Justified Discrimination

I started to run regularly when I was 22. Next week, that will be thirty years. I used to be reasonably quick. Now even some fat young guys and women pass me. Age does that. And it is not only running. As a group, older people do some things better than younger people but it is getting harder to remember what they are.

I run around 50% slower than I used to. I perceive that I learn slower too. My aptitude for language more or less went away 20 years ago. I can remember some of what I used to know, but it is hard to feel comfortable with new languages and let's not even talk about new math equations. In compensation, I have acquired lots of experience and my judgment has improved because I have seen and experienced more. But some experience is overtaken by events and is no longer applicable. In fact, some experience is more of a burden than a blessing.

Nevertheless, in respect to my gradual slowing down, I am a member of a protected group. Lest he be accused of age discrimination, my employer has to pretend that I am just as quick as ever. This is a precious myth, or is the word pernicious?

Old guys like me get paid better than young guys. Personally I think I deserve it. I always tell the young guys that I get paid for what I know, whereas they get paid for what they do. I am not sure they believe me and there may well come a time when they are right. Maybe they are right already.

Unlike running, you never really know with work. Calvin Coolidge advised that we should leave when they still want us to stay, but self deception is easier than self awareness. We all cut ourselves lots of slack. I still think I am working better than ever. But it gives me pause when I recall that I still feel like I am running just as fast as ever. It is just that my watch rudely informs me otherwise. I have tried to buy new watches, but they all agree with each other and not with me. They are very insensitive. And silence sounds no worse than cheers after earth has stopped the ears.

People who study these things have figured out optimal ages for various things. It has to do with the relative values of experience versus raw brain power. In fields where raw brain power is key, the young dominate. A person doing pure math will have accomplished most of his breakthrough thinking before he is 30. A physicist will be not much older. The average blogger is around 40. On the other hand, historians, lawyers and diplomats tend to do their best work when they are past 50, but at some point even this game is finished.

Older workers can be better than younger ones because they tend to have better work ethics and lack some of the bad habits that still afflict the young. (Many things slow down. I have always believed that Bill Clinton would have been a great president had he been elected 8 years later*) , but actual productivity probably peaks when the worker is around 45. Earnings, however, peak about ten years later. This is the source of age discrimination. The logic makes sense. Discrimination makes sense. That is why they have to make laws againt it.

As we try to solve the Social Security and entitlement dilemma, we will have to rethink how we think about older workers. Many of us will want to continue to work, but we cannot expect our current employers to let us hang around like old farts in a phone booth collecting the big bucks for doing less work than our more energetic younger co-workers - whipper-snappers.

As a society, we need to figure out ways for older people to transition to retirement. There can no longer be a clean break between working and retirement. We cannot afford it and increasingly healthy older people do not need it.

*There is a story about the old guy who finds a talking frog. The frog says, "I am a beautiful enchanted princess. Kiss me and I will become a beautiful woman and yours always." The old guy puts the frog in his pocket. The frog protests, "but I will become a beautiful woman, yours forever." The old guy responds, "At this point in my life, I think a talking frog is more interesting."

Posted by Jack at May 17, 2007 11:55 PM
Comment #220701
As a society, we need to figure out ways for older people to transition to retirement.

Hmm… So you think we should extend Social Security benefits so people can retire at 55 and live comfortably on it the rest of their lives? I don’t know how you plan on paying for it, but sign me up.

Posted by: American Pundit at May 18, 2007 2:11 AM
Comment #220703

No, Jack just thinks they should all work for Walmart as greeters for minimum wage instead of the company that thinks they now make too much and might expect some retirement compensation.

Posted by: womanmarine at May 18, 2007 4:08 AM
Comment #220704

Yep, Jack is getting older…he forgets to think.

Posted by: Marysdude at May 18, 2007 4:32 AM
Comment #220709

Jack, I am just a tad younger than you (49), but I have to say that I work better now than I did 26 years ago when I started. I work in the high-tech industry, in a technical sales role. The experience and skills I have acquired over the years make me a better, more valuable worker than the newer younger folks. I will admit that when it comes to raw knowledge, they sometimes have more than I, and I will admit that I often learn from younger workers. But pure knowledge is only a part of the equation. Experience counts a LOT. Knowing your way around the company counts a lot. In short I think I am more productive and valuable now than I was 20 years ago.

Also, the pace of work, the expectations of employers, has grown significantly over the 26 years I have been in the corporate world. When I started, a 40 hour week was pretty standard. Most Friday afternoons, there were few folks in the office…most on the golf course. Now, a 40 hour week is “slacking”, and 50 hour weeks are standard.

Finally, I think the way you take care of your body - both physically and mentally - has a lot to do with your approach to your job. I recently started dieting and exercising and have found that I have significantly more energy, and my overall mental approach to work has gone up. I feel 10 years younger (more or less). I think that as we age there are certainly many things about us that change, slow down, etc., but if you take care of yourself you can still have a full and active life into your 70s. It just takes commitment and effort - like anything in life that really matters.

Posted by: SteveK at May 18, 2007 8:18 AM
Comment #220714

Jack, as Groucho says, you’re only as old as the woman you … well, you know the rest.

I didn’t look up any statistics, but I’d wager that older folks generally got more money than younger ones, and thus are more likely to own businesses and invest in stocks. Time to push them aside? You advocating a redistribution of wealth?

Actually, I’m not certain what you are advocating. A larger welfare state?

Posted by: Gerrold at May 18, 2007 8:51 AM
Comment #220715


No. I do not think people should retire until they cannot work. They should work at things they still can do and perhaps accept lower pay. SS could supplement their pay. I still work about 50 hours a week. (they offered me a 40 hour a week job, but I didn’t want a part time job), but I anticipate the time when I will not want to or even be able to be active all day. I still will have a lot to contribute. I may live to 90. The last 30 years should not be playing golf and watching reruns on TV-Land.

