Friday, June 5, 2020

Henry Armstrong: The Ardern Government and Ageism - fact or fallacy?

This article is purely speculative, a conspiracy theory if you will. But as an over 70, I cannot help but feel just a little uneasy at what I see and read in today’s media, regarding us oldies. What do footpaths; access to health; and taxation, all have in common? Read on!

Several recent comments by the Prime Minister , members of her Cabinet and her professional advisers  during the COVID19 pandemic crisis  suggest that lurking just below the surface of the political landscape may be an ageist agenda? That the elderly pose an economic burden on future generations?

Prior to lockdown, her Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter crowed publicly that “Old White Men” needed to “move aside” on boards, presumably to make way for their antithesis descriptor- “young, ethnic, females”?

What she was emphasising of course was that there needs to be, in her and her colleagues views, more “diversity” on boards. She did not stipulate which boards she was referring to-boards of charitable organisations; State- Owned Enterprise boards and public sector organisations; or boards of private sector companies, both closely-held (family-owned) or listed Stock Exchange companies.

To compound her biases, these remarks were made to a group of 10-year olds at a Christchurch school!

The question of whether identity or diversity per se  should  supersede merit (ie skills, knowledge, experience, qualifications) as a prerequisite for board appointments,( or indeed access to elective surgery, it transpires) is a question for another time.

Then, her Green Party colleague, Chloe Swarbrick, blurted out her infamous “OK Boomer” response to interjectors in Parliament (it turns out the interjector was the new Leader of the National Party, Todd Muller).Seems Chloe has a real problem with older people, such as the baby boomer generation.

When challenged on the former issue, Ms Ardern responded that she had full confidence in her ministers. In her response she referred to us older persons as “this demographic”.

In a statement on post COVID19 issues, the Prime minister stated she was aware of the “intergenerational” effects of the economic cost of COVID19 which will fall upon the younger population. This focus on the younger generation bearing the costs of COVID19 was repeated verbatim, ad nauseam, by the Co-leader of the Green Party a few days later.

Neither the PM nor Shaw realise that at any given time, those earning wages and salaries will be the major economic contributors to whatever economic crisis is extant at that time. Just as today’s older generation bore the brunt of post WW2 economic restructuring and more recent recessions, including various  global financial crises. In 25 years time, both Ardern and Shaw could be on the Government Super (if indeed it lasts that long), and it will be their children’s generation who will bear the economic burdens of whatever financial crisis exists then.

Stupid, ignorant politicians seem reluctant to acknowledge that demographic and socio-economic bands are actually static - not dynamic - and the various categories of each will, by and large, be always with us.

For example, those on the lowest socio-economic band today will not be the same people in that category in a year or two’s time. Some of the low-paid will have been promoted or moved up in their earnings to the next band, their places being taken by school leavers and the new unemployed. Those who are unemployed today may well have secured jobs or moved overseas, etc. Some beneficiaries may well have changed their status and no longer fall into the lowest socio-economic band.

The point is, it is extremely misleading and disingenuous, indeed dishonest, to infer that only today’s young will have to bear the economic burden of COVID19.

If retirees have savings, they are already taxed on the interest. If they dispose of an investment property within 5 years, they will pay the capital gains Brightline tax. Their Government Superannuation is already taxed at source. Retirees also pay GST on every purchase. Their tax status remains until they expire, so how can they possibly be a burden? Oh, forgot - this “demographic” is more likely to need medical attention, isn’t it?

So what? Our health system is supposed to be available on the basis of need, is it not? Not necessarily, if we are to believe very recent statements from DHBs that they have been directed by the Ardern-led government to prioritise ethnicity as a component in elective surgery requirements.

The inference, particularly from the Greens, is that the elderly are an economic burden. Not unexpectedly, there are murmurings on the Left about the unsustainability of the Government Superannuation Scheme. The age of eligibility should be raised - also a National policy; compulsory retirement at 65 years (regardless of contributions and experience from this “demographic”); either work or retire on the Super, but not both; and suggestions of a range of taxation measures - capital gains tax (again); inheritance tax, and ominously from the Reserve Bank Governor, tax on savings. But hold on, are not savings taxed when earned, then taxed again on interest earned? And the Reserve Bank Governor muses about taxing savings? Three bites of the same cherry?

