I’m surprised that this revelation by Democratic Congressman David Obey hasn’t received more attention. Basically, the House Democrats went to the wall for education and managed to get $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs and an additional $5 billion for Pell Grants. To do so, they had to cut Obama’s educational ‘reform’ program, Race to the Top, by about fifteen percent. This is the same so-called reform bill that screwed over Massachusetts’ schools and that also weakened science education.
What was the Obama administration’s response? According to Obey (italics mine):
The secretary of education [Arne Duncan] is whining about the fact he only got 85 percent of the money he wanted …. [W]hen we needed money, we committed the cardinal sin of treating him like any other mere mortal. We were giving them over $10 billion in money to help keep teachers on the job, plus another $5 billion for Pell, so he was getting $15 billion for the programs he says he cares about, and it was costing him $500 million [in reductions to the Race to the Top program]. Now that’s a pretty damn good deal. So as far as I’m concerned, the secretary of education should have been happy as hell. He should have taken that deal and smiled like a Cheshire cat. He’s got more walking around money than every other cabinet secretary put together.
It blows my mind that the White House would even notice the fight [over Race to the Top]. I would have expected the president to say to the secretary, “Look, you’re getting a good deal, for God’s sake, what this really does is guarantee that the rest of the money isn’t going to be touched.” We gave [Duncan] $4.3 billion in the stimulus package, no questions asked. He could spend it any way he wants. … I trusted the secretary, so I gave him a hell of a lot more money than I should have….
We were told we have to offset every damn dime of [new teacher spending]. Well, it ain’t easy to find offsets, and with all due respect to the administration their first suggestion for offsets was to cut food stamps. Now they were careful not to make an official budget request, because they didn’t want to take the political heat for it, but that was the first trial balloon they sent down here. … Their line of argument was, well, the cost of food relative to what we thought it would be has come down, so people on food stamps are getting a pretty good deal in comparison to what we thought they were going to get. Well isn’t that nice. Some poor bastard is going to get a break for a change.
To start with, any honest discussion of food stamps recognizes that they simply don’t provide enough food–all those elected officials and reporters who try to live on food stamps for a week learn this rather quickly.
But the bigger problem is that the Obama administration thought that screwing over desperate people was acceptable in pursuit of their educational ideology. Frankly, this is the same kind of ‘ketchup is a vegetable’ crap we heard from the Reagan and Bush administrations.
Even if Obama didn’t know this was being done, it still says something about the man–the noble czar betrayed by his corrupt advisors story is wearing thin. And if he did approve this, then he is not a very good person. Instead of planting gardens at the White House, maybe the Obama family could help stock food pantries instead.