Retirement is a relatively new concept. In most societies, old people continue doing some useful work until the really cannot. My wife’s family were farmers. The old farmer hung around the home place and did little things until he really could not. This is how it should be.


I also think that I am at the height of my ability as a manager and leader. But I can see that there is a definite drop off in some of the pure energy aspects. To a great extent, I am living off the human capital I built earlier, but I am not sure I am learning the new things. For (trivial) example, we are experimenting with communication techniques in virtual worlds, such as Second Life. Some of my colleagues are really embracing this and I can see its potential. I just think it is lame. I also refuse to answer my cell phone much of the time. My old fashioned management style tells me that my subordinates should make decisions and not come to me all the time. This works for now, but the new generation has definitely different ideas that will make me obsolete soon.


We need not all be greeters at Wal-Mart but given the choice between that an collecting stray cats, I expect Wal-Mart is better.


I am not advocating pushing them (us) aside in general. I plan (hope) to build a prosperous agricultural enterprise using forest products and fish ponds. This is the “job” of an investor and I will earn money to the extent of my productivity and judgment. The ability to use judgment in situations like this is what older people do well. I hope to continue to do something useful until they carry me out feet first. What I cannot expect is for my current employer to subside me if I “retire in place.”

Let the young have their Second Life and cell phones. I can handle the pace of trees growing and rivers flowing. But my employer will not have to continue to pay me the big bucks to do it.

Posted by: Jack at May 18, 2007 9:22 AM
Comment #220716


I am 66. Does that make me an above average blogger? lol


Can we look for you with Dan Marino doing commercials on TV? lol

I was able to retire at the age of 62. I am in my second career and life with several non-profit organizations that contribute to the welfare of people out of the norm in society, whether it is behavior or matterial. I am having fun making a contribution to people that need uplifting. In doing this I see many of people that are in those areas you talked about; young middle-aged, 50+, and finances, esteem, future life, spirituality, and more enter the picture. Everybody experiences discrimination through their life. Some more than others. Discrimination is a necessary evil. It has to be done sometimes. In some cases it works out all ok. In some cases it is overdone and someone gets hurt. I personally do not believe that to discriminate is bad. I practice discrimination with discretion. Some will nail me for that, but if those that choose to be critical were to examine every time I discrimination they would change their tune.

Posted by: tomh at May 18, 2007 9:43 AM
Comment #220727
No. I do not think people should retire until they cannot work. They should work at things they still can do and perhaps accept lower pay.

They have a system like that in Singapore. The country is very clean because 90 year-old Grandmothers go to work every day sweeping the muck from the streets, bussing tables at McDonald’s and scrubbing public toilets for subsistance wages. When they’re too old to stand, they just go and die.

I don’t know about you, Jack, but that sounds like Utopia to me. Where do I sign up?

Posted by: American Pundit at May 18, 2007 12:21 PM
Comment #220728

If knowledge is the reason people make more when they are older .. then why won’t more older people go into the teaching profession when they retire? Could it be because alot of kids today are mouthy, selfish, lazy brats?

My hubby is 66 - has his own business - and works harder and longer than most young (16 - 25?) men these days. He is in the logging business and cannot find young guys to work that hard. His employees have been logging for about 20 yrs themselves. The young guys last about 2 weeks!!!

Just a funny story….
I stopped at the gas station the other day… a neighbor was there filling up … he is retired, had his little poodle with him, lives in the north in the summer and south in the winter … The guy had to have had a ‘desk job’ where someone else did his thinking for him -
I swear it was his first time putting gas in his own car!!! He didn’t know how to work the pump AND had the nerve to have the attendant hold the nozzle (out of the tank) until he retrieved his sunglasses from his car! The lines were out of the parking lot and 3 cars filled up on the other side of the pump while he fumbled around. His wife does the mowing and, I imagine, everything else while he walks his poodle and reads the paper on the front porch.
Is it age, alzheimers, or has the man never had to do anything for himself????

Posted by: Dawn at May 18, 2007 12:28 PM
Comment #220737

Jack: I have you beat by a couple of years. I also would like to work on past my probable prime, likely until age 70 if I can make it. My business is stressful, so once I can take advantage of some of my retirement income options, doing something different, with lower pay and stress level seems a good option. The golden age of defined benefit pensions (perhaps from the 1950s through the 1970s) which could (and did/do support my late father and currently my mother) are gone, with the exception of many State and Municipal workers. I can imagine the younger workers taking the client contacts and stress and having a better time doing design work in a corner.

Mike in Tampa

Posted by: Mike in Tampa at May 18, 2007 1:07 PM
Comment #220743

There is ONLY one justified discrimination by government I want to see. Discrimination at our borders and across our country between those who abide our laws and those who violate them: inside our country an at our borders.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 18, 2007 1:20 PM
Comment #220751


All loggers have my respect. Your husband is a good example of a man who is getting paid based on what he is producing.

I agree with you re teaching too. It is also the teachers unions that block retired people from teaching by requiring onerous certifications.


I never suggested the government discriminate against anybody. I do not even advocate forcing anybody to do anything. I just think that we should not make old age a protected group. Everybody lucky enough not to die young will be old. It is not like we have any natural bias, but when old guys slow down, maybe we should let them do it gracefully.

You should always leave when people still want you to stay. The worst thing is when you hear that someone is still working at your firm and you honestly say, “I thought he was dead.”

I think Mike makes a good point. I like to the work I do today, but I envision a time when I will want to do a little less or do something else.

Posted by: Jack at May 18, 2007 2:56 PM
Comment #220752

Oh, yeah. That’s just what I’m planning on doing on my retirement, collect cats. How thoughtful of you.

Posted by: womanmarine at May 18, 2007 3:05 PM
Comment #220774


I hope you run a legitimate cat house. lol

Posted by: tomh at May 18, 2007 6:34 PM
Comment #220775


Now that’s a thought :)

Posted by: womanmarine at May 18, 2007 6:35 PM
Comment #220784

You know what’s cool? Jack, being a bright guy, is steering way clear of any BushCo topics right now. Gonzo, the war, etc. Good for him.

