House Leadership Moves To End Page Program After Roughly 200 Years — To Save $5 Million

It is one of the oldest institution in our government and stretches back to the founding of our Republic. Yet, in a decision made without consulting other members, former pages, or historians, Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) snuffed out the program to save just $5 million. As a former House leadership page in the 1970s (and here), I have written repeatedly in columns to propose page alumni taking over the program and even funding most or all of the program. The problems in the past have been entirely due to the pedophiles among the members and poor administration. Instead of allowing some discussion of alternatives, the House leadership moved to kill a program that has been a cherished and powerful symbol in our government.

To say that former pages are furious is an understatement. One would have thought that the leadership would show a modicum of respect for the institution to allow discussion and conferral. There are few institutions in this country as old as the page program. Moreover, these are members who have been gushing hundreds of billions of dollars abroad without any serious effort to bring three wars to an end. Billions have been reported stolen by the Karzai government and other governmental officials abroad. Yet, for the leadership has decided to kill this almost 200 year institution to save $5 million — without even discussing the possibility of private support. The page ranks include some of the most successful politicians and business people in the country, including Bill Gates.

I am floored by the both the decision and the way it was presented. The problem is that there are few advocates for history in Congress. Bridges, highways, and the like have concentrated benefits to one or more members. That is all that is needed. However, scientific and historical interests have no lobbyists or contractors to represent them. A 200 year institution simply does not rise to the level of an earmark.

It is not clear if there is a chance for pages and historians to be heard. Had we been informed, we could have come up with an alternative plan. The members have historically mismanaged the program but have refused to relinquish control to those who are willing to put the program on firm financial and organizational footing. Everyone understands that we have to cut back, but the decision not to allow consideration of private funding seems to reveal a desire to end the program regardless of its cost.

I have heard from dozens of pages in the last few hours who are irate and want to be heard. The question is whether the House leadership will allow us to propose a way to save this institution and its cherished symbol. Pages have always represented the rising generation as Congress crafts laws that will shape their future. It is too important of an institution to be scrapped without debate or consideration. After roughly 200 years, it deserves better.

Source: NY Times and LA Times

29 thoughts on “House Leadership Moves To End Page Program After Roughly 200 Years — To Save $5 Million”

  1. these politicians are not at all serious about debt paydown or payoff.

    Boehner needs to go, he is a fool. and Pelosi? I’ll let the dems bad mouth her.

  2. that is like going without McDonalds one day a week if you owe $10 million dollars but keeping your Ferrari.

  3. a few grains of salt about those popularity numbers for Congress. Congress has long been very unpopular but people are largely in favor of their own congressthing. It does not matter how much you might hate the group only how much you hate your member of that group, and most people believe theirs is a shiny ray of light in a sea of darkness. Given the success Republicans had in State races thus allowing them to do a lot of redistricting in their favor I expect things to get worse yet despite these alleged unfavorability numbers.

    And if the naked aggression that occurred in Wisconsin could only turn turn 2 of those 6 seats in recall imagine how much better they will do on a national level where they are still pretending to care.

  4. wonder how much we could save if they had to pay for their own healthcare benefits.

  5. Wow, it’s been quite a depressing week.

    The budget fight (which was more like the Republicans holding a gun to the United States’ head and getting their way, or else), the stock market crash, the loss of the AAA rating, thirty Navy SEALS losing their lives in Afghanistan, the famine growing worse in Somalia, the London riots — and now the House decides to jettison one of the oldest programs in its history to save five million dollars a year. Talk about removing a grain of sand from the proverbial sandbox.

    It’s such a horrible shame that the House only went to a pair of consulting firms, while ignoring former pages and historians, in terms of the page program’s worth (not to mention killing it after everyone had gone so that nobody could protest the move). Despite the scandals that have cropped up infrequently over the past few decades, the program gave teenagers a rare opportunity to both serve their government as well as to learn about it at the same time. I have this sinking feeling that the House Leadership was more concerned about whether it needed the pages anymore, and not whether the pages (i.e. younger generations with little understanding of civics or direct contact with politics) needed the House.

    As it stands, I doubt that Speaker Boehner and Nancy Pelosi are going to care about the voices of former pages who are angry about this. Their letter was pretty decisive, and the House historian is already putting together the program’s obituary (i.e. written history). I will say this much — I am going to miss seeing those kids in the navy blue blazers, white dress shirts, and ties at the State of the Union address, eagerly trying to shake hands with the President with their eyes lit up. What a shame.

    At least the Senate pages, admittedly far fewer, will remain for now.

  6. Mespo, yeah, I saw that poll. Right now congress is only slightly more popular than smallpox. It is early yet, and the big money people are about to protect their own interest by buying as many congresscritters as they can in 2012.

  7. Scorched-earth regarding budget matters. if the program could in some way be linked to the countries defense they would not only protect it but up its budget by 10x. The fact that it’s an educational program makes it all the more of a target. Bah, humbug.

  8. Well Gene,

    I guess the days of bending the page(s) or holding them by the ear are at a near end….

  9. I guess with the advent of digital publishing, the Orange Boehner no longer needs the old school way of keeping his place in a book. However (and seriously), if Congress wants to nitpick of $5 million, might I suggest that they start cutting their bloated salaries considering very few of them actually write or read legislation anymore instead relying on corporate lobbyists to do that job for them.

  10. Both parties are guilty on this one.

    ” Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) snuffed out the program to save just $5 million. ”

    Soon people will begin to understand what the saying “the good old days”
    really means.

  11. My guess is that they’ll replace the pages with paid employees, at a cost of triple the savings.

  12. This is indeed a sad day….and most pages were not compensated….

  13. How are Congressmen supposed to get dates now? They certainly can’t be expected to go home to their wives (or in the case of closeted Republicans, their life partners).

    This is good economic news for hookers in DC as both parties will do their part to stimulate the economy.

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