Head On TV: Sober up, spenders!

Washington spenders are like drunks on a binge, says John Andrews in the June round of Head On TV debates. It’s bad, agrees Susan Barnes–Gelt, but she contends the solution must include tax hikes as well as entitlement reform.

John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Hancock’s win for Denver mayor, Hickenlooper’s first six months, the politics of natural disasters, and the 2012 presidential outlook, and results of Colorado’s legislative session. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997, with sponsorship by Centennial Institute since 2009. Here are all five scripts for June:

1. RAISE THE DEBT CEILING?

John: Washington politicians with borrowed money are like alcoholics with a bottle. They can’t stop themselves. But if they don’t, there’s hell to pay. Every American should root for Boehner and the Republicans to make Obama and the Democrats sober up. Do not raise the debt limit without massive spending cuts.

Susan: Both sides of the aisle are all wet on this one. Of course we need to get a handle on entitlements just as we need to revamp the tax code. And as for the rating agencies—very same who failed to identify the 2008 financial collapse? Gimme a break!

John: Well, you’re half right. Fewer handouts, yes. More taxes, no. We can never tax our way out from under the tens of trillions in impossible promises to future recipients of government medicine and government pensions. The GOP must insist on entitlement reform in return for raising the debt ceiling.

Susan: My prediction: both sides will play cat and mouse with this issue until after the 2012 election. It’s a scare tactic typical of the Beltway. Federal government has become increasingly less relevant as both sides move to the extreme. Without serious tax and entitlement reform, and major investment in technology and infrastructure our kids and and theirs are doomed.

2. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

John: “Barack Obama has failed America.” Those words of Mitt Romney sum up the reason why millions of Americans are eagerly watching the field of Republican candidates for 2012. Gov. Romney, Gov. Pawlenty, Speaker Gingrich, Congresswoman Bachmann, Senator Santorum, or businessman Herman Cain, could all do a better job than Obama.

Susan: Mitt Who? Health care Mitt? Pro–choice Mitt? Buttoned up Mitt? Shirt sleeve Mitt? Who is that handsome guy with the unruffled hair? Even in federal races, where there are too many layers between the candidates and the voters, authenticity rules. Can’t trust the messenger—the message is lost.

John: Warning, viewer discretion advised. My Democratic friend dares not mention her party’s president, the underwhelming Barack Obama, or her party’s vice president, the laughable Joe Biden. But no wonder—with unemployment rising, health care unpopular, and bankruptcy threatening, ridiculing Republicans is your only hope.

Susan: I’m proud to wave the Obama/Biden flag. This calm, and collected administration never succumbed to angry rhetoric—right or left. Elections are about differences and there’s lot’s at stake. Do Michelle Bachman, Mitt Romney or Newt have the judgment to move us forward? I don’t think so.

3. HICK’S FIRST SESSION

Susan: Governor Hickenlooper had a pretty good first session. Thanks to a divided legislature, he didn’t have to deal with lefties or right wingers. He angered the K–12 crowd by cutting ed dollars but made up for it by vetoing cuts for kids’ health. Our a–partisan governor came out OK.

John: Does Hickenlooper get it that reckless spending is a dagger at the heart of our democracy? His tough stand on public employee pensions says yes. But the veto on cost–sharing for medical coverage says no. His overall passivity says no. The high–visibility activist mayor is gone. What gives, Susan?

Susan: Hick was a high visibility Mayor, but hardly an activist. He is a moderate whose approval numbers remain very high because of his commitment to please all the people all (well most of) the time. His style is better suited for partisan politics where straddling the middle works.

John: Straddling may boost the governor’s polls for now, but it’s no substitute for real leadership in a state with chronic budget deficits, too much union power, and too little job creation. Colorado needs a gutsy chief executive like Christie in New Jersey, or if you prefer Democrats, Cuomo in New York.

4. HORRIFIC STORMS

Susan: Unprecedented weather catastrophes—tornadoes, floods and storms hit Memphis, Raleigh, Tuscaloosa, Joplin MO, Minneapolis and most recently Springfield MA. Countless deaths, cities and towns destroyed. And the Republican House doesn’t want to pay for disaster relief?

John: In the words of President Grover Cleveland, my favorite Democrat, it is the people’s responsibility to support the government, not the government’s responsibility to support the people. Natural disasters are always with us, and federal aid is already massive. A few severe storms don’t justify a budget blowout or a carbon tax.

Susan: I get it. We pay taxes to wage war, support tax cuts for the rich, protect privilege and ignore the common interest. To bad if public infrastructure fails or natural disasters hit. Let state and local government or the individual carry the burden. There’s a recipe for a toxic tea party.

John: Folks, if you like melodramatic fantasy, go with that. But here’s the reality: FEMA, the disaster relief agency, is getting the extra money it needs with bipartisan votes of Republicans and Democrats. Those tornado and flood victims do deserve help. But Susan, the ultimate storm, fiscal collapse, is still coming.

5. HANCOCK WINS RUNOFF FOR MAYOR

John: Congratulations to Michael Hancock as he moves up from City Council to Mayor of Denver after galloping to win from behind like Secretariat. There will be no political dynasty for the Romers or the Peñas, but the Webb dynasty has new life. Now for the hard work of governing.

Susan: I’ve known Michael for twenty years—truth is—the late great John –National civic league—Parr was Hancock’s real mentor. Michael builds a big platform. There’s room for everyone, and that’s the Denver way. He is a good man and has the makings of a great mayor.

John: Hancock has his work cut out. The onetime Broncos mascot takes office facing third and long, with his team behind. Denver has weak job creation, a structural budget deficit, sagging morale in its public safety agencies, and union problems in its public schools. Roll up your sleeves, Mayor Mike.

Susan: Fortunately non–partisan local government facilitates problem solving. No pointless fights over ideology. Michael will have the chance to build a strong team and make structural budget adjustments. Not to mention revamp the cop shop. Public education? A very challenging dilemma.

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