Thursday, November 18, 2004

Grandma Hyman Is Rolling in her Grave

Facts can be stubborn things, at least if you bother to acknowledge them. That’s why intellectually lazy people tend to ignore them.

A case in point is Mark Hyman’s recent rant about a program called Senior Community Service Employment. This program (sponsored by the Department of Labor) uses federal funds to allow states, working in partnership with organizations such as the AARP, to create job training programs for citizens over 55. Hyman cites a study by an organization called The Capital Research Center that claims this funding is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Here are some facts Hyman leaves out. First, The Capital Research Center is not a nonpartisan fact-finding organization. It’s a right-wing think tank that believes in dismantling what they call the “welfare state,” (you know—programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid . . . useless programs like that).

Secondly, this training is specifically for seniors who are living at or below the poverty level, a group that is sure to rise significantly in the coming years. Hyman implies that the program is a “make-work” boondoggle that serves as a way for non-profit organizations (oh, those greedy non-profits!) to rake in money. In reality, the program is meant to help poor seniors develop work skills they can use to avoid being utterly dependent. Such individuals often lack necessary job skills to land a private-sector job. This program helps them gain these skills while performing needed community service (such as working at your local library, for example).

Hyman seems to think the bottom line is how much productivity one can get out of an investment. True, a young person might be trained faster than an elderly person, but then again the young person likely has many avenues through which to gain employment skills. A 65-year-old widow who spent her life raising kids rather than getting computer training has far fewer options and, yes, probably needs more time to get up to speed on the latest version of Windows than the average 22-year-old. But if more than 20% of the seniors who receive this training land private-sector employment each year, this means there are a lot of older Americans getting a new lease on life and contributing to society while doing it.

In Hyman’s world, a program that spends a pittance to help poverty-stricken elderly (who are disproportionately women and minorities) become self-sufficient and productive is an inexcusable waste of taxpayer money. Meanwhile, a voluntary war against a country that posed no immediate threat to us or its neighbors under the pretext of manipulated “evidence” is just fine.

Mark, we hope your grandma isn’t around to see you make such a fool of yourself.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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