Witt: Why are those in Washington so old?

Published 10:17 am Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Why are there so many old people running the country?

Wait! Before the octogenarians reading this rise up in arms, read on.

According to www.quorum.com, the 115th Congress is among the oldest in history. In 44 nationwide congressional districts, the Representatives currently serving are more than double the median age of their constituents.

Of the 100 members of the Senate, 43 are older than 65, 25 of those are older than 70 and six of those are over 80, two of them 85, one Democrat and one Republican, Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Grassley.

In the House, with its 534 members, 139n are over the age of 65, with 75 of those over the age of 70 and nine of those over the age of 80, the oldest being 88, Sam Johnson, Republican from Texas.

They are a venerable group. That is, when venerable is associated only with age, not necessarily with wisdom.

In this past mid-term election, more than one-third of the Senators up for re-election were older than 65.

On the Supreme Court, two of the justices are above 80, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Make no mistake, there are many people who function perfectly well into their 70s and 80s.Some of those in Congress are probably capable of doing so as well, but we should remember these offices often take a heavy toll on those holding them, even to the point of aging some more rapidly than would otherwise be the case.

It is a somewhat strange anomaly the writers of the Constitution established minimum ages at which one could hold a federal elected office, but did not do the same for a maximum age.

Of course, in the 18th century the life expectancy was a good deal shorter than it is now. Perhaps those guys — Ben Franklin was 81 when he signed the Constitution — assumed the men who secured office would die off before they got too old to function. Women were not mentioned.

Further, when one looks at some of the prospective candidates for the office of President in 2020, one can see a list of people who are entering their twilight years.

President Donald Trump was already 72 and the oldest person ever to assume the office when he was sworn into the office in 2016. If he chooses to run again, he will be 76 at the time the election takes place. Ronald Reagan was a few days short of 78 at the end of his second term, the oldest president to ever hold office and his decline was already evident.

Joe Biden will turn 76 this month. Michael Bloomberg is already 76.

The point is all federal offices, and especially that of president, should possibly have some limitations related to the maximum age a person can reach while holding the position.

For the president, perhaps an upper limit of 70 years may be appropriate or, at the least, amend the Constitution so no person can seek the office if he or she attains that age before being sworn in on Jan. 20. And there should be similar limits for members of Congress, too.

Age does not necessarily bring senility, but function greatly diminishes for most people as the years advance.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.