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Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education (?)

Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) called on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to resign recently, saying that she has failed to do the job of working to ensure a fair and equitable education for all students in the United States and stating flatly that she has relied on racist research in making policy decisions.

Less provocatively, Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) has also called on DeVos to resign, focusing more on her recent budget request, which famously called for complete elimination of funding to Special Olympics, a proposal the president then reversed. Pocan reminds us that DeVos is devoid of qualifications for the position, except insofar as bloody minded advocacy of charter schools counts as a qualification for overseeing public education in the United States.

Appearing on the web site for NBC News, the news reporting arm of a television network, Pocan’s piece includes an edifying video clip of DeVos testifying before the House Appropriations Committee, trying vainly to justify her horrific budget. The entire clip is sort of grossly entertaining in the manner of a comedic horror movie that would be funny if it did not depict a very rich woman trying to explain her decisions about cutting funds for public education, but the most staggering part comes near the beginning, during the part of her opening statement that appears on the video, where she says that “it’s easier to keep spending, to keep saying yes, and to keep saddling tomorrow’s generations with today’s growing debt.” Sorry. That should have come with a trigger warning so you would not spit your coffee onto your computer. I hope you were sitting down.

“Hypocrisy” barely begins to capture the enormity of this comment. “Chutzpah” is wholly inadequate. The nerve of any Republican official to try to justify a budget cut by reference to “today’s growing debt” is staggering. It beggars description. It is truly Trumpian in the worst sense of the word.

The aggregate federal debt of the United States will continue to grow as long as our federal government continues to run budget deficits, to spend more than it receives in revenue. Since World War II, the only sustained period in which the federal government has had budget surpluses was the second half of the 1990s, when the modest tax increase and careful governance of President Bill Clinton produced revenue that exceeded expenditures.

Clinton’s immediate successor, George W. Bush, returned to the Republican bad habit of cutting taxes for no good reason and thus to growing budget deficits. Because of the hole Bush created, and because of the severe recession he inherited, and because he actually succeeded in getting Congress to enact the health care reform that Clinton attempted but could not get passed, Obama did not have the opportunity to achieve budget surpluses that Clinton had, so the budget was already in deficit when the hugely ignorant, hugely irresponsible Donald Trump took office.

After nearly a year in office, Trump finally signed his first major piece of legislation, the tax cut his Republican buddies passed. Republicans love the (Keynesian) myth that tax cuts will produce so much increased growth that they will pay for themselves. Plainly, instead, the tax cut that Trump is happy to claim as his own has increased the deficit.

For DeVos to suggest that reductions in spending at the Department of Education are necessary to address the growing debt her Party created is just another vicious, Republican lie.

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