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older Americans, which, adjusted
for inflation, has declined by about a
third over the past decade, says Susan
Houseman, an economist at the W.E.
Upjohn Institute for Employment
Research in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“The transition for older workers is
hard,” she says. “You need a program
that targets their specific needs.”
While retraining is part of the solu-
tion, it’s not the entire answer. “What
we’re facing is job shortages,” says
economist Robert Scott. “We need to
create more demand for labor.”
Scott says he’s heartened by Presi-
dent Barack Obama’s plan to deliver
a jolt to the economy in the form of
a giant stimulus package, but says
it should focus on spending, not tax
cuts. “We need spending of at least
$700 billion in the next one to two
years,” he says. “And the government
needs to start now.”
A good place to start creating blue-
collar jobs, Scott says, is infrastructure:
rebuilding the nation’s deteriorating
roads, bridges, waterways, and schools.
He believes Congress also needs to
allocate more funding to unemploy-
ment compensation and foreclosure
prevention, so that those Americans
who do lose their jobs receive a softer
Best of all would be an ambitious,
well-designed job-creation push for
workers at all levels and of all ages.
That, says Scott, could help cure more
than just the current recession. “For 30
years we’ve had an economy that has
failed to deliver growth for working
people,” he says. “We need to reverse
that. Then we can have an economy
where everybody wins.” ;
Barry Yeoman, based in North Carolina,
is a contributing editor. His article “When
Wounded Vets Come Home” appeared in
the July–August 2008 issue.
Additional reporting by Pat Walters, who
is earning his master’s degree in creative
nonfiction at the University of Memphis.