Among the hardest hit now are more than 2-million people age 55 and over, half of whom have been looking for work for six months or longer. For them, the Great Recession is a no-fooling, deepening Depression.
Many of these seniors have no families to care for them. Others are too proud to ask their families, churches, or relief agencies to help them in their time of need. Even so, many a proud, independent, well-dressed senior is a soup kitchen regular because it's either that or go hungry.
Seniors have been loyal to a corporation for much or all of their working lives only to discover the corporation has no loyalty to them. Instead, their employer laid them off before the retirement age and hired a younger, cheaper worker to replace them or just shipped their job to an office or plant on foreign soil. Many seniors are right to feel betrayed.
“The unemployment rate for this age group actually reached 7.1 percent in May, the highest it's been since the late 1940s,” writes A. Barry Rand, chief executive officer of the AARP in his September “Bulletin.” That's more than double the 2005 rate of 3 percent.
“African Americans and Hispanics have been hit especially hard,” Rand adds. He points to a Labor Department study showing over-65 workers outnumber teenagers in the workforce for the first time since 1948.
“And AARP's own research finds that more and more of our members want or need to keep working past traditional retirement age,” he writes. That's likely because seniors are living longer and leading healthier lives.
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Speaking for the AARP, Rand says, “We believe that anyone 50-plus who wants or needs to work should be able to work. It's not only essential to achieving financial security, it also benefits our economy.”
But what do you do when the private sector fires you and the public sector refuses to spend the money to hire you? Washington knows darn well this country is short nurses, nursing aides, school-teachers, librarians, and clerks, to cite a few occupations. In city and county governments everywhere, employees are being laid off, forced to take furloughs, or are taking mandatory pay cuts while the Federal government spends more than half of every dollar collected from the taxpayers to make war.
Meanwhile, a Supreme Court largely made up of Republican appointees is making it tougher for seniors to fight against employers who wrong them. “In a case involving Iowa resident Jack Gross, the court ruled that evidence indicating age was a factor in job discrimination was no longer enough,” writes Rand. “Now age must be the sole factor.”
While Rand only mentioned teen unemployment in passing, in fact that rate is far higher than for seniors. Writing in The Washington Post, Frank Ahrens said unemployment among black teens hit nearly 50 per cent last November. For some kids, serving as a look-out for drug peddlers is the only job available.
Obviously, Washington needs to rechannel dollars from its foreign adventures to benefit the home front. It needs to repair the highways, upgrade mass transit, revitalize the national parks, and build the public works just as President Roosevelt's “New Deal” did in the Thirties. That blueprint not only got the country on the road back to full employment but the roads and bridges and public schools were built to last and to benefit future generations and they have.
It might also be a good idea to require corporations relocating jobs abroad to pay their laid-off workers 50 percent of salary for the next five years, instead of firing them like dogs or worse. Right now the military-industrial complex is looting America of its wealth and taking the public for a ride----a ride to the poor house.#
(Sherwood Ross is a Chicago native who formerly reported for major dailies and wire services. He currently runs a public relations firm for good causes. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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