Why is the White House Conf. on Aging Censoring Public Comments?

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Ed. Note: Since this was written, my comments on two of the three White House Council on Aging’s policy briefs re-appeared on the WHCOA web site, this time on a right-hand side column.  Still missing is my comment about the WHCOA’s Retirement Security Policy Brief, where I complain that age discrimination in employment is a cause of poverty in retirement and certainly should be part of any serious discussion about retirement security.  PGB 

WHCOA
The White House Conference on Aging recently invited the public to comment about its policy briefs but it appears to be censoring which comments it is publicly displaying on its web site.

I commented last night on the Conference’s policy briefs on Healthy Aging, Elder Justice and Retirement Security. I noted the Conference had failed to address the role of age discrimination in all of these areas, which is particularly baffling in the case of retirement security. My comments were posted on the Conference’s web site last night but they were missing today.

Interestingly, another respondent,  Ellen, posted a comment late this afternoon that echoes my sentiment that there is something awry about the omission to any reference about age discrimination in the Conference’s Retirement Security policy brief . In case it also disappears from view, here’s what she wrote:

“I am very disappointed in this brief and the others because of what is emphasized and what is omitted. The briefs seem to focus on the ideal of people having steady jobs who can save for retirement and choose when they wish to retire. Then the focus is on services (Social Security, long-term care, healthy aging, elder abuse) for people who are no longer seeking paid employment. As far as being active after retiring, the briefs stress unpaid volunteering. These areas are covered fairly well.

However, there does not seem to be much hope here for older Americans having difficulty finding paid employment, nor about ageism in hiring and in the workforce which can result in people losing jobs to younger employees. There is no mention of these issues. I think this will be a factor in our future because people who cannot find jobs are not able to set aside money for the time when they will no longer be physically able to work. I am mainly talking about people in their 50’s and 60’s who are not yet eligible for full Social Security benefits and/or Medicare, but with our increased longevity, this could also include people who are older.

This conference only occurs every decade, so I hope that this issue can be addressed. It is important because it does impact the other issues you mention. In another ten years, you may have a generation of people who do not have the savings to live well and who will have to rely on others for support.” (Note: Emphasis supplied by ed.)

A bit of background – I have been trying without success for many months to contact Conference Executive Director Nora Super to urge her to address the problem of age discrimination. I even sent her a complementary copy of my book. As an attorney and the author of many books on legal topics, including two legal reference books for CQ Press, I  hope I have some credibility in this area. An attorney from the ABA Commission on Law and Aging recently reviewed Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace and called it  “well researched and well-written.”

I wonder if my criticism of f the Conference’s failure to address age discrimination is why the Conference removed my comments from its web site?  I could find no indication on the Conference web site what screening tools it is using to filter public comment. It is understandable that the Conference it is screening for obscenity but I would hope a governmental agency would refrain from censoring accurate and non-incendiary material simply because it is critical of the agency.

I mentioned in my postings on the Conference site that I had indisputably shown in my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, that  the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1964 was weak to begin with and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court. It now provides far less protection that is available under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin and religion. I suggested rampant, unaddressed age discrimination is robbing older workers of their ability to work and save money for retirement. I mentioned the book to provide readers who questioned my assertions to see for themselves and also to establish my credibility. These statements are fully documented.
With respect to the Elder Justice Policy Brief, I noted that President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2010 that permits federal agencies to discriminate against older workers and hire recent college graduates. I expressed concern that systemic government-sanctioned age discrimination violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and is contrary to the principles of America’s founders that all people are entitled to equal rights under the law.
In my comment on the Healthy Aging Brief, I suggested that policy-makers should address the issue so healthy aging long before an individual needs institutional care. I noted older workers who are terminated from their jobs due to age discrimination become mired in long-term unemployment, are forced to spend down their savings, take low-wage part-time jobs, and, finally, to accept early “retirement,” which results in a 25% loss of  Social Security benefits for the rest of their lives. I referred to research showing that unemployed workers do not seek health care for medical conditions and suffer depression, anxiety and stress,
It is hard to make an assessment of the public’s reactions to the Conference’s “policy” briefs when the Conference is using unstated criteria to censor public comments that could affect the way the public perceives the work of the Commission.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley

Author: pgb

Attorney at Law, author and blogger.

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