The US is the only developed nation where its citizenry has to fear disease taking away all they have. We need to strengthen the safety net, even if it means the wealthy won’t have their assets grow quite as quickly. Why? Because we need people to not be afraid all the time and we need people’s economic well being not to depend upon avoiding illness. It’s not like we need an economic incentive to stay healthy; health is the most valued commodity there is, far and above money. The chain reaction that occurs when a family’s breadwinner is struck with illness and can no longer earn, and then has to deal with the extremely high health costs in the US using their diminished income, the family gets wiped out. Under the current regime, they are twice cursed: they are reviled for being “lazy” by the no-nothings because they don’t have a job, and then, when they are forced into bankruptcy by their misfortune, we change the laws to make it more difficult, because we must be sure the credit companies get what they “need.”

Is this any way to care for our citizens? The old are just another example. We want to make sure no one except the very wealthy get much from the government. They are undeserving, as opposed to large energy corporations, sports franchises, and defense contractors. These we funnel dollars to at a prodigious rate, but the rest, feh. They can shrivel up and die. Gotta keep the welfare roles small, you know.

Okay, enough of my socialist rant. Let’s figure out how to make the economic growth benefit everyone to a proportionate degree. I bet if the top tax rates varied proportionate to how economic growth was distributed, we would a little more of the increase in wealth going to the labor that generated it. Just a thought.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at May 18, 2007 8:19 PM
Comment #220787

Us ‘old farts’ might not work as fast than the young ones, but we can still out work them. The reason? Because we’ve learned how to pace ourselves so we can keep going when the youngsters run out of wind.
I helped a couple of guys in their 20’s load 100lbs bags on a truck at the feed store the other day. The youngins were talking about how they were going wear the ‘old geezer’ out. After about 70 of the 150 bags these boys had their tongues hanging out and wondering how I was still going. Yeah they started out putting 2 bags to my 1 on the truck. But they soon ran out of steam while I was still going because I paced myself.
That right there would make me worth more than both of them put together if I was getting paid.
But I’m dumb enough to work there for free hoping to see some profit someday.

BTW, Both these youngster are best employees we have. I have no complaints with them.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 18, 2007 9:12 PM
Comment #220807

And if an old person reaches out to his nation for help to stay around long enough to see their grandchild born, or the daughter married, or their mate pass first? Should the American neighborhood turn their back on such a person, who worked all their life, abided our laws, and contributed to the social well being of our nation, maybe even risked their life in the armed forces to defend this nation?

Just let them go, eyes averted from their request; they are used up, no longer productive, please just die and in Scrooge like fashion rid the planet of yet another useless person asking for a handout?

That is the logical outcome of your recommendation, right? This is one of the primary reasons I could never be a Republican or Libertarian party supporter. Too many in those parties operate on that set of assumptions about those less fortunate than they.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 18, 2007 11:54 PM
Comment #220821

Jack is asking us to face facts: Old people just aren’t as good workers in many ways as young people. They don’t deserve work younger people want. Remember, this was the same Republican rationale used to support discrimination against women and blacks.

I do a lot of work virtually, so it’s hard to tell who’s young and who isn’t. I’ve found it really doesn’t matter. If anything, I find the older people to be a bit more confident and relaxed. If on average older people are inferior in any way I haven’t experienced it.

Posted by: Max at May 19, 2007 10:49 AM
Comment #220823

The country is already turning it’s back on it’s elderly.
It promised them a retirement plan (SS) and doesn’t give them enough to even pay the rent with. Much less eat.
It promised them health care and then forces them to pay cost a big chunk of it out of their pockets.
It taxes their SS income. Even though they paid taxes on it while they were working.
The country is more willing to support those that won’t work a lick than give those that have worked all their lives what it has promised them.
And it aint just one party that’s done all the damage. Both major parties are responsible for this mess.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 19, 2007 11:00 AM
Comment #220824

It promised them health care and then forces them to pay cost a big chunk of the cost out of their pockets.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 19, 2007 11:04 AM
Comment #220829

Jack, justified discrimination? I guess it must be ok as long as its the corporations doing the discrimination, and as long as it is to enhance the bottom line of the corporation. After all that is what our nation is built around the corporation’s bottom line. But wait doesnt that go against the group rights over the individuals rights that seem to be dragging this country down according to the free market types.

Posted by: j2t2 at May 19, 2007 12:15 PM
Comment #220830

Transition from work to retirement. Well who will determine when it is time to retire?
I am 56yrs young, working on my second retirement. When I turn 62 I will collect my Social Security,but I will also stay working up to the limit I am allowed if not more if it is to my advantage. I do not see myself sitting on a porch watching the world go by, or golfing, or fishing all the time.
But there is age discrimination thru out the US to include the US Government, so who do we complain to, Congress. With the retirement they get do you think they will listen to us. NO way

Posted by: KT at May 19, 2007 12:17 PM
Comment #220835

Jack et al
There is a big difference in what kind of work one does. A desk job is one thing. a Construction job another. I am 57. Some companies appreciate the value of experience. Others do not. I remember just starting to work for a bridge outfit. The supeintendant walked by and asked ,”your a little too old for this kind of work,aren’t you?’. First day,what the hell,so I offered to knock him on his ass instead of filing a grievance etc. I got two months work out of them before they got the nerve to cut me loose.
Last year I was working a bridge retrofit with my buddy,two years older than I. They gave us some trick,hanging forms to build on one end of the bridge. On the other end they gave the exact same formwork to three younger journeymen. My partner and I smoked them by five days.
Point is that older workers,given a chance,can and do get as much or more production. Smart companies realize this but laws at least giving us a chance are not only fair but also good business.

