Thursday, December 18, 2003

Howard Dean's vision for Families

Keeping the Promise of America: Creating a New Social Contract for America's Working Families

The following text as prepared was delivered by Governor Dean in New Hampshire at the Manchester Public Library this afternoon:

About two years ago, I began my campaign – as all candidates do – here in New Hampshire and out in Iowa meeting with small groups of voters to talk and to persuade, but mostly to listen. I ate with Iowans in their diners, gathered with families in their living rooms in New Hampshire, toured factories and farms, and spoke in town halls.

I engaged in one of the great traditions of American presidential politics – listening – really listening to the people at the heart of America.

I heard their hopes and their fears. They shared their concerns and their dreams.

And what I heard truly surprised me. A level of anger and despair I never imagined. About jobs. About working conditions. About making ends meet. About the stress of day-to-day life.

More than anything, I was surprised by the outrage of working Americans at the corporations that employ them and toward the government that serves them. They sense that neither their employers nor their government really care about their problems. That all that matters to business is the bottom line and all that matters to their elected representatives is re-election and collecting campaign contributions.

It became clear to me that there is a fundamental disconnect between the working people of America, corporate America and our government. The social contract that binds us has frayed and stands in desperate need of redefinition and repair.

More than two hundred years ago, the American people launched a new era of self-government. In the words of the Constitution, “we the people” committed to each other to “promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”.

These words created the promise of America – a pledge by a people to uphold the principles of justice and fairness.

At the heart of those principles was the promise of equal opportunity for all in the land of opportunity. The land where a person born with little can grow to great wealth. The land where the children of immigrants can rise to the highest offices.

I know from the families I’ve spoken to here in New Hampshire and out in Iowa that for too many Americans, the promise of America today is largely unfulfilled.

I believe that fulfilling that promise today requires a new social contract.

The starting point for this new social contract must be a fresh understanding of the way American families live today. A lifestyle that is far different from the family of even a few decades ago.

In 1960, one parent was at home in 70% of all families with children. Today, it’s just the opposite. 70% of today's families with children are headed by either two working parents or a single parent who works. And they’re working harder and longer.

Parents have 22 fewer hours a week outside of work to spend with their children than they did just 35 years ago.

Today’s economy is different as well. One quarter of all American workers are temporary employees, self-employed or part-time, employed in jobs with little security, often without health insurance or pensions.

Too many workers reach 45 or 50 years of age and find that the pension they counted on is greatly reduced or even gone for good.

The average family health insurance policy now costs about $670 a month. To put that in perspective, the average family of four spends $750 a month on its mortgage. The way things are going, the average family without employer-sponsored benefits will soon be paying more for health insurance than on the family home.

Families see their debts increase and wonder how they will pay for their children’s education or their own retirement. They know too well that a single tragedy – the loss of a job, a divorce or the illness of a parent – could spell the end of all their plans for the future.

At the start of a new century, as we shift from the industrial to the information age, it is once more time for “we the people” to form a more perfect union. It is time for us to spell out a new social contract – a fundamental renegotiation of the rights and responsibilities of the critical actors in the American economy: families, corporations and government.

The New Social Contract

Seventy years ago, the Democratic party of Franklin Roosevelt helped create a new Social Contract for American families. In the face of unprecedented economic hardship, FDR assured families certain basic freedoms. And he created Social Security and a range of programs to provide jobs and opportunity to those who earned them by working or raising children.

Today, it is time for a new vision for the Democratic Party and for a new Social Contract for America’s families.

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.

Republicans seek to dismantle the basic building blocks of our nation’s social contract with working families. They hope to privatize Social Security, dismantle Medicare, and to end public education.

Republicans claim to be helping average Americans with their tax cuts.

The Bush Tax

But let’s look at the facts. The average wage earner did get a few hundred dollars back. But the refund didn’t come for free.

President Bush never told you about the “Bush Tax”. He never mentioned that over the next six years the typical American family will take on $52,000 more in its share of the national debt. That’s a part of the “Bush Tax”. But there’s a lot more.

Take a look at your property taxes. They probably went up. In New Hampshire, property taxes went up an average of $270 per family last year. That’s part of the “Bush Tax”. Or look at your state budget. Is it in crisis? In most states, it is. That’s part of the “Bush Tax”, too.

Getting fewer services and paying more for things like state college tuitions or special education – that’s the consequence of the “Bush Tax”.

The “Bush Tax” is huge – many times greater than most people’s refunds. And it’ll be here for a long time to come. Just add the “Bush Tax” to all the other things the President never told us.

Some Democrats have accepted the Republican notion that the Social Contract cannot be preserved, let alone made stronger.

