“Our economy is getting stronger. It may not be going fast enough, but by every measure our economy is getting stronger.” That is according to Howard Dean, former National Democratic Committee chairman and one of the more sober and – I dare say – conservative leaders of his party when it comes to fiscal matters. When he campaigned to become the party's candidate for president in 2004, he was especially forceful on the budget deficit and one had the feeling that unlike all his opponents and the man in the White House against whom he wanted to run, Dean actually meant it.

This, perhaps, comes from an awareness of Dean's record as governor of Vermont where he was constantly butting heads with the legislative element of his own party over spending and taxing. Dean was the voice of frugality and restraint. The legislators loved to spend. He was quick with a veto and didn't mince words.

On the national scene, Dean has not changed either his views or his temperament. During the televised debate with Senator Pat Toomey, Dean said, “Nobody's talking about solving the deficit problem in any serious way in Washington ...”

Then added, “that's what the fiscal cliff is for.”

"Fiscal cliff" is charming Washington imagery for what will happen next January if what are called the "Bush tax cuts" are allowed to expire, as they are currently on track to do. When tax cuts "expire," what citizens experience is ... a tax increase. And what an economy in distress experiences is something akin to falling off a cliff To which Mr. Dean says, bring it on.

"If you think Democrats are going to agree to cuts in Medicare and Social Security while millionaires are getting big huge tax breaks, that's insane. Everybody's going to have to put some skin in this game. This deficit was caused by all of us, and we're all going to have to put something in the pot to fix this, and that includes tax increases and spending [cuts]."

But it won't be so bad, Mr. Dean argued. Maybe we will endure a small recession. But there is no alternative and anyway, Dean said, departing from his customary sobriety, the economy is getting stronger.

Really? Really?

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