Posted by: BillS at May 19, 2007 12:56 PM
Comment #220863


Everything is not the government. I hope that our society can develop a way to transition people through the various stages of life. We used to have a career. We would work at it and then retire and soon after die. Now we can expect to live a long time after our first career. We cannot just retire people. Society cannot afford it and it is silly for the people involved.

We cannot, however, pretend that people do not change as they get older. I know from my own experience that my skill sets have changed. I used to be able to pick up languages fairly easily. As you get older, your language aptitude declines very rapidly. This is the way it is. You can find exceptions, and you can probably count them on one hand. The same goes for many sorts of math. On the other hand, young people simply cannot understand how things can progress over time. It depends on which skill you need.

Of course, some people get old and never wise and some young people never have the raw brain power.


See above. What are you talking about an old person reaching out. We just need to find a way to help people make a transition. We really do not need to put old folks out to pasture. We do, however, need to recognize the changes.


Fine. Pay people for what they can do and what they produce. Then we do not have any trouble.

As an older (although not old) guy, I understand that there are many things that I do better now than I could when I was 25. But there are many things I cannot do as well.


See above. Not only corporations. How about you? Do you do everything as well now as you ever did? Can you learn new things? Are you the same as you were?

I am only asking that we treat people are individuals.


If you are producing more, you should not have to worry about finding work and you do not need government protection. If fact, you are better off if you are freer to sell you skills w/o restriction.

Posted by: Jack at May 19, 2007 9:58 PM
Comment #220867


You will be able to earn only about 12k if you retire at 62. For every dollar over the max that you earn, you loose 2. So if you earn 12.5k est. you would loose 1k of SS.

Posted by: tomh at May 19, 2007 10:39 PM
Comment #220876

Well as apparently the youngest person here (I graduated from high school TODAY!) I think throwing old people out because they’re too old to know what’s going on or because they work to slow is bunk. My grandpa knows more about computers than I do. I could outrun him, but he still knows way more than I do.

And the elderly should always run the government. young people don’t have enough experience and are too whimsy and don’t think enough about consequences. Everything always happens to someone else. Praise God 18-year-olds aren’t running things. The first government scandal I remember was Monica Lewinsky I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. I was standing on a corner waiting for the school bus in 8th grade when I heard about 9-11. Some kids thought we should just nuke the middle east.

After my long pointless paragraph (my english teacher would be ashamed) my point is that we will always need old people for something and the moment we start questioning aptitude in one area we get to view seniors as inferior then its much easier to see them as inferior in every area. Not to mention the natural human tendency to see themselves as superior to everyone else.

Posted by: Silima at May 19, 2007 11:38 PM
Comment #220877

I find your choice of topic to be an interesting one, especially for you. Work the same for less\ Or something like that? Or is it less work\ less pay?

If people, seniors could get hired and be actually paid for the actual work they can do, I doubt this subject would have come to mind. As far as age goes, suffice it to say I have several years on you. I haven’t realized you were were a baby! ;-D

I have retired from the State of N.C. twice, actually, once for 20 years, and again in a similar, but slightly different capacity in 15 years. My retirement plan is just fine and dandy (with as previously stated, no Health Insurance.)assuming no major health issues. (cross your fingers)

I enjoyed working with the youth department system of the state enough that now that I live in SC I volunteer for the Local CASA (G.A.L.) development, the Juvenile Justice Department, and the Rape Crisis center\ Women’s shelter. I also volunteer for the Red Cross, and several activities in my local church, as well as in our local political areas. However, if I could get paid a full-time salary, with a few benefits (heck leave out the salary, just give me the benefits)I’d gladly go back to work.

My husband, who is 3 years younger than me has just finished taking classes at our local Community college, (graduated with at 4.0}in Business Management, after being putting out to pasture by the company he toiled for over 25 years. He hates being at home, so he also volunteers, however now that he actually has his Associates Degree, he is eager to go back to work. (If for no other reason than Health Insurance). He does however have the need to be productive.

Assuming he can find someone willing to hire him - he doesn’t want some phenomenal salary either. Enough to pay (if we find it) health insurance, gas, and working time.

My point is, Jack, both of us are most definitely fit and capable to work now, and hopefully for at least another 15 years - if we can find someone wiling to pay us enough that we wouldn’t mess with with our retirement savings and and bump us sky high in our tax situation.

I have, as also mentioned, 3 daughters: one is 26, and is an Assistant D.A. (not quiet a full year) and makes over $55,000, one of my twins, 25, works for Duke Hospitals, and makes just under $45,000 a year, and one works for NC State College,also making just under $45,000.

With the same basic education, the most I made as a 25 year old was $12,500.

Yes, I understand about inflation, cost of living increases, but no one was willing to pay me (with both a Math and Biology degree, and a few others,here and there etc.) anywhere near what my girls make today. A lot was discrimination, but a lot was simply that I didn’t have the knowledge to pace myself, the experience to cut through the red tape, or the savvy to know just how to do my job (I hate that word -job- I much prefer: My chosen profession) in the best, quickest, and, time saving manner.

My ex-husband graduated with a Masters in Urban Development and Governmental Grant Proposal Writing, etc. couldn’t find any thing that paid him more than $13,000. Later, I put him back in school and he got a Masters in Education, so he could find a job. At his age,then (37) he couldn’t make a lot,(number of years taught, type of thing) and knew he wouldn’t be able to teach for very long (now he hates it) but at least he can eat off of it. My - our, girls are already planning on how they will most most likely care for him when he is too old to work. His health is not the greatest.

My point is, I’m just as good now, perhaps better, than I have ever been. (Besides I don’t have to worry about day care, or sick children, etc.)As a Senior citizen, I have also learned many things during my life-time, and while I could never work at Construction, I never have or could have any way.

Our Wal-Mart does not offer health insurance to those who work less than 40 hours, so all the employees are scheduled to work 39 or less hours a week, with the exceptions of the manager, and Assistant Manager, and a couple other staff members. (I know I asked the manager)! (That’s how they get around the law)The Sneaks! In the tiny town we live in even Wal-Mart isn’t hiring right now!!! We don’t have any major industries around here any more (think NFTA)

Again. Jack, somehow, I doubt this subject would have arisen had these issues not been get a little close to home.