On top of all this are suggestions that the Government Superannuation entitlement should be means-tested, along the same lines that rest home costs only attract a government subsidy after a means test. Only oldies reside in rest homes.

Looking at these suggestions, it is very clear that it is the elderly who, having planned for their retirement as urged by successive governments over the years, now have their assets, savings  and investments  viewed  as a significant ongoing source of government taxation revenues.

Let's switch back to health - a subject with which most elderly people are confronted every day. During COVID19 people aged over 70 years were in a sense locked up, not down. On the basis that the age of 70  correlates to a higher chance of catching the virus, people aged 69 years and 11 months were still able to hold down jobs - but not one month later. The point surely is not the chronological age of a person but their general health and propensity to catch the virus.

Certain DHBs suspended surgery for the over-70s also, arguing that this magical age meant one was more vulnerable. The same argument was used by different ethnic groups to establish illegal roadblocks on public roads. Yet vulnerable communities exist everywhere, including my own street where 80% of my neighbours are well over 70.

Perhaps the most ominous statement by far was the proposal by  Professor Baker from Otago University for “protective sequestration” or relocating the elderly to a specific region or an island (can you believe it!) for their protection! Looking at the sad results from NZ rest homes which account for almost all COVID19 deaths in New Zealand, a whole demographic (to use Ardern’s terminology), would have been wiped out if the virus happened to infect this group on their island or in their region. Is this not the same argument used to justify the illegal roadblocks? That is, to protect vulnerable (ethnic) communities?

Well, that is one way to ensure the elderly do not continue to be a burden on society. Then, of course, we have the End of Life Choice Bill to consider - surely not another opportunity for the elderly to feel  they are a burden on society and perhaps should just end it all? Especially if one is in chronic, unbearable, pain? No consideration of the magnificent work done by hospices?

I almost forgot the footpaths. Before Parliament is a proposal to allow e-scooters and cyclists (including e-bikes) to use public footpaths instead of roads and cycleways.  Another “environmentally-friendly” scheme wholly supported by the idiotic Green Party.

During the COVID19 crisis, especially during Alert levels 4 and 3, we were all “encouraged”, (or was that “required”?) to stay home but, like the local kindergarten, we were permitted to go out for walkies.

Who used the footpaths during the pandemic?

Young mothers with toddlers in tow; people of all ages walking dogs on leads (and in most cases, dealing with their calling cards); elderly folk on mobility scooters, often with a dog or companion alongside; elderly folk using zimmer frames on wheels; small children on trikes and mini-bikes (legal ones); people who are intellectually impaired; people who have impaired eyesight and hearing; many walkers using aids; and so on.

The proposal includes allowing e-scooters and cyclists to travel up to 15 kph. So, will we see the police using their hand-held speed  cameras ensuring the speed limit is strictly enforced? And when an oldie is hit by and seriously injured, possibly killed, by one of these speedsters, where does liability lie? Who will be to blame?

What utter foolishness to even consider allowing such dangers on our footpaths - and again it could well be the oldies who bear the cost. 

This article is entirely speculative, as I pointed out at the beginning. Surely, any suggestion that the government has an ageist agenda is a fallacy, a conspiracy theory, nonsense? Surely, the elderly (and all the other footpath users) are treasured by their kin and by society, and not viewed as either a burden on society, or another source of tax revenue, or a “demographic” to be fobbed off by our government?


Henry Armstrong is retired, follows politics, and writes.


Doug Longmire said...

That is an excellent article Henry. And - No I do not think you are being paranoid. I have noticed a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle bigotry towards those of us born then. Constant niggly comments about, for example, "millionaires" being paid the power subsidy. (That was Mike Hosking).
As the woke tell us:-
"Discriminating against anybody on their gender, race or age is wrong !!!
(Why can't you stale, pale males get that?) "

Ray S said...

Oh, I love this article, being a "70 plus" burden myself, my own thoughts and observations are reflected here.
Shipping oldies, or boomers, to an offshore island smacks of cattle car transportation in the 1930 and early 40's.
As for the dangerous ramblings of the Greens and some of Labour,if it weren't for the fact they wont be around much longer, I would be a bit concerned about my own future, such as it is.
All that is happening now and in the future, its almost enough to make voting for Winstone worthwhile.

Peter said...

An impressive article.

The National Party got my ire too over this.

