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Elderly Need Not Apply

Amending the U.S. Constitution to have a maximum age for elected and appointed officials

By J.P. PragPublished 2 months ago 10 min read
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Image created by DALL-E 3 via Microsoft Copilot.

Across all political affiliations, beliefs, dogmas, and voting patterns, "79% of Americans favor maximum age limits for elected officials". This is according to a Pew Research Center "survey conducted July 10-16, 2023, among 8,480 adults, [and]... June 5-11, 2023, among 5,115 adults". To put it simply:

Practically everyone believes there should be a cap on how old somebody can be to serve in government.

I can certainly understand why the majority feels this way, and I am absolutely among them. As someone who has had to care for elderly relatives, I have painfully watched on as their mental acumen, ability to ambulate, reaction times, and other core faculties rapidly deteriorated. Seeing a person who is far older than my father was when he passed away be in charge of the free world, and have one finger on the nuclear button, is disconcerting, to say the least. Putting aside everything an "experienced personality" may or may not be able to do any more—or at least not do as well—only one question needs to be answered in relation to an individual in power: could they die anytime soon?

According to preliminary data released in November 2023 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the life expectancy at birth for someone born in the United States is 77.5 years. We'll waive all the nuance associated with the differences between genders, races, socioeconomic conditions, and every other way to divide humanity and just concentrate on the overall value amidst all Americans. What's most prevalent in these numbers is that they show how likely you are to continue living past your present age. If you make it to 40, it's probable you'll live another 40 years on average. Should you survive to 80, you'll have less than 9 years in front of you. Again, though, that is 9 years as the mean. You could live another 30 years, or you could die tomorrow. The probability just suggests that it's a higher likelihood that you'll expire in fewer days, not more.

When it comes to a responsibility like President of the United States, this is a genuine worry. Suddenly finding the occupant of the Oval Office having dropped dead is a political and security concern of the utmost priority. And no matter who the President is, they are only the tip of the iceberg. What happens when a senior official running a critical Department is abruptly gone? How are Supreme Court cases handled when they lose a coworker? How are people supposed to have their voices heard if their representatives in Congress keel over? While there is no way to predict and prevent all possible ways a singular being may perish, nor when it might happen, we can easily mitigate risk for deaths that are relatively more foreseeable.

The most efficient and effective way to deal with the challenges associated with age-related deaths in government is to not have them at all. If we accept that idea, then it would necessitate having a maximum age for any person in a crucial government occupation.

"But wouldn't this be age discrimination?" you may be wondering. And the answer to that is: yes, yes it is. However, there are already allowances even within existing protections. For instance, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act seems to argue that an employee cannot be forced into retirement, but there are specific carve-outs for everything from pilots to law enforcement officers to judges at many State-level courts, and plenty more. In almost every case that has gone before the Supreme Court, the adjudicators have sided with the employers and found that these acts were "Constitutionally permissible", often because age was a contributing factor to no longer being able to effectively perform their duties. More so—and fundamental to our considerations—the United States Constitution is already overflowing with this type inequity. These ages are specifically laid out in the text of the nation's guiding document:

  • 18 to vote (originally 21) | 26th Amendment (14th Amendment, Clause 2)
  • 25 to serve in the House of Representatives | Article 1, Section 2, Clause 2
  • 30 to serve in the Senate | Article 1, Section 3, Clause 3
  • 35 to be President or Vice President | Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5 and 12th Amendment, respectively

What this demonstrates is that there is a historical precedent to grant or deny rights based on age, and that doing so is something the founders of this nation did and would align to. While most people think of the Constitution as a document that guarantees their entitlements, in reality it often does the opposite. Even the 13th Amendment that ended slavery has an exception built in that says "involuntary servitude" can be used as a "punishment for crime". Everything in the Constitution has equal weight and supersedes all law. Therefore, since we most likely could not limit the age of an elected or appointed official by legislation or decree, we must modify the Constitution to make the changes we need...

By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 8, Section 1, Clause 3 shall be added.

No person shall be eligible to hold any elected or appointed position within any part of government—with no differentiation between local, State or Territory, or Federal government—who shall be within ten years of the life expectancy at birth for the entire population of these United States, as defined by Congress. However, this clause shall not apply to any person holding a position at the time of ratification until the end of their current term. Further, should a person reach the age as defined by Congress during their current term, they shall be allowed to finish that term. Should the position have no specific end to the term or be a life-time appointment, that person shall retire from that position within two years of reaching the age as defined by Congress or within two years of ratification. Additionally, this Clause does not apply to staff and civil servants that support the functions of Government, nor those serving in the military or militia, except where as determined by law.

There's a lot to unpack in that short statement, so let's break it down.

First off, as of February 2024, the Constitution of the United States of America only has seven Articles, so this eighth one is new, something we are going to entitle "Limitations on Government". There is far more detail that goes into this notion, and you can read about that idea elsewhere. Notably, the only significant component we need concern ourselves with for this argument is that a restriction needs to be put in place and the only way to do so is via an Amendment.

Now, what, exactly, does the phrase "within ten years of the life expectancy at birth" mean? Well, we already have a definition from the CDC as shown above, which we can round up to 78 years. Importantly, Congress could continue to use this methodology or decide on a new one. The CDC's approach is hardly without criticism or controversy, therefore another technique could potentially be used. The most important thing is that this intentional feature gives the Legislative Branch complete flexibility in determining what is sensible, as well as allows the Judicial Branch to weigh in should the people find that Congress is acting unreasonably. But if we are sticking with the connotation we currently have, that would result in 68 years old as the cutoff mark for being allowed to hold a position in government. With that in mind, let's look at the Presidential race that was underway at the beginning of 2024.

