In a close political race, good candidates take the small advantages when they get them. And Republican Enid Greene and Democrat Karen Shepherd are good candidates.
Tuesday they debated before the Salt Lake Rotary Club, and a close listen shows how the two women will pick at each other in the 2nd Congressional District race over the next five weeks.Greene is unmarried and has no children. Shepherd, a wife and mother, said she will look at all things in Congress from the eyes of a mother. "I can't help it, I'll examine every future public policy to see its effect on children," Shepherd says.
Shepherd, as a Democrat, may be seen as weak on cutting federal spending. Greene says even though Shepherd proposes $1.8 trillion in federal budget cuts over the next 10 years, that still allows the huge federal deficit to increase by $2.2 trillion - "a 50 percent increase that we just can't afford. It's not good enough."
Shepherd counters that Greene, a conservative Republican, will bring an ideology to budget-cutting that will gut vital federal programs, like public and higher education aid, which are really in-vest-ments in America, not wasteful spending. "If you look at her budget reduction plan," says Shepherd, "(college) student grants, loans and other programs are gone. It (Greene's plan) cuts into what makes us strong as a nation."
Shepherd says her great interest is solving the nation's health-care crisis, and she proposes, among other things, forcing the states to cap health-care inflation at 5 percent per year.
Greene says that's completely unworkable, like forcing a too-large balloon into a small box - "You push it in on one side, but it just bulges out on the other - we'd end up with less quality and accessibility." Greene ticks off her solution, which includes forcing insurance companies to provide a low-cost, basic insurance package in all states where they do business, tort reform and other items that would force a private-based system to work.
Shepherd says she favors the family leave bill just vetoed by President Bush. All major industrial countries have such mandatory leave policies to allow an employee to take care of a sick family member. And the bill vetoed by Bush would only require unpaid leave, while other nations require the employee be paid between 100 percent and 60 percent of their wage while off work.
Greene says Bush was right to veto the bill - too much government interference. She says the issue is a clear gauge of the differences between she and Shepherd. "Do you want more government regulation, or should incentives be given to business (to give the leave), tax incentives that would reimburse the business, if you will, for paying overtime to the person who replaces the worker, or training costs for the temporary worker hired to replace him?"
Implying that Greene's budget-solving solutions are too extreme, Shepherd repeatedly says there must be heart as well as brain in solving the nation's budget woes.
Aware of that fact, Greene says the nation cries out for change. She says she's tough enough to make and stick with the hard budget decisions to come, but she'll always place people first in those decisions.
Shepherd says both she and Greene want to get to about the same places - budget control, cut the deficit, reform health care, keep the U.S. economy strong. "But you couldn't find two different people who disagree more on how to get there," she says.
And for once, Greene agrees with her.