No more congressional pages

When I was a youth, back in the olden days, I got to serve as a page in the Oklahoma state legislature.  It filled me with awe, getting to be on the floor of where laws were made, carrying messages for congressmen when they signaled to the row of us sitting in front and bringing them coffee.  It was a great civic experience.

But now the House of Representatives of the United States of America has canceled its 200-year program, in which some 70 young people come to Washington to serve and to learn as congressional pages.   Congressional leaders who made the decision cite the cost.  $5 million.  But since when does Congress care about that kind of chump change?

I suspect the real reason is the difficulty of safeguarding the pages against the sexual predators in Congress.  Think Reps. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.),   Dan Crane (R-Ill.), and Mark Foley (R-Florida), all of whom were caught in sex scandals with pages.  Better to protect Congressmen than to protect the pages.

How far I have fallen from the respect for lawmakers that I had when I was a page!

 

See End of House Page Program is bittersweet for some lawmakers – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • WebMonk

    Stupidity on top of stupidity designed solely for the sound-bite opportunity to say they’re cutting costs. (and maybe to protect the congressmen too) Each year this employs about 102 people. It costs $5 million per year. That’s about $49,000 per job.

    There are lots of bills that are proposing various jobs benefits, and they are typically advertised to make jobs at the cost of anywhere from $2 million per job to $500k per job.

    function snark(string BS) {

    They should expand this program! It’s 10 to 40 TIMES more effective than any of the other programs they’re proposing!

    Each congressman needs a dozen pages! Not just high school kids, but adults too! A dozen pages each would employ nearly 6500 people!

    Give them all a 100% raise! It’s the most cost-effective way to drop unemployment! Less than a billion dollars! Chump change!

    }

  • WebMonk

    Stupidity on top of stupidity designed solely for the sound-bite opportunity to say they’re cutting costs. (and maybe to protect the congressmen too) Each year this employs about 102 people. It costs $5 million per year. That’s about $49,000 per job.

    There are lots of bills that are proposing various jobs benefits, and they are typically advertised to make jobs at the cost of anywhere from $2 million per job to $500k per job.

    function snark(string BS) {

    They should expand this program! It’s 10 to 40 TIMES more effective than any of the other programs they’re proposing!

    Each congressman needs a dozen pages! Not just high school kids, but adults too! A dozen pages each would employ nearly 6500 people!

    Give them all a 100% raise! It’s the most cost-effective way to drop unemployment! Less than a billion dollars! Chump change!

    }

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith asked,

    Since when does Congress care about that kind of chump change?

    Since when do conservatives turn up their noses at cutting government spending?

    Better to protect Congressmen than to protect the pages.

    Huh?

    But your reminder about past “sexual predators in Congress” does once again raise the question: Why do Democratic transgressors tend to be straight, while the Republican ones tend to be repressed gays?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith asked,

    Since when does Congress care about that kind of chump change?

    Since when do conservatives turn up their noses at cutting government spending?

    Better to protect Congressmen than to protect the pages.

    Huh?

    But your reminder about past “sexual predators in Congress” does once again raise the question: Why do Democratic transgressors tend to be straight, while the Republican ones tend to be repressed gays?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    tODD, I am arguing motive. If Congress truly wanted to save money, they could cut the pages along with the majority of their staff, as well as the Congressional underground train ride, some of their many office buildings, and their numerous perks. As well as cut programs upon which they spend far, far more than $5 million without batting an eye. Just as I am science deprived, it seems that you are figure of speech deprived, not picking up on the trope of irony. I am not saying that it really is better to protect Congressmen than pages. I am bitterly insinuating that this may be behind cancelling this 200 year old program. (I mean, Congress hardly ever cancels a government program! Would that they would do that. I’m just wondering why they are cancelling this one instead of many other likely candidates.) That is not putting the best construction on things, so sorry to the Congressional leaders. Let me put it another way: They are more interested in liability than morality.

