Senator Durbin: Federal Education Spending Boosts Economy

His comments about Medicare and Social Security got most of the attention, but in his speech yesterday at the Center for American Progress, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) also came pretty close to taking the position that education should be firewalled off from any further spending cuts that are included in the deal to avert the year-end fiscal cliff.

According to my notes, he said that if the deal includes caps on spending, it should not apply to things that “create jobs and growth and opportunity in our economy.” In that category he included education, infrastructure, and research. In fact, he said that, if anything, we should be spending more in this category, particularly on infrastructure.

He did identify one area where savings could be found in federal education spending: financial aid that ends up at for-profit schools, citing some figures from the Harkins report on the percentage of federal college loans that goes to for-profit tuition and the high default rates on those loans.

Senator Durbin also made the point that probably can’t be said enough: if spending cuts do end up being part of the deal, it’s important to note that $1.5 trillion in savings were already created by capping funding for discretionary programs in the Budget Control Act, and a disproportionate amount of those savings came from non-defense programs.