How did dedicated employees and lifelong taxpayers become a national financial drain and embarrassment to a president trying to court the senior vote? What happened to older workers who lost out in the Obama economy? When we started to hemorrhage jobs, older workers were less likely to become jobless than other groups.¹ For those who lost their positions without mountains of cash to fall back on a pink slip was a death sentence. Opportunities vanished, health insurance fell by the wayside, unemployment benefits dried up, employer after employer turned their backs, and bank accounts dwindled.
On Labor Day 2011 we talked about the president’s jobs emergency. One year later, Labor Day 2012 offers little hope for the unemployed stuck in the midst of that crisis. The jobless rate has dropped less than one percent. The long-term unemployed made up 42.9% of the jobless last August. Now they make up 40.7%.² While our labor secretary issued a Labor Day press release “Honoring the Great American Worker,” older workers who helped make the economy before Obama great are in the worst position of all. Long-term unemployment among older workers who lost their jobs skyrocketed from less than 25% in 2007 to over 55% by 2011.³ Are the reemployment challenges insurmountable, or should we be asking another question? Are older workers worthless to this presidency?
Are more government benefits the solution?
The White House tosses bread to the jobless every once in a while, summoning Marie Antoinette’s ghost and dangling the possibility of more government benefits in the 2013 budget, welfare for the long-term unemployed:
Under the new Universal Displaced Worker Program, which the Administration released details of today, up to a million workers a year would receive high-quality job-search assistance, together with access to critical skills training for high-growth and in-demand industries or, for older workers, the option of wage insurance – a significant improvement on the current system.4
Wage insurance would top up incomes for older workers who find new jobs with lower pay:
Wage insurance for older workers: To support older workers returning to work, eligible workers age 50 or older who obtain new, full-time employment at wages of less than $50,000 may receive wage insurance for up to two years to partially offset earnings losses in new jobs that pay less than their previous jobs.5
A proposed $4,000 government benefits payment begs for abuse:
Therefore, the Universal Displaced Worker program would provide stipends that could help eligible workers care for their children or offset their transportation costs while they pursue job training.6
$4,000 is a popular number with the Obama administration. $4,000 per employee incentives for hiring the long-term unemployed were included in the American Jobs Act, a carrot to offset the prohibition on refusing to hire those same jobless Americans.
Job training will not help older workers and long-term unemployed professionals.
Inadequate job training and lack of skills are popular excuses for our high jobless rate, but a Congressional Research Service report found that many of those who have the hardest time finding new jobs after a recession are already skilled:
In 2009, workers laid off from the financial activities and information industries were the most likely to have been jobless longer than 26 weeks. Workers displaced from management, business, and financial occupations were most at risk of long-term unemployment during recent recessions.7
Trained workers are having an especially difficult time during the Obama recession:
Seemingly unique to this recession is the significantly greater risk of long-term unemployment among workers laid off from the information (e.g., telecommunications, publishing) and financial activities (i.e., finance, insurance, and real estate) industries.8
Education doesn’t improve prospects for older workers, either.
Barack Obama wants to be our education president. Whatever he accomplishes for the groups his special interest controllers put at the top of the list, education is not likely to bail out older workers. Their bachelor’s degrees made them just as likely to contribute to the jobless rate as workers with less education. Unemployment for Americans with degrees doubled from 2007-2011.9
Jobless older workers will become a financial drain.
Most disturbing are findings that older unemployed workers have depleted their savings, are filing for Social Security early, and are also applying for Social Security disability benefits.10 This is where the Obama economy left older Americans, from reliable, experienced employees to a growing underclass and financial drain on our economy.
In an Obama Economy Built to Last, older workers have become discards who can’t compete with doe-eyed, illegal Dreamers and union autoworkers when the president needs fodder for a campaign speech. No matter how tragic, there is no PR value and no photo op to be had from a balding, 57-year old unemployed middle manager sitting on his couch on a workday morning, watching his coffee cool and wondering what he will do when his bank account finally bottoms out.
Updated June 11, 2016: links revised.