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January 19, 2018

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j. patrick coolican:

First Berkley-Heller debate left so much to be desired



Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., debates his challenger, Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., at the Reno public television studios, Sept. 27, 2012 as Mitch Fox, center, moderates.

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Some quick thoughts on Thursday’s debate between Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Shelley Berkley.

Overall, a weak display. The format wasn’t helpful, allowing only brief statements and responses that made watching it feel like you were watching the two candidates recite their own 30-second attack ads.

I was most disappointed in Berkley. She failed to make an affirmative case for the Democratic position, which President Barack Obama — with an assist from former President Bill Clinton — has made effectively enough to put him in a strong position to win re-election.

Here it is: We inherited one of the worst economic crises in recent history, losing 800,000 jobs per month. We stabilized the banks, we saved the auto industry, and then we passed the stimulus bill that cut taxes and sent money to the states so they wouldn’t have to lay off more teachers, cops and nurses.

We stabilized the patient, and now things are slowly improving.

Moreover, the knee-jerk anti-government rhetoric of the Tea Party is historically inaccurate. Public investments such as the land grant colleges, the Hoover Dam, the GI Bill, the Interstate Highway System and Department of Defense research — in other words, government projects and programs — helped build the middle class.

Berkley failed to make that case.

Instead, she groveled to the right, bragging that she’d stood with Republicans to cut the inheritance tax, which is nothing more than a massive tax cut for the children of the wealthy. Andrew Carnegie, the great steel industrialist, favored a steep inheritance tax: “The parent who leaves his son enormous wealth generally deadens the talents and energies of the son.”

She also came out for a balanced budget amendment. This is bad policy on its face — any attempt to balance the budget in a bad economy will worsen the crisis. This is exactly what’s happened in Europe.

Berkley also said she’d exempt programs for seniors and veterans. A fine sentiment, but the idea of a balanced budget without tackling Medicare is a farce. Can’t be done. Anyway, she said she won’t balance the budget on the backs of seniors and veterans — does that mean she’ll balance the budget on the backs of the disabled, children and the Pentagon?

As for Heller, if I had gone to a university that had a Greek system, and if I were the type to join a fraternity, then I’d definitely support him for president of my frat. He looks the type.

But he doesn’t belong in the U.S. Senate.

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