Sunday, August 1, 2021

Trump evades education question in Detroit debate


Donald Trump has said he wants to rid the federal government of the Education Department in order to reduce government waste, but the department’s budget of $78 billion is only about 15 percent of the federal deficit. It won’t make a dent, and then there’d be no Education Department to strive toward equality of educational opportunity for all Americans.

Final Four in the Republican Presidential Debate #11, Detroit (DonkeyHotey via Flickr Creative Commons)

FOX News’s Chris Wallace reminded Mr Trump about the $78 billion at the 11th Republican presidential debate yesterday in Detroit, where schools are spiraling downward in a fiscal crisis. And then Mr Trump didn’t answer the question, instead going into a speech about “hundreds of billions of dollars in waste” and reiterating his plan to save about $300 billion a year by better negotiating the price paid by government programs for prescription drugs.

Here’s how that went, as transcribed by Washington Post reporters. When Mr Wallace asked Mr Trump what he would cut, specifically, to save those billions, Mr Trump came right back:

TRUMP: Department of Education. We’re cutting Common Core. We’re getting rid of Common Core. We’re bringing education locally. Department of Environmental Protection. We are going to get rid of it in almost every form. We’re going to have little tidbits left but we’re going to take a tremendous amount out. We have various other things. If you look at the IRS, if you look at every single agency, we can cut it down, and I mean really cut it down and save. The waste, fraud, and abuse is massive. …

WALLACE: But, Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump, your numbers don’t add up. Please put up full screen number four. The Education Department, you talk about cutting, the total budget for the education department is $78 billion. And that includes Pell grants for low-income students and aid to states for special education. I assume you wouldn’t cut those things. The entire budget for the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, $8 billion.


WALLACE: The deficit this year is $544 billion. That’s more than a half trillion dollars. Your numbers don’t add up, sir.

TRUMP: Let me explain something. Because of the fact that the pharmaceutical companies—because of the fact that the pharmaceutical companies are not mandated to bid properly, they have hundreds of billions of dollars in waste. We don’t bid properly. We don’t have proper bidding procedures. The reason we don’t is because they take care of all of the senators, all of the congressman, and they don’t bid. They don’t go out to bid.

Those darn procurement rules, right? The US spent, in total, including Medicare, private insurers, everybody, $297.7 billion in 2014 on prescription drugs, according to a fact-checking article in the Baltimore Sun. I’m sure Mr Trump thinks he can do something about Medicare expenditures, but private insurers are completely out of the government’s reach.

Public Citizen, an advocacy group, released a study in July showing that Medicare’s prescription program could save $15.2 billion to $16 billion a year if it were able to get the same discounted prices for brand name drugs that state Medicaid programs and the Veterans Health Administration receive. That’s a little savings, but not the hundreds of billions Mr Trump claims he could save.

(Believe me, I was hoping to write this story about education. Instead, Mr Trump has led me down a path about prescription drugs in response to an education question from the debate moderator. Surely he has something to say about it besides eliminating the Common Core, because I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what the “Common Core” is. Evidence: Asked about Pell grants, he answers about prescription drugs.)

The remainder of the debate was spent focusing on, in part, the size of various parts of the male anatomy, such as hands. “Marco Rubio … has descended as far as Trump in implicit comments about the size of his male organ. No one had anticipated this low order of campaign rhetoric from anyone but Trump,” wrote Richard Vatz, a political rhetoric teacher at Towson University and the author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion, on Maryland

The atmosphere around the Republican Party these days would be unrecognizable to Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D Eisenhower, and probably even Ronald Reagan, if any were still alive. It has devolved into the land of ignominy, where people audition for the job of “boss” instead of debating for the office of “president.” But like that CBS show “Undercover Boss,” the eventual nominee could be someone who exposes the goings-on at a company his underlings didn’t want him to expose. (It may take a con man to know a con man, but the question remains: Will this save or annihilate the two-party system?)

But if anybody says more about education than a promise to cut Common Core or get rid of the evil Education Department, I’ll get right on it. I don’t have high hopes many articles will follow on these pages devoted to our schools. So please, don’t anybody hold their breath.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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