The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 10, 2013

Our View: Still the people's house?

Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — George Washington chose the site. John Adams was first to move in. It was burned by the British in 1814, rebuilt and reoccupied by James Monroe.

Abraham Lincoln saved the union in it. Teddy Roosevelt coined its current "official" name. William Howard Taft created its "Oval Office" and Missouri's own Harry S. "the buck stops here" Truman oversaw a complete restoration.

It was "Camelot" under John and Jackie. A crook named Richard Nixon sullied it, Jimmy Carter turned it solar, and Ronald Reagan made it a shining light on the hill. The Clintons tried to take its furniture, a Bush reassured a nation the night of 9/11, and Barack Obama made Lincoln's dream a reality.

"It" is the symbol of American power. "It" is the White House - the "people's house."

But as of now, the visitor information line for "your" house is imparting: "Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform that White House tours will be canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013," even though White House tours are mainly self-guided and much of the work is done by volunteers.

Such a message is in spite of the fact that 139 of the 468 reported White House staff positions pay over $100,000 a year. There's an executive clerk position that pulls down $140,000. Two assistants earn over $100,000 each, and three calligraphers take in a combined $277,000 and change. And just three weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of dollars of the "people's money" paid for a presidential golf outing and a first lady ski trip.

Yet thousands of families and schoolchildren on their own trips will find the doors closed.

You should reconsider your decision, Mr. President. If not for you - if not for now - then at least for the history of the strong, the proud, the "people's house."