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We've heard a lot about how the recession has hurt employment prospects for the young. But what about the old? A Monday New York Times story says many Americans over the age of fifty are also out of work, and worry that they may not regain employment before voluntary or involuntary retirement. In short, they fear they may never work again. Will the economy bounce back in time?

  • The Plight of Older (Former) Workers  "Because it will take years to absorb the giant pool of unemployed at the economy's recent pace, many of these older people may simply age out of the labor force before their luck changes," explains The New York Times' Mokoto Rich. Unemployment is always difficult, but "older workers suspect their résumés often get shoved aside in favor of those from younger workers." Plus, skills can get "rusty after years of working for the same company." Unemployment past fifty deals a significant blow even to those who were trying to plan ahead, continues Rich.. "Many [now unemployed workers] had in fact anticipated working past conventional retirement ages to gird themselves financially for longer life spans, expensive health care and reduced pension guarantees."
  • But the Government Doesn't Care  "It is an unpleasant observation, but perhaps a true one," remarks 24/7 Wall St.'s Douglas McIntyre. Why is the government ignoring the problem? "[The older unemployed] are less likely to have dependent children than younger employed people. And children are America's future, at least on paper." Politicians also prefer to help recent graduates, as "younger Americans out of work could be a drag on the system for years. They and their children could be the equivalent of wards of the state for nearly a decade if the recession wears on," while the elderly will get picked up--at least for a while--by Social Security. McIntyre points out, though, that not focusing on the problem of the older unemployed "could cost the Administration dearly at the polls. Older citizens are not usually activists but more of them vote than do people under 25."
  • And Yet the Rich Are Complaining  "Anger is sweeping America," writes Paul Krugman in The New York Times. How absurd, he thinks, that it is coming from those with least cause:
Young people can't find jobs; laid-off 50-somethings fear that they'll never work again. Yet if you want to find real political rage--the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler, or accuse him of treason--you won't find it among these suffering Americans. You'll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don't have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.
  • How About We Focus on This Instead of the Deficit?  "What," wonders economist Mark Thoma, "does this say about plans to increase the age at which Social Security recipients can retire with full benefits (as opposed to other solutions such as raising the income cap that are progressive rather than regressive)?" He's irritated to see "Congress and the Fed" focusing on "imagined fears of deficits and inflation" rather than "the real struggles of the unemployed."

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