Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Nation's Unemployment: Am I the Problem and the Solution?

The unemployment rate for April 2012 was 8.1% with 12.5 million Americans unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The New York Times reported Thursday that 7.2 million Americans aged 65 or older were continuing to work. If all 7.2 million Americans were to retire, then only 5.3 million Americans will be unemployed, a stirring rate of 3.52%. The President would be reelected in a landslide.

If, only if!

It’s not going to happen.

I am part of the problem. I turn 66 next Tuesday. My wife is giving me an IPad for my birthday, and Kaiser the first of two knee replacements.

I’ve just completed 40 years of teaching law school, and I hope to teach another 40 years. It won’t happen, but I can still dream.

No social security or Medicare for me in the near future.

I’ll teach till I drop.

Why don’t we Baby Boomers and even some survivors of the Greatest Generation retire?

Why do some continue to work as greeters at WalMart? Wouldn’t volunteering as a docent at a museum be more culturally rewarding?

For many it’s a matter of economic necessity. In spite of President Obama’s representations to the composite Julia, social security does not often allow seniors to “retire comfortably.”

Others, especially in the private sector, have seen their retirement accounts wiped out or slashed in the past 4 years. They cannot retire to the standard of living to which they have become accustomed. If both houses and IRA’s are under water, then retirement looks bleak.

Many are hit with catastrophic medical costs.

Working for many seniors is a way of keeping busy. Sitting in a rocking chair on a porch drinking mint juleps is not their dream in life. Del E. Webb’s Sun City is not in their future. No golf courses or world cruises for them.

They live for solid, productive work.

Many are in a position where they can continue to give back to society. Think of Ben Franklin.

For others, working is all they know. Some of us still have a work ethic.

Some like Paul “Bear” Bryan and Joe Paterno were scared that they would die shortly after retirement. They were right.

As for myself, I love to teach, even if not all the students perceive that. Many universities used to require mandatory retirement at 67, but age discrimination statutes now prohibit forced retirements by age. Airline pilots must still hang it up at 60, but very few other professions face such a fate. Politicians may be voted out of office, often through term limits, but some hang on, perhaps past their time.

Some lawyers become “of counsel” but others like to remain equity partners. Many professors become emeriti, but others are senior faculty.

The body may not be what it once was, but the mind still functions.

We may have senior moments (also known as absent minded professors), but what the heck even President Obama sometimes forgets how severe the recession was.

A lot of brilliant, young faculty are waiting in the wings for a tenure track position. They will just have to wait their turn.

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