Raising super age not on

A Senior Moment... with Tom O'Connor

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Attacks on the so-called boomer population, those people born in the years immediately after World War 2, belong in a poverty-stricken Third World dictatorship, not New Zealand.
Claims that it is necessary to lift the age of entitlement for national superannuation because the scheme has become unaffordable are an ill-founded mantra of the far right with no solid evidence to support it.
The other comment, that the baby boomers have “had all the good years and left nothing for anyone else”, is equally inaccurate. Both are classic examples of using deliberate misinformation to create a division between them and those of the millennial generation, those born after 1982.
The generation now in their retirement years and the one before them built the hydro dams and the industrial infrastructure that underpin today’s thriving economy. Certainly they earned good wages but they worked hard in dangerous industries and paid massive taxes, up to 33%, to fund those developments.
Many did not live long enough to collect national superannuation and that includes high numbers of Maori and Pasifika people. A portion of the big taxes they paid was, supposedly, set aside, by agreement with government and matched with a government contribution, to fund national superannuation.
The government suspended payments into the scheme in 2008 and still gave the pension to immigrants after only 10 years’ residency in New Zealand, so it is a bit rich to now suggest the scheme is unaffordable.
National superannuation is not a benefit or a charity and amounts to less than 4% of GDP. Even if the amount now paid doubles over the next 20 years, GDP will probably increase by a similar amount or more.
To even suggest that those people in physically demanding occupations should carry on working until 67 is simply unacceptable in a country as wealthy as New Zealand.
There are only 4million of us but we produce enough food, agricultural produce and industrial goods to feed and provide for an estimated 34million. That makes us enormously wealthy by any measure. For us to have hungry schoolchildren, homeless families and old people forced to work until 67 because we can’t afford their meagre pension is simply unacceptable in a civilised country.
There is much more to this important conversation than the cost of national superannuation. We also need to look at the system of distributing the nation’s collective wealth, particularly at those large national and international corporations that do not pay their fair share of taxes. We also have a growing number of extremely wealthy individuals who pay little in taxes.
Unless there are dramatic changes to the low-wage economy we have had since the 1980s, the millennial generation will not be able to put much aside for retirement. It is the future national superannuation of these people we must ensure is protected from the political fundamentalists.
For that to happen, the millennial generation will have to stand alongside the baby boomers and send a very clear message to all candidates in the general election later this year.
Tom O’Connor is a retired journalist, political commentator and vice-president of Grey Power Timaru.