Simon Bridges standing in parliament and raving about a rise in superannuation for pensioners. That included members of his own elected officials . Ms Dean (Waitaki) spoke at a meeting last year proudly announcing that she received Government Superannuation.
The power subsidy though - so easy to make it a grant that is applied for, why the blanket addition?
The lolly scrabble is widening - hark there is an election on the horizon. Nice to see Simon moved along.

Unknown said...

All that the piece says are true however there is another point of view. It seems that where ever the virus strikes older people are more vulnerable. Thus all the lock downs have protected the older generation. The lock downs have also caused huge disruptions in the economy, seems to have had serious mental health implications and have disrupted education. Today's young people are losing their jobs, are receiving lower quality education and will have to repay all the government's borrowings.
Superficially this government is playing to a young audience, actually it's saved us oldies.

Pete said...

We have had mobility scooters on our footpaths for a long time with no license or medical fitness certificate required. Would seem sensible to restrict ALL electric vehicles allowed on footpaths to 7kph, which equals a fast walking pace.

Mary-Ann said...

Excellent article not speculative at all. As stated even being on a pension we are still paying tax on everything. Another matter of contention to me is the shared footpath.When shared footpath was mentioned by Ann genter I emailed her and told her it was totally ridiculous. Being Dutch descendant in the Netherlands there are separate cycle ways and that is the only way to keep walkers who use what is called a footpath safe. I walk a lot and the times I have almost been bold over by adult cyclists is not funny. Little kids no problem but once old enough to understand road rules stay off the footpath.

Anonymous said...

What the "woke" young people don't seem to corrolate is that their parents are also heading towards the "burden" years , -if not already there, and in fact (surprise surprise) so are they themselves! How will the poor darlings take that? Or do they think that time stands still for their generation?

mangawhio said...

While i don't agree with everything here (if a cyclist hits a pedestrian, someone gets hurt; if a motor vehicle hits a cyclist, someone gets killed) it's sound common sense. My suggestion to solce the elderly medical "problem" is to allow us to collect the pension overseas. Currently, it gets cut off if you're out of the country more than 6 months. I can live happily on $300 a week in Indonesia, for example, and would be one less "burden" on the NZ health system.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting and revealing to undertake a net cost analysis of superannuation - balancing what is paid out to the over sixties with the tax take from that group. Maybe it will prove to be affordable after all.

Geoff said...

"White" over 70, paid taxes for 44 years and saved a bit for new hip or something else which might wear out start leaking or fall off, how many "crimes" can anyone commit without being locked up?
I suspect that all of us criminals are about to be punished, not locked up, just very heavily fined. When you live in an island nation which is a 3 1/2 flight from you nearest neighbour, locking the nation down is easy, but the money to repay that, that she has showered around like confetti has to come from somewhere, the economy is not going to be rebuilt with a few smiles and empathetic words.

Barry said...

Well said Henry and don't think for moment that your observations aren't on the agendas of our very left leaning Government. I too are now beginning to believe that all of a sudden I am now "OLD" and fall into the category of being an apparent burden on society, and whats more even dare to confirm that at the age of 72 a should be retired builder is still working and paying tax.

Maggi said...

Great article. The "70 age" really upset me. I am well over 70 but fit and healthy, in fact a lot healthier than many people 20 years younger.I feel that the government should be taken to task over discriminating a certain age and it amazes me that this has not been done so under the Human Rights (I have tried). It was the people who had compromised health that needed to be careful and I do believe they were aware of this, being adults!
I wonder how the economy would be if you were to take all the "old people" away, who spend hours doing unpaid voluntary work. Yes, we may get superannuation but many of us give this back to society via voluntary work which the government would have to pay for if we were caged up!
Most people cannot understand what it is to get old - this is just the norm. Afterall, even we could not understand it when we were young. But to blatantly throw it in our faces, as this government has and is doing, is very hard to take.

Anonymous said...

As far as I'm aware I've pre-paid for my soon to be medical costs through years of work. I am also required (according to advertising) to spare my adult children the burden of paying for my funeral, even though due to hard work and sacrifice, they are university educated and earn more than I ever could in a life time.
I'm surprised they don't round us all up and ship us to some outpost - oh, yeah..they need the money they keep taxing us.

Anonymous said...

nd don't forget Jacinda's "generational change" platform during the election. I felt that was very significant in showing her attitude towards dismissing the older generation.