"Business expansion is slowing right now, mainly from fear of Democrats taking the White House and rolling back the Bush tax cuts," says John Andrews in the February round of Head On TV debates. "That would be a brutal job-killer." Oh no, says Susan Barnes-Gelt, recession worries are the fault of a feckless Republican administration with its war and deficits. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over teacher unions, misbehaving legislators, and the presidential primaries. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for February: 1. WHAT'S AILING THE ECONOMY
Susan: Putting $300 in the hands of consumers is probably not going to put our economy on track. Tax cuts for the rich, too many bridges to nowhere, lax regulatory oversight and a trillion dollar, endless war have taken a harsh toll on American's security - at home and abroad.
John: Economic ups and downs will continue until human beings stop being naturally careless, Susan. Don’t hold your breath for that to change. Business expansion is slowing right now, mainly from fear of Democrats taking the White House and rolling back the Bush tax cuts. That would be a brutal job-killer.
Susan: Business expansion is slowing because of the feckless policies of a Republican administration with no respect for a balanced budget, oversight of irrational Wall Street greed and consumers alarmed by high energy prices and a costly and unnecessary war. It is time to turn the page!
John: Deliver me from flat-earth economics. Deficits and defense spending heat up the economy. What cools it off is burdensome taxes and regulation, or even the possibility of those. The better that Hillary and Obama do in the polls, the more American companies will hunker down and prepare for the worst.
2. THE DEMOCRATIC CONTEST
Susan: March madness won't be limited to college hoops this spring. The Dem nomination remains neck and neck between Obama and Hillary and likely won't be settled until March at the earliest. Two great candidates generating unprecedented enthusiasm - great news for Democrats!
John: Enthusiasm is high, but your happy talk overlooks the deep wounds inflicted on Democratic unity by the Clinton attack machine, and the embarrassing problem of a potential un-democratic solution to the nominating deadlock by insider super-delegates. And either nominee could be too far left for many Americans. McCain owns the center.
Susan: Poor John McCain will be in big trouble if the evangelicals boycott. He needs their active engagement to turn out voters. The only happy Repubs are the wing-nut dittoheads salivating at having a Dem in the White House to whine about - endlessly!
John: Overconfidence is deadly. This Republican is very happy about taking on a Democratic ticket that’s way out of the mainstream. People know too little about Obama, and far too much about Hillary. They don’t want to lose in Iraq. They don’t want soft socialism, European style. Let the games begin.
3. THE REPUBLICAN CONTEST
John: Not since General Eisenhower in the dark days of Korea and the Cold War has a commanding leader and genuine war hero stood one step from the presidency as John McCain does now. The timing is right. America faces a global enemy even more dangerous than the Soviets. This could be McCain’s moment.
Susan: You’re right. It could be McCain's moment. Problem is he needs another four years and eleven months to realize his vision. And, thanks to the petulance of your party's right wing and his admission that economic leadership is not his strength - his moment may be fading. Tick Tock.
John: Those victory chicks you’re counting may never hatch, Susan. Hard scrimmaging by Republicans in the spring won’t keep us from putting a unified team on the field next fall. Nor will an economics quiz decide the next president. We’re choosing a commander in chief, and it’s advantage McCain.
Susan: The majority of Americans don't agree with you. Economic concerns top the list of issues all voters are worried about A reasonable exit strategy from Iraq is also important. McCain's 100-year plan doesn't cut it for Americans on both sides of the aisle. It's the economy, John.
4. BRUCE RANDOLPH SCHOOL SEEKS AUTONOMY
Susan: Public education in urban districts like Denver continues to be challenging. Reform faces many obstacles. The teacher's union, district administrators and school board must figure out how to work together, stop protecting their own turf and power base and explore solutions that work for kids.
John: Teachers and administrators at Bruce Randolph and Manual specifically asked to work together, with unanimous board approval and big foundation incentives. Teacher union bosses stonewalled shamelessly until finally relenting. Union selfishness is the problem. Senator Peter Groff has a tough bill to fix that. Let’s hope it passes.
Susan: I agree - Senate President Groff's bill is the right solution. It circumvents union approval. His challenge will be getting the votes - on both sides of the aisle. Unions are a powerful voice at the Capitol especially in an election year.
John: Albert Shanker, the late president of the American Federation of Teachers, admitted his union cared little for kids, because kids don’t pay union dues. That should offend Democrats, who always say it’s about the children. They can prove it by passing the Groff bill to make union bosses put kids first.
5. LEGISLATORS BEHAVING BADLY
John: When legislators misbehave, the double standard is glaring. News media went nuts when Larry Liston criticized promiscuous teens and Douglas Bruce pushed a photographer. Both are Republicans. The media were far less aggressive when leading Democrat Michael Garcia resigned for persistent sexual misconduct. Interesting contrast, Susan.
Susan: Thank goodness for Speaker Andrew Romanoff's strong and steady hand. Shame on Garcia for his behavior. I'd hardly say the media treated him with kid gloves. What might have been a very promising future for this talented young Dem ended abruptly with his timely resignation. He's paying a heavy price.
John: Could it be the Speaker’s strong hand was busy trying to hush things up? What did Romanoff know, and when did he know it? News media aren’t asking. They sat on the story for days until conservative bloggers broke it. Garcia had a long history of misconduct. Democrats blew it.
Susan: When it's all said and done, a promising young man behaved foolishly and gave up a bright future as a consequence. Conservative paranoia is just that and beside the point, to boot. Romanoff is a straight shooter and did the right thing.