12/11/2011 07:29 pm ET | Updated Dec 11, 2011

Both Sides Now : Spitzer and Matalin Debate the Economy and Latinos

By Mark Green

While punditry focuses on the Newt-Mitt personal contest, Eliot Spitzer and Mary Matalin debate policy clashes over the two topics most likely to sway 2012: the economy and immigration. Then, both sides give quick takes on Plan B for young girls, and on teachers who insult students on Facebook. (Click below to hear the entire show.)

*On the Politics of the Economy: Who's more culpable for the weak economy: Obama's "socialism" and a tax code imposing no income taxes on half the population (as Sarah Palin argues), or Bush's depression-level, 9-percent GDP decline in the last quarter of 2008 (as Jay Carney argues)?

Eliot blames W's deregulatory ideology and policies, then lampoons the conservative meme that we should tax the poor more (who already pay sales, property and other taxes). Mary, however, does think that everyone should pay some income tax so that they have an interest in how their tax money is being spent. Eliot hatches an idea: a symbolic $1 tax on the 47 percent if the richest 1 percent agree to pay the top marginal rate without any loopholes. Deal! Mary adds, "You're the big Democrat -- get your party to agree!"

What about extending the payroll tax cut -- with or without a surtax on million-dollar-plus incomes to pay for it? While there's consensus that it should happen -- Mary citing the political necessity, Eliot the pro-demand effect -- there's also consensus that it's a small ball in the big picture.

OK, what about three big-time economic issues: post-super-committee spending cuts, "overregulation" causing unemployment, and Obama's "Teddy Roosevelt" speech framing his progressive economic values?

Eliot lauds Obama for telling Capitol Hill that he'll veto any attempt to wiggle out of the budget law triggering automatic military and domestic cuts, because it's about time that "the Pentagon was on the table, too."

Though businessmen routinely blame "overregulation" for lost jobs, is there any serious data supporting this contention, given that the CBO says it accounts for only 0.2 percent of the 8.5-percent jobless rate? Mary asserts that one can't measure the "chilling effect" on investment; taking a specific regulatory example, Eliot condemns the GOP filibuster against the nomination of (five-time Jeopardy! winner) Richard Cordray as head of the CFPB as "throwing sand in the gears of government." (Did overregulation -- or the lack of regulation -- cause the '08 meltdown?)

Finally, Ms. Matalin disparages President Obama's Kansas speech on middle-class income inequality as "looney, lefty, embarrassing, and retrogressive." To the contrary, Mr. Spitzer regards it as "not class warfare but good capitalism," then acknowledges that, in November 2012, the merits of this debate will count for less, politically, than three variables: the unemployment rate, the per-capita growth rate, and home equity values.

*On the Politics of Immigration. There's a split in the GOP on immigration, between hardliners, who would evict nearly all 11 million undocumented residents (as Gingrich would), and the real hardliners, who would ship them all out (as would Romney et al.).

Mary "hearts" Newt here, adding that the DREAM Act is necessary to encourage good students born here, whatever the status of their parents. Eliot agrees that it's "inhumane" to do otherwise.

What about the Alabama law that's chasing Hispanics out of that state by A) requiring new students to have papers, B) declaring all contracts by undocumenteds "null and void," and C) making it a crime not to have your driver's license if pulled over?

Mary expresses sympathy for states because a "cowardly" Washington won't secure the border. Wait, is she calling Bush and Obama cowardly when over the past 10 years the number of border guards has doubled, and the number of illegal crossings fallen by 80 percent, facts that have never come up at the GOP presidential debates? She thinks each has done well here, but states still have a problem. Eliot notes that a state's police power might permit such laws, but that they're unwise because of the effect on families now. And both agree that, with Latinos accounting for 1 in 6 Americans and 1 in 3 births, Republican candidates who sound like Tom Tancredo (build a fence, build two fences, electrify the fence) risk losing millions of new voters and future elections. John McCain, for one example, worries that his Arizona, which he carried with 54 percent in 2008, could go to Obama in 2012.

Lastly, the host reminds the former New York governor that it was his policy of providing driver's licenses to undocumented residents that helped trip up candidate Hillary Clinton in her 2008 contest. "Hey, I was for Hillary... but it was the right policy, from a law-enforcement point of view." Mary agrees, asking, "What's the argument against that?" Unconvincingly pretending to be a GOP candidate for president, the host bellows, "Amnesty for drivers!"

*Quick Takes: Plan B for Girls, And Teachers on Facebook. Eliot argues that Secretary Sebelius should not have taken the unprecedented step of overruling the FDA by requiring that girls under 17 have a prescription before obtaining the morning-after birth control pill. Mary opposes girls getting it at all, because it could encourage more "casual sex."

The issue of a teacher making a homophobic comment on her Facebook page elicits groans from both sides. Each worries about bullying and anti-gay teachers in the classroom, but Mary thinks that suspending or firing teachers for such private observations "is too much big government for me"; Eliot concludes that such comments are closer to a public megaphone than a private conversation at dinner. In the tension between teach and speech, he tips toward making sure teachers are not seen as hostile to any group.

*Your Week: Professor Spitzer shares his last day of class with us. And Mary shares how nice her Economist co-panelist Alec Baldwin was in the week when he had his now-infamous imbroglio on an American Airlines flight. "What's in the water up there in New York?" she wonders, to which New York politico Spitzer responds, "Let's cut him some slack."

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.

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