On his June 30 nationally syndicated radio show, host Rush Limbaugh grossly overstated U.S. federal spending on education. In discussing the federal budget, Limbaugh stated, "[W]e spend over two times on education already, what we spend on defense." This followed Limbaugh's miscalculations from his September 18, 2003, program, when he insisted that "today, 2003, the federal budget is over 2.2 trillion [dollars], and ... we're spending $745 billion on education," while "we spend $300 billion a year on defense, the defense of the country, for crying out loud. We're spending close to three times that on education."
In fact, the U.S. federal government spends almost seven times more on defense than on education. According to the Executive Office of the President's Office of Management and Budget, the portion of the federal budget allocated to the Department of Education in 2003 was $53.1 billion --14 times less than the $745 billion that Limbaugh asserted on air -- while federal spending for the Department of Defense in 2003 was $365.3 billion. The estimated budget for the Department of Education is $55.7 billion for 2004 and $57.3 billion for 2005. Estimated Defense spending for 2004 is $375.3 billion; but in 2005, the planned spending for the Department of Defense jumps to $401.7 billion -- $36.4 billion more than was spent in 2003.
Limbaugh's estimates likely derive from a report by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which calculated total federal, state, and local spending for education -- both public and private -- to be $745 billion for the 2001-2002 school year.