Showing posts with label aging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label aging. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 4

Aging Congress









With a tight margin, the frontrunner in the Republican contest for speaker of the House of Representatives can afford to lose only a handful of votes.  

So far, Rep. Kevin McCarthy has failed to convince 20 Republican hard-liners. Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries emerged as the top vote-getter in each round. McCarthy must win a majority of voting members; absent members or those who vote present do not count. Jeffries would have to count on 11 Republicans going missing or voting present to win the majority. With multiple Republican holdouts, McCarthy would need at least 11 Democrats to not show up or vote present.  

As the struggle continues, observers wonder if the decision could take weeks, wearing members down, and whether the oldest representatives can maintain stamina for rounds of voting in a crowded chamber during the post-holiday winter months. The United States is reporting 400,000-plus new Covid-19 cases weekly.

Democrats, after years of cultivation and targeted messaging on climate change, reproductive rights and student debt, attracted more votes from young adults during the 2022 midterms. Turnout was 27 percent by voters aged 18 to 29, and exit polls suggest that more than 60 percent of young adults preferred Democratic candidates, according to Tufts University Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Even so, Congress has been steadily aging since the 1980s, reports NBC. 

And oldest members of the House are dominated by Democrats. The House has 11 members aged 80 years and older: nine are Democrats and two are Republicans.  Grace Napolitano, a Democrat from California, age 87, is the House’s oldest member, replacing Alaska’s Don Young after his death in 1922 and then Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, who retired this year. Young was 88 and Johnson is 87.

Vacancies can occur in Congress due to death, resignation or other reasons and the Constitution requires that these be filled by election – a special election if the vacancy occurs during the first session and by special election or general election if the vacancy occurs during the second term.   The 118th Congress began with one vacancy, after Virginia’s A. Donald McEachin, a Democrat, died in November at age 61. A special election to fill that seat will be held February 21.

Age is not the sole contributing factor for deaths that could disrupt the balance of power. A Yale research study in late 2022 identified partisan differences in excess deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic – more than 70 percent higher among Republicans than Democrats in two states, Ohio and Florida.  That gap in death rates increased after vaccines became available and vaccine hesitancy emerged among Republicans.

Of the more than 70 newcomers to the House, five are 60 years or older – three Republicans and two Democrats.

Friday, February 15

Happiness

Happiness hinges on satisfaction with our achievements, which in turn can hinge on levels of health care, education and income. We live in an era when personal and collective achievements are obvious, and comparisons in our community, in the entire world, are easily made. 

A chapter in Research in the Findings in the Economics on Aging, written by Angus Deaton and edited by David A. Wise, from the National Bureau of Economic Research and published in 2010 by the University of Chicago Press, presents self-reported data from 132 nations on life satisfaction:

"In particular, the very strong international relationship between per capita GDP and life satisfaction suggests that, on average, people have a good idea of how income, or the lack of it, affects their lives. It is simply not true that the people of India are as satisfi ed with their lives as the people of France, let alone Denmark, nor is it true that people in sub- Saharan Africa, or Afghanistan, Iraq, or Cambodia, are as happy as people in India."

Recognition of the status of others and the ability to make comparisons shape such self-reporting, and Deaton concludes:

"People may adapt to misery and hardship, and cease to see it for what it is. They do not necessarily perceive their lack of freedom as a problem; the child who is potentially a great musician but never has a chance to find out will not express her lack of satisfaction, and whole groups can be taught that their poor health, or their lack of political participation, are natural or even desirable aspects of a good world."

The analysis for the aging report is based on the Gallup World Poll, which collected data from samples of people in each of 132 countries during 2006.
In Fear of Beauty, the main character, an Afghan woman living in a remote village, insists to a US aid worker that she is free and happy, and we'd like to think she feels the same a few decades from now.

Photo courtesy of  U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Adam Grant and Wikimedia Commons, which explains "An elderly Afghan woman looks on as members of Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team perform a quality assurance check on the Zagrando Bando School Jan. 8 [2011]. The completion of this project will help provide a safe and sanitary environment that is conducive to learning and by improving the literacy rate in the area by a projected 25 percent."