The once-every-decade White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) sent out an email blast Saturday revealing the agenda for its signature event today.
Apparently there was no time in the jam-packed schedule to address the financial havoc wrought upon older Americans by the worst recession in 100 years or the epidemic of age discrimination in hiring that relegates older workers to chronic unemployment, low-paid work, and a financially improvident “early retirement.” The conference will focus on care-giving, “planning for financial security at every age,” nutrition, “the power of inter-generational connections and healthy aging,” universal design, and technology and the future of aging.
Can it be the youthful organizers of the WHCOA are unaware that the Great Recession cost millions of Americans who are now approaching or entering their retirement years their jobs, homes and investments?
A recent AARP survey found that half of older workers who experienced unemployment in the last five years are still not working: 38 percent reported they were unemployed and 12 percent had dropped out of the labor force. To make matters worse, private sector employers in the past two decades eliminated traditional defined benefit pensions. Recent generations financed their retirement with a combination of savings, a traditional defined benefit pension, and Social Security. Two legs of that stool are gone for millions of American workers and Social Security is under attack from the right.
The Economic Security Institute reported in 2013 that nearly half (48 percent) of America’s 41 million seniors are “economically vulnerable,” including 63.3 percent of blacks and 70.1 percent of Hispanics. To be economically vulnerable is to have an income that is less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold (a poverty line more comprehensive than the traditional federal poverty line).
Incredibly, the WHCOA issued briefs on “retirement security” and “elder justice” that do not even mention the recession and age discrimination in employment.
The dismissive treatment of age discrimination in employment by the WHCOA is emblematic of the second-class treatment of older Americans generally by the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress. The WHCOA held in prior years was funded by the Congress under the Older Americans Act Amendments of 1992. According to the WHCOA, Congress did not reauthorize the Older Americans Act nor provide funding for this year’s conference but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decided to go ahead with the conference anyway. [Read more…]