We really need to consider mandatory retirement age for members of Congress

I remember my family being the client of a cleaning woman who was us for decades. I grew up knowing her and I loved her.  She gave me birthday cards and presents. She came to my High School graduation. She encouraged me as I advanced my schooling.  More importantly, she put up with those food dishes under the bed. She knew my hiding places for things that didn’t belong in a bedroom. She never “told” on me, not even when she found the cigarettes.  When I became an adult and lived in my own home, it was a natural progression that this wonderul woman would also do for me what she did for my mother.

As years went on, she grew old and she didn’t do her job so well. But I had made up my mind that I would never ever let her go. Retirement was to be her decision. I owed her that. She finally did retire on her own. The thing is, she was cleaning my home once a week, she wasn’t running an entire country where things could REALLY go wrong. She didn’t have to grow with the Times or consider new things, or the future of my country or the world.

Recently, Dennis Kucinich suggested a program to help older workers retire earlier to make room for younger unemployed workers. I often thought of Dennis as a crackpot but I’ve changed my mind of late about him. Sometimes he does make some serious sense even if his ears are pointy.

I started thinking, Make Way For Younger Workers would be a great program for Congress.

I couldn’t prove it, but there were times when I was nearly certain that Strom Thurmond was really dead when they propped him up in his chair to vote. Watching this show was like a re-run of Weekend at Bernie’s. Besides being pathetic, it was kind of scary to know that this guy held the future of America in his feeble, nearly-deceased hands. This was a man who probably couldn’t make it to the urinal on time and here he was being dragged into the chambers to cast a deciding vote.

Our Future: 100 year old Congressman Waits to vote on whether or not we should start WW III.

I’m sorry but there has to be something wrong with a system that allows laws to be decided by people with pee stains on their pants who eat food processed in a Cuisinart.  In the Real World, they retire. You ask them for advice now and then, but you don’t expect them to have the energy to run a country.

Yes, it’s true. In the Real World, there comes a time when an employee needs to call it a day and go play shuffleboard. It’s just the way it is.It’s part of the cycle of life.  There are exceptions to be sure. I have known a number of 80+ year-old people who were very active in business. We all have stories like this, but we have to admit they are anecdotal, and these folks weren’t running the most powerful country in the Western World. Indeed, most people don’t even WANT to be working full-time at that age.

For the most part, only those businesses owned by families allow people up into their 80s to continue to be fully active employees. Even then, all parties involved, including the elderly person, are smart enough to know that this person is no longer up to putting in long hours, fully running day-to-day operations or making all major decisions. Well, Congress isn’t owned by one family, although, considering the nepotism and treatment of politics as a “Family Business,” by some of these people, you would never know  that Congress is not a Monarchy and that it is supposed to be owned by The People.

Today, as I look around Congress, I get the distinct feeling that Capitol Hill provides nursing home services to people who should have long ago retired as well as those who are currently infirm.

Watching Tedward Kennedy be dragged out for special voting events was a simply pathetic experience. This was a man who should have resigned from the Senate so that Americans did not have to witness the excruciating spectacle that was Ted Kennedy in his final year of life. He was clearly at the bottom of his game and couldn’t possibly have served the people well, much less himself. In the Real World, his colleagues would have embraced him, thrown him a party and seen him off to retirement. I’m sorry but that’s the truth.

Recently, Senator Frank Lautenberg was diagnosed with Stomach Cancer. He is “expected to have a full recovery”. This shocked me, because I have never known a person with stomach cancer who made a full recovery. It’s a horrible disease and I am truly sorry for anyone who is its victim. My first thought was, Wow, when you’re that sick,  it must be great to have gold-plated health care insurance paid for by people who can’t afford their own. But my second thought soon moved ahead in line when I read that he is 86 years old–and his family says he plans on “running again”. No doubt if he is inhaling and exhaling, he will do that.

I have watched Arlen Specter become increasingly cranky and mean. That’s because he’s old and sick. And I am not comfortable knowing he is in charge of my life. Maybe you are, but I’m not.

Recently, Senator Jim Bunning lost his mind right in front of the entire country. The worst part of this embarrassment is people just took in stride that yet another Senator his lost his marbles. Let’s just say the Senator does not appear to be aging well from the neck up.

I started thinking of more people in Congress who are old, cranky and tired, and then it occurred to me that this just may be why my beloved country is feeling old, cranky and tired too. We are subjects to people who have always done things the same way and they are just too old to learn new tricks. Much like America’s infrastructure is crumbling. so goes Congress. In addition, you have got to know that these old and tired members are employing highly paid unelected staff to do their jobs for them. That, my friends, is paid for by taxpayers.

