CNBC Capital Report

October 16, 2003

HEADLINE: Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean discusses his campaign and issues important to next year's election



Our top story tonight, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, the man to beat in the Democratic presidential contest, unveils his economic plan.

The plan would repeal all the Bush tax cuts. It would provide $100 billion of funding to states over the next two years to create jobs, and it calls for an aggressive effort to clean up the tax code and end corporate welfare.

ALAN MURRAY, co-host:

Joining us now in his first interview since unveiling this new economic plan is Howard Dean, the Democratic presidential candidate. Thank you very much for being with us, Governor Dean.

You called today, again, all the Bush tax cuts reckless. But a lot of Democrats are asking the question: Why are tax credits for child care, tax credits for the marriage penalty, tax breaks that benefit the middle class, why are those reckless?

Dr. HOWARD DEAN: Those sound great, but the trouble is, we can't afford it. We have a $500 billion deficit coming up next year. We've had to cut fire and police protection, raise middle-class people's property taxes. The truth is, most people in this country who are middle-class never got a tax cut. They got a little something from the Bush administration, but their property taxes went up, their kids' college tuition went up because the Bush administration gave $3 trillion worth of those tax cuts, if you include the interest, away to Ken Lay and his friends at Enron. And that is wrong. We cannot promise people everything, and what the president cynically did was to promise middle-class people tax relief, give most of it to the people who made an enormous amount of money and then require all these programs that he wants to be funded by local property taxes. That is wrong. What people got was a tax shift, not a tax cut.

BORGER: Well, Governor, earlier this week Joe Lieberman proposed his own tax plan, and what he said he would do was cut taxes even more on the middle class in order to sort of equalize the tax cuts that the wealthy are getting vis-a-vis the middle-class. What's wrong with that?

Dr. DEAN: You can't pay for it. How are you going to pay for that with a $500 billion deficit? That's the problem with Washington politicians. They promise you everything, and they think they're going to give you our pays at the end of the day.

MURRAY: Yeah. I'll tell you how he pays for it. He pays for it with a 5 percent surcharge on people making over $250,000 a year. So he would take the top tax rate up to—you'd take it back to 39.6 percent. He'd take it all the way up to 44 percent. What do you think about that?

Dr. DEAN: I think the whole thing doesn't make any sense. Why not just get rid of these Bush tax cuts? No Republican has done anything reasonable for the economy in a long time. No Republican's balanced the budget for 34 years in this country. Why don't we just balance the budget, get rid of all the Bush tax cuts and start all over again so we can have decent funding of special education, health insurance and a balanced budget. I think most Americans would be happy to pay the taxes they paid when Bill Clinton was president, which is what I'm proposing, if they could only have the economy they had when Bill Clinton was president. And we're never going to get to that economy under a Republican president, 'cause they can't understand money.

BORGER: But speaking of balancing the budget, how would you balance the budget—or when I should ask. When would you balance the budget by? You proposed $100 billion of new spending in your own plan. So when could you get to a balanced budget?

Dr. DEAN: We can balance the budget in our second term. We're going to be as aggressive as possible about balancing the budget. All the things that I've talked about on the spending side are offset by controlling spending. You know, the president's non-discretionary spending went up 20 percent last year. Now if you held that to 5 percent, as I did when I was governor, you would be able to balance the budget over a period of years and still have health insurance for everybody and jobs again in America, which is what this election's really going to be about.

MURRAY: I want to make sure I understand this new fund to restore America that you talked about today in your speech. That's $100 billion over the next two years, all of it going to state and local governments to help them hire more policemen, more firemen, more homeland defense personnel?

Dr. DEAN: No, some of it's going to go to construction projects and things like that, roads, school construction. I think the federal government for a few years ought to help with school construction so that we start getting people back to work again. Renewable energy. You know, this president's been incredibly lax by not understanding that renewable energy helps the environment, of course, but it creates jobs and it also helps our defense. Here, the president is sending our foreign oil money to Saudi Arabia, which then teaches small children to hate America. You know, this president's not strong on defense, he's not strong on the environment and he certainly hasn't done anything about jobs. And that's why we need a new president.

MURRAY: But this is very critical. I mean, this really gets to the key. You're saying that the way to get the American economy going again is not to give tax cuts but to do public works programs.

Dr. DEAN: I'm saying that's one of the ways to do it, and the other way to do it is to start to balance the budget. And we can't do that with this president running a half-a-trillion-dollar budget every year. Why would anybody invest in America and create jobs with a country that can't manage its own affairs? What you're seeing now is interesting. And the stock market's going up but you're not seeing any job creation, and that's because all the people that got those tax cuts aren't going to invest in expanding their businesses because of the huge deficit, so—they don't trust the administration on managing the economy, so they invest it in Wall Street. You know, this is craziness. This is a jobless recovery and it's not helping most Americans.

