Coloradans had better brace to fend off the same bad idea as President Obama wants to impose nationally: higher taxes, warns John Andrews in the August round of Head On TV debates. No, replies Susan Barnes–Gelt, the idea is a good one and indeed doesn&sdquo;t go far enough. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over the Tea Party, the Obama record, debt and deficit issues, and the Denver mayor&sdquo;s wobbly start. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997, with sponsorship by the Centennial Institute since 2009. Here are all five scripts for August:
1. TAX INCREASE HEADS FOR 2011 BALLOT
John: Hang onto your wallets, Colorado. The same liberal Democrats who want Congress to raise federal taxes are coming at us this fall with a sneaky ballot issue to raise state taxes. A tax hike in this economy? No way. In Denver as in DC, the problem isn’t revenues, it’s spending.
Susan: Rollie Heath’s tax increase to fund K–12 and Higher ed is a good idea. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go far enough. Rather it solves funding problems in the short term, but not the long. It’s a band aid when a transplant is needed.
John: Fortunately TABOR makes politicians ask permission before taking our money in the belief they can spend it better than we can. Voters aren’t likely to give permission at a time when so many are out of work and businesses are hesitant to hire because we have too much government already.
Susan: We agree on the conclusion—Heath’s initiative is the wrong answer at the wrong time—but we’re far from agreement on the reasons Businesses are afraid to hire because government has failed to invest in infrastructure, education and people. Colorado’s budget needs a comprehensive restructuring. Until then—no more band aids.
2. TEA PARTY—HEROES OR VILLAINS?
John: At a scary time in our history, the best thing America has going for us is the Tea Party. Thank goodness for this grassroots movement of fed–up taxpayers finally demanding some fiscal responsibility from the Washington politicians. Biden calls them terrorists. McCain calls them hobbits. I call them heroes.
Susan: Zero tolerance for diversity, for critical thinking, for investing in education, infrastructure or people—that’s the tea partiers. IF they have so much disdain for government, why don’t they get real jobs—earn an honest living, pay taxes, social security and health care?
John: Like the patriots of 1773 who stood against King and Parliament, the Tea Party of today is an uprising of self–reliant citizens standing against Democrats and Republicans to take this country back. In smearing them, you discredit yourself. If we do avoid fiscal collapse, we’ve have the Tea Party to thank.
Susan: Pul-eeeze John! The Tea Party has been effective in persuading otherwise rational leaders that lack of investment in America, in jobs and people and not raising taxes for 1% of zillionaires is nuts. Debt is not the problem—Fear and ignorance are.
3. IS OBAMA A FAILED PRESIDENT?
John: Can it be only three years ago that Barack Obama was hailed as the second coming at the DNC in Denver? It seems three eons. The magic man who was going to heal the planet has turned out to be the worst president since Jimmy Carter. 2012 can’t come soon enough.
Susan: President Obama has presided over the toughest economy since the Great Depression. Yes, he owns it now. But the debt, deregulation and tax scams he inherited from George W Bush and the Republican Congress share the blame. After all, they inherited a surplus from Bill Clinton in 2000.
John: Lame excuses from the previous decade won’t help Obama win a second term. His weird idea of “leading from behind” is what most Americans consider not leading at all. Liberals are alienated and conservatives are motivated. The independent voters who elected him last time have had it. Bye bye, Barack.
Susan: Compared to whom? Mitt ‘of course corporations are people’ Romney? Michelle ‘Jimmy Carter & Barack Obama were responsible for the swine flu’ Bachmann? Rick ‘super pac riddled with conflicts, yet to be vetted’ Perry? I’m with the Let’s have a better tomorrow, tomorrow crowd. Obama wins.
4. HANCOCK’S FIRST WEEKS
Susan: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has had a tough first weeks. Press honcho announced he’s focused on national press; Hizzoner’s backtracked on his stock show position—though he hasn’t articulated one … And his mayoral staff? Inexperienced, overpaid and naïve. It can only get better …
John: Looking toward downtown from my home in Arapahoe County or my office in Jeffco, it seems the Mayor of Denver doesn’t have the stature the metro area is used to. Hickenlooper stood tall. Likewise Webb and Peña, agree with them or not, were leaders. But Michael Hancock? Not yet.
Susan: It didn’t help that the campaign was defined by negative attacks and the politics of personality. Hancock wins on narrative and charisma but his failure to articulate detailed plans and a coherent vision is a problem. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.
John: You should have listened to me, Susan. I said Bill Vidal should run. I said you should run. Or you should be Hancock’s chief of staff. Or Democrats and Republicans should fight it out for mayor so voters have a choice. Denver will survive this, though. It’ll be fine.
5. DEFICIT BATTLE
Susan: The problem is not the deficit. It’s a failure to invest in America—roads, bridges, highspeed rail, transit, education. With the jobless rate upwards of 10–percent, the country needs investment. Put people back to work and generate revenue and progress. DC’s luddite view panders to the lowest common denominator.
John: Bush tried a big stimulus and it failed. Obama tried a huge stimulus and it failed. Now you want more stimulus? Absolutely not. The deficit is our problem. Red ink in the trillions, a national debt bigger than the GDP, America’s credit rating downgraded. We need spending cuts and entitlement reforms.
Susan: Yeah and a double–digit unemployment rate, combined with a policy of not closing loopholes, addressing uncontrolled entitlements and refusing to tax the mega rich is certainly the road to a sustainable future. DC is pushing the problem down to states and cities. That’s a recipe for failure.
John: Recipe for failure is exactly what Obama is cooking up, Susan. The high unemployment is his doing. The refusal to reform entitlements is his doing. Tax increases won’t fix either of those. What we need is responsible citizens and responsible leaders. I actually wrote a book about it—Responsibility Reborn.