An article on ageism in the November 20 issue of The New Yorker is oddly detached and completely misses the point.
For one thing, The New Yorker fails in the article, Why Ageism Never Gets Old, to comprehend perhaps the major reason that age discrimination does not get old. Age discrimination has its roots in the human psyche but is systematically carried out by individuals, public agencies and private sector employers who have little reason to fear legal consequences.
Age discrimination is rooted in the human psyche but is systematically carried out by employers with little reason to fear legal consequences.
Suppose one family, aged 50 to 64, has $1 in financial assets and another has $1 million.
It is accurate to say the mean financial assets of these families is $500,001 but does this mirror reality? Of course not.
This is essentially what the AARP did Thursday when it touted a report by the Survey of Consumer Finances, 1989-2013, which found that the mean financial assets for families of all races, aged 50 to 64 is $351,328. The AARP says the graph is “worth a thousand words.”
Older Americans suffer from the same level of wealth inequality as other age groups. The AARP itself reported in June 2015 that the top 10 percent of households in their fifties hold 71 percent of the wealth of households in this age group. That means that some older Americans have a lot of assets and most have few or no assets. In reality, most older Americans are struggling to survive financially. The Social Security Administration says that Social Security is the “major source of income for most of the elderly.” Continue reading “Happy Days are Here Again! … Nevermind.”
I am struck by the almost complete lack of attention paid in the United States to the problem of age discrimination in employment.
I just watched a lengthy video on YouTube featuring Jenny Yang, chairperson of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), addressing the recent annual meeting of the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet), a group that promotes equality in the European Union. She discussed 50 years of the EEOC’s history and its future goals and aspirations. She made one fleeting reference to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1964 (ADEA), noting the EEOC is responsible for enforcing the ADEA.
In 2014, a total of 20,588 complaints of age discrimination were filed with the EEOC. That represents 23.2 percent of all of the complaints of employment discrimination filed with the EEOC in 2014. And, that level of complaints has been more or less consistent for years. Age discrimination may not deserve to be the EEOC’s top priority but it should at least be on the EEOC’s radar screen.
Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez has ignored age discrimination except to the extent that he endorsed it in the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, a dubious effort by America’s major corporations to hire 100,000 workers age 16 to 24 for full and –part-time jobs in blatant violation of the ADEA.
And President Barack Obama not only forgot to bolster the ADEA but he fundamentally undermined the ADEA in 2010 when he signed an executive order that permits federal agencies to discriminate on the basis of age, thereby sending a signal to the private sector that age discrimination is A-Okay!
It is interesting to note that Equinet issued a report on ageism in 2012 in which it decried institutional practices that “include the use of age limits to govern access to services or participation in the workplace, other forms of discrimination that exclude older people from work or from key services, and inadequate policy responses to the situation of older people such that they find themselves marginalised and disadvantaged in society.” Continue reading “The Marginalization of Older Workers”
The White House on Wednesday will hold a Summit on Worker Voice that supposedly will provide a historic opportunity to bring together workers, employers and labor leaders “to highlight the relationship between worker voice and a thriving middle class.’
But some voices will be missing. The voices of those who have no work due to systemic, government-approved age discrimination in hiring.
The Obama administration has been deaf to the voices of older workers who are disproportionately mired in long-term unemployment because of the misguided and harmful policies of the Obama’s administration.
In 2010, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the Pathways “Recent Graduates” Program, which allows federal agencies to engage in age discrimination in hiring. That order sends a signal to private sector employers that age discrimination in hiring is justified and will be tolerated.
To make things worse, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez last summer announced his support for a program developed by Starbucks, Microsoft and Walmart, and other leading American corporations, called the “100,000 Opportunities Initiative.” The purpose of the program is to give 100,000 16- to 24-year-olds full and part-time jobs by 2018.
Starbucks couched the initiative as a well-intentioned effort to help young people who face systemic barriers to jobs and educations. Whether or not this is true, it is irrelevant. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act and civil rights laws generally do not allow employers to discriminate because they supposedly have good intentions. Besides, older workers also face systemic barriers to jobs. A recent report by AARP found that half of the people in the U.S. between the ages of 45 to 70 who lost their job during the last five years are still not working.
The Obama administration has effectively abandoned a 50-year-old policy of encouraging employment through discrimination-free efforts, such as through education and training.
Readers who think the government should get out of the business of age discrimination are encouraged to “start the convo” using Twitter and the hashtag #StartTheConvo:.
There’s been a lot of outrage about the plight of Americans who are poor despite working full-time jobs – even a movement to raise the minimum wage.
But what about the 20 million Americans over the age of 65 who worked a lifetime only to be forced to spend their remaining years in poverty or near poverty conditions? The national debate around Social Security ignores the plight of older Americans and focuses on ways to cut Social Security and Medicare by raising the age of eligibility, means testing, etc.
Why the disconnect?
For one thing, the campaign to raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers is funded by unions. Millions of economically vulnerable older Americans were involuntarily pushed out of the workforce by epidemic and unaddressed age discrimination or ill-health. They have no union and, apparently, no other effective advocate.
Another reason is that elder poverty is poorly understood . The federal government’s official poverty rate for older Americans – like the U.S. unemployment rate and the Social Security benefit formula – is outdated and misrepresents reality. The official poverty rate was created by the Census Bureau in the 1960s and looks only at a family or individual’s cash income. In 2010, the Bureau was forced to create an alternative measure, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), that provides a more realistic picture. The SPM reflects not only available financial resources but liabilities (taxes, out-of-pocket medial spending, housing expenses and other factors) and cost of living differences between states. However, the SPM still is not the “official” measure that is widely cited by politicians and policy makers. So many Americans do not have a realistic picture of true elder poverty.
The official poverty rate for older Americans is a fictional measure perpetuated by a moribund federal bureaucracy that is stuck somewhere in the 1960s.