U.S. House: Technology, Tight Budgets Terminate Page Program

I’m not sure what’s more surprising: the U.S. House of Representatives cutting the more than 200-year-old page program or the fact that the words “joint statement issued” are in the same sentence as the words “House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).”

Okay, that last part was a little dig at the lack of cooperation between our major political parties as witnessed during the recent debt ceiling debacle. It’s a bit of a shock to see Congressional leaders agree on anything nowadays.

But, back to the main issue: The Washington Post is reporting that with a cost of about $5 million per year and technological advances coming in to take the place of many of the duties of the typical House page, the program will be shuttered, at the advice of two consulting firms working with Congress.

High school juniors are hired for a semester and paid about $1,804 a month with a 35% room-and-board fee deducted. Page duties include running errands for House members, delivering correspondence to lawmakers and answering phones in the cloakrooms off the House floor.

The problem is that technology (documents and notes are now delivered electronically and smartphones and text messaging have largely replaced the need for pages to answer phones) has increased to the point where pages are no longer necessary for the House to run smoothly.

While it is a shame to think that students who might never have a chance to see the American political machine up close will no longer have that opportunity – if the program is largely unnecessary and costing $5 million per year, it does make sense in this tight fiscal time to shut it down.

There are still ways for young people to be involved in the political system. Indiana, like most states, has an in-state page program working with the state legislature. Most Congressional leaders also hire college interns to work in their offices and the U.S. Senate will continue its page program.

One commenter on the Post’s story says, “This is shockingly sensible, even if it is a little sad.”

That’s a great way to sum it up.

It seems that to get out of this fiscal trouble, more programs which are good in theory and beneficial to those involved (such as the page program), will be sacrificed. And now there’s just that minor task of cutting several trillion dollars from the rest of the budget.