MONTPELIER, Vt. – Howard Dean (search) wants to turn the tables on critics who argue that he would raise taxes on the middle class by doing away with the federal tax cuts of the last few years.
But what he's doing, Dean says, is calling for a cut in the "Bush Tax." The Democratic presidential candidate says that is the price piled onto taxpayers as a result of President Bush's tax cuts — higher state and local taxes, decreased services and a larger share of the federal deficit.
"The `Bush Tax' is huge — many times greater than most people's refunds," the former Vermont governor said in excerpts of a speech set for Thursday in Manchester, N.H. "And it'll be here for a long time to come."
At the same time, Dean plans to call upon his fellow Democrats, especially those who supported the tax cuts, to return to core values.
"I call now for a new era in which we rewrite our social contract to provide certain basic guarantees to all those who are working hard to fulfill the promise of America," he said.
Dean coined the term Bush Tax to replace what he's up to now described as the Bush tax cuts.
The front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Dean says the typical American family will assume $52,000 over the nex six years as its share of the national debt. New Hampshire voters already are paying an average $270 per family more in property taxes, and assistance has gone down for special education, college tuition and other federal programs, he said.
His campaign staff has been preparing what it said will be estimates of how much more people in selected states are paying or what services they're not getting because of Bush's tax cuts.
Dean made clear that he planned to take his own party to task for supporting those reductions, but he also signaled that he will try to steer his campaign rhetoric back to a more moderate message, echoing the argument of many in Washington that "the era of big government is over."
"But that must signal a new era for the Democratic Party," he said.
Excerpts of Dean's speech make no mention of the support he voiced in the mid-1990s to slow the growth of Medicare (search), which his presidential rivals highlight in their critiques of his record.
Dean's domestic agenda, which will be drawn from previous policy addresses on health care, education, child care and other topics, follows by days a foreign policy vision he outlined in a speech in Los Angeles.
He will pull his domestic proposals together in a program dubbed a "New Social Contract for Working Families," in which he'll call for new supports for working families, universal access to health care and other government assistance. A campaign memorandum excerpting the speech did not lay out any specifics.
"Our party must offer a new vision that speaks to working families — working families who make just too much to qualify for assistance, but not quite enough to make ends meet," Dean said.
He'll call for American business to accept stricter accountability but said he also would offer greater access to capital for small businesses and "national investment in growth industries of the future like renewable energy."
Although he proposes that "every wealthy American individual and corporation (pays) their fair share of taxes," as governor of Vermont Dean signed into law tax breaks that allowed large corporations such as Enron (search) to establish special insurance subsidiaries in the state.