Whenever I discuss Plaid Cymru’s policies (which I always do from a supportive, if sometimes critical, viewpoint) I can guarantee a defensive comment in support of Plaid Orthodoxy from Rhydian Fôn of Plaid Bontnewydd. I was quite shocked, therefore, to see Rhydian slapped down by one of his heroes this week.
Adam Price is peeved that Rhydian has suggested that the end of universal bus passes for the elderly might be a good idea. This puts me in a difficult position. I enjoy upsetting them both so much I don’t know who to support and who to oppose:-)
Logically I support Rhydian. Universal benefits always mean that those who have no need gain extras that they can well afford out of their own income.
During the Welsh Festival Season a regular thing that pisses me off is that rich pensioners get concessionary entry into Llangollen, the Royal Welsh and the Eisteddfod, but a hard working bloke on a minimum wage has to pay full price for himself, his wife and his 2.5 kids which often means that visiting these iconic festivals is well beyond the means of working class families.
Practically I agree with Adam. Means testing is bad! Unlike Rhydian or Adam I am old enough to remember means testing at its worst. The official from the social coming round to measure poverty in the most disgusting of ways. Your eldest daughter is over weight for a poor girl, your youngest is under weight – you don’t need help you need to balance portions more accurately! That was how means were tested forty odd years ago!
The problem with means testing, even in a less cruel world, isn’t with the people at the rich end of the scale – the millionaires who have free passes and prescriptions (which in all honesty they are unlikely to use) but on the borderline cases.
My grandfather paid into a superannuation fund which left his widow 6d a week too rich to get any state help for anything. My mother in law – just 15 years ago - was 50p a week too rich to get any state help because her late husband had a company pension paying half rates to his widow. So my grandfather and my father-in-law paid to make their widows poorer!
That is a means test trap that is bad for the economy. I will not risk paying into a pension fund that may put my widow into a similar situation. Because I won’t take that risk I put a greater burden on the state - my wife and I could both live to be 110 without a penny of self provision!
A guarantee of universal benefits for older people makes paying into a pension fund a worthwhile exercise, an exercise that will reduce the overall burden of age on the state!
Of course ideologically I disagree with both Adam and Rhydian. A strong capitalist Welsh economy would enable more Welsh pensioners to enjoy the riches of old age without the need for state intervention at all!