Age Discrimination
by David Goodloe

From time to time, I send e–mails to the White House about issues that concern me.

When you do that, you have the option of checking a box that serves as a request for a reply. I did check that box the first couple of times that I e–mailed the White House, but, frankly, I don’t do it anymore because the responses I received never addressed the specific issues that I raised.

Now, I realize that, in a nation of more than 300 million people, the White House must receive a huge number of messages from people every week — every day — so purely personal replies simply are not feasible.

I can’t speak for anyone else who contacts the White House by e–mail. In fact, I’m sure there are people who indicate on their e–mails that they do want a reply — but I don’t.

When I was younger, I used to write to members of Congress on issues that concerned me, but, eventually, I got tired of receiving responses that were clearly form letters.

And the replies I got from the White House always had a distinct form letter feel to them.

At least, the old “snail mail” form letters attempted to be personal. They were addressed to me by name, and some even threw in a sentence or two that actually related to my specific concern.

But the e–mail variety doesn’t even do that much — this one from the White House addressed me as “Dear Friend” — so, as I say, I stopped asking for replies from this White House a couple of years ago.

That hasn’t kept the White House from sending out those digital form replies to me, anyway.

Case in point.

For quite awhile, I have been concerned about what has appeared (to me, anyway) to be age discrimination on the part of employers. All the emphasis seems to be on discrimination against racial and religious groups in particular and against women in general. Next to nothing is said about age discrimination.

I’m not alone in this, by the way. I have spoken to many people, and the overwhelming consensus is that employers do use age as a means for eliminating a portion of the applicants for job openings.

I can understand the temptation. I recently heard an estimate that there are about four times as many applicants for any given job as there were for the same job (or its equivalent) before the recession began in December 2007. There simply aren’t enough jobs to go around, and employers are understandably reluctant to hire older workers.

They are fearful that they will have to go through all this again in a few years.

(They might go through it with younger workers, too.)

I don’t know what the answer is. That’s one of the things Americans hire their presidents to do — come up with solutions to problems. And I’ve been concerned about this one for quite awhile.

So, even though I have had no satisfaction in writing to this White House, I went ahead and sent an e–mail on this topic to the president. I did not check the box that indicated that I wanted a reply. I guess I just wanted to express my concern.

My mother’s was the first and most persistent voice among those that urged me to pursue a life dedicated to the written word — but she also used to tell me that actions speak louder than words, and that is the only kind of response I really wanted.

Nevertheless, here is the response I received in my e–mail yesterday (note: I have omitted the opening and closing sentences that thanked me for the original e–mail):
“In his 2012 State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a blueprint for an economy that is built to last — an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.

The President believes this is a make or break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it. What is at stake is the very survival of the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put a little away for retirement.

The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while more Americans barely get by, or we can build a nation where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. At stake right now are not Democratic or Republican values, but American values — and for the sake of our future, we have to reclaim them.

The economic security of our middle class has eroded for decades. Long before the recession, good jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Hard work stopped paying off for too many Americans. Those at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but the vast majority of Americans struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that were not.

In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. Mortgages were sold to people who could not afford or understand them. Banks made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money. It was a crisis that cost us more than 8 million jobs and plunged our economy and the world into a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover.

Three years later, thanks to the President’s bold actions, the economy is growing again. Over the past 22 months, our businesses have created 3.2 million jobs. Last year, we added the most private sector jobs since 2005. American manufacturing is creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. The American auto industry is back. Today, American oil production is the highest it has been in eight years. Together, we have agreed to cut the deficit by more than 2 trillion dollars. The President signed into law new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like the one we have endured never happens again.

When we act together, in common purpose and common effort, there is nothing the United States of America cannot achieve. That is why the President’s blueprint for action contains policies that businesses can take, actions that Congress needs to take, as well as actions that the President will take on his own. The President intends to keep moving forward and rebuild an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded — an economy built to last.

To watch the President’s State of the Union address, read the blueprint for an America built to last, and connect with the President and Administration officials, please visit: WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU.”
My original e–mail was only two or three sentences, as I recall.

I stated my concern about age discrimination, and I asked the president to speak forcefully against it — and I got the text of his re–election stump speech.

Do you see anything in there about age discrimination? Me, neither.

David Goodloe got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1982, and his master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in 1991. He publishes the thoughtful weblog Freedom Writing. This post is cross posted from his website.

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  • ShannonLeee

    Age discrimination does happen and it is a shame. I am\was in IT and the best programmer I ever met was 68 years old and programming for fun. The guy was there when the field started and had been quite the innovator. Even at 68, his skill made me feel stupid, and I am pretty damn good at my job.

  • zephyr

    I was an electronics technician for Sony for 25 years but the increasing move toward throw-away electronics combined with out-sourcing of service eventually took it’s toll. I’ve been working a couple part-time jobs since losing my full-time job, and I can tell you that age discrimination is a real (negative) factor when it comes to finding new employment. I’m 60 now, and will probably start drawing SS at age 62 while I continue to work part-time for myself. I would prefer to wait, but it doesn’t really make much sense to do so. I’ll be comfortable enough, but I feel for others who are struggling to find work and who don’t have the benefit of youth working in their favor, especially those who have already burned through their savings, IRA’s, sold assets, etc. that they have worked for all their lives.

  • dduck

    Z, I hope things get better for you and others.

    And, SL, how about the great older posters and commenters here on TMV.

  • Widget

    Yes, age discrimination is very, very real.

    I’m not as old as you are, Zephyr, but I fully understand and support any decision you make to go early on Social Security, even though it’s long before you should be retiring and it’ll mean smaller benefits.

    Let’s say it’s nice to have what isn’t but is the equivalent of a defined benefit pension, or more accurately, an annuity. Nice and solid conservative consistent money coming in really helps reduce what fears you may have (and maybe regrets), if you’re suffering from age discrimination.

    And the more tax you’ve paid, the more you deserve, you can always remind yourself.

  • The_Ohioan

    Z, and anyone else thinking of starting SS at 62; you probably will not be able to start at 62, it will be 62 + some months depending on your age.

    Also, there is, or was, a provision that if you returned all the money received from 62 to 65, you could get the higher 65 rate. I don’t know if that is still in effect, but if you are working again by 65, it would be worth looking into. Before they change it again. 🙂

  • zephyr

    Thanks dd. I’m luckier than most, even though I’ll be toughing it out for a little while. Health is also a bit of an issue, I’ve done so much physical exertion over the course of my life my body is starting to fight back in various ways. Other 60 year olds who were less active and whose work was more sedentary may be more energizer bunnyish. Anyway, my glass is still way more than half full – for a host of reasons.

    By the way, the total amount I would collect up until nearly the age 80 is almost the same regardless of whether I start at 62 or 66.

  • ShannonLeee

    dd, oddly enough, I really don’t think about age when reading or responding to posts. I go with the ignorant assumption that everyone is my age 🙂

    even weirder… I have yet to even consider that some of the TMV posters could be in their late teens.