The Age Old Wealth Problem
The Rising Age and Bank Accounts of the U.S. Congress
The iconic Bette Davis once famously declared that growing old is not for the cowardly. However, here in the United States of America growing old, I mean really old, also means you're primed and ready for a seat in the U.S. Congress.
I don’t mean to sound ageist but our elected leaders are, well, old. How old? Well, if you want to know what it was like to watch the premiere of “I Love Lucy” just mosey on over to the U.S. Senate and ask Dianne Fienstein or Chuck Grassly, who this year are clocking in at eighty-seven trips around the sun.
According to the latest numbers the average age of the 117th Congress is 59 years old, with the median age hovering around 60. While this may not seem shocking at first, it is when you compare it to the median age of all 329 million U.S. citizens which currently sits at around 38. Jaw meet floor. So as the majority of the populace now enters the prime of their lives, our elected leaders are entering the twilight of theirs.
Breaking down the numbers, Fiscal Note reports that…
Of its 435 members, the House has 38 members born in the 1980s and one born in the 1990s, while the Senate welcomed its first millennial. But the age groups with the biggest gains, compared to the 116th Congress, were those born in the 1930s and 1960s. Members in the 80+ and 50-59 age group saw gains, while the 30-39 age group saw the biggest losses. Members of Congress are, overall, getting older.
For a country founded on representative leadership clearly the majority of the country, age wise, is not being represented.
Take for example the Democrats, The Hill observes that…
At age 79, President Biden is the oldest president in the history of the United States. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Speaker of the House, is 82. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is 83. Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is 81. Pelosi has served in Congress since 1987; Hoyer since 1981 and Clyburn since 1993. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is 71; Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is 81. Schumer and Durbin have both served in Congress for over 40 years.
That’s just amongst Democrat leadership. The Republican leadership is just as bad. Our favorite curmudgeon Mitch McConnell is now clocking in at 78. Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe is 86. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was amended under President Jimmy Carter in 1978 to prohibit mandatory retirement before age 70 in most occupations yet, currently, the average age that most federal employees retire is 62. Crunching the numbers, right now we have over 102 members of Congress all over the retirement age of 70.
Now some may argue that maybe it’s a good thing to have some tenure in Congress, that having the proverbial “Wise Old Man or Woman” on Capitol Hill is necessary to help us navigate these turbulent times. Maybe. Possibly. But let’s be honest, given their 16% approval rating and just 2% trust rating can anyone seriously make that argument with a straight face? Because at some point you have to take the keys away from grandma and grandpa, else they end up driving through a crowded farmers market on a sunny afternoon.
So why are so many of our elected representatives staying well past the age of retirement? Civic duty? Honor? The never-ending appeal of public service? Maybe in the fairy tale story book version of U.S. politics. In the real world however it’s more likely a mix of power, institutionalization, and greed. Ah, yes, greed.
Back in 2020, OpenSecrets.com reported…
More than half of those in Congress are millionaires, data from lawmakers’ most recent personal financial disclosures shows. The median net worth of members of Congress who filed disclosures last year is just over $1 million.
That’s a lot of millionaires considering that the average paycheck for serving in Congress is just $174,000 a year. Compare that to the median income for an average American household which in 2019 was just $68,400 and once again ask yourself if this is a healthy representative government.
Taking a closer look at two of the oldest and longest serving congressional leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell, Open Secrets goes on to note that…
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has seen her wealth increase to nearly $115 million from $41 million in 2004, the first year OpenSecrets began tracking personal finances. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saw his net worth increase from $3 million to over $34 million during that time. Both political leaders are married to affluent individuals who are driving those increases.
Pelosi in particular has come under heavy fire this year, with accusations of insider trading being thrown at her husband, Paul, who somehow miraculously continues to be ahead of the game when it comes to gambling on the stock market.
The Hill’s Joe Concha points out that…
From a trading perspective, he’s like the real-life version of Gordon Gekko from the 1987 Oliver Stone classic “Wall Street.” His portfolio has substantially outperformed the S&P 500. In 2020 alone, a year when the stock market was as turbulent as in any year in recent memory thanks to COVID-19 shutdowns, Paul outperformed the S&P 500 by 14.3 percent, according to Hawley’s office. And per a New York Post analysis, the Pelosis have made approximately $30 million from trades involving Big Tech companies the House speaker is responsible for regulating.
Recently, when confronted with questions regarding her husband’s incredible ability at foreseeing a stock’s future, Pelosi went full Chappelle Show in her response…
The Speaker of the House’s runaway from this particular hard question is not surprising, especially after she got roasted back in 2021 when she announced that, because we are a free market economy, members of Congress should not be barred from trading stocks. Going on to declare that…
“I have great confidence in the integrity of my members,”
Integrity? The United States Congress? Really? Maybe she was just having a senior moment.