Beck don't need no education

At the close of yesterday's show, Glenn Beck offered a preview of the next step of his plan to slash the federal budget and turn the government into the bathtub-drownable nonentity of Grover Norquist's dreams: “Tomorrow ... we abolish the Department of Education.”

But here's the thing -- eliminating the Department of Education will do essentially nothing to reduce federal spending.

The Department of Education has long been a bête noir for conservatives who see it as an unconstitutional emblem of big-government excess. Republican candidates for national office, going back to Ronald Reagan in 1980, have burnished their small-government bona fides with pledges to abolish Education. And yet, despite all those promises, Education remains.

But since Beck is getting ready to tilt at the Education windmill once again, let's go ahead and get the truth out there right now. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, education accounted for two percent of all federal spending in 2008, about $30 billion.

Two percent.

Obama has increased education spending somewhat, but not nearly enough to alter that percentage in any meaningful way.

The reality of the situation is that the contours of federal spending and the budget-cutting appetite of the American public and Congress make it unlikely that cuts alone will reduce the deficit and balance the budget. But that's immaterial to Beck, who lives in a fiscal fantasyland where the nation's budgetary woes can be resolved with conservative pipe dreams like privatizing Medicare and eliminating Cabinet departments.