Republican Congressman Don Young, who died last week at age 88 (God rest his soul and all that), epitomized America’s transition from representative government to elected aristocracy.
Representing an Alaska at-large district, Young became a member of the House of on March 6, 1973, when Richard Nixon was president, America was still fighting in Vietnam and the retail price of gas was 39 cents-a-gallon.
Young was the longest-serving member of Congress. Elected to his 25th term in 2020, he helped to guide the Behemoth on the Potomac for almost half-a-century.
The Founding Fathers would have been appalled at the idea of legislators for life. When the Constitution was adopted, “public servant’ was more than a euphemism.
Leaders were expected to serve because it was their patriotic duty. They would leave their farms, shops and offices for a term or two, and then go back home to live among those they’d governed under the laws they had fashioned.
Today, they make a pilgrimage to the Golden Temple on Capitol Hill and stay, and stay, and stay.
Hack-meister Joseph Robinette Biden came to Washington at age 30 in 1973 (coincidentally, the same year as Young). The man who’s never had a thought in his head that wasn’t stamped “made in the DNC,” spent 36 years in the Senate and 8 years as Vice President, before ascending to Olympus to sit with the gods. Little wonder that he has the backbone of a dishtowel and the vision of an apparatchik.
It’s interesting to speculate on what the ghost who haunts the White House would have done if he was ever gainfully employed. It used to be said of Massachusetts Senator Edward Moore Kennedy that if he wasn’t a member of the august body where he spent 47 years, he’d probably be driving a beer truck in South Boston and boffing every widow on his route.
But through cunning or dumb luck (or the right genes in Kennedy’s case), a favored few get to join the most elite club in the world. Little wonder most are reluctant to voluntarily surrender power under any circumstances.
And, there’s also gold in them thar hills.
Members of Congress receive $174,000 annually – more for certain leadership positions. The House Speaker – in this case Granny Pelosi (who was embalmed during the reign of Ramses II) – receives $223,500. Senate Majority and Minority Leaders and the President Pro-Tem haul in $193,400. Members of Congress also get benefits, like an allowance for their staff – who do most of the real work, like actually reading the bills.
A Congressman can retire on full pension at age 62, after as little as five years of service. The amount is based the number of years they warmed a seat with their ample posteriors. Former Speaker John Boehner, who retired in 2015, receives $86,000-a-year, which compares favorably to the average annual Social Security payment of $19, 370. Oh, and Members of the Club also collect Social Security.
But it’s not just the money.
It’s the power – the power to write your ideology into law, to distribute largesse from the treasury to your favorite causes like green cultism, anti-white racism or killing babies in the name of women’s rights. In the business world, you get to pick winners and losers with subsidies and tax hikes. And you get a warm humanitarian glow while you’re pushing the rest of us around.
Young men have ideas. Old men cling to power. The average age of members of the Second Continental Congress, which adopted the Declaration of Independence, was 44, while more that a dozen were under 35. The average age of members of the 117th Congress (elected in 2020) is 58.4 years for House members and 64.3 years for Senators.
Pelosi is 81, Mitch McConnell is 80. Schumer is 71. And Kevin McCarthy is 57. (They call him The Kid.) The Geezer-in-Chief is 79 years old. We’re ruled by septuagenarians and octogenarians.
Term limitation, which would have helped to alleviate the situation, is a practical impossibility, thanks to the Supreme Court.
In the 1995 case of U.S. Term Limits v. Thorton, SCOTUS ruled that states do not have the power to limit service in their congressional delegation. That would take a constitutional amendment, which – in this case – is as likely to pass as a blizzard on the equator, in the middle of a monsoon.
There are few institutions in America as unpopular as Congress, including the Biden White House and the average used-car dealership. In a February 1-17 Gallup Poll, 75% disapproved of the non-deliberative body, while 20% approved. And yet we keep electing the same passengers in the clown car every two years.
That’s because the system is rigged.
In each election, perhaps 10% of Congressional districts are in play. In the rest, through the power of incumbency and/or skillful gerrymandering, it takes an upheaval comparable to 1932 or 1994 to make for a really competitive election. Since a red tsunami seems to be building, such could be the case this year too.
I guess Congress must be endured — like famine, plague and Kamala Harris giggling through a press briefing. With honorable exceptions, Mark Twain had it right when he said: “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress, but I repeat myself.”
And he lived a century before Maxine Waters, Adam Schiff and Ocasio-Cortez.