THE SATURDAY ESSAY: where the culpability on State pension foot-shuffling really lies

pensionisland

UPDATED @ 15.30 pm CET:

Frances Coppola has asked me to point out, since this post first appeared, that I typed ‘Fortune’ instead of ‘Forbes’ twice. I have changed this, although would point out that a very clear link had been given to her piece at the start of my essay. She has also asked me to remove the words ‘blame the women’ in the concluding paragraph. This I have also done, but while pointing out her own words about ‘older people’.

Ms Coppola has stated on Twitter that I ‘must’ revise the piece. I will not do this beyond the revisions mentioned above.

In the 35 minutes since my post went up, she has sent me 15 notifications, accusations and demands. Only two of them make any sense to me; the others include:

  1. That I imply her article is about WASPI. Her contention here is that because MY article uses WASPI in the headline, HERS must ergo be about WASPI. I struggle with that one given the previous paragraph specifically says ‘Twitter’, but readers must decide for themselves
  2. That my piece is full of factual errors. It is not, but again I leave the decision on that to you.

I have also received these tweets supportive of Ms Coppola’s position:

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I’m afraid I don’t find ‘busted’, ‘shit on your shoes’ ‘issue take down notice’ as especially redolent of free speech. I do not propose to make any further revisions to the content below. The only thing revised in my mind is the previously very high opinion I had of Frances Coppola.

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A few of you on Twitter may have noticed, over the last few days, a spirited and at times angry debate going on about State pensions. Only a few of you followed it because (a) most of the contention concerns the UK’s approach to it and (b) most of you aren’t women aged from roughly 57-61. It is a truism of contemporary government in the West that not all minorities are equal….and the ability to govern successfully consists of not angering too many vocal people at any one time. But this doesn’t make the anger of those affected by the dashing of perfectly understandable expectations go away.

 

My italicising of ‘perfectly understandable expectations’ there is what separates the protagonists in the debate. The shades of opinion that are immediately involved I would describe as Frances Coppola, ideological apologists, the UK pro-women lobbying group WASPI, and one or two other folks, one of whom is me. As such, they are not homogenous as thinkers, nor do they approach the issue from the same starting blocks. Twas ever thus.

 

Frances has just published a well-researched essay at Forbes explaining, in her view, how and why the problem has arisen, and concluding that

‘it would help if older people stopped making demands for restoration of the entitlements of the past. Those days are gone, and the future will be very different.’

The specific purpose of my post today is to contest three assertions: first, that the problem can only be solved by a retreat by government from the benefits offered; second, that the ‘losers’ referred to in her Forbes piece – not the word I would’ve chosen – had plenty of notice about retreats; and third, that future benefits must come largely or solely from private/Bourse owned corporate entities.

Overall, however, I think the State pension dilemma is part of a broader argument about the role of government within what I regard as the seriously flawed economic model in vogue today. I will therefore also try to point out where and how radical econo-political reform can question the TINA syndrome – There Is No Alternative – if the policy priorities are justifiably challenged.

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The potted history of State old-age insurance provision offered by Ms Coppola deserves everyone’s attention (not least that of the politician) because it sets out dispassionately and largely without ideological syntax what happened, when, and how it was a quasi-actuarial package based on assumptions about participation levels.

My departure from that narrative begins with what I see as a zero-blame analysis casually applied to the creation of the postwar Welfare State. I have felt for nigh on thirty years that the 1946 Act was based on simplistic assumption, incompetent projection, and typically mendacious political presentation. I know that hindsight is a wonderful thing, but from the outset it was clear to many in Whitehall – and in a still socially reforming Tory Party with new intake – that Labour had pledged to do the impossible.

The first assumption – that it would remain something only used by relatively small numbers of people – ran against the massive developments in pharmaceuticals accelerated by the catalyst of war injuries….notably antibiotics, the study of skin damage, the causes of dehydration, brain surgery, and immunisation against disease. The second – that population trends would remain unchanged – was not only counter-intuitive, it flew in the face of evidence the Health Ministry already had about the meteoric rise in VD and illegitimate births.

Conversely, thinkers like R A Butler had already pointed to the mismatch between wartime marriage rates (growing) and marital fertility (falling): it is after all quite hard to impregnate one’s wife from the Rhine, Monte Cassino or Burma. The relaxation of sexual mores and the returning sex-starved soldiers produced an unprecedented explosion of pregnancy from 1944 onwards that led to my generation being called The Boomers. Although not foreseen, it was quickly recognised….and then ignored for half a century.

By 1950, it was clear to every actuary, demographer and his dog that both the size and age segmentation of the victorious Allied populations was going to change dramatically. It must also have been to the political class, but on the whole they did nothing to address the problem – or plan for the changes. In fact, quite the opposite: the Attlee Government (of whom I remain, on the whole, an admirer) produced information films that were quite staggering hostages to fortune in terms of the promises being made under the banner of ‘Cradle to Grave’ care.

On his reelection to power in 1951, Churchill talked of “setting the People free” from red tape and onerous taxes, while in private warning colleagues that to reverse the Attlee Welfare legislation was unthinkable. Mind you, he also knew full well the horrendous size of British wartime debt….he’d negotiated quite a lot of it. But far from trying to manage expectations, he praised (as a former Edwardian Liberal) the State Pension provision at every opportunity.

The three leaders who followed him – Eden, Macmillan and Douglas-Home – also did nothing. However, where the demographic needs were obvious and immediate – in housing and education – Macmillan in particular put it to electoral use….sweeping to reelection in 1959 under the infamous slogan You’ve never had it so good. The politician uses short-term good news to continue is access to power. Such is, I feel, at the core of the pension provision problem.

I apologise for making these latter points at some length, but they represent the central theme of this piece which, if I may suggest, is missing from Ms Coppola’s Forbes post. That is, pulling out dry Government Acts from the post 1990 era, and suggesting they represent ‘clear warnings’, is unjustifiable in the face of the universal assumptions Boomers grew up with – thanks to the mendacious short-term balm handed out by both Parties from 1950-90.

Those who today call themselves WASPIS were unforgivably encouraged, by almost every politician in the country, towards a belief in cast-iron guaranteed pensions for men at 65, and for women at 60. That undiluted encouragement extended way past even Margaret Thatcher…none of whose administrations even hinted at changing the pension age.

