Update: Now Matthew Parris has joined other middle-class writers having a go at Baby Boomers in his piece headlined “Fight back youngsters. Gran is mugging you” in the Times (15 June 2013). Just because a young teenage conservative had a go at him at a speaking engagement he felt the need to publicise David Willetts’ book on how the baby boomers stole their children’s future.
It’s a load of rubbish if you think about it as it was the politicians who sold our gold, allowed banks to oversell about every financial product they produced, and generally f*!*!*d us over.
He says 2/3 of benefits goes to pensioners, not migrants or the unemployed. I object to calling our pensions benefits as baby boomers worked all their lives to earn that pension and then have to pay tax on it!
Needless to say there was a backlash in the letters column the following week. One correspondent echoed my own sentiments telling the young to “stop bleating, toughen up and get on with it”. There was also a pice by a columnist in one of the Sunday papers (I’ve mislaid the article) also rebutting Parris’s piece by referring to her own elderly parents and how they were coping with life in austerity Britain on their pensions..
There has been a spate of stories over the last couple of years about how lucky baby boomers are and how they make it difficult for the current generation.
I’m sick of hearing it, and of people like Jeremy Paxman moaning about his “shame” about causing the next generation to suffer.
So when I read Valerie Grove’s piece in the Times today I thought at last someone biting back.
Do you think baby boomers ie those born in the aftermath of the second world war, had it easy? Well we didn’t.
We didn’t have a free NHS until 1948 and women had to pay for ante-natal care for their babies.
We might have had free school milk and orange juice but as Grove reminds us we had sweet rationing until 1953.
In fact rationing was worse after the war as the country struggled to recover. Bread rationing was introduced in 1946 (until 1948) and potato rationing a year later after the deep snow and hard frost in the Winter of 1946/7 destroyed crops and the ground was so hard that farmers had to use pickaxes and pneumatic drills to get vegetables out of the ground.
Clothes rationing was stopped in 1949, petrol rationing in 1949, sweets and sugar rationing in1953 and met and all other food rationing ended in the Summer of 1954.
She was right about Xmas presents too: a book, often an annual, and a tangerine was typical.
Large school classes sitting in rows with the brightest at the back. No political correctness about upsetting less bright pupils. And regular visits from nit nurses.
One pair of shoes, darned socks. A pair of pumps for PE if you were lucky otherwise bare feet. NHS glasses in brown or pink frames (before they were considered trendy). Designer clothes? More likely grandma’s needlework and knitting.
We might have had the run of the nearby country side if we were lucky but we also had poor air quality with smog, so thick you couldn’t see 10 yards in front of you, (before smoke control legislation was introduced in 1956 & 1968) contributing to premature deaths.
You probably had more chance of a job when you left school at sixteen (fifteen if you weren’t at a grammar or high school) but wages were low. Clerical jobs in the public sector started at £250 – a year. OK you were included in the pension scheme when you were 18 but in those days public sector pay was lower than the private sector even at the top. None of the inflated salaries paid to CEOs in the public sector nowadays
Twenty years later we had an economic crisis following the closure of the Suez canal and dock strikes and the then PM Harold Wilson devalued the pound famously saying that the pound in your pocket would stay the same, and it would put an end to a “boom and bust economy” (so Gordon Brown didn’t make up that phrase!). And even 30 years on it wasn’t much better. Wages were still low and inflation high. We’d had the terrible Winter of 1973.
Getting a mortgage wasn’t easy – you had to have at least 10% deposit and if your wife worked you might be lucky to have part of her salary taken into account but women have babies and were expected to give up work. Even teachers and nurses.
And 60 years on many baby boomers are part of the sandwich generation. Still supporting their own children and in many cases caring for their own longer-living parents.
Baby boomers’ grandparents probably lived to see their grandchildren grow up and maybe have children of their own. Today’s generation will be lucky if they have any grandparents alive when they grow up and get married as their parents often put children on hold for their careers and they themselves get married later. So something else for them to moan about when they don’t have built-in baby-sitters.
And the thing that really annoys me is the young generation’s sense of entitlement. That just wasn’t part of the equation for baby boomers. If you wanted something you worked hard for it, studied at night school unless you were one of the lucky minority to go to university, and worked two jobs. There was no bank of Mummy and Daddy. Stress was unheard of.
Baby boomers have probably lived through the greatest period of social change in modern times. We enjoyed the sixties through music and the freedom to dress up a bit, although it wasn’t all sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll by any means. Not everyone had a car or even a telephone, and foreign holidays and package tours were unheard of for most people until the sixties.
Many of us have final salary pensions – something available to fewer people now due in part to companies not topping up pension pots when things were going well, and deciding they could no longer afford them when times were hard, and thanks in no small part to the government turning a blind eye to greedy bankers who made sure they were well set up for their retirement.
So all I’m saying is we worked hard all our lives, paid taxes on modest salaries, had to make do without, saved for our retirement by having a mortgaged house, receive a poor state pension (the worst in Europe by a long way and half that of the Netherlands, the next lowest) and a modest occupational pension if we are lucky.
So if you think that’s unfair? Tough, get over it. We had to.