    Democratic transgressors tend to get away with whatever they do, especially if they are gay (such as the scandal with Barney Frank’s gay prostitutes). Republicans are punished for their “hypocrisy,” for failing to live up to their own convictions, something Christians should understand. If you don’t have convictions against it, you tend to be a pass. Your question, by the way, is exactly wrong: The Republican Crane was fooling around with female pages. The Democrat Studds was fooling around with underaged male pages. Both were censured. Crane lost the next election. Studd kept getting re-elected until he retired in 1997. See this for details.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    tODD, I am arguing motive. If Congress truly wanted to save money, they could cut the pages along with the majority of their staff, as well as the Congressional underground train ride, some of their many office buildings, and their numerous perks. As well as cut programs upon which they spend far, far more than $5 million without batting an eye. Just as I am science deprived, it seems that you are figure of speech deprived, not picking up on the trope of irony. I am not saying that it really is better to protect Congressmen than pages. I am bitterly insinuating that this may be behind cancelling this 200 year old program. (I mean, Congress hardly ever cancels a government program! Would that they would do that. I’m just wondering why they are cancelling this one instead of many other likely candidates.) That is not putting the best construction on things, so sorry to the Congressional leaders. Let me put it another way: They are more interested in liability than morality.

    Democratic transgressors tend to get away with whatever they do, especially if they are gay (such as the scandal with Barney Frank’s gay prostitutes). Republicans are punished for their “hypocrisy,” for failing to live up to their own convictions, something Christians should understand. If you don’t have convictions against it, you tend to be a pass. Your question, by the way, is exactly wrong: The Republican Crane was fooling around with female pages. The Democrat Studds was fooling around with underaged male pages. Both were censured. Crane lost the next election. Studd kept getting re-elected until he retired in 1997. See this for details.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “There are lots of bills that are proposing various jobs benefits, and they are typically advertised to make jobs at the cost of anywhere from $2 million per job to $500k per job.”

    One night my husband and I were watching C-Span as Sheila Jackson Lee was giving a presentation to the empty House chamber. She made basically the same point. My husband remarked, “Forget the job. Just give them the money. It would be cheaper.”

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “There are lots of bills that are proposing various jobs benefits, and they are typically advertised to make jobs at the cost of anywhere from $2 million per job to $500k per job.”

    One night my husband and I were watching C-Span as Sheila Jackson Lee was giving a presentation to the empty House chamber. She made basically the same point. My husband remarked, “Forget the job. Just give them the money. It would be cheaper.”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    First off, Dr. Veith (@3), you are right. I got the parties switched up when I was reading about Studds and Crane. I apologize. (Though you have to admit, all things being equal, wouldn’t you normally assume that a guy named “Studds” was in the GOP?)

    Democratic transgressors tend to get away with whatever they do

    Of course. Like Bill Clinton. Or Democrat David Vitter. Wait, did I get the parties mixed up again? ;)

    Anyhow, you also said:

    tODD, I am arguing motive.

    Perhaps. Or perhaps you’re scoring cheap political points with populist rhetoric. It all depends on whether we can take you at your word. Clearly, we can’t take Boehner or Pelosi at their words, though, right? From the article:

    Pelosi and Boehner said in their announcement that it was cost, not controversy, that impelled them to end the $5 million-per-year program.

    Ah, but we want to know the real truth, not ye olde political spin!

    The thing is, I’m inclined to take them at their word. It’s perfectly believable for this to be one of a pathetically few things that our Congressional leaders can actually agree on to cut spending. Cut anything more significant, and there are simply too many sacred cows to worry about. You’ll get a lot more angry letters from people on Medicaid than you will page-program alumni.

    And if you’re really arguing motive, Dr. Veith, then explain the timing. It’s certainly quite consistent with this year’s budget-cut talks, isn’t it? But it’s been five years since Mark Foley was in Congress! And you’re arguing that only now has Congress seen fit to make a pointless display in an attempt to protect themselves?

    It’s not a very compelling motive you’ve come up with.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    First off, Dr. Veith (@3), you are right. I got the parties switched up when I was reading about Studds and Crane. I apologize. (Though you have to admit, all things being equal, wouldn’t you normally assume that a guy named “Studds” was in the GOP?)

