So many articles and op-eds have been written about the untimely end of the House Page program. I, too, mourn the loss of a program that helped mold my own life. But I’d like to look at the story from a different angle. Someone needs to point out the falsehoods, fuzzy math, and phony numbers used to justify killing the program.
The House leadership has pointed out over and over that ending the Page program will save $5 million. (Thank God that with over $14 trillion in debt, Congress is finally coming up with viable solutions to close the gap!) But if you look at the numbers with a more critical eye, the decision doesn’t make financial sense.
It’s true that electronic media and computers have rendered obsolete a large portion of the work Pages do. About 50 of the 70 pages were traditionally employed delivering interoffice mail between members’ offices and the House floor. But those other 20 Pages perform duties related to the functioning of the House itself — duties that will require replacements.
Pages are paid about $10,000 a year (with no benefits), but the 20 adults the House will inevitably hire to replace them will cost taxpayers a minimum of $100,000 per fully loaded full-time employee (FTE). So here are another two million dollars taxpayers will spend to continue the essential work that Pages will no longer be performing.
Then consider this: A nasty truth about Congress is that members never give up their patronage slots. Those 70 Page patronage slots will just be reassigned to elevator operators, tour guides and Capitol police. These, too, are salaried positions.
Suddenly you have another $7 million in personnel costs for fully loaded FTEs, added to the $2 million spent actually replacing the Pages themselves.
So the House cuts a historically significant and vibrant Page program — one that gives American teens a valuable experience — and says it will save the taxpayers $5 million. But the unintended consequences will more than likely replace those costs with $9 million in new expenses.
To make matters more frustrating, those new salaries won’t be run through just one easily identifiable program. That $9 million will be tacked on to the federal deficit, and no member of Congress needs to worry about public embarrassment.
And when the dust settles, this incredible program is one for the ages. It’s a loss for young people, a loss for the institution of Congress, and unfortunately a loss to the taxpayers.
Alex Treadway is COO and VP of Sales at The Daily Caller. He has over twenty five years of sales, marketing and customer service experience, including ten years at National Journal. He also proudly served for two years as House page, performing the duties of Speaker’s Page, Cloakroom Page and Running Page.