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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, August 12, 2003

 

Grover Norquist unsheathes knives http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A46936-2003Aug11.html

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, August 12, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
In a WaPo Letter to the Editor, Grover Norquist of the conservative partisan group Americans for Tax Reform crudely attempts to undermine Howard Dean's fiscal conservative credentials:

According to Americans for Tax Reform's Cost of Government Day report, the average Vermonter worked 60 days to pay for Vermont spending in 1992. By 2001, the average resident needed to work an additional two weeks -- 75 days -- because state spending rose so much faster than family income.

State employment soared under Mr. Dean as well. From 1997 to 2002, Vermont's workforce grew from 7,196 (6,939 employees plus 257 vacancies) to 8,239 (7,791 employees plus 448 vacancies). That's a 14.5 percent increase in just the last half of the Dean administration.


These numbers are going to be very familiar by the end of the campaign - the conservatives know that Dean's fiscal record is his strongest asset against Bush.

First of all, the Cost of Government Day metric that the ATR widely publicizes is a completely flawed methodology. It tries to assert that the "average American" doesn't pay off the burden of all federal, state, and local government taxes until a given date in the calendar year - usually June or some such shocking fraction. However, the term "average" American is misleading - what they are doing is taking in the gross income of ALL americans, and dividing it by the total number of Americans, to get their "average" American income. And doing the same with the taxes paid. The result, bulk-averaged across the entire spectrum of national income and tax burdens, is essentially meaningless.

The bottom line with Vermont is that the state has a surplus instead of a deficit, that Dean went against his party and actually controlled and reduced spending (exactly as the ATR demands in its policy recommendations).

By the way, Mr. Norquist, two weeks does not equal 75 days. Fuzzy math indeed.

Norquist's second metric is even more bizarre. Yes, the State of Vermont employed more people during Dean's tenure. Is Norquist against people being employed?

Perhaps Norquist feels that number of employees is some kind of indication of Big Government. It would be interesting to see whether Norquist applies the same metric to the Bush Administration record. The federalization of airport screeners alone has put Bush well into fiscal liberal land, according to Norquist's own criteria, and that doesn't include the layers upon layers of bureacrat employment added by the creation of the cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security.

Amusingly, Norquist undercuts himself by mentioning the number of vacancies. Note that using his numbers, in 1997 there were 3.57% of employment positions vacant. By 1991, there were 5.4%. Using Norquist's logic, doesn't this mean that the relative size of the state government decreased?

UPDATE: Atrios writes a letter, too.

UPDATE 2: The DDF chimes in - and don't forget to always cross-reference these issues with the DDF FAQ!


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.