February 12, 2005

Dean The Anti-Libertarian Democrat

Since Dean's the new DNC head, it seemed appropriate to discuss his purported libertarian credentials. I've had several people suggest to me that Dean is a libertarian Democrat. He is a fiscal conservative, they say, and he supports the Second Amendment. Also, he opposes the war and supports gay marriage. Well, opposing the war is not libertarian, given his rubric for determining how we go to war (he does not oppose preemption or humanitarian wars). Supporting gay marriage rights, though laudable from a libertarian perspective, is hardly unique in the Democrats. His Second Amendment position may have been very strong in Vermont, but then Vermont is the most pro-gun state in the union. Of course, Dean supports basically all the same laws the other Democratic candidates for 2004 did, so I see little distinction.

What I find interesting is a claim, often propelled by Dean himself, that he is a 'fiscal conservative' and supports markets, growth and balancing the budget. The linked report at the top is to a Cato report on governors. Dean took eighth from the bottom, for a score of 46 (scale from 76 to 30) and a score of D. Not very impressive, but let's dig deeper.

The actual report is dense. If you do ctrl-f and type 'dean,' then you can see all the instances where his name appears. Click each one and see the graphs where he appears. It's striking. Dean appears in the top rankings for fiscal restraint, balancing budgets, and so forth. He also appears in the rankings and areas for tax hikers over and over.

Ultimately, he has a horrid ranking for taxes - hiking and maintaining - and a fairly respectable record on restraint and balancing the budget. That's why it's a D and not F, because he had some restraint on the balance sheet.

He raised (or wanted to raise) corporate income tax, gas tax, sales tax, personal income tax, cigarette tax, and property tax. Is it any surprise that he could balance a budget after all those tax hikes?

Now, on the plus side, he did some tax cuts in the past, and he deregulated utilities and even offered a limited school choice initiative. But he also backed a number of anti-growth initiatives like Act 60, which has subsequently raised property taxes through the roof (in some places, more than ten times increase in only a few years). His record on Vermont health insurance is atrocious, but he brags that over 90% are covered - unfortunately, this was true even BEFORE he came into office. Dean's only accomplishment on health care is chasing off most of the private insurers and putting more people onto costly state Medicare payouts.

Ultimately, Dean was Governor for 12 years, but Vermont was by the end of his last term one of the highest-spending and highest-taxing states in the union. He is not a libertarian Democrat.

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