Dean’s Fiscal Conservatism: Fiction?

Jon at QandO has an excellent post deflating — a bit — the idea that Howard Dean is a tax-cutting conservative. He quotes from this Boston Globe article:

On the campaign’s website, Dean is even more specific, saying that his two cuts reduced the state’s top income tax rate from 13.5 percent to 9.5 percent.
But an examination of Dean’s record as Vermont’s governor has found that the bigger tax cut was in fact signed into law by his Republican predecessor, Richard Snelling. In 1991, Snelling signed legislation authorizing higher tax rates that would “sunset” two years later. Dean, then lieutenant governor, took over after Snelling died, and the rates dropped automatically at the end of 1993.
While the section of Dean’s website on his fiscal record highlights his role in eliminating the sales tax on clothing items, it omits the fact that the overall sales tax was raised from 4 percent to 5 percent during Dean’s tenure.

Governor Dean did sign in the second of the two tax cuts, which lowered the base rate to 9.5%, but I wonder if the added one percent on sales tax balanced that out. At any rate, Vermont residents are not convinced of Dean’s “conservatism”, even among Democrats. The Dean campaign referred the reporter to former state Senator and party leader Peter Shumlin, who had this to say:

“Factually, you are correct. He didn’t have to sign a bill to sunset the income tax. But he had to sign a bill to keep the other ones up,” said Shumlin in a reference to Dean’s support for a hike in the sales tax.
Indeed, Shumlin said he is still angry with Dean for raising the sales tax, putting Vermont at a disadvantage with New Hampshire, with no sales tax. “I am still enraged,” said Shumlin, who nonetheless is supporting Dean’s candidacy. “If Howard Dean had agreed with the Democrats, we would have reduced the sales tax on the working poor and kept in place the high income tax on those who can afford it. It is the same argument he is making against [President] Bush, frankly.”

Jon, in his post, mentions that Vermont is ranked 12th in state tax burden by the Tax Foundation. The article also states that Vermont residents pay 10.1% of their income in state and local taxes, which seems pretty high to me. Comparatively, New Hampshire residents pay 6.6%. For a family with an income of $50,000, this amounts to $1750 difference — enough to put a down payment on a car, or a good chunk of money to save for college education for the kids.
Lastly, Dean makes a lot of noise about the supposed dishonesty of the Bush administration, and Bush’s opponents have screeched with abandon every time they find an inconsistency from the White House, no matter how small or ridiculous it may seem (remember the “fake turkey” issue last week?). Here you have Governor Dean taking credit for a tax cut enacted by his predecessor simply because he didn’t reverse it. Where’s all the screeching from these lovers of pure, unadulterated truth now?

Hewitt: Dean Lacks Seriousness

Hugh Hewitt doesn’t think much of Howard Dean or his campaign, but then again, that’s no surprise. Hugh writes extensively today on his blog about the false sense of singularity amongst the Deanies:

The Dean people are too young to know what a rel “movement” looks like. This is a nice campaign, one likely to capture the nomination and get swept aside in a landslide for an incumbent President backed by a booming economy, significant legislative achievements, and a serious commitment to national security.
At the close of business in November, these warriors of December ’03 will look at each other with blank or dazed expressions. They never saw it coming. Because they never read a book on campaigns past.

Just read the whole thing and remember this when you keep hearing about the “historic” nature of the Dean campaign.

Lileks Wonders About Dean

Okay, okay, I know that James Lileks isn’t taking December off, no matter how much I libel him in verse. He doesn’t have to keep proving it with excellent essays like this one on Howard Dean:

So it was an interesting moment on MSNBC’s “Hardball” when Chris Matthews asked Gov. Dean whether Osama bin Laden should be tried in the United States or by the World Court. For a presidential candidate, this is not a difficult question. It requires no long cogitation, no disquisitions about the role of international law from the Wilsonian perspective. It doesn’t require any second-guessing. You say that bin Laden attacked America, and he deserves to be tried there by Americans.
That’s what you say if you want to be president of the United States, anyway.

