Opinion and Comment
By the lights of meta-pollster NateSilver (you can read his election fore-casts in the New York Times online),Michael Bennet will lose the Novemberelection.Silver’s analysis has Ken Buck withabout an 66% probability of winningthe race at press time. There will bemuch hand-wringing in the aftermathof Bennet’s defeat. But, in large mea-sure, it will have been a self-inflectedwound.Twenty-two months ago, we wrote“Bennet, by stark contrast, has little inthe way of connection with traditionalColorado. Never elected by Coloradovoters to a lesser post, he is the firstelectoral novice to be a ColoradoSenator in more than a generation. It’sdifficult to see Bennet’s natural affinityfor Gunnison ranchers, or Yuma sugar beet farmers, or even union pipe fittersin Adams County.”In the end, the Washington-centricBennet never adopted a Colorado mes-sage, or drove home a connection withvoters, particularly the suburban folkswho are decisive in statewide elec-tions.Moreover, Bennet contributed to adangerously toxic environment nation-ally with his own votes and stances.Persistent high unemployment andanemic economic growth and nega-tive average real wage growth will killeven more strongly rooted candidates.Part of a small group of Democrats,Bennet forcefully advocated for an eco-nomic stimulus package of less than800 billion dollars. Yet the output gap(the delta between what the economycould produce and what it would pro-duce) at the time argued for a stimulusof around 1.1 to 1.2 trillion dollars, half again larger than what Bennet advo-cated for in the Senate. The result isthat the stimulus was not large enough,particularly to offset the spending cutsin state and local government, andthe economy has never regained itsfooting, killing investment and wagegrowth. Some may argue that out-come could not have been foreseen. Infact, it was, and numerous observers,including many who predicted theeconomic crash, argued for a largerstimulus with a much more directfiscal punch (and maybe payroll taxrelief). I personally handed Bennet ascatter plot graph at a meeting early in2009 clearly delineating the historicalrelationship between the output gapand unemployment, which stronglyindicated the need for a larger stimu-lus. Alas, the graph, and the commen-tary of a large number of economists,was insufficient to move Bennet.Later that year, Bennet wouldvote against “cramdown” legislationthat would have allowed bankruptcy judges to write down mortgages, asthey can all other types of privatedebt. There are many arguments aboutthe moral hazards created by “cram-down,” but the practical effect is clearas day in hindsight. Rather than focus-ing on the negative impacts of thefinancial crisis in a narrow windowof time, and making banks, already bailed out, propped up and subsi-
dized by free money from the Fed, the
housing crisis has painfully lingeredon. Each foreclosure has created morenegative equity for other homeown-ers, crippling the collective balancesheets of millions of consumers. Thathas slowed consumer spending, forcedhundreds of thousands out of theirhomes, and devastated neighborhoodswith abandoned properties. Again,Bennet had voted with Wall Streetand against Main Street Colorado. AsWall Street filled his campaign coffers,the Colorado housing industry, one of the mainstays of our economy and theone most resistant to outsourcing, haslimped along, contributing to unem-ployment and forcing budget cuts atthe state and local level, which in turnhas further slowed the economy.Lastly, and most obscurely, Bennetsupported the so-called Coburnamendment, which prohibited the
Federal Communications Commissionfrom even talking about the “Fairness
Doctrine,” a hoary old regulatorydevice that required those who usethe public airwaves to provide “equaltime,” a quaint notion that both sidesof an issue should be given an air-ing. The Coburn amendment, namedafter the fairly right-wing senator fromOklahoma, immediately chilled thedebate over the need or even the desir-ability of having fairness on the pub-lic airwaves. As a result, media has become even more polarizing, and thenational debate has drifted farther fromfact-based moorings, and the amountof vitriol attacking Obama— on issuesas spurious as his birthplace and hisreligious loyalty— have poisoned theclimate to the point that candidateslike Bennet have a nearly impossibletask translating reasonable policy posi-tions into arguments relevant to aver-age voters. Had Bennet championedopposition to the Coburn amendment,the result certainly would not have been a utopian vision of media balanceand informed debate. But, inevitably,the message sent would not have beenone embracing the purely nonsensicalstatus quo epitomized by the teary-eyed Glenn Beck.The lesson is as clear as the pollnumbers. Tacking right, then left,while moderating purely for the sakeof moderation and abandoning soundpolicy ultimately makes for poor poli-tics. Bennet, indeed, had the potentialto shake up Washington. In the end,we are left with an object lesson thatmay not be broadly learned.
