Those who wonder about the economics of the state pension should note that the triple lock applies to all state pensioners, regardless of income or wealth. This promises that their pension will increase every year in line with inflation or with average wage increases, whichever is the higher. The triple lock guarantees that it will rise by at least 2.5% yearly if neither of the other two other measures reaches that level.

A note from my friend illustrates one of the consequences of this promise.  He reports that his state pension, plus his winter fuel allowance, plus his Christmas bonus, came to £5,420 a few years back. Since this could buy him a bottle of supermarket brand champagne every day at about £14.85, he dubbed it his champagne fund.

He wrote following the latest increase to report that the total per annum now going into his champagne fund comes to nearly £8,300, or £22.74 per day. Whereas before he could only afford a bottle of Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s house champagne every day, he can now manage a decent named brand.  Indeed, he says, if he goes slumming on Sundays with a bottle of Sainsbury’s best champagne, on each of the other 6 days of the week he can afford a bottle of Veuve Cliquot.

I should add that he is a multi-millionaire with a flat in London and a house in the country. As the outrage levels rise, let me point out that he gives generously to charity, and justifies keeping the money because he thinks he is a better judge of worthy recipients than the state is.  I do not begrudge him his champagne fund, and I note that he occasionally thanks me and other taxpayers for our generosity. But I cannot help wondering if the founders of our welfare state intended this consequence when they first established it?

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Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Presumably your mate pays higher rate tax on his state pension. We could introduce an element of means testing, if we wished, but (given that it would be done by the public sector) I’m confident it would cost more than it would save.

The Christmas bonus (got my first one this year, which came as a surprise, a mystery £10 ‘magically’ appeared in the bank account) is daft – I bet it costs twice as much to pay as its face value, and a tenner isn’t going to make much difference to most people’s Christmas.

jgh
Member
jgh

The founders of the welfare state *did* intend this consequence, they held religiously to the doctrine that means testing was purest evil, and in the absence of means testing, everybody receives regardless of their means.

They magically manage to cling to this doctrine simulteneously with “to each according to their needs”.

Spike
Member

I suspect its founders knew they could not get the entitlement passed if their promises allowed the possibility of reneging on them for pensioners who had had a long and productive career, a sort of, “If I win, I lose!” Regardless of Richard’s overt appeal to envy, if his friend were cut off because we opened a national debate on whether or not each individual really needs government to keep its pension promise, less for Richard’s friend means more for — not us but demographic groups more reliable to vote to keep the whole Ponzi scheme alive. In the US,… Read more »

Bernie G.
Member
Bernie G.

Like many that paid in religiously over the years, I now receive a state pension. Every week the state gives me £120; and in return, every week, it takes £120 from me in income tax.

Nigel Sedgwick
Member

As is clearly the case, the state pension is a pension (and so an entitlement) and means-tested welfare benefits are not (an entitlement). However, interestingly in the case of the state pension, the contributions that fund it are not the same for everyone. Those earning more (over a range for NICs) actually pay more for the same (years of entitlement). In addition, those earning more pay more in Income Tax – without limit and on a scale of ‘progressive’ income tax. So the richer ex-workers get the same as the poorer ex-workers (as state pension) though they actually have paid… Read more »

Spike
Member

Nigel, to be clear, Tim has not “raised this issue,” as this column is from contributor Richard; Tim has done no more than administer the usual free-for-all of ideas. I am no expert on NIC, but it seems very similar in structure to the American FICA (Federal Income Coverage Act), which has capped payroll taxes and therefore capped payouts. President Clinton signed a law subjecting half the payout to taxation, over a certain amount. Medicare/Medicaid are transfer payments also funded by payroll tax, and Obama uncapped that portion of the payroll tax (as well as doing everything else he could… Read more »

Spike
Member

Nigel, most of my post was not indeed a rebuttal of what you wrote. In the case of Tim, because he allows posts here whether or not he agrees with him, inferring his opinion is ineffective (as well as irrelevant). The US and UK seem to have similar policy in that most of the government pension is effectively exempt from tax. I agree, it looks like an entitlement, but it is not in fact a return of one’s own funds. The difference is that, despite fractional-reserve banking (loaning out your funds several different times at once), your US bank will… Read more »

Quentin Vole
Member
Quentin Vole

I have no knowledge of the US system, but UK pensions are not ‘exempt from tax’. They are (possibly coincidentally) much the same as the ‘tax free allowance’. So it might be considered that I receive my state pension ‘tax free’, but when it started, the tax on my private pension increased substantially.

Nigel Sedgwick
Member

Hi Spike, thank you for the correction on Richard’s journalistic byline. My apologies to both Richard and Tim for my mistake. I think one might be allowed to assume that the Editor-in-Chief is somewhat implicated in the acceptability (even desirability) of content of published articles, but I definitely would not take the view that individual authors/journalists here are mere lackeys. Thus my implied point of Tim probably suffering from cognitive dissonance, on state pension versus basic income, is invalidated; I substitute a likely disagreement between Richard and Tim Concerning UK NICs and the American FICA, I am at least as… Read more »

Nigel Sedgwick
Member

My life; not my like. Bother!

Nigel Sedgwick
Member

Just to avoid confusion and dispute, the ASI’s policy is actually third in that document to which I link, but lower down under: key policies for “Free Market Welfare”. Just click to the linked document and then search for “basic”.

Best regards

Bongo
Member
Bongo

The Winter Fuel Payment and Christmas bonus should be incorporated into the regular state retirement pension. If you ran the logic the other way would anyone say it’s a good idea to take £5/week off pensioners and then pay it back to them in two or three lump sums in winter. ‘No, we’re adults, we can budget accordingly’, they would say, ‘let me decide when and what it goes on’. But we’ve arrived at this stupid situation where we presume many pensioners are suddenly incapable of knowing winter comes every year when they reach 67, so we micro manage their… Read more »