Shaping education into a wedge issue for warfare over balancing the federal budget, President Clinton on Monday denounced proposed Republican cutbacks in college student loans and other school-related programs as “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
“It is wrong for our economy to be growing and the American people’s incomes to be stuck, and education is the way out,” Clinton told a large, welcoming student rally at Southern Illinois University.
“Do not be fooled by the smoke screen of balancing the budget,” Clinton said in promoting a White House budget-balancing plan that would increase education funding by $40 billion over 10 years.
“You do not have to balance the budget by shortcutting the future of America,” he argued.
Clinton said that “students are better off, the administrators are better off, the federal treasury is better off and the country is better off” under the 1993 program allowing students to secure loans directly from the federal government. Only bankers were hurt, he said, adding that direct loans should be expanded, while Republicans want to eliminate them or cap them at the current level of 40 percent of all loans.
House Republican Conference Chairman John Boehner, R-Ohio, responded in a written statement that Democrats are launching a “student loan scare campaign” to distort Republican legislation.
The White House claimed that Republican proposals would cut education and job-training programs below currently projected levels by $36 billion, including $10 billion in student loan benefits.
Boehner, saying the Republican blueprint “would not cut a single student loan,” contended that loan funding actually would rise 50 percent by 2002 under House Republican appropriations.
In effect, both are correct: Projected spending is being cut, while actual dollar outlays are increasing - although not at the previously projected rate.
Listing all the Republican ideas on education, from reducing Head Start preschools to killing the fledgling AmeriCorps national service program, Clinton said: “This is penny-wise and pound-foolish. … Help me. Stand up. Write your members of Congress. Tell them to balance the budget and increase investment in education and America’s future.”
Clinton’s speech was a warm-up for budget talks today with congressional leaders.