BORGER: Governor, we can't have you on the show without asking you a couple of political questions given the fact that a lot of people...

Dr. DEAN: Sure.

BORGER: ...are calling you the front-runner in this race. And I guess my question is: Why is Wesley Clark, the newest entrant into the race, doing so well after just a few weeks? Are people afraid you're going to get the Democratic nomination?

Dr. DEAN: Well, I think Wes has got some good characteristics of a politician. You know, he speaks well, and I think he's going to be a good candidate. I think there's always been room for other people in this race and I'm happy to debate him on issues like the war and like the economy, and eventually we had a chance to do that.

MURRAY: You've gotten some members of Congress a little bit upset by using a metaphor referring to them as cockroaches. You say, 'If you shine a light on, they're scurry...

Dr. DEAN: I did not...

MURRAY: That was the way it was taken.

Dr. DEAN: That's not—I did not—well, no, no, no. I did not refer to the members of Congress as cockroaches. What I said—the question I was asked was, 'What would you do if the Republican right wing who controls Congress and some Democrats who act like them thwart all your moves if you try to get to be president of the United States?' and then I said, 'In that case, they'd scurry around like cockroaches or something because the American public would elect a president that wanted to get something done. And if the Congress dominated by the right wing stands in the way, that would be wrong and they'd lose their jobs.' And then, of course, the other campaigns, the other Democratic campaigns sent that all around to everybody and tried to...

BORGER: Well, it sounds like—I mean, for members of the Hill, the Democrats I talked to say, 'How can President Howard Dean work with us if he's going to call us names?'

Dr. DEAN: Well, most of the people I suspect you talked to are supporters of other members of the Congress. This was shunted around by all the people like David Lee who's a big Gephardt supporter, and people like that. I mean, look, I'm a colorful person, I use colorful language. Would it have been better if I hadn't said that? Probably it would have been. But members of Congress who are supporting me know darn well that I wasn't referring to them that way. What I was referring to is people like Tom DeLay, the cockroach exterminator.

MURRAY: But do you think all the other candidates are now ganging up on you because you are the front-runner? They're all sort of joining forces and jumping on things like this that you say?

Dr. DEAN: Oh, sure, and that's part of politics. I don't blame them for that. I'm the front-runner, and if I am, then they are going to want to take me down. And that's just part of the deal. If I can't stand up to that, then I'm not going to be president.

BORGER: Well, Wesley Clark said he was the front-runner. Now you're saying you're the front-runner. Who's the front-runner?

Dr. DEAN: No, you said I was the front-runner.


Dr. DEAN: I'll agree with whatever you want.

BORGER: OK. Let me ask you a more serious question here, which is about the vote that's coming up in Congress on the $87 billion for funding the aftermath of the war in Iraq. Senator Edwards has said that he will not vote for it. Senator Kerry seems to be leaning against it. What would you do?

Dr. DEAN: In its present form, I would vote no. I think if the president really believes this war is the right thing to do, which I disagree with him on, he has an obligation to tell us how he's going to pay for it. All he's doing is charging up another $87 billion to the American credit card. If he's not willing to say where he's going to get the money, which I believe is in the repeal of the tax cuts for the wealthiest portions of the Americans who got that tax cut and all the corporate tax breaks he's given away, if he's not willing to repeal those to support our troops, then he should bring them home.

So I have no intention of voting for any resolution or supporting any resolution that's not paid for, and the president can't seem to figure out how to pay for anything.

MURRAY: All right.


MURRAY: Oh, Gloria, go ahead.

BORGER: Would you criticize anybody who voted for it or against it? I mean, you know, you say you would vote no. If somebody supports it, if another...

Dr. DEAN: I would vote no if he was unwilling to pay the bill. If he showed us how to pay the bill and satisfied the concerns that I had, I'd support the troops. But if he's not willing to support the troops, why should those of us who disagree with the war support the troops? Bring them home if he doesn't want to pay for it. He has not said how he would pay for this. Where's he going to get the $87 billion? That's what I want to know. And I'll tell you something. It really galls me that he's willing to spend $87 billion to repair schools and electric facilities in Iraq and not do it here at home.

MURRAY: Governor Dean, thank you very much for being with us again on CAPITAL REPORT.

Dr. DEAN: Thank you.

CNBC News Transcripts October 16, 2003 Thursday

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