Where did the rational person (used to be man) go?


In his Sept. 23 column, The Responsibility Deficit, David Brooks explored Philip K. Howard’s idea that our country is uncoupling actions and consequences with unfortunate results for all of us.

“Over the past several decades, he [Howard] argues, a thicket of spending obligations, rules and regulations has arisen, which limits individual discretion, narrows room for maneuver and makes it harder to assign responsibility,” Brooks wrote.

Last week, I was talking with Claire Insalata-Poulos, founder of Table to Table, located in Englewood Cliffs,  N.J.  This wonderful nonprofit collects food that would otherwise goes to waste and delivers it to organizations that serve the hungry in five northern N.J. counties.

Need for this service is growing (we now have more American living in poverty than ever before), yet Table to Table can’t collect enough food because, Insalata-Poulos told me, some businesses are unwilling to donate the food they simply throw away.  They are afraid of being sued!  She said it’s breaking her heart that she can’t feed more people when she sees or learns about food going to waste.  Does this outcome make any sense when so many people are suffering?

Similarly, and more directly relevant to Over 50 and Out of Work, Dr. David DeLong, a research fellow at the MIT AgeLab and a consultant to companies on the issue of changing workforce demographics, writes that one reason CEOs don’t hire older workers is that senior executives are hamstrung by overly conservative human resource and legal departments.   Does this outcome make sense when we have 14 million Americans who are 50-plus and jobless?

“CEOs must make sure that their human resource and legal experts are helping the organization leverage older worker potential, instead of passively encouraging mediocrity, while waiting for uncertainties to be resolved.  If Congress and government agencies are unwilling to clarify the law in these areas, employers must take on the challenge themselves,” wrote DeLong in Five Reasons Why CEOs Don’t Care About the Aging Workforce.

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