or fifth biggest economy in the world, cannot afford justice for pensioners is too preposterous for words. What we cannot afford is perpetuation of this injustice.

Another coded crisis warning from Mervyn King

[Thursday]

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, has spoken publicly for the first time since the run on Northern Rock, outlining the problems facing the UK economy from the perspective of the ruling class.

The Bank of England has warned of a number of risks to the UK economy next year, in comments that analysts have said point to lower interest rates.

In its quarterly Inflation Report, the Bank forecast the economy would slow in 2008 and inflation would accelerate.

The worry felt by millions of people – workers, students, pensioners, and small businesspeople – appears to be spreading to the elite – though the concerns are radically different, of course. For the ruling class, there is concern about the future, for workers, the concern is about the present.

Prices are rising as growth forecasts are being cut but the markets have yet to be fully “corrected” and this worries the Guvnor. The longer it takes, the worse it’s going to be – a sharp fall in share prices could mark the start of a downward spiral in which rash decisions on war could be taken by the world powers.

It’s not looking good:

HUGE petrol and food price increases have pushed up the UK cost of living, cutting workers’ wages and living standards.

The Office of National Statistics confirmed yesterday that the costs of food factories had risen by 6 per cent in the last year.

It is now estimated that this increase, the highest annual rate since 1993, will lead to food costs increasing by £1,000 per annum for the average working class family.

In the face of this onslaught the UK official inflation rate rise to 2.1 per cent in October, breaching the government’s 2 per cent target, was taken as a complete understatement of the real inflation rate.

This figure was up from September’s rate of 1.8 per cent, while the official RPI inflation measure, which counts mortgage interest payments, rose to 4.2 per cent in October, from 3.9 per cent.

Bad enough as it is, this figure is also being taken as a complete understatement.

In the real world, petrol pump prices rose by 2.7 pence per litre in October, reflecting the increase in fuel duty that came into effect on the first of the month, the ONS (Office of National Statistics) said.

Oil prices remain close to record highs near $100 a barrel, and the average price of petrol rose above £1 per litre last week.

Massive hikes in the prices of meat, fruit, breads and cereals also led to an increase in food costs, the ONS said.

On Monday, data showed that rising petrol, chemicals and food prices had sent factory gate inflation to the highest rate for nearly 12 years.

Meanwhile, an emergency meeting of the Road Haulage Association yesterday signalled that the UK is on the brink of huge fuel price protests as thousands of hauliers go bust.

The days of cheap credit and low-cost imports are ending. The British ruling class won’t be able to put off confrontation with workers, but a the same time any direct fights could further entrench the Disunited Kingdom, as the nationalist parties offer social democratic reforms to win support for independence, and also further jeopardise Labour’s link to the trade unions, without which free and independent trade unionism would flourish.

We are certainly entering a period of grave economic crisis in the UK…