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When I was growing up my parents would laugh at the antics of Congress as Strom Thurmond was wheeled into the Senate to vote on some Bill. We would watch a grainy television screen as someone leaned in to tell him to raise his hand or say “yea” or “nay” on some vote. This spectacle repeated itself with Dianne Feinstein last week and invoked some strange memories of history repeating itself.
All nations pass through a stage where they are led by gerontocrats, transforming them into gerontocracies. While not a common term, once you know its meaning it is hard to get out of your head. Gerontocracies are nothing more than nations led by old people. It happens to all nations when it is time to pass the torch on to the next generation.
Passing the Torch
In every era there is a passing of the torch from one generation to the next. The older generation is reluctant to let go because of power, influence, privilege, and uncertainty of the next generation’s direction. The younger generation is anxious to lead because they believe the current representatives are out of touch with voters and issues. The current generation has a role to play in slowing down everything and making change measured rather than radical.
Wisdom versus Age
Oscar Wilde observed that “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” He astutely noted that not all people continue to learn and can apply that knowledge in productive ways. With elected officials this often manifests as radical stances on compromised positions that shape future events. The Inflation Reduction Act is a recent example. In politics age comes with influence and power without regard for patriotism or intelligence.
Over the next few months, we will look at those “aging out” and get a sense of the good, bad, and ugly that will go with the passing. These eight are just a few of those who will exit. The list of gerontocrats in Washington is surprisingly long and their exit will change the face of politics.
As a conservative capitalist I am all for people making as much money as they can so long as it comes to them through hard work. A person who comes to political office having made their fortune is to be applauded because they are often doing public service for the right reasons. But a person who comes to political office with little wealth, and who leaves office with significant wealth needs to be examined closely by voters. Even the most astute investor rarely amasses a wealth of tens of millions from a public salary.
Mitch McConnell is a career politician from Kentucky who entered the Senate back in 1984 after a brief stint in the Army. Between his Army duty and the 1984 election he served as an assistant to Senators Sherman and Cook. With his Army duty, internships, and Senate seat he has never had a private sector job. Affable and friendly, McConnell is the very definition of a career politician.
At 81 McConnell’s net worth now approaches $35 million. Inheritances from his family and his wife’s family make up a significant portion of the total, but the rest is from investments and other sources. His wife’s family is in the shipping business and owns the Foremost Group that operates a large fleet of Taiwanese based ships.
In recent years President Biden’s net worth has been reported at a mere $9 million. But with recent revelations concerning his involvement with Hunter’s business dealings that figure will need to be revised upward. In just the past fourteen years his reported net worth rose from $27 thousand to $9 million. He is apparently an astute investor who can make large sums of money in a declining market.
At 81 he has reached the pinnacle of American politics when he won the Presidential election in 2020. Joe graduated from the University of Syracuse College of Law and became an attorney in Delaware in 1969. He gave up his legal career in 1973 when he was elected to the Senate. In 2009 he became Vice President. He ran unsuccessful campaigns for President in 1988 and 2008 before defeating President Trump in 2020.
Nancy Pelosi is the daughter of Thomas D’Alesandro, mayor of Baltimore and later a member of the House of Representatives from 1939 to 1947. For Pelosi serving in the House of Representatives is a family tradition, a family business of sorts. She was first elected to the House in 1987 and is now in her nineteenth term as a Representative from California. Prior to winning a seat in the House she was heavily involved in California Democratic politics. She is now a spry 82 and starting to make a misstep to two in her speeches and proclamations.
She and her husband have had a remarkable investment record. In 2009 her net worth was approximately $58 million, in 2014 $101 million, and in 2021 her net worth had grown to an estimated $120 million. She has supported the rights of Congressional members to do “insider trading” and the value propositi0n of her position is obvious. Her famous “We must pass the bill to see what is in it.” statement on the Affordable Care Act will live in infamy in American politics.
Professing to be a devout Catholic she is pro-abortion, pro partial-birth-abortion, and pro-LGBTQ. She has been banned from receiving communion in the San Francisco church but did receive communion from Pope Francis in Rome. Her connections to the Catholic Church and support of its doctrine are strange indeed.
The only person in America who does not know that former Senator Hillary Clinton is a 75-year-old, washed-up, failed politician is Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, many of her associates and co-workers met untimely deaths, leaving her with fewer social contacts as she moves to the sunset of life.
