In a difficult economy, generations often find themselves pitted against each other for scarce resources, including jobs. But there is a new twist to this theme today. In recent years, the U.S.government has justified age discrimination as a way of increasing “diversity” in federal hiring.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2010 that permits the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to bypass older workers and hire “recent graduates.” The regulations went into effect on July 10, 2012.
Obama said he wanted to remove “barriers” in hiring younger workers caused by civil service regulations and “to achieve a workforce that represents all segments of society.” Obama wants to “infuse” the federal government with the “enthusiasm, talents and unique perspective” of young people.
More recently, Obama’s Labor Secretary, Thomas E. Perez, publicly endorsed a private initiative by some of America’s leading corporations to blatantly violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by hiring 100,000 disadvantaged inner city residents between the ages of 16 and 24 for full-time and part-time jobs.
There are so many reasons why Obama’s “winners and losers” plan to boost diversity is just plain wrong.
Obama’s strategy is counter intuitive. Discrimination cannot be contained in neat little categories. Age discrimination builds on race and sex discrimination. This is why women, especially minority women, are the most prone to poverty in their old age. Obama’s approach simply kicks the can down the road.
- Obama and Perez have sent a clear message to private sector employers – it is reasonable and acceptable to discriminate on the basis of age to achieve a youthful workplace.
- Obama has effectively undermined decades of government policy that encouraged hiring for economically disadvantaged groups, minorities and women through targeted training and educational programs.
- The strategy has likely exacerbated the horrendous suffering of Americans on the losing side of the equation – middle aged and older workers. The federal government is the nation’s largest employer. How many people have been deprived of the opportunity to work for their own government because of their age? Wouldn’t a better plan be to create an equal playing field for all workers regardless of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability and age? Isn’t what Martin Luther King wanted?
The real outrage is that Obama’s campaign of age discrimination seems to be based on a whim.
Where is the research showing that age discrimination is the best way to counteract supposedly oppressive civil service regulations and problems caused by inner city gang violence, drugs and failing urban schools? There is none.
It is a shame that our nation’s first African-American president has shown so little understanding of the devastating impact of discrimination on older workers of all races. One can only hope that he repeals this misguided policy so that this is not part of his legacy.