So, I started checking out the ages of people in Congress, and just as I suspected, we are inundated in Congress with a patriarchy of people who are set in their ways. New blood is hard to come by. While some of them still have energy and remain aware that the world is not living in 1954, and while some of them have grown with the times and technology, many of them lost their bulb-brightness long ago. They are comfortable being in charge and keeping things exactly the way They Always Were. They probably don’t even know how to send an email but yet they are In Charge of America.

While it is true that both wisdom and experience are hallmarks of great leaders, I just don’t see much of that in Congress. There are a few exceptions, but they are few.

For example, when I think of Hillary Clinton, I think Wisdom and Experience. But I also think of ENERGY. I am hard pressed to imagine that most of Congress could do her job without dropping dead on the sidewalk. I’m sorry, but that’s how it looks to me, and I’m no Spring Chicken. I don’t think Senator Byrd, Senator Lautenberg, Senator Thurmond, Senator Kennedy, or any of those who would fall into the category of very old or very sick or both could do or could have done the job of Secretary of State. Do you? But what we WANT in Congress is people who COULD do that job. These people are making LIFE decisions for Americans, folks. In the Real World, these people would not be In Charge. In the Real Word, there is such a thing as Retirement with Honor.

Another problem we have with people in Congress who have been there for what seems an eternity is: People are sick of looking at them and sick of the same tired lobbyist-induced solutions  that don’t work.  They get very comfortable at screwing America for their long-time lobby pals. This is an excellent argument for Term Limits. Term Limits would guarantee we don’t have fossils napping in Congress or being dragged out of bed for a vote. But we can talk about that until we are blue in the face, because Term Limit laws have to be set by the very people who need term limits and they aren’t giving up the golden goose.

Now for some age statistics.

The average age of a House Member is now 56 years and for a Senator, 61.7 years.

The oldest Senator is Robert C. Byrd, born in 1917.

Yes. 1917.

That’s right. 1917.

The oldest Member of the House is Ralph Hall,  born in 1923.

The youngest Senator is Kirsten Gillibrand,  born in 1966.

  • As of February 21, 2010, 1 Senator is in his 90s, 4 are in their 80s, 21 are in their 70s, 33 are in their 60s, 31 are in their 50s, 10 are in their 40s.
  • The median age of currently serving Senators is 63 years, 42 days. .

You can see the list of all Senators, their far-too-long length of service and their ages here.

I was unable to find the same kind of breakdown for the House, but I did find a link with the years they were born and what “generation” they are from here. As you can see, a fair number of these Representatives have been around, set in their ways, for a long time as well. In the Real World, retirement would be in order.

Yes, I would say it is time for a mandatory retirement age for Congress, because you can’t convince me that a person in his or her 80s and 90s is working at the same pace they worked at twenty or thirty years ago.  The same holds true of gravely ill members of congress. In the real world they would be leaving the job on permanent disability. More importantly, it would sure be nice not to have spent my entire life seeing the same old tired faces and hearing the same old blowhards screwing up America with the same old bullshit ideas. Just saying.

Dennis, how about extending your idea to your pals in Congress?

Boating and Voting With Bernie:

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24 Responses

  1. Weekend at Bernie’s – You nailed it, Uppity. How sad. I’d just been thinking how despicable it is that Byrd, of all people, remains silent on the subject of using reconciliation to pass health care. Reposting a bit of the comment I left below: VAN SUSTEREN: That’s extraordinary that you got all 41. It almost seems a little like declaration of war here at the U.S. Senate.

    KYL: This is the response to the declaration of war. The declaration of war is to use the reconciliation process, which its author, Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia said it should not be used here. He said it would be an outrage.

  2. Man overboard!

    Neva been betta!

    An incredible stupid movie that I love.

    Yep UW 65 and you’re out. Get rid of the dead wood and give the new growth some sun and air.

  3. Byrd won’t say much more, Pamela. They told him they won’t change his diaper for him if he does.

  4. 65 is kind of young now, DE. But at least 70. Like I said, term limits would fix this so that these pigs don’t spend their entire lives hanging out in congress. Debilitating illness should result in disability. I’m sure they all have policies, unlike you and me.

  5. I see dead people.

    A few times in my life I’ve voted for dinosaurs. When the opposition is out of the question the old crooks retain their seats. We are often stuck with no choice.

  6. I’d rather see term limits instead of a age limit. The older congress have been there for decades and run on the incumbent advantage. I doubt too many very old people would win elections as a new comer.