Except for gifts from media outlets, book deals, television appearances, and far left speaking engagements she is now irrelevant in every corner of America. Briefly an attorney back in the 1980’s Clinton has lived off the “Public Dole” for decades since then. An astute investor by her own admission, she and Bill amassed great wealth during their time of public service. Today she is worth $40 million, a mere pittance compared to Bill.
But for the Clintons there is also the mysterious residual scraps from the Clinton Foundation that seemed to have evaporated with her failed White House bid. The ties to foreign donations and the sale of Uranium One to Russia make it one of the largest criminal enterprises of the ages. Hillary’s true net worth may remain a mystery. Chelsey Clinton a principal in the Clinton Foundation is also an astute investor. At forty-three she has already amassed a net worth of $18 million.
“Slick Willie” faded from active public life and relevancy with the end of his Presidency. He hung around long enough to write books and to collect wildly inappropriate speaking fees. In the last Presidential election, he remained popular but became a liability when he slipped up in several statements on television. Wildly popular with female voters for some reason, his appearances overshadowed Hillary’s. He became a real liability when it was obvious that he was more popular and overshadowed her efforts.
A professional politician, his claim to fame as Arkansas Governor and President are his two crowning achievements. His affairs, Epstein connection, and inappropriate proclamations have become a liability. During his time in Arkansas and Washington his service gave him a net worth of $80 million. Now 77 years of age there is little to do other than occasionally appear alongside Hillary or Chelsy and smile.
Like so many others on this list Chuck Grassley is a career politician. He was first elected as one of the Senators from Iowa in 1981 and has been a Senator ever since. In this group he is certainly from humble roots growing up on a farm and doing factory work. At least in his early life he had an honest job away from the government dole. Unlike other Senators he seems to have avoided the money trap with a net worth of $5 million, below the average for the Senate and an amount easily accumulated by a Senator by 89.
First elected to the House in 1975 and then to the Senate in 1981 he has been on the Federal payroll for forty-eight years. True to his working roots, he has missed very few votes during his tenure and has been one of the most effective members of the Senate for all his tenure. He was a supporter of President Trump, but quick to come forward and criticize the President for his handling of the election aftermath.
Like so many in Congress, Chuck Schumer is an attorney, a Ph.D. educated lawyer from Harvard. At 72 he is the youngest I would classify as a gerontocrat in this group. Shortly after graduation from Harvard he was elected to the New York State Assembly and then progressed to the Senate in 1998. His brief twenty-five-year tenure in the Senate also makes him a neophyte.
Like so many others, Schumer has amassed a significant fortune while serving the nation. With a net worth of $70 million he is apparently an astute investor with his $170,000 annual salary, and now receives an estimated $400,000 per month in income from investments. Like Nancy Pelosi he invested heavily in Apple and other successful companies.
At 89 Dianne Feinstein has served long and represented California well. She was elected to the Senate in 1992 and has been there a mere thirty-one years. Her net worth is reported to be between $88 million and $110 million. She was married to Richard Blum who ran a private equity firm and that is the source of most of her wealth. After his death she sold several of their mansions in Lake Tahoe and Aspen for a reported $58 million, but she still owns significantly more real estate.
In December 2020 The New Yorker Magazine reported that she was in serious mental decline with short-term memory issues. But as we know from Strom Thurmond days serious physical and mental limitations are not a reason to avoid a vote.
The Inevitable Transformation
The existing generation of politicians and voters have a very important role to play in allowing measured change to our system of government. It is impossible to predict how a politician will age and perform with age. Having politicians serve for decades adds some certainty to our system. But when any politician’s priorities pass from public service to wealth accumulation, voters have a role and a duty to move on to others. When a politician is in serious health decline voters also have a duty to move on with compassion.
This article is one of many detailing the aging nature of our Washington politicians. Click here to see more.
Resources Used in This Article
Finty.com, various searches for each politician.
Investopedia.com, various searches for each politician.
List of current members of the United States Congress by wealth, Wikipedia.com.
List of richest American politicians, Wikipedia.org.
Majority of lawmakers in 116th Congress are millionaires, by Karl Evers-Hillstrom, OpenSecrets.org, April 23, 2020.
WealthyGorilla.com, various searches for each politician.
WealthyPersons.com, various searches for each politician.
Wikipedia.org various searches for each politician.