When President George W. Bush signed the $350 billion tax-cut package last month, he set this nation on the road to fiscal crisis. It is a road that the president is deliberately taking, at the expense of all Americans, to advance his narrow agenda.
For years, Republicans have sought to reduce or eliminate funding for popular social initiatives, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the American people repeatedly have rejected their efforts. Now, led by President Bush, the radical wing of the Republican Party has found a new way to reach its goal of fundamentally altering the role of the federal government and forcing privatization of our most basic services.
We must be honest with the American people. The economic plans put forth by President Bush and the Republican Party are an attack on the values that Americans overwhelmingly support, such as the importance of strong public education, affordable health care, a healthy environment and a financially sound Social Security. If allowed to stand, the result of the president"s tax cuts will be the gutting of these values through a process of financial starvation.
At the state and local level, we have seen what happens when tax revenues drop suddenly and drastically. Cities across Iowa are faced with one of two painful alternatives: Lay off dozens of employees including firefighters and police officers when citizens need them most, or raise property taxes when citizens can pay them least.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of decision that President Bush and the radical right-wing ideologues who surround him hope to force on the American people. With federal tax revenues down, it is now simply a matter of time before the argument is made that we can no longer afford Social Security.
Deliberately creating such an economic climate is not only irresponsible, it is immoral. The Congressional Budget Office recently announced the federal budget deficit has hit $400 billion. Federal revenues have hit the lowest level since the end of the Eisenhower administration. Unemployment has hit a nine-year high.
Make no mistake: We are in the fight for the ideals that make our country strong. On the one side is a Democratic vision of a country in which we commit as a community to providing affordable health care to every American, public education to every child, a healthy environment to our families and Social Security and Medicare to our seniors.
On the other is a Republican Party that seeks to privatize Social Security and education and to open our national parks to the highest bidder.
The sooner the Democrats recognize this isn't a fight over tax cuts, but a battle for our country's heart, soul and future, the sooner the American people will join our cause. What America needs now is a Democratic Party with the backbone to stand up for the future of our country and against President Bush"s reckless economic policies. It is time for the Democratic Party to speak up and be clear in telling the American people this one incontrovertible fact: We will never achieve social justice in this country without fiscal responsibility.
My central commitment upon taking office will be to repeal these tax cuts and to put our fiscal house in order. We must meet our fundamental obligations to teach our children, care for our parents and defend our nation. We will not meet these obligations if we bankrupt our country.
My commitment to the values that make us proud to be Americans is absolute. If we fail to defeat this president and stop his radical agenda, we will surrender the central ideal proclaimed from one American generation to the next throughout our history: "We are one nation, and we are all in this together."
HOWARD DEAN, a former governor of Vermont, is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.
Original transcript was published on the website of The Des Moines Register