- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) — Howard Dean, a former governor of Vermont and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, charged Tuesday that President Bush's tax cuts take money out of Social Security and distribute it "to people who have the highest incomes in the country."

In an address to a forum at the National Press Club in Washington sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly magazine and The New America Foundation, Dean, a medical doctor who served 11 years as governor of Vermont, said Bush is paying for his tax cuts by "raiding the Social Security Trust Fund" and "distributing it to people who have the highest incomes in the country."

"There is a solution for long term Social Security," Dean said, "the first thing to do is stop taking the money out of the trust fund, put it back where it belongs." Dean's charge is not new. Many critics have said that several administrations have dipped into the Social Security Trust fund in order to offset expenditures, which exceed the tax revenues.

Dean also criticized the idea of allowing private individuals to invest their Social Security savings in the stock market. "Allowing individuals to invest money in the stock market is foolish," he said. "Social Security is not a retirement program; it is a safety net for people so they don't starve."

Dean said private investment of social security savings would encourage "profligacy," by leading people to make risky investments knowing that even if they lose their money, the government will not let them starve.

"I would have invested that money in Enron, and I would be broke," he hypothesized. "The government would not let me starve, they would pay again, like guaranteeing the loan to Argentina — you bail out Citibank. We're doing exactly the same thing for people when we talk about privatizing Social Security."

"Unless you willing to let seniors starve if they make stupid investment decisions or just unlucky decisions, then you are essentially reinforcing profligacy. … There is no downside risk," he said.

Dean credited Bush's father for trying to address the budget deficit "for which he lost his base." Dean said that apparently "the only way you can get Republicans to support you is if you're a spendthrift, borrow and spend, borrow and spend, which I find very interesting given the rhetoric of that party."

"Americans never wanted this tax cut to begin with," Dean said. He said that Americans wanted the education and health systems fixed. He said he talked to a man in New Hampshire who told him he remembered the $600 rebate from Bush's 2001 tax cut because it was at the same time that his tax deferred savings program dropped $60,000 in value.

Bush faulted Bush's handling of Iraq, saying that the president must prove to the American people that Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons before leading the nation to war. "The president has to make that case to the American people," he said and assure that neither their children or grandchildren will have to fight in Iraq.

Dean said he viewed foreign trade agreements as an opportunity to sow Democracy in developing countries. "Trade helps to create middle class. … What created the middle class in our country was the trade unions. I think you can't do trade agreements and more with out labor and environmental standards." He also said that the United States cannot stop trade agreements — "that's fighting the last war" — but he wanted to make them a valuable part of U.S. foreign policy.

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