Shallow talk and panic

Half-truths are often more misleading than full-fledged lies. So far, the debate over social insurance has been based on such half-truths, since nobody seems prepared to utter the bitter truth, which is not related to determining the (generally understood) extent of the problem but to the tougher question of solving it. In fact, the game is simple. Everyone acknowledges a problem but expects someone else to solve it. The opposition wants the government to do so, while governments hope for a European Union rescue. Besides, the last substantive amendment, via a law named after then-social security minister Dimitris Sioufas, sparked tension and rejection by the opposition of the time – although PASOK faithfully implemented the same wretched law when it came to power. It would help if the issue were being discussed in a genuine spirit, but that is not happening. Rather, it is a focus of polarized political debate where neither the supposed anti-pensioner bad guys nor the selfless protectors of the poor actually exist. The trouble is that nobody is willing to tackle the matter sensibly and propose solutions. Slogans trump solutions, and that surely won’t solve the problem. At least, one might say, dialogue has begun over this difficult project. But that is wrong. The irresponsible talk of disaster could spark panic, which will in turn deepen the insurance crisis. More and more people are hastening to retire, certain that even a lower pension is better than a full one will be in a few years’ time. They may have been carried away by the prevailing climate of fear. Such an environment only increases the number of young pensioners who continue to work in other ways, so there is some benefit via new vacancies for younger workers. Yet the deficit also grows. This vapid dialogue should be stopped altogether.