The vacuum of Truth over those four decades is easily explained: the political Establishment knew that any attack on State pension provision or age was electoral suicide. Having created and nurtured the myth of ad infinitum, they cynically chose power over reality: politicians compounded the crime of baseless security by continuing to cover up the crime.

Such is the nature of elective democracy. But in that context, promoting the counsel of caveat emptor not only doesn’t cut it: it is an insult to ordinary citizens to suggest that they should pay for the sleazy denialism of those they pay to tell them what’s what. Even my elder brother Mike – a bloke miles to the Right of me politically – told me way back around the turn of the century, “the first arsehole who tries to welch on my State Pension, I’m off up to the attic in search of Dad’s service revolver”. Like me, he’s comfortably off – he doesn’t need the State pension. He’s also a decent man who detests deceit. For both of us, it’s a question of history and principle. (I’m delighted to record that Mike now has his pension, and so the police, MI6 and GCHQ can reduce their preparedness levels accordingly).

The counter-argument to WASPI accusations of sharp practice has been floated by Frances and others on Twitter as, in précis, ‘entitlement is negated by the fact that NI contributions would never have funded the State pensions of today’.

This I find an oddly obtuse bit of logic. It presupposes that Derek and Linda Boomer sat around all day chewing the fat about multiples of £9.67 contributions made since 1964 while making due allowance for variable inflation and interest rates and changes in the definition of RPI over that period.

I posted recently  to the effect that 37 years of helping devise marketing strategies for financial institutions taught me why 9 out of ten Western consumers see money, insurance, pensions and credit as a means to an end….and the jargon that goes with it as both boring and impenetrable. The reason for that is – unlike those of us gripped by this witches’ brew of half truth and obfuscation called finance – they have a real life.

The bottom line for WASPI knockers is “yer shoulda seen it comin’, kid”. Well, I’m sorry, but it just won’t wash. A good contemporary analogy, I think, is that of the banking community (egged on by the likes of UK Chancellor George Osborne) suddenly announcing to us in 2011 that, far from being its customers and/or depositors, we are in reality creditors with no right of redress if and when heavily bonused employees choose to fritter away our life savings on mezzanine investments in tartan paint futures and racehorse derivatives.

Technically, historically and legally they’re quite correct. It’s just that, during half a century of moving my accounts, signing up to income bonds, opening accounts and shifting deposits around, I have no recall of this ever being pointed out to me by any bank employee of any bank anywhere at any time. You see, there is an ocean of crystal clear water between a bank in selling and bailin mode. The same is true of politicians and pensions.

I can remember almost to the month – it was definitely 1978 – when my first private sector assurance client Ambassador Life pointed out to me that there was no State pension fund at all. I’d been employed in advertising for nearly twenty years, with a degree behind me and a supposedly well above average IQ. The client contact – a very nice man with the best of intentions and an enormous capacity for wine – then proceeded to show me that 93% of the UK population also lacked awareness of the hand-to-mouth nature of UK State pension provision. In the light of that it is arch, is it not, to point out that the I in NI stands for ‘Insurance’, not ‘Inviolate’.

In fact, the ever-clever George Osborne recently dropped the NI nomenclature, replacing it with the ridiculous term ‘Earnings Tax’. He has yet to explain to his fellow Brits what the difference is between earnings and income for a private individual taxpayer, but that doesn’t allay suspicions about why he did it…and why his 2013 Budget Speech failed to mention the move. Clearly, his advisers had told him that promising insurance was a bad idea.

That aside, the National Insurance ‘stamp’ (as was) covered three hugely disparate and massively complex life likelihoods – retirement, ill health and unemployment. It is and always has been (until very recently) assumed by the overwhelming majority of the electorate that this one monthly instalment would suffice to keep them out of the unsheltered ditch. Above all else, this gives the lie to any ideas about citizen comprehension of just how big a con this was. Are we now to blame the innocent citizen for political sociopathy? When reviewing such repeated falsehoods spanning 83% of their lifespan, do we pronounce 60 year old women the culprits in this crime? This would seem to me not so much harsh judgement as handy excuse.

 

That point allows me to segue neatly into the vexed issue – towards the end of this 75 year exploitation of planned ignorance – of what constitutes a reasonable period of notice about change. I would argue that it is on this penultimate issue that Frances stands condemned by her own historical narrative in the relevant Forbes piece. Note this edited but in no way selective or misleading extract (my italicised emphases):

‘The Pensions Act 1995 ended the anomalous early retirement of women, progressively raising women’s pension age to 65….In 2008, the Labour government raised the pension age for both men and women by between 1 and 3 years depending on age…..But in 2011, a new austerity-minded government – under pressure from the EU – brought forward completion of equalisation by two years so that the additional rise could be completed by 2020…. The UK’s state pension has also been radically reformed in the 2014 Pensions Act.’

There are three points to make here. First, Frances rightly states that these changes on the whole benefit women more than men. But second, it has not been ‘very clear’ since 1995 that these changes would come into effect as they have. As she points out, there have been several often contradictory and mealy-mouthed announcements in 2008, 2011, and then yet again in 2014. And third, the idea was to complete the process by 2020: here we are at the start of 2016, and the changes are way ahead of anything projected in 2008, let alone 1995.

In short, the future has been anything but ‘very clear’ since 1995 – it has been muddied and hurried. Far from having twenty years notice, the WASPIs have had at best seven and at worst eighteen months notice.

The net result is that, after between 40 and 45 years of contribution and assumption (depending on educational level) these women were given seven years to work out how to do without six years of promised money. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when any bank, government department, trade union, Minister of State, senior Mandarin, media celebrity or Cabinet Office might be offered such a ‘deal’. It may not represent fraud in a legal sense, but it is cynical, razor-sharp practice on both ethical and compassionate grounds.

Again, the standard “what else would you expect from politicians?” won’t do. What we should all expect as law-abiding citizens – we being the mugs who pay for the privilege of having these gargoyles lie to us year in year out – is something better.

