This is directly from the official White House transcript and records the conversation between President Bush and a student at Kansas State University who wanted to know about the $12.7 billion in cuts in the education budget and how that was going to help "our" futures.
Q Hi, I just want to get your comments about education. Recently, $12.7 billion was cut from education, and I was just wondering how that's supposed to help our futures? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Education budget was cut -- say it again. What was cut?
Q Twelve point seven billion dollars was cut from education, and I was just wondering how is that supposed to help our --
THE PRESIDENT: At the federal level?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think that -- I don't think we've actually -- for higher education? [LAUGHTER] Student loans?
Q Yes, student loans.
THE PRESIDENT: Actually [LAUGHTER], I think what we did was reform the student loan program. We're not cutting money out of it. In other words, people aren't going to be cut off the program. We're just making sure it works better. Part of the reconciliation package, I think she's talking about. Yes, it's a reform of the program to make sure it functions better. It is -- in other words, we're not taking people off student loans, we're saving money in the student loan program because it's inefficient. And so I think the thing to look at is whether or not there will be fewer people getting student loans. I don't think so. And, secondly, on Pell grants, we're actually expanding the number of Pell grants through our budget.
But, great question. I think that the key on education is to make sure that we stay focused on how do we stay competitive into the 21st century. And I plan on doing some talking about math and science and engineering programs, so that people who graduate out of college will have the skills necessary to compete in this competitive world.
But I'm -- I think I'm right on this. I'll check when I get back to Washington. But thank you for your question. (Applause.)
The official White House transcript leaves out several places where there is not applause, but actual laughter [which I have inserted]. Bush's discomfort with the question is obvious and his turning behind him to someone there to help him out is pretty funny. He is literally tongue-tied so he asks the student to repeat the question. It's as if no one ever told him he might get a question about education cuts if he went to a university to speak. Bush finally gathers himself and delivers a stream of gobbledygook about making the student loan program more "efficient," the standard word used by corporate hatchet men to justify cutting people's jobs, eliminating their livelihoods, and shrinking their opportunities. Our hatchet-man-in-chief ends by saying he'll check it all out when he gets back to Washington, like cutting the education budget is not something he really knows much about. Is it really all that important?
Perhaps the oddest thing he said, without meaning to be funny, was:
And I plan on doing some talking about math and science and engineering programs, so that people who graduate out of college will have the skills necessary to compete in this competitive world.
I can imagine how reassured American students must be that the hatchet-man-in-chief turned professor-in-chief is actually going talk about math, science and engineering. If they listen hard to George Bush, maybe they'll have enough credits to graduate.
If you want to see and hear what actually happened at the January 23rd event, here is video of it. [Thanks to MediaChannel.org]