"That's real economic stimulus," says John Andrews about GOP tax-holiday proposals in the January round of Head On TV debates. Susan Barnes-Gelt prefers the Keynesian approach, arguing that "shovel-ready projects need funding." John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Senate appointee Michael Bennet, state budget woes, the Bush legacy, and Denver schools. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for January: 1. RECESSION REMEDY: WHAT’S BEST?
Susan: There was neither accountability nor strict guidelines attached to the $700 billion financial bailout. Shame on Congress and the White House. Ditto the billions given to automakers. Shovel ready projects need funding and may be a catalyst for economic recovery. But my confidence in the feds is shaky.
John: As far as guiding the economy, the very words “confidence in the feds” are an oxymoron. Both Washington and New York have forfeited our confidence with years of unwise policies. The best recession remedy now is real tax cuts. Not handing out checks. Not vast construction spending with long lead times.
Susan: Obama's swift action - separating himself from Bill Richardson when the threat of scandal appeared - is a good sign that he will not abide arcane and opaque Beltway practices. With state and local government strapped, the feds must inject significant resources into rebuilding the nation's failing infrastructure.
John: Every American could have a total tax holiday – no income taxes, no payroll taxes – for most of 2009 if Congress would simply pay for government operations out of the unused portion of last year’s $700 billion bailout and this year’s proposed trillion dollar spending spree. That’s real economic stimulus.
2. MICHAEL BENNET NAMED AS U.S. SENATOR
John: Educator and businessman Michael Bennet will be a capable senator. His appointment shows that Colorado Democrats have imagination, youth, and depth. He has many Republican friends, including me. But as an ally of Ritter and Obama, Bennet has a big government vision that’s wrong for America. My vote goes elsewhere in 2010.
Susan: I don't know that Bennet has a big government vision. Fact is, I don't know what Bennet's vision is. He's not a knee jerk liberal, may oppose card check and certainly is more center than left. Time will tell . . .
John: We don’t know, and that’s the problem. Appointive senators went out with the buggy whip. Ritter could have named Mike Miles, the Democrat runner-up to Salazar in 2004. Or an elder statesman like Dick Lamm or Roy Romer. Voters next year may prefer Bill Owens, Hank Brown, or Scott McInnis.
Susan: Why name a benchwarmer when the Dem's A-list is so good? Still - Bennet is an odd choice, particularly with the uber-talented Andrew Romanoff available - he has all of Bennet's assets - intelligence, thoughtfulness, a moderate, problem-solver plus a proven record and statewide support. Go figure!
3. LEGISLATURE FACES DEEP BUDGET CUTS
John: Weak revenues will force the legislature to find half a billion in painful spending cuts with half the fiscal year gone. Ritter and the Democrats did this to us. Dems ignored Republican warnings to create a rainy day fund years ago, or to reduce spending last spring. Bad show, liberals.
Susan: Colorado's budget, hamstrung by TABOR, makes it impossible to implement the type of investments in infrastructure and the social safety net the state needs going into this tough recession. Every state is hobbled by arcane budget regs creating even greater dependency on the federal government, something you, John, should abhor.
John: Without the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights as a guardrail, Colorado’s deficit would be over the cliff like California’s. TABOR spending limits are currently suspended anyway, Susan, and the problem right now is weak revenues from a soft economy. The 2009 state budget mess came from poor planning by Democrats.
Susan: You're half-right John - weak revenues and a soft economy account for Colorado's budget woes. But 2 years of Democratic leadership aren't to blame. Lack of flexibility, failure to invest in public infrastructure - roads, higher ed, health care - and myopic fiscal policy are the real culprits.
4. BUSH EXITS
Susan: Bush's feeble attempts to recast his legacy in the waning days of his term are pathetic. He took us to the edge of an abyss - economically, internationally, domestically. Who knows how long it will take to rebuild the nation's confidence, reputation abroad and fiscal integrity?
John: President Bush deserves the gratitude of all Americans for courageous wartime leadership against radical Islam. After 9/11 he kept the homeland absolutely safe for seven years. After Congress and the allies agreed Saddam must go, he persisted for victory in Iraq when others favored surrender. History will honor George W. Bush.
Susan: History will revile George W. Bush. His legacy will be defined by Katrina, the burning of Iraq, the re-emergence of a more violent Taliban, Abu Grahb, domestic wire taps, the collapse of Wall Street, Main Street, scandals aplenty and comprehensive incompetence.
John: Susan, Susan. Derangement syndrome does not become you. Take a deep breath. My guy from Texas had a mixed record in his eight years. So did your guy from Arkansas before him. And guess what, your new guy from Illinois will have a mixed record too. America will be just fine.
5. NEW LEADERSHIP FOR DENVER SCHOOLS
Susan: Michael Bennet's departure for Washington leaves Denver Public Schools without leadership at the top. The chief academic officer resigned last fall and there is no deputy or natural successor. The Board of Ed has its work cut out, given the unfinished initiatives on their plate.
John: Inner city kids continue to be cheated of a good education by a Denver teachers union that cares more about pay scales than learning performance. The answer is competition and market forces, charter schools and parental choice. Fortunately, that’s the agenda of Senate President Groff and House Speaker Carroll.
Susan: The Board of Education must consider the needs of its ever-diminishing and continually failing student body and identify leadership with strong credentials and a track record of improving achievement in urban school districts. A non-traditional superintendent may not be the right answer.
John: Denver citizens, especially the black and Hispanic community, should be outraged at a teachers union that recently played chicken with strike threats, like factory workers, while dropout rates remain high and scores remain low. Speaker Carroll and Senator Groff get it. So does Lt. Gov. O’Brien. Gov. Ritter does not.