Kerry's appeal to Howard Dean

Sen. John Kerry urges his rival presidential candidate to rethink tax cuts and Medicare, for the good of the country -- and the Democratic Party.

By Salon Staff

Published September 25, 2003 8:10PM (EDT)

Dear Governor Dean:

I am writing to ask you to change your position on two issues that are fundamental to our nation and the Democratic Party: middle-class tax relief and protecting Medicare. As you know, our party has a long history and tradition of supporting the nation's working families. Yet you have supported increasing taxes for the middle class and balancing the budget by cutting Medicare for seniors.

First, middle-class families are working harder to make ends meet. They are facing rising healthcare costs, higher college tuition and higher housing costs. A recent book by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi found that while two-income families are earning 75 percent more than single-earner counterparts a generation ago, they actually have less disposable income.

Despite the difficulties, your proposal adds a new burden to middle-class families by raising the child credit, reinstating the marriage penalty and raising the 10 percent bracket. The Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts wasted too many valuable resources on the wealthy and it is critical for our economy and our future that we repeal the tax break that went to the wealthiest Americans.

However, that does not mean we need to raise taxes for middle-class families who are working hard to raise their families. Your plan could cost a family with two kids $2,000 a year that could mean the difference between paying the heating bill, paying for day care or helping an elderly relative.

We need a plan to bring back the economic growth we enjoyed in the Clinton years and a plan, like President Clinton's, to cut the Bush deficit. But just bringing back the tax rates of the 1990s are not going to do that. Taking away the child tax credit does not mean families will find a better-paying job. Reinstating the marriage penalty will not bring back a pension fund or lower property taxes.

We owe it to our nation and to our party to offer ideas that restore the economy and help middle-class families. With real leadership we can provide healthcare, cut the deficit and preserve middle-class tax cuts that Democrats fought for.

Second, I urge you to reject your previous support of the 1995 Republican proposal to cut Medicare. The Republican plan to reduce Medicare growth to 7 percent was projected to cut $270 billion out of the Medicare program, meaning higher premiums and cuts to hospitals and nursing homes. And you said, I fully subscribe to the notion that we should reduce the Medicare growth rate from 10 percent to 7 percent, or less if possible.

Our seniors are extremely vulnerable and many are on fixed incomes. They cannot afford additional premiums or a weaker Medicare program. Democrats stood up against the Gingrich effort to slash Medicare. In fact, it was so fundamental to our values that Democrats were willing to shut down the government to save the program.

Medicare is not, as you have said, "one of the worst things that ever happened and a bureaucratic disaster and one of the worst federal programs ever." It is a lifeline for seniors and people with disabilities. It is a compact between generations and an American value.

I believe that it is critical that our party continue to stand for hardworking Americans. That is our history and our mission. Therefore, I hope you will reconsider your positions on these essential issues.


John Kerry

Salon Staff

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