Alan Reynolds

"We will not quit now or ever," said Howard Dean after the Iowa caucuses. He initially repeated that message after getting another pathetic 18 percent vote in Wisconsin, then he quickly redefined the meaning of "quit." He will quit running for president, but will not quit soliciting contributions on behalf of some "movement" that remains undefined, except as a personal ego trip.

Dean uses political labels with abandon, except when it comes to himself. He refers to President Bush as a "dangerous radical" with a "right-wing agenda." It follows that he does not consider himself radical or right-wing. But neither will he acknowledge being even slightly liberal or left. When he says he represents "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," however, his fans do not appear to take that to mean the center.

Dean prefers to market himself as a "fiscal conservative." Fiscal conservative has come to mean someone who is eager to raise taxes frequently and aggressively in order to finance any and all spending schemes. Whenever there is a choice to be made between more money for taxpayers or more money for government agencies, Dean can be counted on to claim it is "right" and "fair," to favor those feeding at the government trough. He complains that "wealth is taxed less" than labor, yet he advocates higher taxes on labor, too.

If questioned about his unlimited affection for the IRS, this populist patrician claims to "stand up for what is right and not what is popular." This is a typically arrogant comment (as if he alone knows what is right), and one that is profoundly elitist (as if popular opinion must be stupid).

The closest Dean ever came to offering a concrete policy platform was a slim pamphlet that stole Tom Paine's title, "Common Sense," to defend what Paine opposed -- namely, omnipotent government. Dean's version expands on past promises to put a chicken in every pot: "Health insurance, prescription drugs and higher education can be ... affordable for everyone." Cadillacs and caviar can also be affordable for everyone, but only if taxpayers want to subsidize them.

Dean began his concession speech by saying his goal had been to make America more like Vermont. That is, he would have liked to see everyone poorer and more horribly overtaxed. In 2002, Vermont's per capita income was below the national average at only $29,567, compared with $34,334 in New Hampshire. Vermont incomes look even worse after taxes. Vermont's income tax ranges from 3.6 percent to 9.5 percent, with a 7.2 percent tax on taxable income above $27,950. New Hampshire doesn't tax individual income at all, aside from a 5 percent tax on interest and dividends. Vermont has a 5 percent sales tax, New Hampshire has none.

Alan Reynolds

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