White House Conf. on Aging Punts – Again

The White House Conference on Aging issued its fourth and final policy brief this week, a myopic document that supposedly addresses “retirement security” without even once mentioning age discrimination.


The White House Conference on Aging  issued its fourth and final policy brief this week, a myopic document that supposedly addresses “retirement security” without even once mentioning age discrimination.

This WHCOA’s Retirement Security policy brief is focused upon the following three areas:

  1. Protecting and strengthening Social Security. “Current beneficiaries should not see their basic benefits reduced.”
  2. Increasing retirement security and employer-based retirement savings options. “Automatically enroll Americans without access to a workplace retirement plan in an IRA.”
  3. Ensuring workers receive retirement investment advice in their best interest. Require “more retirement advisers to abide by a ‘fiduciary’  standard—putting their clients’ best interest before their own profits.”

The WHCOA concedes in the policy brief that Social Security has become the main source of income for older Americans, especially women and minorities, but fails to inquire into the reasons for this. There is no mention of the bogus down-sizings and restructurings that are little more than ploys to rid the workplace of older workers who earn high salaries or just don’t look “hip” anymore.  There is no mention of  overwhelming evidence of age discrimination in hiring, which robs older workers of the ability to find meaningful work and save for retirement. There is no mention of  evidence that older workers are disproportionately subject to chronic unemployment, which forces them to spend down their savings, take low-paid work and, eventually, to retire as soon as possible, resulting in at least a 25 percent cut in benefits for the rest of their lives.  There is no mention of age discrimination at all, just as there was no mention of age discrimination in the WHCOA’s earlier policy briefs on Elder Justice, Healthy Aging and Long-Term Services and Supports.

Nora Super, executive director of White House Conference on Aging, is encouraging comments on the policy briefs, which she said “examine the opportunities and challenges of an aging society.”

The WHCOA has been held once a decade since 1961 “to identify and advance actions to improve the quality of life of older Americans.” The current conference represents a departure from the past, largely because of lack of funding. Instead of a meeting of delegates from each state, this conference consists of “listening sessions and stakeholder meetings across the country to gather input.”   The so-called “stakeholder meetings” were organized by conference co-sponsor,  AARP, the nation’s leading purveyor of health insurance to retirees.

On a brighter note, the American Bar Association Governmental Affairs Office says it plans to focus its lobbying efforts in the U.S. Congress in the next two years on ten areas, including the elimination of discrimination in employment.  Specifically, the ABA will focus on “enactment, enforcement and preservation of laws to eradicate discrimination in public life, including employment and voting rights discrimination.”  The ABA makes no mention of age discrimination specifically and there is no reason to think  the ABA will address this specific problem. However, one can hope.  The 114th Congress meets from January 3, 2015 to January 3, 2017.

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