The story people should be focusing on today sits just to the reader’s left of that piece on the Times’s front page: Motoko Rich’s very well reported look at unemployment among those over fifty-five. It is framed around the story of fifty-seven-year-old Patricia Reid, a college-educated former analyst and auditor at Boeing who, “four years after losing her job…cannot, in her darkest moments, escape a nagging thought: she may never work again.” She is a character (and a named source) whose story has an undisputable truth, and who speaks loudly to the issues driving the economic climate the Dems are strategizing to turn around.

After other recent downturns, older people who lost jobs fretted about how long it would take to return to the work force and worried that they might never recover their former incomes. But today, because it will take years to absorb the giant pool of unemployed at the economy’s recent pace, many of these older people may simply age out of the labor force before their luck changes.

For Ms. Reid, it has been four years of hunting — without a single job offer. She buzzes energetically as she describes the countless applications she has lobbed through the Internet, as well as the online courses she is taking to burnish her software skills.

Still, when she is pressed, her can-do spirit falters.

“There are these fears in the background, and they are suppressed,” said Ms. Reid, who is now selling some of her jewelry and clothes online and is late on some credit card payments. “I have had nightmares about becoming a bag lady,” she said. “It could happen to anyone. So many people are so close to it, and they don’t even realize it.”
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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.