But as we all know, that’s not what Governor Dean said, in his interview that included his contention that he would smash corporations that are doing no wrong and that a decade-dead political entity (The Soviet Union) is alive and well outside of the Politburo Diktat. Dean asserted — twice — that it made no material difference to Dean whether a captured bin Laden would be tried in America or in a world court, which Lileks points out is chaired by China.
In other words, union-supported Howard Dean doesn’t want America to outsource customer-service jobs to India, but he has no problem outsourcing our justice jobs to China. Riiiiiiiight.
Lileks wonders what has become of the Democratic party when these responses seem mainstream:

What prompted this opinion? It’s one thing to say that terrorists should be hunted down and cuffed, read their Miranda rights and put on trial — as opposed to, say, having gigantic mountain-shearing bombs dropped on their mountainous headquarters. It’s another thing to say that the World Court should have jurisdiction over the crimes of Sept. 11. And it’s another thing entirely to say that it’s six of one, half-dozen of the other.
Has ritual deferment to all manifestations of the “international community” become a requirement for a Democrat nowadays?

No, James, it’s not merely a requirement; it’s a tenet of faith, a dogma that must never be questioned. Thanks for a great column. (via Hugh Hewitt)

Jeff Jarvis and Hugh Hewitt React to Dean’s Hardball Interview

Jeff Jarvis isn’t pleased with Howard Dean, by any stretch of the imagination:

Howard Dean says he’d “break up” media companies. This is the worst of political pandering: Big media companies have been made into the boogeymen du jour and so he announces he’ll go after them. No legal basis. No constitutional justification. Just because they’re there.

Jarvis quotes the same part of the transcript that I posted earlier, and reaches much the same conclusion I did, although he puts it more directly:

Translation: He’s going to meddle in news. He’s going to decree who can and can’t own media outlets. He’s going to break up companies for sport and political pandering. He’s not concerned with the First Amendment. He’s not concerned with the realities of the media business today (if you don’t allow some level of consolidation, then weak outlets will die).
Yes, I work in big media. But I don’t own it. I just work in it because I love news and media and I cherish the lack of government involvement in media in this country; I cherish our freedom of speech; I am a First Amendment absolutist. I do not want to see government meddling in our free speech.
This isn’t Europe, Howard. Not yet, anyway.

Ouch. Hugh Hewitt expands on his earlier comments in a brief Weekly Standard column posted tonight, focused on Dean’s indifference to where bin Laden may be tried, if captured:

Incredibly, most Tuesday morning papers ignored this exchange, and the Boston Globe’s Susan Schweitzer reported it this way: “Asked whether Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein should be tried in the United States or the Hague should they be captured, Dean responded that the issue was premature for discussion because the “the president can’t find either one of them.” … Dean’s ignorance on the matter isn’t the major point of the exchange. His indifference to the idea of bin Laden being brought to America is a stunning display of his detachment from the war on terror. Republicans hope that Dean doesn’t self-destruct before he gets the nomination, but the country ought to be getting all of Dean’s quotes, not just those the reporters think make good copy.

Once again, the major media want to ignore Dean’s foot-in-mouthism, even when he directly threatens their interests. One wonders how much longer this will go on. One thing is for sure — the Bush campaign isn’t ignoring it, not by a long shot.

Howard Dean: All Hat, No Cattle, Take 2

After visiting Hugh Hewitt, Mickey Kaus and Best of the Web, I’ve discovered that the Hardball interview had a lot more landmines for Howard Dean than I first saw. First off, he seems to be flunking post-Cold War geography:

The key, I believe, to Iran, is pressure through the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is supplying much of the equipment that Iran I believe mostly likely is using to set itself along the path of developing nuclear weapons. We need to use that leverage with the Soviet Union, and it may require us buying the equipment the Soviet Union was ultimately going to sell to Iran, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The Soviet Union, you may recall, disappeared in the early 90s. Dr. Dean may have been in surgery that day — who knows? — but if George Bush had made a reference to “East Germany” in the present tense, I think that would be making headlines. I seem to recall a media kerfluffle when he couldn’t come up with the name of Pakistan’s current leader during the last election. So far, I don’t see the media rushing to publicize Dr. Dean’s faux pas.
However, it may just be because there’s an embarrassment of riches in the Matthews interview. Take, for instance, this exchange:

CHRIS MATTHEWS (host) : Who should try Osama bin Laden if we catch him? We or the World Court?
DEAN: I don’t think it makes a lot of difference. I’m happy…
MATTHEWS: But who would you like to, if you were president of the United States, would you insist on us trying him, since he was involved in blowing up the World Trade Center, or would you let The Hague do it?
DEAN: You know, the truth is it doesn’t make a lot of difference to me as long as he is brought to justice. I think that’s the critical part of that. [Emphasis added.]