 

Finally, I find the ‘TINA’ dismissal of alternatives for the future decidedly linear – and too passive given the culpability involved. I repeat: Frances’s assertion towards the end of her Forbes article that ‘it would help if older people stopped making demands for restoration of the entitlements of the past’ because ‘Those days are gone, and the future will be very different’ needs deconstructing.

I have spent a good deal of this post arguing that, far from being plastered with health warnings, the ‘Old Age Pension’ in Britain was for over sixty years positioned as an immutable promise – not on paper perhaps, but certainly through the speeches made – and cultural expectations generated – by the political class. Referring to these expectations as ‘entitlements of the past’ is disingenuous in the extreme. The fact that contributions were woefully insufficient was a fundamental flaw denied and then pushed back by politicians. Changing the pension entitlement with even twenty years to go on a 46-year term (let alone diluting it further until four years before the end) would not be accepted by any regulator in the private sector, and it shouldn’t be here.

The evidence shows clearly that it would not help if older people stopped making demands – because governments deal with passive resistance in the time-honoured manner: they ignore it. Our nurses, police and aged-care workers can vouch for that.

As for the days of old age compassion having gone for good, I think the future is rarely ‘more of the same’. My combined fiscal, economic and social extrapolation from thirty years of Friedmanism in general is that it eats its own customers in the end.

As for the UK in particular, the Conservative Party that so enthusiastically embraces global monopolism now is going to find that history a terrible cross to bear when the chickens come home. Much depends on immensely complex (and at times farcical) sovereignty issues in Great Britain; but mostly, it depends on the unsustainable debt we have and our decidedly shaky banking system on the one hand….and the both divided and divisive nature of the Opposition to neoliberal economics on the other.

There are alternatives, but these are discouraged – as they were in the recent Twitter debate, where pure assertion about how a better way of funding old age provision out of government expenditure was rejected as “impossible….that’s why it was always done out of cashflow”. One hears this a lot in life: ‘It’s so difficult I don’t know where to start, so I won’t’.

In fact, while Frances rightly points up that over 62% of all expenditure goes on social welfare, there are bigger problems with Britain’s expenditure budget than sharing it out.

First, the waste remains enormous, and the Civil Service far too expensive in terms of its wage cost and (ironically) pension commitments. The back-of-envelope ego-trips like HS2 and Connecting for Health over the last decade alone add up to an annual NHS budget. Second, the amount taken in tax from the larger corporate and multinational sector is a scandal going back nearly thirty years, and averages out at a 4.5% net business tax rate sitting alongside a 17.7% rate for the private individual. None of this, of course, includes the vast stagnant pool of tax evaded by higher earners by offshore plans.

[I don’t oppose the idea of larger corporate entities providing employee pension savings schemes by law, but let’s be realistic about the problems: it would be fiercely resisted if any corporate contributions were involved, and governments would back down; the wealth spreads in the UK (and say Greece) are now so stark, there’s no point in a pension scheme 35% of people can’t afford to pay into; and the track record so far of big business in this area is at best weasely and at worst criminal.]

Third, the tax take is suffering from wage levels and hours reduced for the mass of the population, and the continuing inability of the banking system to lend to SMEs, thereby setting up the next wave of growth. This is a failure both of political competence and ideological piffle: 73% of all UK output is in services, and 80% of those are financial; six years ago, Britain’s manufacturing sector was 11%, today it is 8.5%; and wealth has not trickled down to stimulate consumption, it has gushed upwards to freeze it. Unemployment is no longer a numbers game, but the US Congress and UK Parliament pretend it is. The fall in money earned by the less well-off via underemployment is yet another form of the cannibalism that typifies Globalist Friedmanism: less money earned means less tax taken, period.

Finally, the UK’s HMRC has to be the most inefficient, low-quality employee, waste of time tax collection unit on the planet. Possibly the worst one in the Galaxy, but I lack the data to verify that. For obvious reasons I cannot quote the source, but a very highly regarded management systems consultancy reported to the Government at the end of last year that over 80% of all quibbles about and investigations of private individuals during the 2012-13 tax year resulted in a net loss to the HMRC, and of these a staggering three quarters were to do with sums less than £1500.

Every government in the end – no matter how meagre its tax intake – decides how to spend the total. That means they must be accountable for the decisions taken. The record of governments in this regard since 1970 is nothing short of risible, in that not a single potentially pointless cost outflow has been tackled.

From a loss-making relationship with the EU via nuclear defence and ‘sacred cow’ attitudes to yes, the NHS…..all options have been eschewed in favour of cuts in fire services, welfare, ground troops, aircraft carriers, student support, social services, paramedic services, hospital beds available and police numbers. The first duty of any liberal democratic government is to protect its citizens: successive British governments over the decades have chosen instead to protect the status quo, and be as devious as possible about the malign effect on ordinary people.

The idea that ‘there is no alternative’ to a radical rethink on Budget priorities is a myth. For reasons of nuclear portability alone (about which of course we must not speak) pouring yet more money into our archaic nuclear defence system is pure puffed-up strutting on a world stage where our bit-part these days is the old buffoon with no lines asleep in the armchair stage back and left. The NHS must be radically reformed but also protected – from the nasty Troika of Whitehall, Westminster, and Wall Street. The obvious solution is mutuality alongside means testing, the latter of which is claimed to be impossible and yet seems to be a doddle for the French and Germans. The annual upkeep cost of this alone could entirely reshape the use of Britain’s tax take.

My argument is simple but mould-breaking: take more tax, gather it more efficiently, be bold in changing expenditure priorities, cut waste, and above all increase ‘the market’ for paying tax by changing economic strategy. Perhaps Frances Coppola might call this pie-in-a-blue-sky stuff, but then she did write in her recent post about the mid 1940s that ‘Women earned less than men, and their contributory pensions were correspondingly lower. Instead of addressing the problem of women’s lower income directly, they were given an earlier retirement age’. That really is looking at 1947 from the viewpoint of a feminist in 2016, and is perhaps also connected to Frances’s assertion that ‘At this time, working class women did full-time physically demanding jobs, just as their husbands did’ and yet also managed ‘to have a baby every year’.

I don’t think so: after 1939, they were at work in munitions and the civil service, but that was a wartime thing – the average level of all female employment outside the home during the 1930s was 10%, let alone ‘fulltime’ jobs.

