Tag-arkiv: John Tierney

Ugens citat: Tierney om pager

New York Times’ fortrinlige, klassisk-liberale klumme-skribent John Tierney (som vi omtalte allerede tidligt i denne blogs første levetid) har denne spidse kommentar til den dagsaktuelle sex-skandalen i USA’s kongres:

“Suppose Nike’s founder, Phil Knight, asked taxpayers to subsidize a program for 16-year-olds to leave their homes to become “squires” running errands at Nike headquarters. Or suppose, before his death, Sam Walton had asked Congress to build a dormitory in Arkansas to house teenage “serfs” spending a semester away from their schools to work on a Wal-Mart loading dock.

These executives would become national jokes. They’d be denounced for trying to revive 19th-century child-labor practices and 12th-century feudalism. There would be no public money appropriated for Knight’s Squires or Sam’s Serfs.

Yet Congress sees nothing strange about dragging teenagers from their families and schools to become pages, one step below a squire in the feudal food chain. They’re not being forced to wear Prince Valiant haircuts, but they have to do scut work that’s probably even less useful than what they could learn at Nike or Wal-Mart.

Congressional pages spend much of their time hand-delivering documents, a job that’s done electronically in most 21st-century institutions. When educators talk about preparing youth for jobs in the Information Age, they’re not talking about training messengers.

The justification for the page program is that it gives teenagers an insider’s glimpse of how Congress works. But why disillusion them at such a tender age? If they stayed in school, they could maintain their innocence by reading the old step-by-step textbook version of how a bill becomes law. By going to Capitol Hill, they see how the process has changed:

1. A bill is introduced to build highways.

2. A congressman receives a donation from a constituent who wants to open a go-kart track.

3. The congressman persuades his committee chairman to slip in a $350 million “earmark” for an “alternative sustainable transportation research facility” in his district.

4. The chairman quietly adds similar earmarks for all members of the committee.

5. The bill is passed unanimously.

6. The president complains about the “wasteful spending” but signs it into law anyway.

7. The congressman attends a fund-raiser at the new go-kart track.

What lesson has the page learned? That Congress is the closest thing in modern America to a medieval court: an enclave governed by arcane ancient rules of seniority, a gathering of nobles who spend their days accepting praise and dispensing favors to supplicants.

They’re so secure in their jobs, and so used to being surrounded by groveling minions, that they assume the privileges of feudal lords when dealing with pages and other lieges. Which is why, on occasion, they try to exercise the droit du seigneur.”