Born Bankrupt: Sky News TV hits the intergenerational nail on the head

Antony Mason suggests that Jeff Randall’s TV report should be required viewing for anyone interested in today’s intergenerational issues.

In just 24 minutes, a Sky News Documentary presented by Jeff Randall sets out the alarming situation facing young people today, and future generations, as they inherit the debts and liabilities that the “baby boomer” generation has gifted itself.

It covers all the main aspects of this “intergenerational theft”, as Jeff Randall himself puts it: government debt, pensions liabilities, inflated house values, student loans, social care costs.

Mark Littlewood (Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs), Paul Johnson (Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies), Professor Christopher Barnatt (Economics Futurist at Nottingham University Business School), Matthew Sinclair (Taxpayers’ Alliance), Ros Altmann (Director-General of the Saga Group), Robert Chote (Chairman of the Office of Budget Responsibility), David Willetts (Universities Minister and author of The Pinch) and Shiv Malik (co-author of Jilted Generation and advisory board member of the Intergenerational Foundation) all lend their voices to the argument.

Here at IF, we see this as something of a landmark broadcast, not just because it makes the case so succinctly but also because it shows the degree to which this viewpoint is now an accepted part of the national debate.

“Born Bankrupt” was first broadcast on Sky News on Friday 24 August. You can see a YouTube version of  it by following this link:

“If you are worried at all, if you have one iota of concern about the environment and climate change, and the sort of planet we are going to leave our children… you should be apoplectic about the level of debt we are leaving them. It is outrageous, it is immoral, but we have lived well beyond our means, and our conclusion is to send our children and our grandchildren and the unconceived the bill for that…

“Here’s the con. If you are a politician, you want to promise everything you can to the people on the electoral register. The best way to do that is to send the bill to the people who aren’t on the electoral register. If you are under the age of 18, or not yet born, you are not on the electoral register. That’s what we’ve done…

“We are voting ourselves rich, frankly knowing full well it is going to be children and grandchildren who pick up the bill.”

– Mark Littlewood (Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs), in “Born Bankrupt”

Posted on: 4 September, 2012

3 thoughts on “Born Bankrupt: Sky News TV hits the intergenerational nail on the head

  1. DS

    great documetary, thanks for bringing it to my attention- it seems that politicians won’t take notice of the levels of debt until we are on the very edge of the precipice!

  2. Barry Pearson

    I agree that this is now part of the national debate. But what I don’t see is general acceptance of the consequences.

    The current government is engaged in deficit-reduction, and is getting a lot of criticism for it. Yet it is a necessary step on the way to debt-reduction. Once the deficit has reached zero, the debt has stopped increasing. Then we need several years of (in effect) “negative deficit”, which will reduce the debt.

    Will people stand for that? In particular will younger generations stand for it? I’m 65 and retired, and the current austerity climate barely affects me. (I live on my private sector pensions and the state pension, on which I pay tax of course). I can’t lose my job because I don’t have one, having lost my (private sector) job years ago. I’ve nearly finished paying off my mortgage (extended for years because my endowment mortgage went belly-up) so the dire housing situation doesn’t affect me.

    I suspect that the necessary actions to reduce the problems being left for next generations will not find favour with those generations! Fewer public sector jobs. Later retirement age. Fewer buildings bought with PFI contracts. Less money to be spent on education. (When I went to university, only 5% of the population did so).

    I suspect that the next generations will struggle to restrain themselves from handing some of their own problems onto even later generations.

  3. Barry Pearson

    I’ve just watched the “Born Bankrupt” programme. While there is no doubt about the massive debt problem, many of the programme’s claims were flawed.

    1. It is nonsense to say there was a baby-boom between 1945 and 1965! (This isn’t the USA). There was a tiny baby-pop from 1945 to 1948. Then the REAL baby boom was from about 1955 and 1974. (The birth rate peaked in 1965; it wasn’t the END of a boom! Check the national statistics).

    2. It is misleading to say “we kept voting for more money”. Some of us voted Conservative, to keep the Labour Party (motto “spend other people’s money until there is none left”) out of power. We looked on in dismay from 1997 to 2010 while the Labour government built up the debt that we all rightly condemn. And while they ruined Europe’s best private sector pension system, which will mean that older people will need care paid for from the taxes of younger people and/or borrowing, rather than being self-sufficient as intended.

    3. Willetts talks masses of garbage! Apart from propagating the error (once again) about when the baby boom was, he quoted “look after your children because they will be choosing your care home”. I never had children, and set out to be self-dependent. So I have always expected that I would be paying for my own care. Hence the importance of my house (which, after 38 years of paying mortgages, will soon, 11 years after I lost my job, be the first house I have ever owned outright).

    The test for anyone who claims to be concerned with intergenerational fairness is “will you vote for more austerity for longer?” And “will you vote for higher taxes, to be spent on a greener and more environmentally friendly society?” And “will you vote for progressively increasing the state-pension-age to match the increasing life span?” (I will, if there is a way for my vote to address all of these).

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