Washington: President Barack Obama says almost every chance he gets that Republicans would cut education spending by 20 percent if their party wins control of Congress in the Nov. 2 elections. He also says they would repeal a new college tuition tax credit.
But as Obama makes these assertions to draw contrasts between the parties and give voters a reason to keep Democrats in power on Capitol Hill, he`s leaving out some important facts.
Take his claims about the Republican campaign plan, the Pledge to America.
Obama says Republicans would pay to keep a set of expiring tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans by cutting spending on education, an area where he`s investing billions of dollars from kindergarten through college.
"And when you ask them, well, how would you pay for some of this stuff, they don`t really have good answers," Obama said Sept. 28 in Albuquerque, N.M., shortly after Republicans released the plan. "But one way they would pay for it is to cut back our education spending by 20 percent and eliminate about 200,000 Head Start programs, and reduce student aid to go to college for about 8 million students."
He`s argued the point almost daily since then, from discussions on the economy in voters` back yards to statements in the sunny White House Rose Garden. But the GOP plan doesn`t say that. A search of the document doesn`t find the word "education" anywhere in its 48 pages.
The White House says the claim is based on an analysis by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities of the Republicans plan`s proposal to return federal spending to 2008 levels. A White House spokeswoman says the administration also crunched the numbers.
The think tank says such a reversal would require immediate cuts of 21 percent, or $101 billion, in spending on programs unrelated to national security or veterans. The center chose education as an example and said a cut that size would trim more than $8 billion from K-12 funding, on top of cuts by state and local governments.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the House Republican leadership, said the analysis is faulty. While the pledge calls for deep spending cuts, it doesn`t specify where they should be made, he said.
At a campaign event Tuesday night in Washington, Obama said the tuition tax credit "could be repealed if Republicans take over. They`ve already proposed to cut education spending by 20 percent." The American Opportunity Tax Credit, worth $2,500 a year, was included in the $814 billion economic stimulus bill Obama signed into law last year. The tax credit is available for the 2009 and 2010 tax years, but is scheduled to expire at the end of this year because of how the law is written. Obama on Wednesday called on Congress to make the credit permanent.
So how does a law that is expiring in just over two months get repealed by a party that`s not in power? The White House says it would be repealed if Republicans make good on a promise to end the stimulus.
Liz Oxhorn, a spokeswoman for the stimulus program, said that if Republicans get their way they`d have to immediately freeze stimulus spending. Oxhorn said that if all stimulus spending were halted "today," there would be no money to pay the tax credit next year when students and families who are now spending on tuition and other college costs would claim the credit on their 2010 income tax returns.
But it`s not that simple. Republicans don`t have enough votes now to freeze the stimulus; if they did, they could have ended the program already. To end the stimulus, Republicans first must win control of the House and Senate on Nov. 2, then wait until a new Congress convenes in January before taking steps to fulfill any of the Pledge of America promises.