If the numbers are so good ... how come everyone I know is depressed?
I mean the job numbers. And I don’t mean that literally everyone I know is depressed. But you don’t hear too many people humming show tunes in the grocery line. People seem to pull away from the television screen in the elevator, as if the bad news is contagious.
The world is a mess, and so are most people’s home lives: elderly parents (at least they have Medicare); kids trying to figure out what “to be” in a world that no longer offers paths that look clear even at the beginning; and middle age — how to even begin to describe middle age?
How did so many people who were so successful in their 20s and 30s, who did everything they were supposed to do to live happily ever after in their 50s and 60s, get caught in this perfect storm of supposedly costing too much for the wrong skills, which is another way of saying “too old?”
I hear these stories every day. This is a composite. We’re all still trying.
What if you could fire one 60-year-old white woman and hire two 28-year-olds with more “current” skills? Do you do it?
You can always find an excuse to fire somebody. They’ve been late a few times in all those years, or they had words with someone — it’s inevitable that a long-term employee will run afoul of HR somewhere along the way. So they become repeat offenders the next time they commit the smallest infraction.
It’s not that they’ve done anything wrong. But if they were going to have the next brilliant idea, wouldn’t they already have had it? (Not necessarily. Sometimes experience matters; sometimes wisdom comes from experience.)
What, if anything, does an employer “owe” to a longtime employee who has helped to build a company, to make it what it is? Loyalty? Sorry, that company doesn’t exist anymore. What have you done for me lately?
People my age, and 10 years older and younger, the 50-somethings, did not expect to find themselves in the economic mess they face. It’s not just stock market and IRA values that have fallen.
So has the value of their skills, the value attached to the prestigious old-line firms (many of them no longer existing, at least not in that form) where they made their names, where senior vice presidents expected to spend their careers or trade to a similar team with all the old perks, but now find themselves replaced by young women in low-cut blouses, some of whom are even smart, though that is not the first requirement, and all of whom are cheaper and closer to the demographic everyone is looking for, even if that particular young woman is being supported by parents who match my demographic and not hers.
And then there’s the part we don’t even say out loud, the part that’s about the fact that the two young women in the low-cut blouses may be minorities. How about that for achieving our goals? Now, they’re not likely to be promoted, and there’s no one to mentor them, but they’re not complaining. Everyone else is.
I’m sure there are some very happy people among the 1 percent, happy about how well they have done under the Obama presidency. But I don’t get invited to those parties. Truth be told, I don’t get invited to nearly as many parties as I used to, and I don’t think I’m the only one.
The numbers may be OK, but it hardly feels as if there is much to celebrate.
Susan Estrich is a nationally syndicated columnist.