Elizabeth Farnsworth talks with a group of voters in Denver about the President's budget plans and his speech last night.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: It's good to see you all again. Linda Stahnke, what did you think of that speech?
LINDA STAHNKE: It was lofty, high goals, impressive. I hope they can get it all done. I hope they tackle it and then move on to other things. The tax cut sounds big, but it's only a start. I'd like to see our country get back to a place where families can make it on one income.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Eric, "lofty, high goals"?
ERIC DURAN: I think this was a flashback to the 1980s, early '90s. It was just amazing. The last Republican President that I remember was Ronald Reagan that said we could cut taxes and balance the budget, and everybody believed it. And it just seems to me that it's ironic that we're sitting here in 2001 and we're hearing the same thing.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Jake?
JAKE ZAMBRANO: I would disagree. I think President Bush summed it up in one term, that it's the "people's money." It's not the government's money, and I think it's irresponsible for a government and Congress to think that this surpluses the "government's money." It's generated from our hard work.
ERIC DURAN: See, I disagree with that. I think that we've been living beyond our means. We've been charging on our credit card and the bill's coming due, and now that we have a surplus, it's time to pay that down. That's the conservative thing to do, and we're not hearing any talk about that at all.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Was anybody who might not have made up their mind yet on the tax cut convinced or influenced by anything the President said? He said he was sort of reaching out over the heads of Congress to talk to the American people. Did he speak to you, Shannon, for example?
SHANNON SCOTT: He spoke to me. I'm pleased with the idea of the tax cuts. I think that those who pay the higher taxes, they should get their money back. I think it's a good tax idea. It may be a little extreme. I mean, let's evaluate it a little bit more if it needs to be, but overall I think it's... I think it's good, I think it's solid.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Patrick, something tells me you'll disagree.
PATRICK VANN: Well, one thing the President said was that the lower income would get the highest tax relief, and that's not what it shows at all because I've seen the graph. And the higher incomes are the ones that are getting the higher tax relief. So he was wrong when he stated that.
DEE CISNEROS: I think that the whole tax cut is favoring the top 2%. And I heard this with Reagan. He said that if you give the rich the money, that it'll trickle down to the poor. Well, we never saw that. We ended up with a $5 trillion deficit, and now they're projecting a surplus. Now, I get very nervous at... with the... we have a Republican administration, plus the Congress, and the judicial, I get very nervous because I think of recession. I've been through a depression, and that's what concerns me. It doesn't sound right.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Bob?
BOB GRABOWSKI: Every issue that he mentioned has probably 10,000 ramifications to it. Each one of those is going to have foes and allies. If we're talking of it in terms of, you know, the general, generally it sounds like it's a great program. I would subscribe to it. There were some points in that that were actually logical, which scares me, hearing logical comments come out of the government. (Laughter) But nonetheless, they were really logical, well-founded points. You know, the plan is going to succeed or fail on the detail, and that's going to be hammered out over the next couple of years. There's going to be a lot of blood-letting and there's going to be a lot of friends made, but it's way too early to tell. Conceptually it sounds good.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Farnsworth: Generally, you really all want to talk about this money issue. - Republicans very much like the idea of the tax cut. The Democrats and the independents here do not. This is really... You really care about this, don't you?
JAKE ZAMBRANO: Elizabeth, it starts at the kitchen table. It's when you and your spouse sit down and balance the checkbook. I don't consider myself wealthy, but a marriage penalty... a marriage tax reduction for my family is a big deal. It's like he lines out... that's a month's worth of groceries. A tax credit, the increase in the tax credit for my children, that's a big deal and I'm not wealthy. I don't think this plan targets the wealthy. He put a very human face with a couple from Pennsylvania on this tax plan.
HERMON GEORGE, JR.: There's a bigger deal, though, and that is that over the years, at least since the '50s and '60s, a percentage of taxes the corporations have paid in this country has declined. It's something like ten cents on every dollar currently. The wealth... The payroll taxes have increased, and so you have a situation which common citizens, in fact, are portraying in carrying much more of the burden tax-wise than they ought to.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Jason, what's your view?
