Bart Simpson was right, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Watching the plight of the Waterford Crystal workers unfold over the past few weeks, I wondered why in God’s name I am paying into a pension fund if I run the risk of losing thousands when I hit 65. The thought of working hard all my life only to have the rug pulled out from under me when I attempt to put my feet up is sickening and my heart is with those Glass workers.
Though retirement age seems like a long way off to me right now, who knows what kind of a rollercoaster our economy could be on for the next couple of decades? I’ll bet those Glass workers who started paying into their pension fund 40 odd years ago could never have foretold this day. But what’s the alternative – not bother with my pension fund and leave my retired years ‘to chance’? At the rate our Government are going, they’ll have done away with the State pension at that stage so there’s no point banking on that.
All the caution and negativity in the air is really contagious and I know I’m not the only one watching what I spend and keeping my eyes open for a bargain. But things went a step too far on the cutbacks and cost-cutting front last weekend, when the UK Government’s green adviser said couples who have more than two children are putting an unbearable burden on the environment and suggested that curbing population growth through contraception and abortion be central to the country’s policies to fight global warming.
Now I’m sure, on paper, this makes sense to some people. But where are we headed if the state is allowed to decide how many kids you have (China, I hear you say)? Then again, I’m sure Cowen and the lads could raise a fair few bob of their required E2bn by putting a tax on being a parent. They’d be rubbing their hands together at the thought of that single mother of octuplets born in California last week who now has 14 children (God love her, she reckons she’ll be changing about 250 nappies a week).
Also in the UK last week, the Children’s Society report claimed that 70% of mothers now work, making the stay-at-home parent a dying breed. Speaking as one of them, it’s not always the case that they are desperate to rejoin the workforce. No, the reason they scuttle back to the office is money, to pay hefty mortgages which the Celtic Tiger chased up to heights that nobody could have imagined.
We don’t yet know the effect on a generation of children who are brought up by childminders and spend long hours at crèche and school. But the potential bill for damages could be huge – and we will all end up paying, while Cowen and Co no doubt enjoy spending their hefty pensions in sunnier climes. As Bart himself would say, ‘I never thought it was humanly possible, but this both sucks and blows’.