No to forced retirement

THE House-passed bill rejecting mandatory retirement for most American workers makes good sense for senior workers, good sense for American industry eager to inculcate greater regard for professionalism and work experience, and good sense for the American economy. The Senate, which has been moving much too slowly on the issue, should pass a similar version. Current federal law protects workers against discrimination based solely on age up to age 70. Under the new law there would be no mandatory age cap. It would cover employees in concerns with 20 or more workers, as well as most state and local governments. States and municipalities could, however, set mandatory age limits for police and firefighters.

The push for the House measure, appropriately, has come from Florida Congressman Claude Pepper, the octogenarian chairman of the House Rules Committee. Mr. Pepper is hardly alone in proving that usefulness is not limited by advancing years. Just ask the man now at the White House!

Would the new bill make much of a difference? Yes and no. Most Americans, according to polls, remain eager to retire in their 60s. For most, that doesn't mean stepping aside. There is travel, in many cases grandchildren and children, the upkeep of a home to attend to. But for those who wish to work -- and more than 1 million Americans aged 70 or older are holding jobs -- the law should be clear: There should be no age cap restricting employment or shuttering aspiration. Workers in advanced years provide special skills and experience. They are role models. And by working, they advance the nation's productivity and widen the tax base.

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