    Democratic transgressors tend to get away with whatever they do

    Of course. Like Bill Clinton. Or Democrat David Vitter. Wait, did I get the parties mixed up again? ;)

    Anyhow, you also said:

    tODD, I am arguing motive.

    Perhaps. Or perhaps you’re scoring cheap political points with populist rhetoric. It all depends on whether we can take you at your word. Clearly, we can’t take Boehner or Pelosi at their words, though, right? From the article:

    Pelosi and Boehner said in their announcement that it was cost, not controversy, that impelled them to end the $5 million-per-year program.

    Ah, but we want to know the real truth, not ye olde political spin!

    The thing is, I’m inclined to take them at their word. It’s perfectly believable for this to be one of a pathetically few things that our Congressional leaders can actually agree on to cut spending. Cut anything more significant, and there are simply too many sacred cows to worry about. You’ll get a lot more angry letters from people on Medicaid than you will page-program alumni.

    And if you’re really arguing motive, Dr. Veith, then explain the timing. It’s certainly quite consistent with this year’s budget-cut talks, isn’t it? But it’s been five years since Mark Foley was in Congress! And you’re arguing that only now has Congress seen fit to make a pointless display in an attempt to protect themselves?

    It’s not a very compelling motive you’ve come up with.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I shouldn’t say that it’s just the Congressmen who are the sexual predators. I’m sure the explosive growth of staffers and other functionaries also contribute to the sense that it’s dangerous, for liability reasons if nothing else, to have a large number of under-aged adolescents working in that kind of climate without lots of supervision and oversight. We don’t know what else has been brewing or what our Congressional leaders of both parties have been having to deal with. Perhaps we will. Certainly the Congress remains a place where sex scandals still happen. (How many did we have in this last year?) Perhaps I am being overly cynical, but I wasn’t always this way. Rather, Congressional behavior has made me this way.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I shouldn’t say that it’s just the Congressmen who are the sexual predators. I’m sure the explosive growth of staffers and other functionaries also contribute to the sense that it’s dangerous, for liability reasons if nothing else, to have a large number of under-aged adolescents working in that kind of climate without lots of supervision and oversight. We don’t know what else has been brewing or what our Congressional leaders of both parties have been having to deal with. Perhaps we will. Certainly the Congress remains a place where sex scandals still happen. (How many did we have in this last year?) Perhaps I am being overly cynical, but I wasn’t always this way. Rather, Congressional behavior has made me this way.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Are they going to hire permanent workers to replace pages?

    Pages were outsiders that changed constantly (annually/semiannually?) They were eyes and ears on the inside. One less window of transparency.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Are they going to hire permanent workers to replace pages?

    Pages were outsiders that changed constantly (annually/semiannually?) They were eyes and ears on the inside. One less window of transparency.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “One less window of transparency” (@7)? Oh please.

    As Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who served as a page for about four weeks in the late 1960s, said:

    Cooper characterized the experience as “more of a hands-on vacation” than a work experience: “The question is whether it’s worth it to the taxpayers to provide this opportunity. … Most pages will probably tell you which member has the best comb-over or who polishes his shoes,” but they will not learn to explain things such as how Medicare and Social Security work, he said.

    There is also the question of whether, in this technological age, much of the pages’ work had simply become obsolete. Old habits clearly die hard, but most of the rest of the world has also moved beyond paying people to move pieces of paper around for communication purposes.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “One less window of transparency” (@7)? Oh please.

    As Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who served as a page for about four weeks in the late 1960s, said:

    Cooper characterized the experience as “more of a hands-on vacation” than a work experience: “The question is whether it’s worth it to the taxpayers to provide this opportunity. … Most pages will probably tell you which member has the best comb-over or who polishes his shoes,” but they will not learn to explain things such as how Medicare and Social Security work, he said.

    There is also the question of whether, in this technological age, much of the pages’ work had simply become obsolete. Old habits clearly die hard, but most of the rest of the world has also moved beyond paying people to move pieces of paper around for communication purposes.


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