The Old Men and the Senate

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     In the wake of several serious, widely publicized accidents involving apparently confused or otherwise incompetent elderly drivers, the Massachusetts legislature is considering new safety regulations, including mandatory tests for drivers 85 years and older.  Naturally this modest proposal is controversial, as anyone who has tried to persuade an elderly parent to stop driving can imagine.  Call it TSS -- Ted Stevens Syndrome  -- the resistance of the very elderly to surrendering their licenses or their jobs.  If our degenerating health care system doesn't start killing off baby boomers soon, TSS will only worsen.  

     It now threatens Senate Democrats, whose alleged super-majority includes (in addition to two independents, one former and at least one virtual Republican) the ailing, often absent 91 year old Robert Byrd and three octogenarians -- Hawaii Senators Akaka and Inouye and New Jersey Senator Lautenberg (all born in 1924).  Inouye is up for re-election in 2010.  Maybe he expects to live forever, with his faculties intact, and I wish him well.
   
     Then there are the Senate's numerous septuagenarians (I count about 20 of them) including valuable senior Senators from both parties.  Of course, some are both wiser and sharper than younger colleagues, but I expect that some will seek re-election or decline to step down when they're not.  Then their staffers will effectively hold office.  As the late Strom Thurmond demonstrated, the Senate is a kind country for old men.

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Wendy Kaminer is an author, lawyer, and civil libertarian. She is the author of I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional.

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