Just for fun:
Just imagine how many Seniors could be hired if the astronomical salaries being paid by some companies for their current CEO’s salaries…and pension plans were divided!

Heck imagine HOW MANY PEOPLE in general could live off of just one CEO’s Salary and pension plan!!!

Posted by: Linda H. at May 19, 2007 11:44 PM
Comment #220878

Fine. Pay people for what they can do and what they produce. Then we do not have any trouble.

Other than manual labor, I’m not sure what an old person can’t do as well as a young person.

Posted by: Max at May 20, 2007 12:19 AM
Comment #220883

Linda H

As I wrote in my initial post, this was indeed provoked by thoughts of my own aging. I have been running for 30 years and I run a lot slower now. The thing is that I still feel like I am running at the same speed. If it was not for my watch, I would be sure of it.

The point I was trying to make (although I must have done a poor job of explaining) is that we need to develop a transition system. People are living much longer. It used to be that a person got a job, worked there until he retired and then left the workforce. This no longer makes sense. People change jobs much more often these days. They also may want to embark on second careers. Older people bring useful skills, but there are also liabilities. Employers should be free to negotiate different compensation packages. Today that is difficult since it might be seen as age discrimination. This is not useful to either employers or the older people. I have seen studies that indicate that many older employees would prefer to work part time or sometimes less taxing schedules. Naturally, you would expect to pay less. It is that simple.

Re seniors and CEOs, that does not matter. I am simply talking about the relative salaries. If you have a business, you want to hire those that will produce the most of what you want. Hiring anybody is not a gift. It is a transaction where both parties get something of what they want.


It depends. Energy levels drop. Maybe I am just weaker than some, but I used to be able to put in 16 hour days. Now I cannot. In high stress environments, the young tend to last longer.

There is also a problem with new skills. Language learning is well documented to drop off rapidly with age. So does math. Old people are living off their human capital on these things. They tend to improve in matters that require experience such as judgment and social issues, as I wrote above. Unfortunately, some experience has been OBE’d.

Categories are not perfect. Some older people are better than some younger people in “young things” and some young people have good old skills. Even with my great drop off in running times (a very physical “young” activity) I could still outrun the AVERAGE 22 year old. But I was faster at 22 than I am today and if you take a random group of 100 young people they will always run faster than a random group of 52 year olds.

SO what do we do? We judge individuals but we are not surprised if different age groups are paid differently in aggregate. Those two things are different.

Posted by: Jack at May 20, 2007 1:18 AM
Comment #220887


No one, even a 22 year old should be expected to work 16 hour days, no matter what the wage.

I have and it sucks.
That doesn’t mean, when it’s crunch time, we don’t work the hours that are necessary to finish the job. Dedication is one thing, not being able to manage your time on the job is quite another.
It’s called having a life.

I make more money now, at age 54 (nearly 55), as a wage, than I have ever made in my life.
I don’t work harder, I work smarter, and I still get the job done in the allotted time.

“We judge individuals but we are not surprised if different age groups are paid differently in aggregate. Those two things are different.”

Should I take a pay cut because I can’t lift 300 lbs over my head any more?
Hell no!
That’s what 22 year olds are for.

Posted by: Rocky at May 20, 2007 1:55 AM
Comment #220900


You are getting paid what you are producing. IF you demanded the money that you were not producing, it would be unfair. Some learn as they get older; others just get older.

Posted by: Jack at May 20, 2007 8:19 AM
Comment #220909

You are making an incorrect asumption regarding wages. Wages are only marginally effected by production. Wage rates are a product of supply and demand like any other commodity.In other words labor is worth what you can get for it.Skill levels and trainning effect the supply side,that is it.If it was production based middle management,for example,that is essentially non-productive would always be paid less than production workers.C.E.O.s that command multi-million dollar pay packages would not exist. There is no way one can produce that much,etc.Unions ,for another example,make wage gains by controlling the supply. All along this process there is government involvement that has evoled in response to inherent drawbacks in the system. There is room for disagreement as to the benefits of this interference. They range from restrictions on unions,Davis/Bacon laws(Rep legislation you should be proud of),minimum wage,licensing requirements from welders to surgeons,overtime etc. There are places where arguabley these regulation are not helpful and there are places where more regulation should exist,ie. healthcare. Supply effects break down when they have you kid on a gurney. The goals of business are simply not the same as the goals of good governance,nor should they be expected to be.What is good for GM is NOT what is good for America.Example,war is good for arms makers and is never a good thing for a country,necessary or not.We should be extremely cautious about any guest worker program or trade deals as they have the potential to disort the labor market against American workers.At any rate some protection of older workers is a minor interference compared to some some government regulation and has and will be of benefit to society and business. Its importance will grow as our population ages. One way to ease the strain on SS for example is for workers to have the option of working longer,IF they choose too and are in jobs where they can.

Posted by: BillS at May 20, 2007 12:40 PM
Comment #220912

Older people bring useful skills, but there are also liabilities. Employers should be free to negotiate different compensation packages.

I disagree with you that seniors, in general, cannot work as well as younger people. The same logic you are using was used to keep the handicapped from working. They can be slower, take longer to learn skills, have trouble interfacing with coworkers, etc. However, when given the chance, businesses found they could also be as productive as anyone else.

Your argument is that there are some types of work, like manual labor, where a business should be able to bar seniors from being employed, but this is already the state of affairs. If there is any medical reason why a potential employee cannot do their job duties a company does not have to hire them. Period.

I am against automatically giving seniors less pay for any work they do.

Posted by: Max at May 20, 2007 1:21 PM
Comment #220933


If they are productive there will be no trouble. I am also automatically giving ANYONE less or more for the work they do. In fact, that is what we are arguing over. You want to force, by regulation, firms to pay some workers more than they would normally do and others less.

