Someone mentioned in a Fecesbook thread I was on that Grover Norquist once famously declared he'd like to cut the federal budget in half and cut it again, so that it could be strangled in a bathtub.
This was said in relaton to a discussion about education, implying that conservatives want to cut education spending via this method, and somehow deny everyone in the country a chance at a K-12 education.
In that context, there are many things wrong with equating anything Grover Norquist says to education spending, with just a couple of them being:
1. He was talking Federal spending, not at the state and local level where the vast. vast. vast majority of spending on education occurs.
2. The statement, as inviting as it may be as red meat to conservatives, just doesn't pass the historical reality test.
Let's use just one, relevant to the discussion, test. That will be federal outlays to the Department of Education. Since that's the only Federal spending that Norquist could realistically hope to cut in the education realm, how have conservatives been doing on the quest to cut this spending by half, then by half again?
I mean, to listen to liberals, we must be gutting the Department, since teacher pay is so low and student outcomes are so bad. That's the only explanation, isn't it? Dastardly Republicans, cutting education spending on the backs of teachers and well meaning administrators country wide? That's got to be it, right????
So, just for fun, the US Department of Education publishes every year a history of their budgets, conveniently (for me) in Excel and PDF format!
In 1980 (this would have been Carter's last year), the DOE appropriated budget was $14.01B. The next 8 budgets would have been that bastard Reagan, who we all knew hated poor people, was a dunce (and felt education was unnecessary) and gave all those Rich People tax cuts. What did DOE's budget look like in say, 1989, Reagan's last budget year?
It was $22.9B. What? That's more than a 50% increase from when he entered office. What happened, was Reagan possessed by some crazy Liberal demon? What would Gorver Norquist say? Was Reagan an apostate to Norquist for this increase? I don't know, we can actually say that in 2 of Reagan's budget years the DOE budget decreased, but...there is an explanation for these.
The 1982 budget saw a very tiny decrease, and that was at the height of the 1979-1982 recession. 1986 saw a slight reduction, and that was a result of the Gramm-Hollings-Rudman budget control act, which instituted mandatory cuts. The bottom line is in 1989, federal spending at DOE had increased over 50% in Reagan's time.
If you're a conservative who was this sell-out?
What happened in Bush 1's term?
By 1993, Bush 1 had increased DOE to $32.5B. Holy shit, in just 4 years, Bush 1 had increased DOE's budget another 50%. I guess viewed in this light, Reagan really was a budget cutter!
Clinton, 94-01 budget years. What happened? In 1994, Clinton's first full budget year, and a year before the Gingrich congressional takeover, DOE spending decreased! Yes, down to $27B. An almost 20% reduction, under Clinton. Amazingly, after that (and I think it's with the GOP Congress to help with this) during the next few years, DOE's budget grew, but at a much slower pace than the Reagan/Bush years In 2000, if was $38.5B, which was only about a 20% growth rate in the next 6 years. However, in his final budget, and with a chastened GOP, the 2001 budget was $42.1B, so Clinton increased it by only 30%. So, compared to Reagan and Bush 1, Clinton was a draconian education cutter.
Now, Bush 2. What did the guy who came in as the Education President, who gave us "no Child Left behind" with Tedy Kennedy, do?
Take a guess the increase just from Clinton's last budget of 2001 of $42.1B to 2002, Bush 2's first.
Go ahead, guess, just guess.
Ok, you ready for this, in ONE YEAR, DOE's spend went up to $56.2B. Got that? The horrible Repiglican, education-hating W, INCREASED DOE's budget by 34% IN ONE YEAR.
He wasn't done yet. By FY2008, his next to last year, it was up to $64.9B. So, in W's tenure, we saw DOE's budget increase 54%.
From here, it's a little complicated.
Reality hit and with the 2009 recession, we got a Congressional appropriation for the DOE of just $40M, so a significant cut. In fact, a cut down to the 2002 level. However, the 2009 Recovery Act came to the rescue, and we saw an additional appropriation of $98.2B to the DOE. Ok, so get that - in a recession year, Obama and the Dems in Congress allocated a total of $138B to DOE, a more than 100% increase from the year before, which represented an historic spend itself.
Interestingly, in this time the states were actually reducing their education budgets, since in the recession they were forced to meet state constituional reaquirements for balanced budgets, and they couldn't deficit spend to keep their bloated education budgets aflot.
But, at the federal level, it was an education spendfest.
Where is Grover Norquist at this time? The guy probably was contemplating suicide.
Anyway, in 2010, we returned to just normal excess and the 2010 budget went to $63B, which was slightly less than the last real Bush budget in 2008.
After 2010, though, we elected a Republican Congress, and you may recall the Tea Party was focused on fiscal concerns, and we had Harry Reid governing us by continuing resolution, so, now, we got some fiscal reality handed to DOE. In nearly every year prior to this, the DOE had received from Congress an amount close to what the president had requested, but in 2011, Congress cut DOE significantly, from the 2010 level (Pelosi's last year as Speaker) to $44B. That's an unheard of cut, and you can thank the GOP Congress for that, it's nearly 30%. And that level of cutting continued, through 2013, when DOE got just $40B.
Grover Norquist would be proud. He had gotten, finally, the first half of that strangling, at least at DOE.
All good things, though, must end, and in 2014, the profligacy continued, as the appropriation went back to $55.3B. And in 2015, our current budget year, the DOE is getting...$87.4B. And guess what, even with a Reublican controlled Congress, that's more than Obama even asked for ($82.3B)!
In the 2016 budget, Obama has "only" requested $73.8B, so, we'll see what the new GOP congress does with that. If they give Obama every penny he wants, it will be about a 12% reduction. I doubt it, though, with these clowns, I expect we'll see a $100B DOE budget for FY2016.
So, in the 35 years of the department of education, it's budget has grown from $14B to $87.4B, a 625% growth. To put it into perspective, that's double the inflation rate.
So, are the Republicans gutting the DOE to cut the size of government?
Demonstrably, with the exception of a couple of years during DEMOCRAT presidencies, they have been woefully, horribly, terribly unsuccesful at such a thing.
It makes one think Grover Norquist's ability as a shaper of Repulican party politics is the thing of myth, and Liberal talking points, not of reality.