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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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Friday, January 16, 2004


Why Dean is right on taxes

posted by Aziz P. at Friday, January 16, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
Jonathan Cohn, Senior Editor of TNR has a fantastic article in support of Dean's tax policy:

Maybe advocating total repeal of the tax cuts really is political suicide. But, whatever Dean decides to do, there's another question that commentators rarely ask: In policy terms, is preserving part of the Bush tax cuts a good idea? Dean has said no, that, in the end, "middle-class people [would] get a better deal from President Dean." And he's almost certainly right.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that, since the Bush cuts are so heavily weighted toward the well-off, the middle-class cuts must make up only a small fraction of their overall cost. But the conventional wisdom is wrong. Roughly speaking, the tax cuts Kerry and the rest suggest keeping amount to half of the cost of President Bush's cuts overall. In other words, the monetary difference between total repeal and partial repeal is a full $2 trillion.

Although nobody talks about it, that's an enormous difference. The impact becomes clear once you realize that all the major candidates (again, excepting Gephardt) have proposed roughly the same amount of new spending, on everything from more generous college scholarships to near-universal health insurance. And all have pledged to significantly reduce the deficit, which, including the Bush tax cuts, could total $5 trillion over ten years. Doing those things simultaneously is just not plausible, since the new spending alone would probably soak up most, if not all, of the money available from partial repeal. Simply put, you can have the programs or you can make a significant dent in the deficit, but you really can't do both while leaving half of the Bush tax cuts in place. As Dean argues, "You cannot promise people tax cuts, college education, health care, and whatever else you want and say, 'Oh, it'll all be fine.'"

The choice, then, really comes down to this: Is the middle class better off with the parts of the Bush tax cuts that Dean's rivals would leave in place or with the $2 trillion less in deficits that Dean would produce over the next decade?

That's exactly the message Dean has been trying to convey. It's a true shame from the perspective of the advancement of liberal ideas that Dean's competitors for the nomination have chosen to cede the debate on taxes and government spending to the GOP. In light of the GOP's fiscal excesses, Dean's argument about the true cost of the tax cuts and the amplifying power of government spending for certain causes is quite a strong contrast. Cohn goes on to make an analogy using household finances and credit card debt that is essential reading - from now on, it's exactly how I'm going to phrase the issue in my own discussions with potential Dean supporters and critics alike.

Don't believe the hype about TNR being against liberal goals just because they endorsed Lieberman and have some conservative funding sources. As long as writers like Cohn are on staff, it remains a magazine of true diversity within the liberal camp.


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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.