As for ‘a baby every year’, well – that would have made the 1944-49 Baby Boom look like a popgun by comparison. It’s hyperbole, nothing more.

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Of all the expectations given a severe drubbing by rigid ideology and greed over the last forty years, the one thing lost above all else is trust. Looking across a spectrum of leaders and providers from all shades of profession is a depressing process. Priests abusing children, police sucking up to politicians, media owners spying on us, Ministers lying to us, equality before the law disappearing, the rule of Law being ignored, ‘reasons for war’ being faked, rates manipulated, commodities manipulated, Bureaucrats and bankers raping Greece, MEPs failing to declare personal interests in privatisation….it goes on forever.

I have said from the outset that The Slog is politically unaligned, and it remains that way because our culture is the problem: mendacious politics and commerce are merely a symptom of the malaise. I do not subscribe to any ideology with the exception of the social and mental secular side of Buddhism, but I do have some solid convictions. Chief among these are first, that somehow – and it is going to be a long process – trust in motive needs to be restored; and second, trust in the principle of accountability needs to be seen to apply to everyone in public life.

Perhaps this is why myself and those in the Frances Coppola camp have an ongoing debate on State pension provision that, at best, sounds like the dialogue in Pinter plays. It feels at times like we are arguing for or against the relative virtues of eggs and mice in the process of constructing a door, where one side wants the door for security, and the other so its windows can let more light in.

No issue is an Island. Frances I feel wants to justify how we got to here and then find a pragmatic solution. I want to condemn how we got to here, and then show how we can make a long-term difference with a more radical realism. For me it is merely another obstacle to put in the way of fascism before it’s too late…..and that option is removed.

Fascism is a vastly overused and rarely understood term: the casual use of “fascist” as an insult by the Left over half a century has resulted in the term now being, for many people, synonymous with little boys crying wolf. By fascism I mean what it is: the fusion of business and State with a view to reducing criticism and increasing progress, efficiency, output, land area, national self-respect or whatever other spurious rationale its promoters choose to come up with.

In the mid 1970s, the UK very nearly fell victim to Stalinist fascism. Today, we are moving towards Corporate fascism of a far worse kind, only this time with universal surveillance behind it. Removing justified citizen expectation is one among many tentacles dragging us closer to the monster’s beak. On the issue of State pensions, Frances chooses to accuse the betrayed recipients of ‘not helping’. I choose to blame the State. I don’t think that makes us necessarily on opposite sides. But it does illustrate very clearly why our priorities (and aims) are different.

 

Also related at The Slog: When not being radical is an extreme policy

56 thoughts on “THE SATURDAY ESSAY: where the culpability on State pension foot-shuffling really lies

  1. The £500Bn odd we have ‘donated’ to the EU since we joined might have gone some way towards resolving the problem financially but, as stated, we need fundamental reform, and that’s going to take more than’s on the table at present.

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  2. Mrs Rawlinson says she agrees broadly with your post but takes issue with the fact that women were not told early enough. She remembers at school in the early 70s being made aware that she would not be able to retire at 60 and live on the state pension. Have we earnt enough to fund adequate additional private pensions? Not quite! She agrees with you and not FC about the way forward. Happy New Year to you and all Sloggers.

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  3. Spending on benefits administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is expected to be about £171 billion in 2015/16 (23% of public spending), of which about £90 billion is expected to be paid out in the State Pension.
    This doesn’t include the costs of administering the benefits (such as staff and IT costs).
    The DWP doesn’t manage everything people might count as ‘social benefits’. Child Benefit and Guardian’s Allowance account for £11 billion a year and are managed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
    War pensions—which cost about £900 million in 2013/14—are managed by the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency, which is part of the Ministry of Defence.
    Tax credits are also paid out by HMRC to eligible people on low incomes and some people who have children.
    HMRC is forecast to pay out about £30 billion in tax credits this year. Including them alongside benefits and pensions payouts gives a total of £217 billion, 29% of public spending.
    So we can see that Pensions are the largest component of the Welfare Budget which falls under the stewardship of Ian Duncan-Smith . The major concern of the UK electorate was that govt. spending was far too high, and much more than we could afford as a nation. The Tory party were guided to victory unexpectedly by Sir Lynton Crosby.
    The people have now got what they voted for, and that is cuts to welfare as opposed to mass redundancies in the public sector so it’s too late to whinge now. A culling of jobsworths would have been a better decision, but we know that these politicians are , in a word, traitors.

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  4. Thank you, dear John, for understanding so well.

    On top of everything else we WASPIs are having to deal with, being told by Ms. Coppola, and others, that it’s our own fault not only beggars belief, but also truly hurts us to the very soul, for many, many of us are struggling deeply, some are suicidal, all feel repulsively betrayed, spat on and left to endure this hell alone, whilst some choose to blame and laugh at us.

    God forbid we ever get to A Coppola Future, where old people aren’t even allowed to tell The Young Cubs of How It Once Was…

    Already many are giving up on State Pensions, meekly accepting they’ll either not be eligible until in their 70s, or, worse, never have one at all. This is terrifying, but it shows you how well these Cold Hearted Financiers have done their job….

    It also shows you the truth and wisdom in the tale of the Native Americans, of The Wild Wolf who is captured and put into a cage. She spends the rest of her life trying to escape, to get back to The Wild, to the FREEDOM that she KNOWS is still out there. Her cubs though are born into captivity, and thus, they never try to escape, ever, simply accepting their new life.

    THAT is what is going on.

    You see, Frances, we ‘old’ people ARE The Wild Wolves and we will NEVER stop fighting for our freedom, NEVER stop talking of the past, EXPECTING to have what we were promised….We will NEVER stop yelling out/shouting out, inspiring The Cubs to fight too…

    It was a week or so ago that I left a message on one of the answerphones of a DWP minister. His aide kindly rang me back, to explain he could do nothing, me not being a constituent. We got into a long conversation. I was, at that time, extremely low and deeply emotional and started to cry. This young man, in his early 30s, changed tack and immediately became sympathetic, throwing aside the Party line….But he also started to open up to me…and it transpired that he was one of The Cubs, meekly accepting he’d have to work for the rest of his life, most probably.

