continued "In order to provide [military] efficiency," counters James Ziegler, 25, "don't you have to spend a little bit of money to make sure that the management is doing their job? Build our efficiency back up to a level that's acceptable. But, of course, what is that level? We really don't know. But get the efficiency up a little bit and then keep the money down to the level it was at before."
Jennifer Bennett, 27, questions the Bush administration's missile-defense program, which VanDeWeghe favors and Davis does not. "I thought I had read that those systems are really inaccurate right now," she says. But Ziegler, at first, defends them, saying, "We weren't very accurate in the first Gulf War at all. We were hitting maybe 30, 40 percent of the targets. Now we're hitting, like, 95 percent of the targets. In ten years, that's how much our technology has risen, like what can happen with missile defense." Then Ziegler surprises with his conclusion. "Anyone else in the world, they're not having that much of a jump in technology. So I don't think we even need to have this missile-defense program."
VanDeWeghe's platform has also proposed putting troops on the border as part of the war on terrorism, something that Davis opposes. "I think it would probably be a waste of money to send troops down there," says Duran. "What is it that the Border Patrol right now isn't doing that troops can do better?" All four of the students say that, in any such program, distinguishing between immigration control and keeping terrorists out of the country would be difficult but important.
On the economy, Duran thinks that "keeping taxes at the level they're at right now is important, because you start charging less taxes, and you won't have the money that you need. You still need to build roads and stuff like that. If you don't have the money, how are you going to keep doing the things you need to do every day?"
Duran's sentiments echo Susan Davis's contention that too many tax cuts will cause the deficit to grow to levels that will hurt the economy and provoke politicians to tap Social Security funds to pay bills. The war on terrorism is expensive, says Davis, but she favors spending money on many domestic programs, including restoring funding to the National Endowment for the Arts. VanDeWeghe chafes at the idea of spending money on the arts at a time when foreign enemies have demonstrated a willingness and ability to attack the U.S.
"There are a lot of other high priorities," says Bennett. "This city has a lot of other art programs. There are always tons of art projects going on, tons of people putting money into projects, and it may not be necessary to put all this money into a big National Endowment."
But Bennett's idea of higher priorities runs in the domestic social direction. "There are so many problems here at home," she says. "Education, pollution, environment, mental stuff. We have a breakdown in families, and all we're doing is Band-Aid programs for kids in day care."
Loesch takes exception to the idea that art is a low priority, whether we're in a time of war or not. "Art is very important. Look at this architecture here," he says, pointing to a classroom building. "This is a work of art. Everything that we encounter each day has an artistic aspect. And if [VanDeWeghe] is a businessman, he should know that presentation is one of the most important things. You can't run a society, or a business even, without having good presentation. And artists bring that in."
Loesch is more favorable toward a VanDeWeghe proposal that allows people to invest some of their Social Security funds in the stock market. On the one hand, he views playing the stock market as gambling, but "if you better educate people, probably [allowing them to invest in the market] would be a good idea."
Davis is opposed to the Social Security investments, according to statements reflecting her sensitivity to recent market fluctuations. Bennett appreciates the point. "There aren't enough people educated on the stock market to wisely invest money in there," she says. "There would be a high proportion of people that would probably lose it."
Bennett and Ziegler also side with Davis on abortion rights. Says Bennett, "In a diverse population, regardless of where you stand on the issue, you have to allow people to have abortions if they want them." Says Ziegler, "Personally, I'm pro-life; politically, I'm pro-choice. Nobody's right to choose should be taken away from them. That's a God-given right."
The idea of school vouchers for parents who want to send their children to private school draws strong reaction from the City College students. VanDeWeghe advocates private schools as one option in educating children who otherwise face a "broken" public school system. Duran understands. "The reason why a lot of people are turning to private schools," he says, "is because they do so much better than public schools."
And Bennett adds, "The voucher program is just a Band-Aid. Fix the public schools, then you won't need the voucher system. And if you do want to send your kids to private school, that's your obligation. I don't think that we should have to pay for that." Bennett agrees with Davis, who has argued that, since the public school system educates 90 percent of American children, all available tax dollars should go into it.
On the environment, Davis's website states she has the approval of organizations like the California League of Conservation Voters. But VanDeWeghe faults her for doing nothing about the cleanup of Mission Bay and the rest of the San Diego coast, where he says dirty water caused over 200 beach closures last year. He promises to solve the problem if elected.
Duran applies the issue to his own neighborhood. "A lot of kids have lung problems because of the pollution of the boats and the big machinery that are out by Barrio Logan. We should take into consideration that other areas don't have that problem."