Last week MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer and Melissa Francis interviewed New Hampshire U.S. Senator Judd Gregg, top member on the budget committee and member of the banking committee. The interview got exciting when the hosts asked Gregg where precisely he proposed to make cuts to the budget. “Are you willing to tell schools, no money for you?” Brewer asked. “Nobody is saying no money for schools. What an absurd statement to make. What a dishonest statement to make,” said Gregg. Good television!
Watching the exchange, lefty blogger Digby was prompted to test the “absurdity” of the statement. She blogged a brief lineage of GOP thinking on eliminating federal education funding from the Reagan-era to today, concluding with the renewed calls made this past fall by Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton.
Contessa Brewer: So my partner Melissa, Senator Greg, is really asking for specifics. If you don’t believe that we should have a 1.3 trillion dollar budget, which programs are you willing to cut. Are you willing to tell schools, no money for you? And do you side then with those who say, when you look back at the great depression, economists say that we landed back into real problems in 1937 when people got onto cutting the deficit and a lot of government spending was pulled back before it should have been?
Gregg: Well first off, nobody is saying no money for schools. What an absurd statement to make. What a dishonest statement to make. On its face you are being fundamentally dishonest when you make that type of statement.
Brewer: We’re just asking which programs you would cut
Francis: tell us what to cut…
Gregg: Do you know how much money is spent on education in the federal governmen this year?
So my partner Melissa, Senator Greg, is really asking for specifics. If you don’t believe that we should have a 1.3 trillion dollar budget, which programs are you willing to cut. Are you willing to tell schools, no money for you?
Digby blockquotes from Wikipedia on conservative plans to eliminate the Department of education:
I would just point out that it’s not absurd in the least to ask if Republicans would cut education. Indeed, it’s absurd to suggest otherwise:
President Ronald Reagan promised during the 1980 presidential election to eliminate the Department of Education as a cabinet post, but he was not able to do so with a Democratic House of Representatives. In the 1982 State of the Union Address, he pledged:
“ The budget plan I submit to you on Feb. 8 will realize major savings by dismantling the Department of Education. ”
Throughout the 1980s, the abolition of the Department of Education was a part of the Republican Party platform, but the administration of President George H. W. Bush declined to implement this idea.
In 1996, the Republican Party made abolition of the Department a cornerstone of their campaign promises, calling it an inappropriate federal intrusion into local, state, and family affairs. The GOP platform read:
“ The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education, end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning. ”
During his 1996 presidential run, Senator Bob Dole promised, “We’re going to cut out the Department of Education.”
In 2000, the Republican Liberty Caucus passed a resolution to abolish the Department of Education.
In 2008, presidential candidate Ron Paul campaigned in part on an opposition to the Department.
From the Colorado Independent reporting on the Norton position:
“She believes state and local control is better than having them taken over by the the federal government… She supports a return to a balance that has state and local jurisdictions as preeminent, empowering parents rather than bureaucrats,” [a campaign spokesman] told the Colorado independent. The idea is not that radical, he said.
“Federal involvement in education is a matter of legislation, so now it’s a matter of rebalancing… States have rights under the Constitution. We got to this point through intrusive government… [through] rolling federal intrusions, just as we’re seeing in health care and with the Detroit automakers.”
Not only was Brewer right to ask whether Gregg planned to cut education as part of a deficit reduction plan, there has been a very longstanding belief among conservatives that they should not be funding education at all.