Please also see below.


“Protecting” older workers may have the perverse effect of making them less desirable and reducing flexibility.

Many older workers might prefer part time work or lighter duty instead of retirement. Employers may be willing to do this to keep a productive worker, but it would not be fair to other employees to pay this guy as much, or in some cases more (older worker often have higher pay grades).

This often happens naturally, but being flexible run the risk of running afoul of the law when a bad employee decides to make an issue. Good mangement requires treating similar behaviors similarly. That means that when people behave in different ways, they will not be treated the same.

I allow my employees to telecommute two days a week. Some of my most productive workers are telecommuters. However, it is harder for them to make the necessary career connections to get ahead. I have been trying to figure out how to remedy this, but I do not have any working solutions. I am not sure it is a “problem” that should be remedied. The people who come in every day hear things first, can more effectively use informal networks and have more opportunities to make themselves useful.

There is a place for both kinds of workers. Some of the telecommuters are much more successful than some of those who come in to work every day. But if you look at larger numbers, you will find a pattern that the “full time” workers get ahead faster. Most leadership positions require presence. Sometimes you not only have to be doing something, but also be seen to be doing something.

This is the problem I was talking about in a previous post. If you do what is best for the individual people involved and give them all choices, the aggregate numbers may not be what you want. You can get the aggregate numbers right only by limiting the free choice of the individual people you claim to be helping.

If an older worker seeks a flexible schedule instead of full retirement, a flexible employer may well be liable for natural consequences of flexibility. A smart employer, seeing this risk, just goes with what is easily defensible in the legal or bureaucratic sense rather than what is right or best.

Posted by: Jack at May 20, 2007 9:05 PM
Comment #220935

“it would not be fair to the other employees…”
There is a Bible verse about that to the effect that so long as the other workers are paid fairly it is none of their business if you want to pay someone else more.

Posted by: BillS at May 20, 2007 9:38 PM
Comment #220937


I agree with Bill, most companies discourage discussing wages with the other employees.

Frankly, it’s no body’s business what I make.

Posted by: Rocky at May 20, 2007 10:39 PM
Comment #220939


Is it paying people fairly if someone starts to work less time and still gets paid that same as those who work full time? It is unfair to treat different behavior and inputs the same.

Rocky & BillS
I believe in transparency within the firm re wages. Everybody can know how much I make and nobody’s wages should be a secret. I do not think it is anybody’s business outside, but if we are working together, I do not think our relative compensation should be a secret. I make what I make because I deserve it. People almost always think they are underpaid, but if everybody thinks I am overpaid, maybe I am. On the other hand, if somebody is making such a poor wage that it embarasses the boss, perhaps he should be embarassed. In any case, I should not be ashamed of my salary, either on the up or the downside..

Posted by: Jack at May 20, 2007 10:47 PM
Comment #220940


That’s not the point.

Virtually every company I have worked for as an actual employee discouraged wages as common knowledge.
The only person who knew what I made was my manager.
The same holds true when I work as a freelance show tech.
Not every person makes the same daily wage, only in that circumstance, it is by true worth (experience).
Frankly, as a freelance tech, my scale is flexible by how badly I want to accept the job.
If I am not really interested I am much more expensive than if I really want the project.

Posted by: Rocky at May 20, 2007 11:04 PM
Comment #220948


Your situaiton is not exactly the same. You are a contractor, with particualar needs and cost structures. You make a deal every time you work and are subject to compention. If you work, it is because somebody wants you and thinks you are worth the money.

In the case of an ordinary steady worker, he may or may not be wanted or useful - or he may not be wanted or useful at the price. Every manager knows that if you could start from zero, there are some people on your staff that you would want to hire even at high prices and some you would not take if they paid you.

One of the positive things about the economy is that we have so many contrators like you who have to satisfy customers each day. When a person takes a full time job, he gives up some of the freedom and so does his employer. They no longer need to be satisfied day-to-day. But if the inbalance becomes too great, something should be possible. In this case laws against “age discrimination” become impediments to free choice.

Age is not like other forms of discrimination. People clearly do change as they get older. The job you are best at when you are 25 is not the same one you will be good at when you are 55. Most people acquire useful skills and become valuable in other, maybe better ways. But that does not mean they all can still do any job.

Posted by: Jack at May 21, 2007 8:08 AM
Comment #220951

You want to force, by regulation, firms to pay some workers more than they would normally do and others less.

If it weren’t for regulation, blacks wouldn’t have jobs, handicapped people wouldn’t have jobs, women wouldn’t have jobs. The free market alone cannot correct for everything.

I understand many older people cannot do some jobs as well as young ones. No one forces anyone to hire older people in these cases. There is no law saying older people should automatically be paid less, just because they are older.

Posted by: Max at May 21, 2007 10:39 AM
Comment #220952


Is it paying people fairly if someone starts to work less time and still gets paid that same as those who work full time? It is unfair to treat different behavior and inputs the same.

This is not the same thing you started out saying,

Obviously, if someone is working less time, (normally called part-time) they should make less than a full -time employee.

If a Senior is working less time, then he\she should be paid less. The same goes for a teenager, or anyone else. I however believe that if a person is not capable of carrying their load, then and then should they be paid less. Or perhaps face being fired. In fact that might be might be the better idea.

Posted by: Linda H. at May 21, 2007 11:11 AM
Comment #220954

I apologize for using your blog as a contact source for Jack, but I am unable to locate his e-mail address.

To Jack and many of the Republicans on this site:
This is an article from the Charlotte Observer, in Charlotte and Mecklenburg, NC.

It explains far better the plight of the working poor than anything I could ever write. Jack frequently seems to miss some of the major elements of the working poor in many of his posts.

David, again I apologize for usurping your blog.
Thank you Linda H


Posted on Sun, May. 20, 2007

A WISH to make rent more affordable
Subsidies, support services would help the working poor

GAYLE SHOMER - gshomer@charlotteobserver.com

Joyce Turner holds a recent photograph of her 13-year-old son in her room at the YWCA where she lives. Turner’s wish is to get a place of her own and bring her son back to live with her.