    That’s when my tears stopped and I became angry and protective of him, turning back into being The Wild Wolf that I am, and always will be, in my soul. I told him of this story, then told him How It Used To Be, pointed out the insanity of all that these Cutthroats, Crooks and Conmen are doing, spending £MillionsOfBILLIONS on INSANE ideas, whilst probably under the influence of Cocaine, or some Psychopathic/Sociopathic Orgasmic Desire….and little by little he began to become too.

    I told him that it does NOT have to be how they are predicting at all..and then, I got into The Indigenous Peoples, how they look after each other, care for each other, live their lives to the rules of The Circle, not to The Triangle, as we do, where the few at the top have everything, despising all those below them. Where Bullies & Emotionally Dead Humans rule over the rest of us, making our lives utterly miserable and so stressed….

    We parted as friends…both changed from coming into contact with each other….

    I so hope that some of my wildness found it’s way into his Cub’s Heart, as some of his Cub’s Unhappiness found it’s way into mine, inspiring *me* to keep fighting.

    We have been foully and appallingly treated, criminally so…and all those who have done this to us should be brought before the European Court of Human Rights, especially Ian Duncan Smith, for the shocking impact they’ve had on the lives of their fellow humans, whilst all living the lives of Reilly themselves, safe, rich, protected, disconnected and disassociated.

    They are the ‘I’m Alright Jack’ humans, who couldn’t give a damn about anyone but their own….

    So, Frances, you’ll excuse me for being a Wild Wolf and for ALWAYS fighting against YOUR kind of future, for the rest of my days, for MY kind of future is the one my Darlin’ Dad went to war for in 1939, that of a better country, where ALL are cared for and where the kind of brain patterns which gave rise to The Nazi Party are NEVER again allowed to become leaders.

    Sadly, at present, those kind of brain patters ARE in power in this country..and we need to get them out, once and for all, as soon as possible.

    I hope that The Pensions Robbery will be Cameron’s Downfall, as The Poll Tax was with Thatcher…

    I SINCERELY hope that Duncan Smith is made to face the very people whose lives he’s blown apart…and in an ideal world, that they themselves could mete out their own punishment upon him. Many of them, sadly, are already dead, no longer choosing to live in the kind of country he is creating, their hope gone, their joy gone, their lives….gone.

    No-one, but NO-ONE has the right to do this to their fellow human beings and we will not heal as a country, nor a world, until we have got these cold-hearted humans OUT of ALL positions of power.

    Again, thank you for writing this, my friend.
    I know that you have a truly good heart and a deep understanding and compassion for those less fortunate than yourself.

    Mitakuye Oyasin

    With love
    Lizzie

    PS: This is for Frances and ‘her brave new world’ fromJohn Trudell, Native American activist, poet and wisdom keeper, who sadly died on December 8th 2015.

    “The Great Lie is that it is ‘civilization’. It’s not civilized, it has been literally the most bloodthirsty brutalizing system ever imposed upon this planet. That is NOT civilization that’s “the great lie.” The great lie is that it represents ‘CIVILIZATION.’ That’s the great lie, or if it does represent civilization and it’s truly what civilization is; then the great lie is that civilization is good for us.”

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  5. In answer to ‘Sir Henry’, please, tell your wife that I too was at school in the 70s and not a single word was ever said about pensions, of any kind whatsoever, nor pension age. Thank you.

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  6. And one last thing, for those who may not be aware, Steve Webb, former pensions minister, admitted, just a few weeks ago, that his department had made a big mistake in what they did, causing many women a lot of suffering. He went to Cameron and Osborne to plead with them to reverse this decision, but, surprise, surprise, they chose to turn away.

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  7. Nicely written despite my not having seen (or care about) the original Forbes article.

    As with many of your pieces, your views resonate & represent many of mine, although I sill have no idea how to express them. None of the donkeys standing for any office around here, local or national, ever get my vote for any positive reason. I can only ever vote against some of the more useless ‘useful idiots’.

    Macmillan seems to be getting a bad press elsewhere, maybe as part of the general rewriting of history that seems to be going on. He never actually said “You’ve never had it so good”. That was a journalistic adaptation. According to the BBC archive, he said; “Indeed let us be frank about it – most of our people have never had it so good”, something which would have been a statement of fact at the time. I remember when the standard working week went from 48h to 42h & my dad (self employed boot & shoe repairer) declaring that it was “blokes like me who will have to pick up the pieces”. Despite that, Dad had met him somewhere in the past (doorstep & campaign tour?) & said he was the kind of officer you’d want to have in front of you, so he always supported him.

    Have a good and suitably self sufficient 2016.

    Like

  8. Capitalism & especially neoliberal form can never proved a quality of living standards to the many for health & pension provision to be anything but beyond them! depravity is the order of the day,the cost of NI was always to low & certainly a % of NI should have gone to building a national trust fund for it! We are heading for a century of stagnation & what few realise is the extermination of humanity in doing so!

    Like

  9. This article cum discussion seems to prove that generalisations are dangerous to make – whether on behalf of ‘women’, ‘government’ as fleeting teams of elected individuals, ‘State’ as fairly long-term institution or ‘money’ the most evil invention around.

    ‘Survival’ of individuals, however, is at stake – as nicely represented by your pic, John. That’s what I can identify with, ever since my pension was cut in May 2015, I was arrested twice, my flat raided twice and property seized, with me on ‘Police gag’ for seven months – without being charged. Anything vaguely electronic, even though the ‘criminal suspicion’ is ‘malicious communication’ which is entirely online.

    So the goal was to have a pretext for crippling me FINANCIALLY by stopping payments and OPERATIONALLY by stealing my computers – in defence of ‘vested interests’… When the State lets you down, people must help each other, whether women, taxpayers or passive income earners.

    Like

  10. “if older people stopped making demands for restoration of the entitlements of the past”

    THE PUNCHLINE IS BEFORE YOU READ TOO THE END:-
    You are not getting a reduction in taxes or a refund to offset that which is now being dismantled.

    Have no problem with that … government can refund all they have taken IN FULL! Government can squeal like a pig then as the money is not there they spent it. They should not have taken all the monies in one form or another promising pensons, healthcare and education.

