Financial Depression Spreads Among Seniors

Seniors Financially Depressed

President Obama has U.S. taxpayers paying billions to meet the costly payrolls of 50,000 troops and 190,000 contractors in Iraq while 20-million-plus jobless are looking for work in USA and can’t find it.

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.

Many 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.

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

Published by the LA Progressive on September 9, 2010
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About Sherwood Ross

Sherwood Ross has worked as a publicist for Chicago; as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and workplace columnist for Reuters. He has also been a media consultant to colleges, law schools, labor unions, and to the editors of more than 100 national magazines. A civil rights activist, he was News Director for the National Urban League, a talk show host at WOL Radio, Washington, D.C., and holds an award for "best spot news coverage" for Chicago radio stations for civil rights reporting. He is the author "Gruening of Alaska,"(Best Books)and several plays about Japan during World War II, including "Baron Jiro," and "Yamamoto's Decision," read at the National Press Club, where he is a member. His favorite quotations are from the Sermon on The Mount.

Comments

  1. We did have a surplus ten years ago, after all. And the consensus of most respected economists is that our current danger is a deflationary death spiral, a la 1929-1933, and Japan after 1990, not the deficit.

    How can we spend $700 billion a year ($7 trillion since 2000!!) on wars, real and imagined, past present, and future, creating almost nothing of real value to our society while furiously producing hellishly dangerous devices, without dragging ourselves down to destruction? Wake up! Wise up!! We are too intelligent to buy into this insanity.

  2. Willie Carr, Jr says:

    It’s funny that so many people who are so vocal and so critical of President Obama for our lagging economy, and the wars we are in, were mute when former President G.W.Bush was driving our economy into the ground, rewarding his wealthy cronies, and starting these wars under false pretenses, as well as not funding them, and granting his oil baron, robber baron pals, tax cuts that the rest of us working stiffs had to pay? Just wondering? But I guest most of those critics of our current president were busy benefitting from our past presidents pro rich policies.

  3. Mad Jayhawk says:

    This administration is creating what will be the worse thing that has happened to this country, particularly the poor and the seniors, since the great depression. Bailouts, pork, stimulus, and more and more government is running up our country’s debt load to the breaking point. To pay for all this new debt the government can only do 3 things: raise taxes, borrow more money or print more money. Raising taxes will put the country into a worst depression than it is already in. It is getting harder and harder to borrow more money. So the only solution is to monetarize the debt by printing more and more money. This will lead to double digit inflation which will make the poor’s and the senior’s fixed incomes worthless. Any savings a senior may have accumulated will be worthless. The debt will be paid off by using cheaper and cheaper dollars. The entire country will become destabilized. And those holding our debt will be very angry and may take action against us.

    People should rise up against more and more spending. They should insist that government live within its means like we have to. We are no longer a rich country. The United States is bankrupt and spending more and more money on bigger and bigger stimulus packages won’t make it less bankrupt. The people in Washington that propose more and more stimulus are fools trying to buy votes with our own money. Our grandkid’s money.

  4. American imperialism and militarism is the worst single threat to the health of our society, in my opinion, and has been for 60+ years I guess.

    But please don’t blame Obama, or shoot at him. He has very very little margin for maneuver, however well he understands the deeper problems, as I am quite certain he does as well as anyone.

    And do consider the horrible alternatives to his leadership in the present political environment.

    If Obama cannot do it, I believe probably nobody can. There is no guarantee it is even possible, our problems are so serious. Yet we are unlikely to see a better or more effective champion of progressive values in our lifetimes, and we better fight for him.

    That does not mean we should not point out the insanity of our national policies, but a vast battleship moving at high speed in dangerous waters cannot be turned quickly, nor without taking account of rocks and reefs. Calm concentration is essential.

    Pogo said it: “We have met The Enemy, and He is US.”

  5. What I’ve been wondering about, and I may have misunderstand how this works, but isn’t the amount of Social Security benefits tied to the last years before retirement? So if a person is unemployed in those years, won’t that significantly reduce benefits and undermine any chance of financial security?

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