For many of Charlotte’s working poor, $8 an hour comes down to this: a narrow room in a transitional home, an envelope of money to a faraway child and thousands of dollars in long-unpaid debt.

Compared with the shelter floors where Joyce Turner has had to lie in the past, her YMCA room is “heaven,” she said. But it isn’t a permanent home.

Social service agency workers have long tried to help residents like Turner, who works full time for a cleaning service but can’t afford an apartment to live with her 13-year-old son. For $355 a month, Turner rents a small but clean space at the YWCA on Park Road, about 170 miles away from her child. The Y offers case management to help her get back onto her feet.

But there is a gap, agencies say, between this and permanent housing. A growing number don’t make it to the other side. Some agencies are trying to start a new program: Workforce Initiative for Supportive Housing, or WISH, a program established at the Foundation For The Carolinas to offer a rent subsidy and services to the working poor.

Generally, WISH would subsidize rent by about $250 a month — the difference between the $550 average rent for an older apartment and the $300 that a worker making $8 an hour can afford. Darren Ash, a leader of the effort, stresses that WISH is not like Section 8 housing, the federal housing subsidy for low-income families. Each client would receive personalized support for as long as they need it.

Because of Charlotte’s shortage of affordable housing — estimated at a deficit of more than 12,000 units — even those who move on from transitional homes are devoting a dangerously large portion of their paychecks to rent, workers say. WISH would offer some stability. Otherwise, any small financial emergency could leave them homeless again.

“We just serve the same people over and over and over again,” said Susan Burgess, mayor pro tem, who chairs the City Council’s housing and neighborhood development committee

For years, the agencies — Crisis Assistance Ministry, Lutheran Family Services, Charlotte Emergency Housing, Uptown Shelter and various shelters in Charlotte — had pondered a way to start WISH. Recently, momentum has built. In two months of fundraising, religious groups and corporations have committed about $2 million, largely due to Ash’s efforts.

Ash has been educating congregations on how thousands of families such as Turner’s increasingly can’t afford housing. They become “stuck” in shelters or transitional homes, he said, unable to leave because of low wages, bad credit and debt.

Besides the $2 million committed, organizers have asked the city for $200,000 a year for five years, beginning in the 2008 fiscal year.

Burgess, who supports the measure, said passage could be difficult because of a tight budget. But she will work to get WISH in the budget, she said. “To me, it’s just cost-effective,” she said.

Within the next two months, WISH organizers hope to enter their first clients into a pilot program. WISH will work with landlords to find vacant units, bridging financial gaps for the client’s rent and pairing families with case managers who help them become self-sufficient. Ash said they are looking at about 4,000 vacant apartments.

The initiative would target only those who have a stable job. So it would be unlikely to alleviate overcrowding in homeless shelters like the Salvation Army, said Deronda Metz, director of social services there. Most who enter that shelter are unemployed, she said.

At the YWCA, Turner spread photos of her five children onto her bed. Four are adults; her son lives in a children’s home in Oxford, about 170 miles northeast of Charlotte, If only she could afford an apartment in a safe neighborhood, she said, she could bring him home.

“If I’m coming home from work and my son gets home before me,” she said, “I want to know that he’s gonna be all right.”

The Poverty Line

About 82,000 residents in Mecklenburg County live below the federal poverty line, measured as earning an income of about $19,000 for a family of four. In Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, there are 1,900 homeless children.

To Learn More

For more information or to donate, please contact Darren Ash at dash@crisisassistance.org

Posted by: Linda H. at May 21, 2007 11:34 AM
Comment #220971


The whole terminology behind the conservative “Enitlements” argument makes no sense to me. EVERYONE who works in this country (on the books anyway), pays into Social Security. IT’S OUR MONEY TO BEGIN WITH!

The problem is that for generations now BOTH PARTIES have been guilty of dipping into the social security money like mobsters managing the teamsters pension accounts in the era of Jimmy Hoffa. It’s all a load of CRAP.

If only the account were truely sacrosanct. There should be a law against allowing our pork-barrel-spending and money-grubbing politicians of both sides of the aisle to calculate the social security account as part of the overall budget. Efforts have been made but they have not yielded what is necessary because the American people have yet to clamor loadly enough to put the pressure on sufficiently to get the job done. Perhaps an insufficient number of Americans realize that the problem with Social Security ISN’T that program is failing or even that it is a bad idea…THE PROBLEM IS THAT WASHINGTON CAN’T KEEP THEIR HANDS OUT OF COOKIE JAR!!!!

Posted by: RGF at May 21, 2007 8:08 PM
Comment #220972


The whole terminology behind the conservative “Enitlements” argument makes no sense to me. EVERYONE who works in this country (on the books anyway), pays into Social Security. IT’S OUR MONEY TO BEGIN WITH!

The problem is that for generations now, BOTH PARTIES have been guilty of dipping into the social security money like mobsters managing the teamsters pension accounts in the era of Jimmy Hoffa. It’s all a load of CRAP.

If only the account were truely sacrosanct. There should be a law against allowing our pork-barrel-spending and money-grubbing politicians of both sides of the aisle to calculate the social security account as part of the overall budget. Efforts have been made to do this, but they have not yielded what is necessary because the American people have yet to clamor loadly enough to put the pressure on sufficiently to get the job done. Perhaps an insufficient number of Americans realize that the problem with Social Security ISN’T that the program is failing, or even that it is a bad idea…THE PROBLEM IS THAT WASHINGTON CAN’T KEEP THEIR HANDS OUT OF THE COOKIE JAR!!!!

Posted by: RGF at May 21, 2007 8:11 PM
Comment #220979


I think you overstate the case. You sometimes need legal pushes, usually to get rid of previous legal pushes. Blacks suffered in many place by LAW. Those were also regulations.

