David Gergen not surprisingly believes that increased federal spending on education - or "investments" as Democrats like to say - is essential irrespective of our nation's current fiscal crisis.
On "Anderson Cooper 360" following the President's State of the Union address, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer did his darnedest to explain to the CNN senior political analyst that our mammoth budget deficits should first be brought under control before any additional outlays are considered (video follows with transcript and commentary):
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree but let me ask Ari this question, Anderson. Because Republicans have sort of said basically we don't like all this investment to become better -- more competitive and everything. It sounds just like more spending.
But Ari, didn't George W. Bush embrace this whole report on being more competitive that came out of the National Academies of Science and Engineering and put it forward and got it approved on Capitol Hill? Aren't -- aren't people in the Republican Party fundamentally for this?
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: You -- you bet that's one of the reasons that Paul Ryan is right, both parties have contributed to what's now is a crisis in spending.
GERGEN: But no, you are right. No, no, I'm talking about the competitiveness agenda.
FLEISCHER: Certainly some people have --
GERGEN: Didn't -- didn't George W. Bush -- didn't you know, I thought he came out in four square in favor of it.
FLEISCHER: But the point today is when you have a $1.4 trillion from deficit, you can't look at things from 2006 eyes or 2004 eyes. You've got to look at them with 2011 eyes.
GERGEN: So it's no longer important --
FLEISCHER: There's no longer --
GERGEN: -- if the teachers are going to teach science and math?
FLEISCHER: We can no longer afford a lot of the things we want and that's what got us into the deep hole we keep paying for all of the things that we like.
GERGEN: We can't get -- we can't -- we can't pay for teachers who are going to educate our kids on science and math, we can't pay for them? Are you really serious? FLEISCHER: Look, listen, what you're saying is, is you want to talk about specific spending increase, but I didn't hear President Obama talked about what specifics he would cut.
And this is the problem in Washington, the conversation always begins with the compassionate as measured by how much more money can we spend with this group or that group.
GERGEN: Educating -- educating our kids is not about compassion.
FLEISCHER: Well, I'd rather start the conversation with how we reduce the deficit and the debt. And then at the end of that conversation, if there's room for some spending then, take a look at it but we've got the order wrong in Washington.
GERGEN: Which -- would you -- would you be willing to take away the tax cuts for the top people in order to pay for new teachers in science and math?
FLEISCHER: Are you asking me if I'd be willing to raise taxes to redistribute income?
GERGEN: No, to -- to pay for teachers.
FLEISCHER: No, I want to have -- I want a tax policy that -- I want to have a policy that promotes growth in this country. And one of the interesting things that is going to be is to see whether that December agreement between Democrats and Republicans that have extended the tax rates indeed creates growth, we don't know yet. That's going to be the big question.
What viewers witnessed was a classic battle between Right and Left that is likely going to be waged for the rest of our lives.
Liberals like Gergen want government to solve problems regardless of whether there's money for it. Conservatives like Fleischer look at things from a more business-like perspective and only want to spend money if it's available.
Let's assume America was a corporation whose sales were down (tax revenues) and was bleeding red ink because of rising costs (spending).
A solution to this problem is additional training for our employees (education), but we don't have the funds for it because we're already losing money every quarter and are having to borrow monthly to pay our bills.
Do we borrow even more to train our people thereby putting additional pressure on our stock and risking a downgrade from bond rating companies, or do we figure out a way to cut our expenses to pay for the training?
Obviously, what a smart management team does is that latter.
Unfortunately, liberals like Gergen don't see it that way.
Instead, his view is to spend the money and try to make up the difference by raising taxes despite Presidents Obama and Clinton informing the nation in December that doing so with this fragile economy could send us into a recession.
Going back to the corporate analogy, if our solution to funding the training was raising prices on our products, we likely would find that this wouldn't work under current economic conditions, and our sales would actually end up declining furthering our financial woes.
As it pertains to the country's problems, since the Left never wants to cut spending on anything, raising taxes as we pay for education will do nothing to solve our fiscal crisis.
Sadly, Fleischer could talk to Gergen or virtually any other liberal media member till he was blue in the face without him or her understanding this logic.
Makes you wonder if the way to solve the nation's problems is demanding that all press members go back to school to learn some basic theories of business and economics.
Now that's an education program conservatives would support.