Congressional Aging and You - wednesday 2007-05-09 0927 last modified 2007-05-09 1158
Categories: Nerdy, Daily Grind
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One of the most regrettable repercussions of the comfortable common-law marriage between entertainment and politics is the projection of an insurmountable celebrity gap over an arena where it need not exist. It greatly behooves the celebrity industry to maintain a division between the consumer and the faces that 'grace' the covers of trade rags and entertainment news shows. The greater the divide, the more profit can be made, and they rest comfortably in the land of them, far, far removed from your living room couch. Your elected officials, on the other hand, are your elected officials, not (just) a fluffy, industry manufactured news item.

Perhaps one of the reasons politics and politicians may seem so distantly inaccessible, at least to members of my generation, is the distinct lack of our peers amongst them. Our elected representatives do not actually represent us in a demographic sense; they still represent our parents and our grandparents.

The median and mean age of federal congressional representatives in the 110th Congress is 57, of senators 63, with a standard deviation of about 10 in each case. I read this to mean half of all representatives are more than thirty years older than me, and 97.7% are more than ten years older (all senators are at least 16 years older according to the actual data). Regardless of your age, you too can play this game using a z-table by finding the difference between your age and a target age (say 10 years older), then dividing the difference by the standard deviation (10) and consulting the z-table. There's a Java applet if you don't feel like doing math.

Perhaps in ten years my peers will have been culled from the legal profession and vaulted into the lower tail of the distribution. Then again, maybe we want them in there sooner. What does it take for someone to prove they're ready to serve? Will it benefit us to start widening that standard distribution now? Or have twenty somethings always been innately unprepared for federal legislation?

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