Head On TV: Scalia’s Inconvenient Truth

In blaming the Voting Rights Act for “racial entitlements,” Justice Antonin Scalia sounded like Archie Bunker, says Susan Barnes–Gelt in the March round of Head On TV debates. Not so, says John Andrews; the VRA does in fact insult blacks and Hispanics with favoritism. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over school vouchers, the federal budget sequester, municipal tracking bans, and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997 and a presentation of Centennial Institute since 2009. Here are all five scripts for March:

1. IS VOTING RIGHTS ACT UNCONSTITUTIONAL?

Susan: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asserted “voting rights are a perpetuation of racial entitlement.” He sounded more like Archie Bunker than an esteemed jurist. The 1965 Voting Rights Act empowers the federal government to nullify local laws discriminating against minority voters. Scalia’s arrogance demeans informed conservatives and the court.

John: I want to live under a color–blind constitution where all individuals are equal before the law, not where government treats people differently according to their race. Section V of the Voting Rights Act, criticized by Scalia, does in fact discriminate racially. It insults blacks and Hispanics in the guise of helping them.

Susan: Yeah—a place where all the women are strong, the men good looking and the kids above average. Sadly the NO VACANCY sign is up at your fanciful Lake Wobegon. Republicans are going to need more than discriminatory voting policies to regain relevance in the 21st Century.

John: Equality before the law isn’t fanciful. It’s simply right, nothing more nor less. The alternatives are either treating nonwhites as second–class citizens, or tilting the election process so everybody is represented by someone of their own skin color. The second is just as un–American, just as monstrous, as the first.

2. DOUGLAS COUNTY VOUCHERS WIN ON APPEAL

John: Children in Douglas County are Colorado’s luckiest kids. Nowhere else can moms and dads choose a school that works best for their child and have the education funding go along in the child’s backpack. That kid–friendly idea, called vouchers, was on hold by court order, but no more. Educational freedom, here we come.

Susan: K–12 education is in turmoil. From obsolete governance—volunteer elected school boards to the agrarian–based 8–month a year, 6–hour a day calendar—the system doesn’t work for the 21st Century. Charters, vouchers, magnet schools are a sorry attempt to patch a system in need of reinvention.

John: You are so wrong. Empowering educators to innovate through charter schools without union restrictions is very 21st century. So is empowering parents to choose the best school for their kids through vouchers. Unions will mount a desperate Wisconsin–style campaign to take back Douglas County this fall. Educational freedom terrifies them.

Susan: Bottom line on Doug County vouchers? An appeal to the Colorado Supremes will add years and another million to the tab. The district has huge deficits, is cutting curriculum and eliminating staff. It’s a no win for kids, ideologues or reformers. Revolution now!

3. TABOR CHALLENGED IN COURT

John: Detroit has gone from being one of America’s richest cities to one of the poorest. Reckless spending and high taxes were the cause. States like California and Illinois are headed for a similar crash. Fortunately Colorado is protected by TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Yet Democrats are in court to nullify TABOR.

Susan: Hundreds of local cities, towns and schools districts have opted out of TABOR—that speaks volumes. Five years of a declining state economy and TABOR’s arbitrary restraints mean government can’t meet the demands of a growing population and economy. TABOR’s ratchet is a hatchet.

John: Fallacies, fallacies—where should I start? One, voters removed the TABOR ratchet years ago. Two, in a slow economy when revenues aren’t growing, TABOR doesn’t operate. And three, as you noted, voters can override the limits any time. Colorado is lucky to have this fiscal guardrail, and judges should leave it alone.

Susan: Of course higher taxes should be voter approved—as TABOR mandates. But the stupidity of shrinking government to anorexia—starving public safety, K–12 and higher ed, highway maintenance and human services is nonsense.Wanna build your own highway? School system? Hire your own police force and maintenance crew? Get a grip!

4. CAN MUNICIPALITIES BAN FRACKING?

Susan: Gov. Hick’s softened his stance that he would sue any local jurisdiction that outlawed the controversial drilling method—fracking—within its boundaries. Stiff opposition from Fort Collin’s city council caused the Hick to backtrack. Sometimes it’s OK when a political leader is windsocky!

John: Hydraulic fracturing is the greatest thing for energy independence and higher living standards since America’s discovery of oil itself. The fluids used are perfectly safe, as Hickenlooper demonstrated by chugging a glass of the stuff. Fort Collins politicians are a bunch of chicken littles and lawbreakers. Sue away, Governor.

Susan: Due respect to our lovable governor—he’s been imbibing weird stuff for decades—homemade beer, experimental weed, fracking fluid . . . No wonder he’s so charming and unpredictable. Local government has the greatest stake in the health and safety of its residents. It’s your conservative mantra!

John: The law requires uniformity of access to mineral resources throughout the state. To allow a crazy quilt of local variations to obstruct development of abundant, affordable energy is legal theft—and economically stupid. Opposing hydraulic fracturing, based on junk science, is like opposing a cure for cancer.

5. SEQUESTER SHENANIGANS

Susan: Na-nana-na-na shenanigans over sequester are the last straw for every DC incumbent. Both parties deserve a trip to the woodshed. Libertarian Senator Rand Paul is the only stand-up elected. He put himself and values on the line in a successful 13-hour filibuster regarding the use of drones in the U.S.

John: The two parties actually differ sharply, Susan. Democrats are bawling like spoiled children over a couple of pennies on the dollar in slower growth—not cuts, just slower growth—to our bloated federal budget. Republicans, though worried about weaker defenses, have embraced the savings like grownups. And the public is with us.

Susan: The public is fed up with DC brinksmanship. The Congress and the White House have lost touch with what’s happening on the streets of this country. Let’s begin the sequester by not paying Congress and the White House. Bet that’ll bring ‘em to the negotiating table.

John: Fortunately, our two–party system gives Americans a choice between the self–perpetuating government approach and the advocates of fiscal sanity. Once again, it’s D versus R. In this corner, Obama and Harry Reid, the tax and spend guys. In that corner, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, the constitution guys. It’s no contest.

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