—Guerin Lee GreenPublisher and Editor
Three measures on the ballot thisNovember could portend real perilfor public education in Colorado.In my view, Amendments 60, 61and 101 could mean that propertytaxes, a principal funding source forschools, would be slashed, schooldistricts prevented from long term borrowing and denied any por-tion of vehicle ownership taxes andincome taxes reduced as well, givingthe state little funding with which to back fill the loss in property tax. Thisinsult added to the already grievousfiscal injuries inflicted upon pub-lic education since the early 1970s,would mean outrageously largeclasses, thousand of teachers goneand school buildings, now already indisrepair, crumbling.Amendment 60 supporters con-tend that this amendment is nec-essary to provide taxpayers withyet another check on governmentspending, as if the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) doesn’t provide thatcheck. Supporters make the claimthat property taxes are now too highand reduction of property taxes willallow businesses to flourish. TABORrequires a vote on all tax increases.So, why is Amendment 60 neces-sary? Opponents contend, correctlyin my view, that voter approved taxincreases that provided vital fund-ing would be overturned and thatlocal control of education would beimpeded by an unnecessary consti-tutional amendment.Amendment 61 would constitu-tionally prevent the state and limitlocal governments from incurringany debt without voter approval.Thirty year bonds, for example,used to fund capital infrastructure of schools, roads, hospitals, etc., would be forbidden. Thirty year loans areused to purchase homes. Withoutsuch, the average consumer couldn’tafford to purchase a home. Thatlogic applies to local and state gov-ernments. Without the ability to borrow long term (thirty years), localand state government could not ade-quately fund schools. Public educa-tion is already underfunded.Proposition 101 would reducevehicle ownership taxes to $2 fornew vehicles and $1 for used vehi-cles, reduce the state income taxfrom 4.63 percent to 3.5 percent overa period of time. Colorado alreadyhas one of the lowest income tax
rates among the fifty states. Further,
it would redefine vehicle fees astaxes and even freeze 911 fees at2009 levels, among other restrictions.School funding would be severelyrestricted, jobs lost and state car reg-istration fees reverted to 1919 levelswhen most state roads were stillunpaved.
Education in Peril
Forums have been conducted
throughout the state on these amend-ments. To the best of my knowledge,no sponsor of these amendments hasappeared to argue on their behalf. If they can’t be bothered to stand upand argue for their proposals, votersshould treat these amendments withthe same disrespect shown to voterconcerns.Together, the “ugly three”, asappropriately named, would, in myview, return schools to a 1919 levelof funding. Already cash strappedpublic schools and colleges couldnot afford to provide a 20th centuryeducation to the state’s children letalone a 21st century one. Coloradovoters should reject all three of thesemean-spirited amendments and,instead, recommit to providing afully funded quality education for allits students.
ed. note: Jay Marvin, long a fixturein Denver talk radio makes a return toour pages. Marvin is recovering froma life-threatening illness, and we areproud to once again have his distinc-tive voice grace our pages.Radio and television is like a free-way off-ramp sign: barren and mun-dane and time worn. One of the many bright spots for those of us who neednews, information, and music, unlikeradio and television technology pro-vides us more of a choice with contentlike podcasting and internet streaming.With podcasting, you can hear andsee what you want, when you want it,from any provider in the world, on anysubject you can think of.According to the site New MediaUpdate, podcasting listeners areexpected to double in the next twoyears. Why not?Take Talk Radio for instance.It’s the format I’m most familiar with,and had been part of since the late 80‘s.A couple of weeks ago, I turned on theradio in the car and hopped betweenDenver’s three main talk stations.I heard the sour product of angry, white men yelling and com-plaining: the government has gonewild with schemes designed to empty bank accounts, force people to live withqueers, let gays get married, every-thing is Obama and Nancy Pelosi’sfault. Mike Rosen flips off a hatefulcomment about flying jet planes load-ed with Iranians into a mosque. Thecomment then passed off as a joke orsocial satire. Nothing had changed inthe year since I had listened last. Sad.On the Left, everyone is a fascist and acapitalist pig; again sad.Music? Can you live withoutit? I can’t.Now, you have a IPhone andIPod Touch they feature a collection of various apps leading to downloadedcontent.Instead of listening to a lead-weight block of commercials, you can down-load podcasts from public radio sta-tions like WNYC in New York City, andKCRW in Santa Monica. I even caughta great interview with writer-comedian
Eric Bogosian from WFUV in New York
City plus, there’s a full plate of politicalshows right, left and middle conductedin a civil, fact-filled manner. Musicand songwriters both cutting edge andmind-jarring, album cuts and 45s.You will also find podcasting on PopCulture books, my long-held favorite.Then there’s Pandora, where you build a radio station playing only themusic you want. Radio stations suchas KCRW Santa Monica, KXCI, Tucson,Arizona, WWOZ, New Orleans andother stations offering podcasts of music and news.
For me, it’s Americana music and
there’s a stack of stations podcastingand streaming it, filled with artists likemy friend and great singer-songwriter,Tom Russell at Denver’s Soiled Dovethe 30th of this month.Radio and television is dead to me.It lacks content and variety and it’s been going down as every year passes.These days, since I got sick, I haveto face the fact I may never be able togo back to the thing I loved so much—radio. However, with help, I plan to tryto put on an internet radio station, withpodcasts, on the arts of all kinds, withvery little politics. Right now, it’s inthe planing stages and I have people tohelp me so despite my on-going pain, Ican make it happen.The best part: I’m not going to doit for money, but only to create bore- busting content. Not for you, whichwould be great, but for me.
— Jay MarvinCatch Jay on-line at http://exilein.wordpress.com
New Technology — Jay Marvin