Cutting the Federal Education Budget

How easy will it be to cut the federal budget?  House Republican whip Eric Cantor has put up a website called YouCut that attempts to shine a bright light on federal programs and expenses that, darn it, if we could just cut them, would set us on the road to balanced budgets and prosperous times.

Among the first on Cantor’s list is an Education Department program called Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners.  It is as goofy as it sounds:  It funds a couple of museums that already have nice endowments, and it sends a few museum workers from Massachusetts, Alaska and Hawaii on visits to each other couple of times a year.

Presidents and their education secretaries have been trying to harpoon the program for years, but without any luck because of powerful Senate supporters.  When I wrote about the program in 2005 for The Wall Street Journal, President George Bush had just put it on his kill list.  But instead of dying, or even atrophying, Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners grew:  Mississippi Indian tribes—whose involvement in whaling apparently has escaped the attention of historians–were added to the list of beneficiaries.

Two of the program’s more ardent sponsors, Ted Stevens of Alaska and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts have died, which would seem to suggest Whaling Partners is endangered.  But its third supporter is Daniel Inouye of Hawaii–a 38-year member of the Senate appropriations committee, which decides how the budget is divvied up.  The ranking Republican on that committee is Thad Cochran; he’s from Mississippi.

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