I believe strongly in supporting individual rights, but there are several intersting questions you have to ask yourself if you are talking about HR policies.

If some groups are paid less for similar production, why don’t firms hire only from those groups? Are they not greedy? If some of them do not take advantage of the cheaper labor, would not those who do be able to compete the others out of business? If you are able to pay your workers only 75 cents for every dollar I pay AND your workers produce as much per person, how can I stay in business.

Re older workers, why would a firm want to get rid of an experienced worker who was producing good results and value for work?

Linda H

Many people are not paid by the hour. Many older people downshift. I know that I work less than I used to. My experience is still paying off, but at some point I do not think it will make up for my diminished time in.

Re email - I do not put it up anymore because I got too many special comments. You can write what you want to me here. I usually read the blog. Although it is better to link than copy. You might summarize and then link.

re being poor - yes, some people are poor. We discuss how best to make them not poor. I am glad if we can remove structural obstacles. I think we face a more difficult task in changing habits and culture.


I pay the maximum SS. What I pay and what you pay immediately goes out again. The SS system is not a savings program. It is and always was a pay as you go system. There is no way, even in theory, for the USG to save money. It can only write IOUs to itself. Just like if you write checks to yourself and put them away. You may have thousands of dollars in checks, but you an only cash them if you have enough in your bank account.

Whether you or I think the current system just or not does not matter at all. The system that we have works the way it works AND it was conceived to work that way. FDR knew when he set up the system that it was not a saving system. There is no trust fund. There cannot be a trust fund. The government has just put in IOUs to itself. It can do nothing else. Where would it “save” the money? The government prints the money. If the government does not borrow the SS money, we would have to lower SS taxes. In which case, we would just raise other taxes to make up for it. Everything would be the same. But you would still face that entitlement crisis.

The entitlement crisis is NOT financial. It is demographic. There used to be five or more workers supporting every recipient. Soon it will get to be almost a one-to-one. Five guys can more easily share a burden than one.

The fact is that sometime soon our kids will have to be expropriating high taxes to support us in our retirement. I consider that very unjust. You do not get to call me greedy on this one. I personally would benefit more by the current system. I am trying to change a system that I will collect from in order to help younger people. Rather, it is the greedy who want to keep the current system and rip off future generations.

Posted by: Jack at May 21, 2007 9:31 PM
Comment #220981

Ha Jack
I wish I could figure out how to build a bridge and telecommute.That lumber and concrete just will not move no matter how many times I email them.I recall reading during the last big dotcom downturn that telecommuters were the first to go. No friends,no relationships,no one missed them.
Most people work hourly. Work fewer hours,get less pay.Most fair.


Absolutly…But not woth the triple post.

Posted by: BillS at May 21, 2007 9:43 PM
Comment #220992

Re.SS I encourage Reps to try and hurt SS. It just speeds their demise as a party…Those same demographics you mentioned. As to raiseing taxes to pay the fund’s ious,perhaps we could cut expenses instead. We could start by not attacking countries that do not threaten us.We could also not fund incredibly expensive and dangerious weapons systems that will never be used.I am sure you can come up with more saving ideas.

Posted by: BillS at May 21, 2007 10:36 PM
Comment #220993


You can raise taxes to give more money to the retired. You can cut other programs. You still have the bottom line demographic problem. By around 2030, we will be spending around 20% of GDP on entitlement. That is what we currently tax in ALL taxes. So even if we cut everything except entitlements, we just do not have the money.

I do not think the Republicans will bring it up soon. They were hit too hard by Dems, but our country will be worse off.

We can not talk about it. Politicans can avoid the subject. But the fact remains that we will not be able to support the program very much longer. Not making major changes is just not among our options.

“could thou and I with Fate conspire/To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire!/Would not we shatter it to bits - and then/Re-mould it nearer to our Heart’s Desire!”

Re SS, we might have a better chance of getting water to run up hill than make SS work. No matter how much we wish for it, it ain’t gonna happen.

Posted by: Jack at May 21, 2007 10:49 PM
Comment #221138


since actual productivity peaks at 45, there are a whole lot of CEOs we need to sack, since they are being paid WAY beyond what they actually contribute.

Wages are about what you negotiate, Jack.

I don’t know your world, except for what you’ve shared here. In my business world, there are no handouts for older workers. I don’t know anyone in a corporate environement who isn’t justifying their value ongoingly.

As for your athletic decline Jack, that’s your fault. This year at 42 I’ve set bests in both marathons and sprint triathlons (doing my first Ironman next year).

You also ought to look up Tor Aanensen. He set his lifetime best marathon of 2:34:20 at the age of 56. His VO2 max at the time was 67. That’s comparable to 80% of the riders in the Tour de France.

Oh yeah, one last thing about Tor. He wasn’t some superhuman youngster athlete who carried his advantage with him as he aged. Tor took up running in his 30s.

Jack, it’s funny of you to suggest the relative uselessness of older people at a time where study after study is dispelling previous myths of aging.

Not aging well? Handle it. Or not. But don’t extrapolate your personal infirmities into a grand theory of aging.

Posted by: CPAdams at May 23, 2007 5:22 PM
Comment #221154


All I ask is that we do not have a law making age a protected group. I also see that older people may want to ease into retirement.

BTW - re marathons, those would be personal bests, right? If you were in excellent condition as a 22 year old, you will not be able to run as fast even if you are in excellent condition as a 42 year old.

Age happens. That is why you do not see 60 year olds winning the Olympics. You might be good for your age and you might be better than you ever have been before if you were not very athletic as a young man, but age happens.

You will suffer athletic decline as you age from 22 to 52. If you are in the best condition possible at 42, you will be slower at 52. Do not mistake relative condition for absolute condition.

BTW - all life is relative. 52 year old men are about as fast as 22 year old women. So you can expect signifant numbers of women to outrun you in about ten years.

Posted by: Jack at May 23, 2007 10:46 PM
Post a comment