    The biggest elephant in the room is actually the golden pension sector of government employees across the board, far higher than ordinary people will ever get in the private sector, all legislated entitlement.This is the con, government taxes you, promises you things so you do not care about the taxation. Well if we are to move to this system then taxes == 0 on everything and that includes VAT, so people can provide for themselves. Seeing as people at the bottom are so cash strapped you are not having the likes of the police, armed forces, gchq, justice system etc. etc. all the mercs neither that ensure government can do as it wishes. (THE LAST BIT IS WHAT IS UNAFFORDABLE BECAUSE WE ARE PAYING THROUGH TAXATION FOR THE TOTALITARIAN STATE AND THAT COST IS RAPIDLY ESCALATING and that is not pensions, healthcare and education).

    WE NEED TO DISMANTLE THE TOTALITARIAN STATE ON UNAFFORDABILITY so the money is relased for the three things they are dismantling. In the end you have none of the three anymore BUT YOU ARE STILL PAYING FOR THE TOTALITARIAN STATE that only has worth to a person such as Erdogan, Cameron’s buddy.

    In a pleasant world I should only pay for those services that are of benefit to me and not anothers, includes government and all its minions. Me like so many others have been conned by government and all that is happening today is government is renaging on all past promises (the fact is the money has been stolen), wether they should have made these promises or not is not the issue it is the continual lies and deceit that Cameron is really good at.

    Like

  11. For a certain woman, now frothing at the mouth:

    NEVER mess with a mind far more articulate and intelligent than your own, else you will find yourself becoming AS upset as those *you* have upset with *your* words and insinuations.

    BRILLIANT article, John, as stated before…

    Like

  12. A poor man’s salute to Thomas Hobbes:

    The state of nature still pertains, where evil governance grips the reins;
    No social contract can reverse, when those in power scheme so perverse.

    Like

  13. The betrayal is staggering. I would not mind paying more of my income to taxation if I could trust that it would not be stolen to pay interest to private banks on a fraudulently incurred debt. A scheme similar to the Bradbury pound or Canada’s pre-1974 central bank in combination with a sovereign wealth fund accumulated from the natural bounty of North Sea oil, (such as that of Norway) would have made this problem moot.

    I find it instructive that sufficient government funds are readily available to rescue failing banks. There never seems to be problem funding the purchase of fuel and munitions to rubble-ise those few remaining sovereign states that are ‘unenlightened’ enough to allow private central banking.

    http://ellenbrown.com/2013/09/04/making-the-world-safe-for-banksters-syria-in-the-cross-hairs/

    JW, some would say that it is a pity others don’t have the attitude of your brother. The abuse of the powerless by the powerful is only restrained by the fear of insurrection. Something about liberty and a government fearing the people comes to mind. (Wouldn’t want to lose the N.V. from the N.V.E.)

    Like

  14. Pingback: When the #State lets us down, people can help each other with #socialmarketing | Victims Unite!

  15. Exellent peice JW. Agree with all that . It has made life very difficult for some of the 50,000 or so women affected by this very shoddy and not quite lawful treatment of an agreement entered into many years ago. We have a saying in the Cotswolds ” if you shout – you stand” and that is what is wrong , they have welched on the deal and revealed themselves to be untrustworthy
    It’s not critical to my wife but it is a tad unfair that she will be 30,000 worse off than her friend born a couple of months earlier.
    The larger problem should be plain to all and as you say should have been honestly addressed years ago . I believe life expectancy for males was about 70 at the inception of the OAP so on that basis alone, needed a serious rework years ago.
    We have had such appalling governance for so many years.
    38 Degrees did have a petition going about the women’s pension issue .

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  16. It has been my understanding that state pensions are funded by deposits from workers and their employers with government acting as a collection and disbursement agency. Instead of the money being put into an escrow account or invested, it was spent by governmental agencies on their own projects. The pensions of retirees were to be paid from the monies taken from new employees. It is no more than a giant ponzi scheme.

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  17. From memory John: Was it Lloyd George whose t the retirement age at 65? Most working class folk dead by that age. The other great wheeze was/is non contribute pensions. Got personal evidence stuff on this one!
    Also the our contributions to other types of schemes…consumed by reward payments and unrealistic salaries for a bit of clerking.
    John you should add another star to satisfaction reward box!

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  18. Everything is affordable,it just means changes to other values,it is the destruction of wages that destroyed everything,even these saving bubbles are illusions!

    Like

  19. If a free woman in a free country expresses a personal opinion about her own Government pension arrangements and it inflames a man enough for him to compare her to ‘shit on shoe, not easy to remove’ then I perceive that UK politics is in a sorry state.

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  20. Susan Reversing:

    Ian A: Seriously these guys are like shit on your shoe. They just stink up everything and are impossible to remove.

    Your comment is intriguing, are we perhaps missing something?

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  21. This looks like a shout from the emancipated women liberation camp, used to having everything their own way for too long.
    Seems the tide is turning – and rightly so.

    Like

  22. As an intransigent but recent visitor to this site, I offer this observation about the medium of twitter. Years ago, having joined twitter for a look see, I was surprised to learn that my prisoner account could only be closed 30 days after wishing to leave. I had very rapidly come to the conclusion that twitter was heavily censored with a strong link to government cronies that could and would, and that it was a pointless exercise used by self serving jumped up, ignorant nobodies, unaware of their real position in the third dimension. My impression of a twitter user is a neon badge of unthinking disimportance, bound by the chains and cages of modern life, whilst being of the impression of being as free as a bird.

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  23. Well put.

    It seems like some people don’t cope well with reasoned opposition to their ideas.

    I think your analysis is sound.

    Like

  24. As Aneurin Bevan said in 1946 “The great secret about the National Insurance Fund is that there ain’t no fund”

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  25. Coppola & Co are a curious bunch who seem to have some sort of nasty, vindictive & utterly illogical gripe against older women. The motivation and behaviour of her and her “friends” on twitter is lost on me.

    There’s no more elucidation with her Forbes article.

