Environmental Policy Affects Health, Economy, Security

October 11, 2004

Howard Dean

By Gov. Howard Dean M.D.

The two critical issues for every president are national security and economic security. While much media attention has been focused on Iraq and al Qaida, most Americans have been quietly focusing on their economic plight. What they are seeing is not pretty.

President Bush asserts that the economy has “turned the corner” and that his tax cuts are working to stimulate the economy and create jobs. A critical look at the gross domestic product tells the honest story about the economy. GDP is the sum of consumer spending, government spending, investments and net exports.

During the Clinton administration, consumer spending drove the economy, increasing at an average of 1.77 percent per quarter. More consumer spending on food, electronics, automobiles, durable goods and houses means more jobs and a more robust economy. More spending meant more jobs.

Despite the president’s claim that his tax cuts increased consumer spending, we now know that a big chunk of the money went to people who make over $1 million per year. That does not help consumer spending, because it has no effect on consumers who already had enough money to buy what they wanted anyway. During the Bush administration, consumer spending has sputtered, and in order to cut cost, companies have moved jobs to countries where wages are between 50 cents and $2.50 per hour. That’s why we are seeing job losses, especially in America’s manufacturing states like Michigan and Ohio.

President Bush’s tax cuts of three years ago hurt the economy in the long run. Politicians in this country have often promised tax cuts without telling Americans what that means for local property taxes, local school quality, and health care costs. Even our soldiers felt the negative consequences of this tax cut. They were under-equipped when they went to Iraq, and the administration sent 50,000 fewer troops than the Pentagon recommended.

The underlying assumption that a tax cut means more money for individuals to spend on consumer products is valid. However, the United States as a country, and Americans as individuals have high debt and a negative savings rates. The monies from the tax cut are used mostly to pay off debt rather than for new spending. Our next President must encourage savings.

Earlier this year, the Labor Department reported that 32,000 net new jobs were created in July. Little did people notice that during that month, 32,000 new government jobs were created. If it weren’t for new government jobs being created, the job numbers would have been worse.

Government spending has dramatically increased during President Bush’s term, at a rate twice as fast as spending in the Clinton administration. A rapid increase in government spending and tax cuts that mostly go to people that make $1 million a year have created huge long-term deficits.

Chronic deficits are bad for families, bad for businesses, bad for states and bad for America. Not one Republican president has balanced the budget in the last 34 years; only Bill Clinton did so. If it takes a liberal to balance the budget then we need one in the White House.

Environmental policy is not just about beautiful surroundings. Environmental policy is about health, national security and jobs. We desperately need a president who understands that.

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates.
Email Howard Dean at howarddean@democracyforamerica.com
Copyright 2004 Howard Dean, All Rights Reserved.
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