CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Opinion

January 3, 2013

COMMENTARY: Slate's Explainer - Democracy or gerontocracy?

The House of Representatives passed an agreement to prevent across-the-board tax increases on Tuesday. A majority of House Republicans opposed the measure, which had been negotiated by the Senate on Monday. Ohio Rep. Steven LaTourette, R, told his colleagues, "We should not take a package put together by a bunch of sleep-deprived octogenarians on New Year's Eve." Are our legislators getting older?

Yes. The 111th Congress, which took office in 2009, was the oldest in U.S. history, with an average age of 57 in the House and 63 in the Senate. (The sitting 112th Congress is only slightly younger.) At the time, many reporters pointed out the creeping gray in the U.S. Capitol and speculated about the significance of changes in the ages of our representatives. It's best not to read too much into the numbers, though. The average age in Congress has remained within a rather small range since World War II. The average age in the Senate was 59 in 1945, compared to 62 in 2011. The House has aged more substantially, with the average rising from 53 in 1945 to 57 in 2011. Between those years, average age fluctuated irregularly.

Dips and surges in the age of our legislators probably have less to do with our attitudes toward the elderly than with views about incumbents. The youngest Senate in recent history took office in 1981, when Ronald Reagan's victory swept Republicans into the majority for the first time in almost 30 years and dropped the average age to less than 53. It should also be noted that median age tends to be slightly more stable over time than average age, especially in the Senate: A handful of octogenarians and nonagenarians among 100 can markedly influence the average. In the record-breaking 111th Congress, for example, Robert Byrd of West Virginia began the term as Senate president pro tempore at the age of 91. When Byrd died, Hawaii's Daniel Inouye, then 85, assumed the office.

Text Only
Opinion
  • EDITORIAL: Primary shows maturity, will of voters

    With the local Republican Primary wrapped up, the outcome of three races may have seemed surprising to some observers.

    July 22, 2014

  • COMMENTARY: A break from the campaign rhetoric

    The collective sigh of relief felt throughout Cullman Wednesday morning signaled the end of another primary political season the previous night. As Wednesday’s Times headline told us, it was a clean sweep.

    July 21, 2014

  • Harris Coleman COMMENTARY: Billy Coleman, a true statesman

    King Solomon said, “Pride will ruin people, but those who are humble will be honored.” He also said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Billy Coleman, the past elected superintendent of Cullman County Schools, is the living example of these wise statements of truth.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • COMMENTARY: Twisty road back to Cullman

    The young journalist who was somewhat listening to the elder newspaperman on the other side of the desk didn’t have a clue.

    July 19, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Judge makes the right decision

    Many people are closely following the case of Jay Maynor, the man charged with murdering a man convicted of molesting his daughter 12 years ago.

    July 7, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Truth and independence

    Somewhere along a colonial road between Lexington and Concord, Americans found their courage and resolve to become independent.

    July 4, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Taking charge with a vote

    The Democratic and Republican primaries arrive Tuesday morning across the state, with many election officials and candidates fearing a low turnout could be in store for what otherwise should be cause for a great gathering of citizens.

    June 3, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: A state dying from drug use

    Alabama coroners, with the power to order and log results of  toxicology reports, hold the key to important information for families and law enforcement officials.

    May 20, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Looking beyond the standard

    Cullman County schools superintendent Billy Coleman opened a wide door of opportunity when he supported a transition to an appointed executive to lead the local education system.

    May 20, 2014

  • Editorial: Meal money violates trust

    As various local political candidates dash toward the June 3 primary, a troublesome issue remains unattended on the table.

    May 11, 2014