    When it comes down to it she’s just doing something akin to smacking mature women on the back of the head and saying “Pensions were always a shambles. No one dealt with it and you should have seen it coming. You’re dumb as a brick if you thought you’d get a pension at the date you were always told it was due. If you didn’t appreciate the demographic timebomb would affect you then serves you right. If you didn’t know how it would affect you then tough. You shouldn’t have expected the government to do the right thing. Just suck it up and take the pain. ”

    She’s not grasped the fact that the WASPI campaign is not about whether or not pensions can be afforded. Neither is it about whether people / women should have seen it coming. Nor is it about whether women had other pension provisions or savings. Whether they had good careers and a good life and money and financial independence or whether they were irresponsible spenders or poverty stricken and utterly dependent on social welfare.

    Rather this is about a shoddy implementation of a critical change that unfairly and financially affected a specific population group and without any regard or sufficient proper notice to explain WHAT was happening and WHEN.

    Coppola’s more “considered” and “well researched” article in Forbes is therefore superfluous and irrelevent. Frankly the history of why there’s a pensions timebomb ONLY leads to summising that political decisions should have been taken properly and in timely fashion and there should have a clear plan with regard to implementation and communication. It should have been on every political manifesto. High and first on the agenda within the Civil Service and public sector generally (where pensions are “excessive” and inaffordable). The subject of a raft of communictions using a multitude of channels and then ultimately honing down to TIMELY clear, well written letters to affected individuals and giving them notice and guidance about what they might want to consider and do next.

    The fact that a “new austerity minded government” happened along and took the difficult decision does not and should not mean they can just do what they want and how they want.

    Colour me cynical but I’m of the view that the reason why this was a shambolic implementation without proper communication is because it was a politically hard decssion and a difficult message. Couple that with the fact that the DWP is a dysfunctional organisation captained by the inept and driven by slaves to broken processes and there’s a disaster waiting to happen.

    Put plainly there was negligence and failure to inform and communicated to those affected until it was too damn late for them to do anything about it! In my case just the year before my previously “due date” to retire. The group that was first affected weren’t told at all that they’d have to wait for state pension until just before they were due to get it and that meant that they’d been planning and preparing for something that wasn’t going to happen.

    Coppola and her cronies claim to be pensions and financial pro’s. As such they should know that long term planning and preparation is the critical thing. Of course no-one but no-one is going to have a good life IF they’re going to be entirely and utterly dependent on state pension. I always knew that and was in a position whereby I had earnings which meant I could make additional provision but I did so with an expectation that over and above my private pensions and savings would be a weekly sum of SPA payable from aged 60 and precisely as the DWP had told me.

    Coppola et al are the sort that give the finance sector and pensions planning a bad name: Selfish and arrogant and superior and don’t give a toss about others and can’t even grasp simple concepts and realities.

    Like

  26. The Labour Party decision under Blair to provide benefits on the basis of “need” rather than contribution is surely at the heart of people’s thoughts on future provision; what an absolute mess

    Like

  27. PS Just read Coppola’s rant at Coppola Comment.

    In her concluding remarks in the piece she states, “But it would help if older people stopped making demands for restoration of the entitlements of the past.” For all the world to see the woman is hoist with her own petard. And her response to being ‘busted’ is that the lady doth protest too much, methinks.

    She should add ‘government apologist’ to her bio and stop pretending otherwise.

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  28. There is part of me that thinks we are behaving as the current UK government would wish. Their tactics, as such they are, appear to avoid outright confrontation, but instead whittle away at a portion of society unable to muster sufficient general support for equitable restitution. This is not partisan, but a personnel view of how easily those in Authority manipulate us.

    Given the time constraints, & lack of finance, & the deep seated conservatism for what was a whole scale National & Global “Leep in the Dark”, I’m sure Aneurin Bevan, borrowed the best working model for “The welfare State” that had been promised. To my mind, a worthy step on our conceptual road to equanimity. It struggled for the same reason as the “Euro” project to my mind. It didn’t scale.

    So “What went Wrong”, to my eye’s we, the recipient of the gift stopped cherishing & recognising the worthiness of the concept. It was a good concept that was not improved upon. I listen to people, who would without it have died or had little or a chronically reduced quality of life, deride it for it’s lack of efficacy.

    Back to my original point, that is, that in a world of “woods” this has become an argument about “trees”. I also believe that objectivity is illusory, & subjectivity is all we posses. What I see here is two arguments towards addressing a similar, if not same, greater end.

    All the tribal, & to be frank, Playground like shouts of “Fight, Fight!” side drawing, is wasting energy that should be addressing the bigger issues.

    Final point being, you are, & historicly conforming to others plans, IMHO.

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  29. I invested some dosh with a local financial and pension planning company.It took me 12 months but with the help I got from the Financial Ombudsman I recovered all they money plus interest they lost in 6 months . I stupidly thought they knew what they were doing.
    I tend to keep a bucket of urine handy now , just in case one ever comes knocking on my door.

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  30. hoo4hearted – That is a truly excellent post and sums her up brilliantly! Why *anyone* would want to try and harm the WASPI campaign, I’ve no idea. She was also threatening the WASPI twitter page with being taken down, so she said on her page a few days back, which incensed me even more!

    I left some messages on her blog earlier. She told me that in this instance, she’d leave my messages up, but I was not to be rude to her again and must stay on topic. So, I removed all my posts. I don’t do control freaks, nor will I ever be told how or what to write, as it drives me bats!

    I’m just so very upset that someone could set themselves up to try and demean and cause harm to such a serious situation, when the WASPI campaigners have been wonderful at what they’re doing, working so hard for everyone, putting their lives on hold to do this, literally, for all of us.

    Many of us are in a very, very grim situation now, losing hope, feeling deeply anxious…and the last thing we need is to have a cold-hearted human making out this is all *our* fault. PFFFFFFFT!

    Anyways ups, your post is truly excellent.

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  31. Happy 2016 to all Sloggers.

    A great piece John and +10 to Canexpat and many others.

    Remove the right to create money from private banks (QE for thr people). Introduce Land Value Tax (you can’t hide land). Social Credit (won’t work without LVT). Bold thinking required but not a chance in hell with all the vested interests ranged against any meaninful reform. I think only a total collapse will bring it about which is why we have the vast extension of state power and surveillance.

