President Barack Obama welcomed Pope Francis as a guest to the White House but the Pope could be barred from working there because he’s too old.

PopePresident Obama in 2010 signed an executive order creating the Pathways Program, which allows federal agencies to discriminate against job applicants on the basis of age in hiring.

Obama’s order established the Recent Graduates Program which allows federal agencies to limit hiring on the basis of age.  The order allows agencies to hire people who  graduated from qualifying educational institutions or programs withint two years of applying. The order also reinvigorated the Presidential Management Fellows Program, which liis limited to people who obtained an advanced degree (e.g., graduate or professional degree) within the preceding two years.

Since the vast majority of undergraduate and graduate school graduates are under the age of 40, older workers are essentially barred from applying for these jobs due to their age. This would clearly violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) except that an executive order has the force of law and operates as a Presidential-made exemption to the ADEA.

Pope Francis, 78, has not, of course, discussed the problem of age discrimination in employment, which primarily affects workers aged 40 to 70. But he has expressed concern about  the “elderly” who are ignored by loved ones and considered a burden by society. “While we are young we are tempted to ignore old age as if it were an illness to hold at bay,” he said. “But when we become old, especially if we are poor, sick and alone, we experience the failures of a society programmed for efficiency, which consequently ignores the elderly.”  Pope Francis said that treating the elderly as a burden is not only “ugly” but  a mortal sin.

Age discrimination has a direct impact on poverty among older Americans.

Once jobless,  older workers are disproportionately mired in long-term unemployment, forced to spend down their savings, and finally to accept an early retirement that will result in at least a 25 percent reduction in their monthly Social Security benefits for the rest of their lives.

The Economic Policy Institute in 2013 conducted a study showing that 48 percent of Americans aged 65 and older are considered “economically vulnerable” and one crisis away from poverty. The survey  found:

  • Women are 10.7 percentage points more likely to have incomes less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold than men (52.6 versus 41.9 percent).
  • The majority of elderly blacks and Hispanics are economically vulnerable: 63.5 percent of blacks and 70.1 percent of Hispanics, age 65 and older, have incomes less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold. This compares to 43.8 percent of whites who are economically vulnerable.

Age discrimination is a moral issue.

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