RED STATE / BLUE STATE Voices from each side of the political divide

Posted: August 10, 2004

Today continues Red State/Blue State, a feature presented by the Anniston Star of Anniston, Ala., and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Today our "blue staters," Terri Falbo and Tim Horner, and our "red staters," Joe Franklin and Cynthia Sneed, ponder this question: "In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, John Kerry criticized the Bush administration on domestic policy, being especially critical on issues such as veterans, Medicare, and education. Bush counterattacked by declaring that he had 'delivered' in all these areas. Whom do you find more persuasive? Has or hasn't Bush 'delivered' "? Excerpts from their Web blogs appear below. For their complete blogs, consult the Red State/Blue State Web site at http://go.philly.com/redblue.

Terri Falbo

By and for corporations

As the wealthiest country on earth, we have not found a way to provide health coverage for all of our seniors, or high-quality education for our children.

Medicare. When you look into the Medicare prescription drug bill passed last November, you can see that it was written by and for big drug companies rather than for seniors and people with disabilities. It gives hundreds of billions in contracts and tax breaks to drug companies and the insurance industry, yet has enormous gaps in coverage, does nothing to control drug prices, and is already contributing to the worsening finances of Medicare. . . .

Education. What's needed is the investment of more public money in:

more teachers for smaller classes;

repair of dilapidated schools;

fuller funding for Head Start, Early Head Start, and other resources. . . .

The main idea [Bush] advance[s] is that schools, teachers, and parents have to be "held accountable." Then there is always the condemnation of "throwing money" at the schools. But these are code words and phrases designed to keep people from really thinking. . . . The main basis of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is to administer more standardized tests and to slash funding for schools that do not have enough passing scores. The pressure is on everyone to teach and learn "to the test" rather than in learning how to learn or to develop cognitive ability. On top of this extremely narrow view of knowledge acquisition is woefully inadequate funding. Some states are rebelling and declaring that they will not comply with NCLB because it amounts to an unfunded federal mandate. . . .

I say stop throwing the money at the companies that produce, administer, and evaluate the standardized tests and start directing it where it will make a real difference.

Contact Terri Falbo at tlfalbo@aol.com.

Tim Horner

Spin and more spin

When Bush says he has delivered, I am skeptical, if not cynical. . . . This administration keeps saying the same thing over and over, but people are beginning (finally!) to ask tougher questions. . . . This is partly because Bush is behind the barrel right now. . . . He can't run on his 2000 platform of bringing integrity back to the White House. But he also won't admit that Kerry is right about the millions of jobs lost, the damage to the environment, the tax cuts doled out to the rich, the loss of American jobs to overseas outsourcing, the massive deficit . . . or the fact that terrorism around the world is at an all-time high. So he simply says he has delivered. End of speech.

Incumbent presidents (Republican or Democrat) rightly face tougher questions than their challengers face. Incumbents must stand or fall on their records as president, not on their promises for the future. By definition, Bush can't campaign the same way that Kerry can. Bush can't promise reform without undermining the last four years. So the White House is telling us, "It's not as bad as you think." There is no better demonstration of this tactic than this: When the White House announced July 15 that the federal deficit for 2004 would be $455 billion (up from $374 billion in 2003), it declared this to be "good news" because five months earlier it had projected that it would be $521 billion. What a great idea! Next time I go out with my buddies, I will tell my wife that I probably won't be home for several days. Then, when I stagger in at 4:30 in the morning, I can say, "Good news, honey! I'm home early!"

Honestly, this spin is so obvious you see the strings. All I am hearing is that, regardless of what we see around us, we need to trust our President to do what is right. Well, I think it is pretty obvious what happens when we do that.

Contact Tim Horner at timothy.horner@villanova.edu.

Joe Franklin

Bush has indeed 'delivered'

[Sen. Kerry] needs to: (1) clearly explain his tax reform; we want numbers; (2) lay out his plans on these issues, giving the costs and funding for these programs and pay the deficit; (3) show that his health-care/Medicare proposals will not cause a train wreck for those of us struggling to pay for health insurance in the private sector; (4) show us the money; and (5) show us what legislation he has sponsored during his Senate career on these issues.

If the answer to number 5 is "little" or "none," the people of Massachusetts and the nation are the losers. If he has been aware for years of these issues and is only now professing them during this presidential campaign, the people are again the losers.

The acceptance speech mentioned only two items from his Senate career: putting 100,000 cops on the street and working with Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) to find the truth on prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action, finally to make peace with Vietnam. The report on POWs AND MIAs, however, was inconclusive.

Yes, I believe President Bush has delivered on veterans, Medicare and education. What about the increase of over $20 billion in veterans' benefits since 2001? (Note: Kerry has consistently voted against Veterans Administration and veterans' health care.) What about the coverage for prescription drugs for seniors and disabled under Medicare? (Note: Kerry has missed numerous votes on Medicare issues.) What about No Child Left Behind and school choice? (Note: Where was Sen. Kerry?)

Contact Joe Franklin at sandjo@troycable.net.

Cynthia Sneed

Bush is strong on education

Team Kerry/Edwards, the Democratic National Committee, and the National Education Association are against No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and want to repeal the legislation. . . . What are the dastardly NCLB requirements liberals so despise - and business school professors, along with those in hard sciences such as biology, physics, and computer science, are cheering? They are:

Highly Qualified Teachers: To be deemed highly qualified, teachers must have: 1) a bachelor's degree, 2) full state certification or licensure, and 3) proof that they know each subject they teach. How unfair is that?

States must measure the extent to which all students have highly qualified teachers, particularly minority and disadvantaged students, and have a plan for meeting the goals of all children having highly qualified teachers.

Demonstration of Competency: Teachers (in middle and high school) must prove they know the subject they teach. Imagine! English teachers who can read and write! Math teachers who can actually count!

[The Bush administration] has provided more funding for K-12 education than any other administration. The 2005 budget includes more increases, a total of $37 billion (up from about $25 billion) - even though there is no evidence that simply increasing spending on education provides results. . . . Opponents are whining about a lack of funding, while overall Department of Education funding has increased 36 percent, from $42.2 billion to $57.3 billion. Funding for poor students has increased 52 percent. Funding for teacher recruiting and retention has increased 39 percent, and funding for reading programs has increased from $286 million to $1.26 billion.

NCLB is the best thing to happen to education in 40 years. To see the effectiveness of the legislation, one need only listen to the liberals and teachers' union members screaming about the "unfairness" of the requirements - while watching the reading and math scores improve.

Contact Cynthia Sneed at Sneedc5@aol.com.

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