Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Old Gray Nightmare

Used to be, when I needed a good bout of projectile vomiting, my favorite choice among Atlantic writers was Caitlin Flanagan. But the wench has gone soft, and for awhile I was reduced to digging through back issues for old Robert Kaplan articles, until Megan McArdle, blabertarian par nonchalance, sprung up from its pages like the green shoots of a kudzu recovery. Now it seems like every day is Christmas Day:
The latest piece from the New York Times in the growing genre of "Older workers finding it hard to get new jobs after a layoff" has triggered the predictable musings about whether we should raise the Social Security retirement age, and how to combat age discrimination. These are interesting debates, about which I hope to write more later.
Yes, later, like, when you turn 57. 'Cause right now, Wet-Behind-The-Ears, you know less than nothing about age discrimination, (maybe almost as little as you do about economics), and your threat to dip your pen in those waters at some future date feels like foil on fillings to one who does. Your glib prescriptions for handling a devastating life loss (save more! don't spend! plan something! get a job!) run to the typical self-apparent idiocies of a kid who never knew real need, and never cared.

None of her "solutions" reflects the very real problems faced by the older worker or deals with how to handle being rejected out of hand by HR drones when the dates on a resume give away the age of the person who wrote it. Nor does she seem to be aware of the decision of Bush's Supreme Court that overturned the use of a mixed motive prima facie in age discrimination cases. In other words, it is insufficient to show that age was just one factor among others that caused the act of harm, as it is in other types of discrimination. Successful age discrimination cases are rare, because they are held to a higher standard than other kinds, even though They are some of the most common types in existence. Even the most obvious evidence must be laundered through a variety of legal litmus tests, which makes it nigh impossible to prevail. Why? Because business would lose its mind (and some of its profits) if it were otherwise, and since corporations are now recognized as having essentially human and civil rights, the future of such litigation is looking even dimmer.

Good times, plutocrats. Megan will be right there with you, till time converts her working capital into worthless wheelbarrows of aging scrip. But by then, a whole new crop of young smartasses will be around to take her place and dropkick her into history's dumpster. Don't worry, kid. You can always make a plan.