This exchange between Senator Sessions and Education Secretary Duncan is amusing. The video itself is worth your time–if only to see the parental smirk on Session’s face, and hear the parental tone in his voice as he doggedly throws wrenches of fact into Duncan’s well-oiled machinations.
Here are the best parts, though, transcribed and annotated by yours truly for your reading pleasure.
Sessions starts off by asking Duncan if the debt is a problem. Duncan responds:
”I think those are absolutely valid concerns . . . . The President is committed to a trillion dollars in deficit reduction over the next decade . . . .”
Sessions: “Well over the next decade, the deficit will double from 13 trillion to 26 trillion, and, you can say that cuts and saves a trillion, but it doesn’t seem like it to me.”
(Sessions probably meant to say that the overall debt will double, not the deficit.)
Oh, Duncan. The debt v. deficit trick? The budget is fiscally responsible because it reduces the yearly deficit? (“Reducing the deficit” merely slows debt growth. It does not pay off the debt. The debt continues to grow. But I bet you already knew that.)
Sessions then asks whether it’s correct to say that the President’s budget proposal doubles the 2008 level of Pell Grant aid, from 18 billion to 36 billion dollars.
“We can go thru the numbers. We are going to save, uh, we have a way of closing the Pell shortfall, 20 billion dollars worth. [translation: see this hat? watch this . . . look, a bunny! I pulled a bunny out of the hat!] But let me be very very clear. [where did he pick up that phrase, hmm?] What our country desperately needs is many more young people going to college and graduating. . . . Four million jobs are unfilled because we’re not producing the skilled workers that our country needs. . . .”
Our country desperately needs . . . more college graduates. Huh. That’s weird.
I could have sworn that the problem is having too few jobs for workers, not the other way around. But even if we stipulate to a shortage of workers, then we have to swallow this big whopper: holding a college degree–of any type, presumably–is proof-positive that you are a skilled worker.
Yeah. Listen. I’m a girl with an almost, but not quite, entirely useless undergrad degree in economics.
This degree did not make me a skilled worker.
Furthermore, word on the ‘net is that college often fails to improve a student’s basic skills, like writing and critical thinking.
“Well I think we can all agree that funding and money does not necessarily improve education. Your proposal . . . doubling the entire budget, and we don’t have the money. . . . We’ve now taken over the student loans; 100% is federal. But according to our calculations, the total of these loans will go from 98 billion in 2008, to 167 billion in 2012, is that correct?”
Duncan starts to stall a bit at this point:
“I don’t know the exact numbers [veering off point until redirected by Sessions]. . . . We have many more people accessing higher education, which as a country we desperately need. The only way we strengthen our economy long-term is to produce the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the knowledge workers–”
Because college is all about cranking out the innovators and entrepreneurs. Mercifully, Sessions interrupts him.
Sessions: “Well why don’t we just spend three times as much? Won’t that just help us fix it all?”
Duncan: “Well actually we made some very tough cuts in Pell Grants, so we asked for a 5 billion dollar increase, but we are reducing costs by 15 billion dollars.”
Sessions: “Well this is Washington math. You haven’t cut Pell Grants. Pell Grants are increasing dramatically Mr. Secretary. The numbers are plain.”
Duncan: “That’s correct, and it would have increased even more substantially, did we not make the tough and painful decision to eliminate–”
Sessions: “You’re proposing they increase that much. They are not going to be increased that much because we don’t have the money.”
Ha ha ha! Washington math, indeed. Did you catch that? A 5 billion dollar increase is a product of “very tough cuts.” Cuts in spending create . . . an increase in spending. (And who knows whether the purported cuts are even real.)
Did Sarah Palin turn you into a newt, too, Secretary Duncan?
Oh, I’ve written enough. Here’s the video. Share and enjoy!