Early Retirement

Saw the headline the other day where Congress was going to change the retirement rules. Silly me, I thought they meant them and not us. The other certainty in life besides death and taxes is that at some point you’re going to have to retire unless you’re a member of Congress. A classic example of “I make the rules for thee, not me.”

If you’re a member of Congress you get to stay on as long as your campaign machinery can convince your constituency that you’re still bringing home the bacon. Consider the case of the oldest person to ever serve in Congress, Strom Thurmond. Strom made it to one hundred and formally retired from Congress in 2003. He didn’t make Robert Byrd’s record of longest serving member of Congress, 51 years, but did wear the crown of being the oldest body to answer the roll call. When the people that they serve are routinely starting to look for soft places to land at about age 55, and even face mandatory retirement, why do Congress critters get to continue on well past their prime?

The current Senate includes these octo and septuagenarians:

StateFirst NameLast NamePartyAgeBirthdate
VermontBernieSandersIndependent – Dem Caucus799/8/41
MaineAngusKingIndependent – Dem Caucus763/31/44

There’s some important names there, as there is in the list from the House:

ST-DISTFirst NameLast NamePartyAgeBirthdate
TX-30Eddie BerniceJohnsonDemocratic8512/3/1935

A lot of Democrats, and I know they mean well, but are there not some people out there that don’t think that the internet is a series of tubes like Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska did? Of course he was eighty-three at the time and maybe the fast pace that the world was spinning was just beyond his grasp, like his Metamucil.

I realize I’m risking throwing out “years of invaluable experience” by proposing that we put a federal age limit on government workers, but why should our representatives not have to deal with the same environment they place us in? What decisions would they make if they knew they were going to be turned out to pasture at age 65? What changes would occur to Social Security, Medicare, et al if the Congress critters knew that they were going to be constantly threatened by the loss of benefits from a group of untouchables?

It’s hard to enforce empathy, I know, but by putting Congress in the same boat with us, at least we know they’ll take care of themselves even if they don’t feel empathy for the less fortunate. Empathy aside, let’s discuss decision making.

Decision making ability tends to peak around age 50 with younger people making decisions based on how they see the future or would like for the future to turn out as opposed to the elder population using prior experience to flavor their decisions. We all have hundreds of examples of “we’ve always done it this way,” I share in the guilt. What’s hard to do for older persons is to keep up with advances in technology and social mores that the younger generations have already adapted to.

We’ve determined that twenty-five for the House and thirty for the Senate is the minimum age for which one can have the maturity to be a Congress member. Rather than the age-old question of term limits never getting resolved, maybe we should resolve to turn all Congress people out at age 65, regardless of the length of their term.