JASON MUNDY: With his tax cut, he talked about the financial responsibility that a family would have. But I think the government also needs financial responsibility, and I think on the family level, if you have debt, but you haven't increased in your funds for a month, I would imagine a fiscally responsible family would pay off its debt before it used that money for anything else. And I think the nation is no different, and I think his tax cut plan may be a little too lofty for what we need right now.
DENNIS COUGHLIN: Jason, relative to paying off the debt, and I understand the emotion involved in that, but I think if you take a look at the family budget, most of us would have a home mortgage, which is a debt. Are you indicating that you ought to pay off that debt sooner than you would put money into your child's education? There are priorities that you have to pay... have to take a look at in paying down debt-- which I think is a very lofty goal, and I'm not opposed to that at all-- but remember that to pay down the debt too quickly takes money from someplace else.
ERIC DURAN: Well, Dennis, I think you make a valid point, but I think you're comparing a home mortgage to this $3 trillion deficit. And I think we..
DENNIS COUGHLIN: Well, hopefully my mortgage isn't $3 trillion. (Laughter )
ERIC DURAN: Well, actually, it's not even a mortgage. It's on our credit card, unfortunately. It's not a mortgage.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Susana, did you feel that he was speaking to you in any part of that speech? Do you feel separated from him because you weren't for him?
SUSAN CORDOVA: In my work as an educator...
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You're a principal.
SUSAN CORDOVA: I'm a principal in a very high-risk school, and so frequently in his speech, I could see that the students in my school and the teachers in my school would very likely be in the target of his education plan. And one of the things that concerns me...
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I'm sorry, what do you mean, "target"?
SUSAN CORDOVA: You know, in terms of looking at schools that struggle with achievement and what kind of plans for accountability there need to be in place for them, and what kind of support there needs to be in place for them. And I think it certainly sounds like what we all want for our children, but in terms of the way it plays out, I don't think it plays out like the sound bite. When you look at what's happened in Texas and what our governor here in Colorado is implementing in terms of school accountability, there are lots of... there are lots of inequities in how it's being applied.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Patrick, did he speak to you at any point?
PATRICK VANN: I found the whole speech rather worrisome, because again, the tax cuts, the funding of education, the funding of the military and all this and you... I would think you'd look at the figures and go, "this just can't go. I mean, there's just too much here." He reminded me of a kid in a candy store that "I want this" and "I want that and the other." But the thing is, you go to the register and you to pay for it, and there's not enough money.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But, Ann, you did feel he was speaking to you.
ANN PADILLA: I did, you know, and I think maybe because of my business background... you have the education background, I have the business background. We look at things maybe a little differently. And maybe for the first time in history we have an MBA in there, and he's looking at things a little bit like, "let's get things done." It's not the politician, it's not the attorney who have to negotiate everything. We're talking about somebody who says, you know, let's... "We have these problems, these are ideal goals. I don't know that everyone of them is going to work out. These are great goals and everything, but let's address them."
SUSAN CORDOVA: You know, I wouldn't disagree with that, but then it makes me - wonder, why is there all this talk about government separate from the people? I mean, if it's supposedly... Well no, but I mean, what you were just saying there is that he's appealing to everybody as being people and representatives of the people, and yet in the same conversation, there's like this separation between what government does with our money.
ANN PADILLA: And I... And I think that's true. Okay, I think it's true. I think it has been true. There is the government and there is the people.
HERMON GEORGE, JR.: I was going to make the point that the right loves to make this division between the people and the government. Well, we're the people and we are the government. So it's curious to me that he kept harping on that throughout the speech as though to throw red meat to those constituencies out there that he knew would like that rhetoric. I didn't really see much in the speech that suggests he's got a bold moon vision for the country, did he have a handle-- as you've been asking us all-- on some new agenda. I see Reagan II, if anything, and it's very curious that somehow we're going to sit by and watch that play out again.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay, on this agenda question, Linda, "Reagan II" or is this something new, and is he in charge?
LINDA STAHNKE: He really is in a position to set an agenda. I think all eyes now need to go to the Congress and say, "well, what are you going to do with this? And now what do we really get?" Because all this is, is a speech. This is his agenda. This is what he's going to propose. He has some support. In some of these areas, he has great support from the Republicans, but he's going to need some Democrats, too. So will he be able to pull it off? Will he have the bipartisan activity that he's talking about? Will he really get that done?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: That's a good place to end. Thank you all very much. It's good to see you all again.