Monday, June 23, 2003
The Democrats' candidate?: Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has been making a big splash among the Bush-hating, anti-war wing of the Democratic Party. On the McLaughlin Group this past weekend, panelist Eleanor Clift gave Dean an "8" when asked his chances of getting the Democratic nomination (with "0" meaning no chance and "10" meaning a metaphysical certainty).
On yesterday's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert spent the entire hour with Dean.
Russert did a pretty good job with Dean, who attempted to downplay the sometimes loony remarks he typically makes in his stump speeches.
Dean, like many Democratic candidates, wants to repeal all of the "Bush tax cuts" using some curious logic:
I would go back to the Clinton era of taxes because I think most Americans would gladly pay the same taxes they paid when Bill Clinton was president if they could only have the same economy that they had when Bill Clinton was president.
If only it were that easy. Is this the kind of economic policy that Democrats advocate? Pick an period of time when the economy was good, set the tax rate there and everything will be just fine?
Russert: Let’s turn to the campaign. This is what you said last month about the Bush tax cut and I’ll show you and our viewers. “It has become clear what this president is attempting to do and why we must repeal the entire package of tax cuts.” The Department of Treasury, we consulted and asked them: What effect would that have across America? And this is what they said. A married couple with two children making $40,000 a year, under the Bush plan, would pay $45 in taxes. Repealing them, under the Dean plan, if you will, would pay $1,978, a tax increase of over 4,000 percent. A married couple over 65 making $40,000 and claiming their Social Security, under Bush would pay $675 in taxes. You’re suggesting close to $1,400, a 107 percent tax increase. Can you honestly go across the country and say, “I’m going to raise your taxes 4,000 percent or 107 percent,” and be elected?
Dean: Well, first of all, were those figures from the Treasury Department, did you say, or CBO?
Russert: Treasury Department.
Dean: I don’t believe them.
Well, I think those numbers are certainly possible -- even probable.
Try it yourself by going to the IRS Witholding Calculator here. I was able to get the tax burden down to $407 dollars for the aforementioned married couple with two children -- without putting in any deductions for mortgage interest. Admittedly, it's different for every family, but the Treasury Department figures are not outside the realm of possibility.
And the kicker is, though he says he doesn't believe it, he answers questions as though he does.
Russert: Well, in 1995, when you were advocating that position, you were asked how would you balance the budget if we had a constitutional amendment...
Russert: ...calling for that, and this is what Howard Dean said. “The way to balance the budget, [Gov. Howard] Dean said, is for Congress to cut Social Security, move the retirement age to 70, cut defense, Medicare and veterans pensions, while the states cut almost everything else. ‘It would be tough but we could do it,’ he said.”
Dean: Well, we fortunately don’t have to do that now.
Russert: We have a $500 billion deficit.
Dean: But you don’t have to cut Social Security to do that.
Russert: But why did you have to do it back then?
Dean: Well, because that was the middle of—I mean, I don’t recall saying that, but I’m sure I did, if you have it on your show, because I know your researchers are very good.
Russert: Well, Miles Benson is a very good reporter for the Newhouse News.
Dean: Yes, he is. No, no, no. I’m sure I did. I’m not denying I said that. I have...
Russert: But you would no longer cut Social Security?
Dean: But you don’t—no. I’m not ever going to cut Social Security benefits.
Russert: Would you raise retirement age to 70?
Dean: No. No.
Russert: Would you cut defense?
Dean: You don’t have to do that either. Here’s what you have to do. You got to get rid of the tax cuts, all of them, and then you have got to restrict spending.
Unfortunately for Dean, the "rich" didn't get nearly enough money back from the Bush tax cuts to solve all of the aforementioned problems -- you're going to have to soak the married couple with two children too.
Some pundits have likened Dean's campaign to George McGovern's in 1972 -- predicting a similar landslide victory for the GOP in 2004. In this case, at least, it appears more like Walter Mondale's in 1984 -- a promise to raise taxes that the American public will reject.