White House Economist Dodges Question About Age Discrimination (VIDEO)

11/30/2010 02:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON -- As part of its collaboration with Monster.com and Facebook to answer burning questions from unemployed people about the economy, the White House posted six taped responses from economist Austan Goolsbee on Monday that left a number of jobless questioners frustrated and dissatisfied.

Particularly on the subject of age discrimination, a hot-button issue among the jobless, Goolsbee dodged the question at hand and focused instead on the problem of long-term unemployment. In response to Tammy Cocar's question of whether the White House intends to do something about employers blatantly discriminating against people over the age of 40, since the laws in place aren't working, Goolsbee responded: "If [people are] breaking the law committing age discrimination, obviously that shouldn't be happening, but to take a step back, if we are not using the resources of our own people and their human capital to the fullest extent, we are absolutely wasting one of the most precious resources that we have."

Goolsbee then pointed to three ways that the Obama Administration has addressed the issue of longterm unemployment, none of which had anything to do with age discrimination: passing the HIRE Act, which provides employers an incentive to hire the unemployed, pushing for extending unemployment benefits and focusing on retraining unemployed workers.

Some of the unemployed people who were waiting for answers to their questions, including Tammy Cocar, vented their disappointment on the Monster Keep America Working Facebook page.

"I'm sorry, but the White House DID NOT answer Tammy Cocar's question about age discrimination," Laura Kittrell wrote. "They DID NOT address the employment crisis facing persons over the age of 40. They DID do what I have heard every politician on this planet do for my almost 50 years -- they blatantly avoided the question... I am disgusted and disappointed."

Cocar wrote in an email to HuffPost that she is upset about the White House response to her winning question, because not only did Goolsbee skirt the issue of age discrimination, but he entirely omitted the part of her question where she asked about using affirmative action for Americans over 40 as a possible solution.

"I've been an avid supporter of this administration, and have tirelessly knocked on doors, handed out fliers, have battled trolls on every conceivable blog, etc. for them," she wrote. "I am truly disheartened that Austan Goolsbee did not even show me the respect of reading my entire question aloud in the video."

But the experiment was not a complete failure: some of Goolsbee's responses to other questions, including the issue of extending unemployment benefits for the 99ers, seemed to go over a little better. Goolsbee said in the video that, despite strong opposition from the other side, the Obama administration will continue to fight tooth and nail to extend people's benefits for as long as they need them because that is what is best for the economy as a whole.

"Is it good for us to let millions of people have their unemployment benefits expire, have their consumption drop dramatically because they just don't have the money to spend on anything? The answer is no!" he said. "That's not even good for the overall economy, much less for those individuals. So we've got to keep pressing in this area. "

Janet Ritz, who posed the original question about the 99ers, wrote on Facebook that she was mostly pleased with Goolsbee's response: "Austan Goolsbee answered my question (thank you). Am not sure how the WH intends to deal with the 99ers falling off the safety net, given GOP obstruction in Congress, but appreciated his answer and the sincerity of his feelings about it."

However, in an article she wrote on the subject, she expressed concerns that despite Goolsbee's insistence that helping the 99ers is a top priority for the Obama Administration, nothing is going to be done to ameliorate the situation.

All six video responses can be found on Monster.com's official YouTube channel.