    Re Fascism ; as one brought up in a hard left working class family (some even communist), I was taught a knee jerk reaction to all things Fascist and in particular all known Fascist Politicians. Only much later I came upon a quotation by Richard Crossman a Labour politician and cabinet minister under Harold Wilson and noted Zionist.

    “Mosley was spurned by Whitehall, Fleet Street and every party leader at Westminster simply and solely because he was right.” No doubt, as Crossman added, he was spurned because he “was prepared to discard the orthodoxies of democratic politics and to break with the bankers of high finance in order to conquer unemployment,”

    I personally could never be doing with all that marching about in jackboots and black uniforms stuff but I do think they may have had some insights into the real workings of international finance. Which is why of course they were obliterated.

    Will sign off preparing to be banned for thoughtcrime.

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  32. Having read this and Cappola’s article several times, with occasional glimpses into other forum I think this article has substance and detail worthy of note. It may well be that the criticism made of it arises out of a need for the ‘entitled’ to keep apace. After all, it’s merely a few years ago that we as a nation were told that disabled people and unemployed people believed they were ‘entitled’ to everything. Of course this purulent ideology hid who the ‘real entitled’ actually were – and they are still, all in position today – the government , out of control, with only 25% of the vote to hold them up, the bankers, the rich, untroubled elites, the media and our friendly celebs (who can do no wrong is distracting the populace).
    John, not Anthony as highlighted on another blog, you appear to have provided the detail missing in Coppola’s article – it maybe that she assumed the detail was understood – don’t know – so the fussy retort to your comments seems somewhat out of place and certainly not user friendly, a bit schoolmaamish, perhaps but then we all get that from people who are better than us!!!!

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  33. sorry
    “we all get that from people who are better than us!!!!” should be “…who think/ believe they are better than us” – fits their ideological framework

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  34. Jack jones in his retirement had the right idea! Get the biggest voting bloc in this country motivated to use their voting power to get us pensioners prospective or actual out on the streets, to make a change, it can be done. Pastures fresh eh!

    Like

  35. The Hidden Hand… If there was a like button I’d use it for your post :) Though rather than being a government “apologist” I’d say she makes no apology and just does the “shut up! F* off. You’re paying for bad planning so get over it”

    Bill Gruff – you sum up my thoughts with your comment about “whittling away a portion of society unable to muster sufficient general support for equitable restitution. ” I’m torn on opinion with the WASPI campaign. Good they’ve managed to muster support and get a debate but how the heck is it ONLY a paltry 102,600 that’s signed. Heck there’s more signed to ban sugery drinks ! More signed to say they want kids allowed to have 2 weeks holiday within school term time! As a woman, it pains me to say this but they really have picked on a portion that is ineffective in using it’s voice. This shambolic change affected a lot of women… where the heck are they? Each and every one? Also WHAT are they asking for? What will success look like? Have they got a strategy with an end goal or are they just going with a begging bowl saying “more please”?

    I know when I received my letter (15 months notice) I pushed it and ultimately made formal complaint about the DWP to Cabinet Office and to my MP. Women I know said “what’s the point”! Often sadly after “what change?” and even with really irritating things like “my husband deals with things like that” or “I don’t know anything about pension” :/

    In my case I just did an additional 15 days work to pick up the financial loss so for me it’s not about poverty and dependence. But I was thoroughly pissed off that the DWP didn’t bother to tell me properly at all and for sure not in timely fashion and then when I complained it irritated the heck out of me that I got a letter saying they’d have liked to have told me sooner but they’d been busy and were going through a lot of change! What a bunch of tossers! I’m working my guts out paying high rate tax for these morons to be paid for turning up!

    Lizzie – I’d NEVER get upset by the likes of FC. But then I’ve worked at main board level in a macho world and including within banking and finance and I know damned well I’ll never be a victim. I can do control freaks. I confess to being one! If she’d told me to take down posts then I’d have taken it as a compliment. For sure I wouldn’t have taken down posts or edited… UNLESS she’d drawn my attention to something that was factually incorrect or made me look dumb as a brick. Conversing with her is akin to poking a wasps nest with a stick. Push her buttons and she’ll snap. Think of it as “it worked” perverse pleasure.

    IF she’s threatened to “take down the WASPI page” then I’m curious to know what they’ve done about that. Do they have a legal fund and appropriate legal advice in case there’s any litigation? I ask because I’ve offered – but got no reply

    I’m not “grateful” for WASPI organisers in the same way you are. I really don’t do the “thank you for giving up your life and I’m really appreciative for anything you do” But as I said I don’t do victims and neither do I do martrys. I’m sincerely hopeful that they’re organised and clear about what they’re looking to achieve as a minimal. But I don’t know whether or not they are. I do know however that they’re not efficient or great at getting effectively organised and saying precisely what they need and want. I hope they’ve got not only anecdotal evidence about “hardship” but actual genuine kpi’s about the implementation along the lines of that collected by Paul Lewis: who was written to and when and saying what and critically important who had less than 10, 5, 2 years notice. How many letters were returned (address not known) blah blah blah. I sincerely hope that they’re successful in being heard and in having this important matter reconsidered.

    FC blocked me way back when I had one of her whacko pension pro “friends” suggest that I shouldn’t even be interested in women’s pensions because I’m well off and like the finer things in life! Seems those whackos think that excludes you from being an advocate and supporter of those who are more vulnerable and from being an activist for rights and fair treatment.

    In my career I’ve actually said it took a special sort of person to be a pensions expert: Ordinarily devoid of any personality or emotional intelligence. I’ve kind of said it as a bit of a joke but the thing about stereotypes is that they often exist for a reason and they sometimes do reflect reality.

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  36. Paul Lewis!? duhhhh that’s someone entirely different that I know. I meant Martin Lewis! …. dumb as a brick ;)

    Like

  37. Pingback: Insanity is insidious – madness is catching | Orphans of Liberty

  38. Extremely late to this, but I lost respect for Coppola when she said immigration was necessary so their tax would pay for pensioners but couldn’t answer when it was pointed out that immigrants also got old.. .

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  39. After reading Coppola, I came away thinking the reality of the situation wasn’t important, but talking about it now as though the past could be altered was important. Now is when, tell the cubs.

    Like

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