A Listener editorial warns against the inter-generational war that politicians exploit, in particular, Winston Peters.
When it comes to inter-generational warfare, it is up to political leaders to be peace activists. Few debates are more pointless and depleting of nationhood and goodwill than those that involve the crude and sometimes cruel objectification of an entire generation. “Gen Y kids are too sheltered.” ”Baby boomers are greedy.”The discussion about wealth redistribution and the role age plays is an entirely legitimate one. Greece should have engaged in it a long time ago. So I am quite happy for Winston to go about his special pleading for the elderly because it wakes up younger generations to how big government is. What's that saying? A government big enough to give you all you want is a government big enough to take it away, or words to that effect. That has literally come to pass for the Greeks.
None of us has any say over when we are born. Most of us do our best with the set of socio-economic cards we’re dealt. How we get on, singly or en masse, is not even necessarily within our control.
Yet the political rewards of pandering to one generation at the expense of others can be considerable for those wanting to divide and conquer. It’s in this militant vein that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is attacking attempts to curtail the fiscal burden of SuperGold Card entitlements. He has railed against the Government and local authorities continuing to cap discounts on buses, trains and the Waiheke ferry with a ferocity he should reserve for actual elder abuse.
To be fair, this is political territory he has legitimately carved out for himself. He has long made a virtue of defending the rights of the over-sixties, and they have rewarded him with a remarkably consistent show of support over his 22 years as New Zealand First founder and leader. His extraction from the Clark Labour Government of a scheme to give those aged 65 and older free non-peak travel on public transport is perhaps his crowning achievement. The card is a busy fulcrum for other discounts, and pensioners appreciate both the gesture and increasingly the reality of free daytime travel.
But they, and Peters in his influential advocacy, have a wider duty to consider the fair limits of these benefits. Yes, free travel does help reduce the isolation and loneliness older people can suffer. Over time they may lose the ability to drive; their network of friends shrinks; their partners die. Few New Zealanders would begrudge the very real benefits of a SuperGold Card subsidy.
However, in vigorously decrying the notion of any limits to this bounty, Peters and the grey lobby are inviting a nasty backlash. As with so many pithy social-equity debates, Auckland is ground zero for resentment. When Lycra-clad retirees are highly visible touring Waiheke vineyards on their pricey bicycles at taxpayers’ expense, while young families are struggling to heat their homes and afford fares to work and school, something has to give. Does the baby-boom generation really want to invoke the wrath of younger taxpayers, who could one day choose to turn off the superannuation tap?
I did have another fleeting thought about inter generational resentment and family members being pitched against one another. It was sparked by a comment on the article. Within the group of 65+ there are actually two different generations. two generations very unlike each other. In fact there may even be 3 at the margins. It is entirely possible someone over 100 (there are apparently more than five hundred) has a grand child collecting Super. There's a thought.