So the man who wants to lead the American people doesn’t really care if OBL is brought to American justice? Just where does he think 9/11 happened, anyway? Perhaps he’d feel differently if terrorists had struck Montpelier; lucky for him no one can find Montpelier. As Hugh Hewitt notes, in several posts on this subject:

My colleague from Chapman University Law School, Professor John Eastman, speculates that an international tribunal charged with prosecuting bin Laden would probably be constituted without the authority to impose the death penalty, so Howard Dean must either be ignorant of that issue or indifferent to bin Laden’s trial before a tribunal that can sentence him to death in the U.S., and one in the Hague which might be obliged to send him off to plot new strikes from a cell. Dean didn’t even know enough to ask Chris Matthews what Matthews meant by a the “World Court.” …
In Howard Dean’s world, bin Laden gets 30 years to life. And a fine.

This position is the equivalent to saying that, if Dean were running for President in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, that he wouldn’t care who defeated the Japanese, just as long as someone did it. Osama bin Laden masterminded the worst attack on the American mainland since our Civil War, and to be so nonchalant about his fate speaks volumes about the character of the man whose primary mission as President would be the security of the nation and its citizens.
If Dean really does get the nomination, after building up a drawerful of statements like these, he will be lucky to carry his home state and DC. Someone will need to rescue the Democrats from their own folly; I predict that Hillary may be drafted in the latter part of the primary season to wrest the nomination from Dean, or the Democratic Sanity Brigade will elevate Gephardt or Lieberman — if such a brigade even exists these days.

Howard Dean: All Hat, No Cattle

You have to love Chris Matthews; even though his loud and brash approach can wear on me after a while, it’s that attitude that really exposes pretenders such as Howard Dean. Matt Drudge has posted an excerpt from the Hardball installment with Dean, where Dean announced that he would “break up giant media enterprises” out of a concern “how deeply media companies can penetrate every single community” in America. Not surprisingly, since Matthews works for one of those “giant media enterprises” (GE), Matthews attempted to pin Dean down on specifics:

MATTHEWS: Well, would you break up GE?
DEAN: I can`t — you…
MATTHEWS: GE just buys Universal. Would you do something there about that? Would you stop that from happening?
DEAN: You can`t say — you can`t ask me right now and get an answer, would I break up X corp…
MATTHEWS: We`ve got to do it now, because now is the only chance we can ask you, because, once you are in, we have got to live with you.

Matthews goes on to ask about Fox, and gets the same non-answer. He didn’t ask about Disney or any other corporation, but Dean insisted on keeping as vague as possible:

MATTHEWS: Well, how about large media enterprises?
DEAN: Let me — yes, let me get…
DEAN: The answer to that is yes.
I would say that there is too much penetration by single corporations in media markets all over this country. We need locally-owned radio stations. There are only two or three radio stations left in the state of Vermont where you can get local news anymore. The rest of it is read and ripped from the AP.
MATTHEWS: So what are you going to do about it? You`re going to be president of the United States, what are you going to do?
DEAN: What I`m going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one.

So what we have here is a candidate exercising his mouth without having a clue as to how to back up what he’s saying — which is nothing new for Howard Dean. Having the intent of nominating FCC commissioners who are inclined to block mergers is a reasonable policy goal. Announcing that, if elected, you will break up major corporations without so much as an outline of a plan to accomplish it is much, much different, and extremely scary, especially for the many investors in these corporations.
Can somebody please remind me why Howard Dean is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination?
UPDATE: Jon at QandO has, as always, an excellent take on this. He points out that the mergers resulted from the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was not on Bush’s watch. Plus, he explodes the fallacy of “concentrated ownership” in the Internet era.