At the time, Democratic front-runner and extant President Joe Biden was 81 years old, while his Republican counterpart Donald Trump was 77. As such, with both being over the age of 68, each would immediately be disqualified from being on the ballot.

Still, it does not end there. This Amendment clearly states that it applies to anyone in any position at any level of government. Sticking with the federal Executive Branch, that would include, but not be limited to:

  • Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen (77)
  • Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (73)
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland (71)
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge (71)
  • Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield (71)
  • Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (70)

However, just because Joe Biden, Janet Yellen, Lloyd Austin, and the rest are over the age limit, it does not mean we want them to immediately step down. That would cause both incredible chaos and create a massive vacuum in leadership that would leave the United States incredibly vulnerable. Also, let's say someone is elected President and they are 67 years old at Inauguration Day on January 20th, but their birthday is January 21st. For all of these situations and others similar to them, the wording highlights that the elected and appointed officials can stay on until the end of their terms. Likewise, if they have a post without end such as the Cabinet Secretaries from above or a life-time appointment like the Justices of the Supreme Court, then they have two years either from ratification of the Amendment or from when they turn the designated age to retire. Speaking of the highest magistrates in the land, they would also see their ranks significantly reduced:

  • Clarence Thomas (75) | Conservative
  • Samuel Alito (73) | Conservative
  • Sonia Sotomayor (69) | Liberal
  • John Roberts (69) | Conservative

Again, they wouldn't have to leave the bench tomorrow, but they would have up to two years to do so. Meanwhile, members of Congress—based on how the Legislative Branch is set up without any other Amendments—do have specific tenures. Within the lower chamber, Representatives only serve for two years to begin with. Due to this, all 435 House members (discounting ones that have already resigned, died, or announced their intentions to move on) would be up for reelection as part of the 2024 cycle. Nevertheless, with this Amendment in place beforehand, 22% (29% of Democrats and 16% of Republicans) would not be eligible to run again. This includes notable names like:

  • Grace F. Napolitano (86) | D-CA-31
  • Harold Rogers (85) | R-KY-05
  • Nancy Pelosi (82) | D-CA-11
  • Virginia Foxx (79) | R-NC-05
  • Bennie Thompson (74) | D-MS-02
  • Michael C. Burgess (72) | R-TX-26

Much like the House of Representatives, Senators also serve for a set number of years; that being six. Despite this, the fellows of the upper chamber are not on the same cycle, with roughly one-third (a "class") due every two years. Over the entire timeframe of the 2024 (Class 1), 2026 (Class 2), and 2028 (Class 3) voting rounds—and once more disregarding previous resignations, deaths, and intentions to retire—just about half of these people would be sent packing, split almost evenly between Political Parties. Well-known figures on this list include:

  • Bernie Sanders (81 in 2024) | I-VT (Class 1)
  • Elizabeth Warren (73 in 2024) | D-MA (Class 1)
  • Rick Scott (70 in 2024) | R-FL (Class 1)
  • Mitch McConnell (82 in 2026) | R-KY (Class 2)
  • Susan Collins (72 in 2026) | R-ME (Class 2)
  • Lindsey Graham (69 in 2026) | R-SC (Class 2)
  • Chuck Grassley (93 in 2028) | R-IA (Class 3)
  • Chuck Schumer (76 in 2028) | D-NY (Class 3)
  • Lisa Murkowski (69 in 2028) | R-AK (Class 3)

All these illustrations, though, are only a small sample, and are focused on the federal level. These same rules would apply to the States/Territories; every single village, town, and city; and even down to the PTA board itself. Where it wouldn't pertain would be to civil servants and those who toil in the military. That said, this Amendment does lay out the possibility that those fields could see mandatory retirements based on age if a law is created. Since several already exist, those would remain protected from further scrutiny except where legislative bodies chose to make adjustments.

Thus, with five simple sentences, the overwhelming will of the citizenry of the United States of American would materialize, and—as a result—the country would have fresh voices and perspectives to break through the stagnation and help make the nation a more just, safer, less polarized, and better run place to begin with.

J.P. Prag is the author of several works, including the solutions-focused political proposal book New & Improved: The United States of America, available at booksellers worldwide. Learn more about him at www.jpprag.com.

Is there a way to save America and ensure justice and freedom for all? There is... if you are willing to rethink & rebuild the entire Constitution!

The United States government is broken to the point where we can no longer have a single discussion without claiming partisan favoritism. Perspective does not matter because the entire political process has become a quagmire where nothing happens. Why is it so out of control? Every side will blame each other, but where are the solutions?

NEW & IMPROVED: THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA goes beyond the 230 years of how we got here. Instead, a myriad of amendments, laws, and policies are explored to show how we can do better. With these fundamental and forward-looking Constitutional updates, hope will be restored to disenfranchised voices and there can finally be a real conversation in the United States government!

white housevotingsupreme courtpresidentpoliticspoliticiansopinionnew world orderlegislationhumanityhow tohistoryfact or fictioncorruptioncontroversiescongressactivism
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About the Creator

J.P. Prag

J.P. Prag is the author of "Aestas ¤ The Yellow Balloon", "Compendium of Humanity's End", "254 Days to Impeachment", "Always Divided, Never United", "New & Improved: The United States of America", and more! Learn more at www.jpprag.com.

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