  7. If you think about it- doesn’t it remind you of China and the old U.S.S.R? Old dead people with their spastic little fingers on the trigger. Old old old men clinging to their power, afraid of losing their perks and becoming just one of the little peons they have been stealing from all their lives.

  8. This is why we don’t update our infastructure. The old coots think “Hell, we just did that a few years ago”. A few years ago to them is 1950.

    As for term limits, they would just find a way to get around it, like Mayor Bloomberg did. Everybody wants term limits if it gets the other party out, but man does it suck when your guy has to go. Something must be done! We can’t lose OUR guy to term limits.

  9. Somebody suggested that Sen Byrd may have passed on several months ago and that congress is just playing Weekend at Bernies for the health care vote. It made me laugh because it wouldn’t surprise me too much if they just kept him in the closet and wheeled him out when a critical vote was needed.

  10. Karen maybe that’s what Matt Damon was getting at when he wanted to know if Palin believed in dinosaurs.

  11. Yeah, DE, 65 is REALLY is a little too young. For one thing, I’ll be there in a little over 6 years and I think I’d do a lot better then some of these senators or representatives who might be 20 or more years younger than me.

    Yup, Gillibrand (one of MY senators) is 16 years my junior. But you wouldn’t catch me supporting ACORN as she did (one of only 8 senators to vote for continuing funding for THAT group). Sorry, Uppity, ‘cos I know you sort of like her…


  12. Oh, yeah, and Mrs. Clinton will be 65 even BEFORE me, so let’s forget about that 65 maximum age, yuh think…


  13. Has anyone actually seen Byrd lately?

    I agree wholeheartedly. I think Tedward suffered from “chemo” brain. It is not pleasant and it is real. The “Weekend at Bernies” full throttle behavior exhibited by his family and others during his last year was sheer insanity.

  14. UW- OT- but have you seen this? Related to your poison food story-
    Grocery card in your pocket can pinpoint salmonella

    Interesting especially with the underreported news about the effort to get a national ID card.

  15. How about 65 for men and 72 for women.

  16. “Has anyone actually seen Byrd lately? ‘
    Sure have on barry’s cheeks.

  17. “Pakistan’s Acid-Attack Victims Fight Back”


  18. I’m not too sure about what the age limit should be (maybe because I’m 60+) but there definitely should be some cognizance test . While we’re at it we should address Federal judges and the Supreme Court as well.

  19. These career politicians view those seats in congress like “thrones”. As if they have an inherent right to occupy that seat until the day they croak.

    As soon as one gets elected, they are on the prowl to secure donors for the next elections, spending hours on the phone drumming up money which sheds light on the idea that little of the nation’s business is getting any attention.

    When you have to be wheeled onto the floor of the Senate or the House because you are too infirm to get their on your own power, then that is the time to give it up. Am I supposed to view Byrd as having all of his wits at the age of 91 simply because he has been there since Hector was a pup? Don’t think so.

    It is a crying shame and begs term limits when yahoos whose day has passed are allowed to continue to “lead” when they no longer possess the strength needed to walk to the floor.

  20. gadem, you are very right.

  21. In some cases I full agree with your feelings. But you see I am one of the 70 s people still working. For the last 5 years i just worked on Fri and Sat nights.Then my boss asked to work 5 days. Now I work the hours that no one wants at a job I did for years.It keeps me aware and I still have fun doing it. It will end at the end of June. I will be retired again.
    It really depends on the job and the person.
    I agree that Congress is too important a job to be left to cranky old people who are stuck in the past. The problem is that they do not consider it a job, they consider it a position that belongs to them and them only.
    Once a person can no longer do the job properly, they should retire and not cheat the people they are supposed to represent. If it is just a show up job, it is not needed.



  22. Excellent Post, Upps!

    We talked about this long a while ago.

    Its not right. When you take these stats and interpolate all the demented and deviates, it is no wonder we are all cranky.

    Those with broken arms and smashed kneecaps need to go, as well.

    I know I was rude and dispassionate in saying I’d like to see the Big Three clunking heads in the Rotunda, but, I really do think they should open up the room and sit all the blood-sucking zombies in a row, hand them their gold watch and a Flag and call it a day. (ummm, Era.)

    About Dennis K. Me too! right down to the pointy ears!

  23. Uppity, this is one priceless rant. I’ve been having this same discussion with my partner for the last several weeks. Why is Specter even running again, shouldn’t he go with dignity and a little grace? Byrd should have been out years ago. What is wrong with their constituents who continue to vote them in. I thought Thurmond’s still being in Congress painful, ditto with Ted Kennedy and Byrd. What is wrong with somse of these folks? Very obviously power corrupts and keeps on corrupting. Sigh.

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