While Bill Clinton said that the era of big government is over, I believe we must enter a new era for the Democratic party – not one where we join Republicans and aim simply to limit the damage they inflict on working families.

I reject the notion that damage control must be our credo. I call now for a new era, in which we rewrite our Social Contract. We need to provide certain basic guarantees to all those who are working hard to fulfill the promise of America.

First, every American family must have access to affordable health care. The centerpiece of my campaign is a health care plan that gives every American the right to the same private health insurance that Members of Congress and federal employees have, at reasonable rates.

A refundable tax credit will help lower-income people afford the premiums. It’s health care that stays with you and goes with you, whether you work or not.

Second, every American family must have access to affordable quality child care. Right now, only one in seven working poor families do. American families have come to recognize that child care is no luxury item – but a necessity for parents who work and an enormous benefit to children who can start school ready to succeed.

The new Social Contract respects our responsibilities to care for our children. I propose that we make the investment necessary to fully fund Head Start, offer pre-K to every four year old, and expand other child care options to almost a million and a half more children. I call it Investing for Success.

Third, every American family must know that their child will be able to afford to go to college. The cost of college should not be an obstacle that prevents any child from working hard and finishing school.

The new Social Contract acknowledges our responsibility to educate our children. That’s why my College Commitment guarantees $10,000 a year in college financing for every student in a mix of grants and loans that depends on family finances. No one will ever pay more than 10 percent of their income after college to repay their loans. And every loan will be fully paid off after ten years. Those who give back to their communities – working as nurses, teachers, policemen for instance – will pay even less.

Fourth, every American family must know that their retirement will be secure. The Democratic agenda here must be broader than simply preserving the critical commitment of Social Security.

We must offer working Americans new incentives to save for the future. The Republicans and President Bush may be planning to propose yet more benefits to protect the income and savings of the wealthiest Americans. But I want to target workers and middle class families instead. I will soon propose a new savings program that will help millions of Americans save for their retirement.

Taken together, these are four new rights the Democratic Party must establish as its new social contract with the families of America.

But no contract comes solely with rights and without responsibilities. Each party to this new social contract must fulfill some basic responsibilities.

American citizens have a responsibility to participate in our country’s civic life. That duty starts with the vote. It continues in our neighborhoods and communities – through an ethic of service. That service is promoted through efforts like Americorps in which government provides incentives to serve for young people.

But more importantly, it is through places of worship, charitable organizations and schools at the community level – and on a voluntary basis. Helping neighbors when newborns come home from the hospital, participating in volunteer fire departments, pitching in when disaster strikes. When we lose that tradition, when we forget our responsibilities to each other, we endanger the promise of America.

Corporations too – as fundamental partners to the Social Contract – must recognize and fulfill certain basic responsibilities. And the new social contract must redefine the role of government in establishing appropriate limits for corporate behavior.

The American economy is, of course, the engine of our society, providing jobs and opportunity to American workers. But, today, economic power is concentrated in too few hands, and not very clean hands, at that.

The Boards of Director of too many corporations are governed by the buddy system; the compensation of some top executives could put 19th century Robber Barons to shame.

Economic power has too often become political power, corrupting the very process that is supposed to guarantee our rights. Corporate lobbyists outnumber the Congress many times over.

The new social contract must include stricter accountability for corporate behavior, and a return to a stronger role for government in protecting the public interest.

First, we need to prevent corporate misconduct with laws to make sure corporate boards of directors and auditors are independent of management. And we should reward whistleblowers who expose corporate wrongdoing.

The standards that are on the books must be backed up by regulations with teeth. The fines and penalties imposed for breaking the law must be equal to the potential financial gains. It is absurd that the penalty for promoting an illegal tax shelter worth millions is only $1,000.

We need sound, full and open accounting practices. We should expand the concept of “full disclosure” for corporations. Of course corporations must be held to the highest financial fiduciary standards. But beyond finances, why shouldn’t companies be accountable to investors and the public on other important matters, like environmental standards, and labor relations? Knowledge is power.

And it’s time to look behind the fiction that allows corporations to become “citizens” of places like Bermuda, and avoid paying income taxes on their foreign income. They are Bermuda citizens, yet they still get US corporate welfare, like special tax breaks, while Bermuda protects their directors and executives from liability under American law.

I want to restore protection in the marketplace for all Americans. The regulatory system must be free to work as designed. Our laws deserve to be enforced, and to be free of moneyed interests and their Washington lobbies. This is the only way to ensures opportunity and fair competition for our nation's entrepreneurs and honest business people.

Time after time, the Bush administration and their Republican cronies have removed important safeguards – in the environment, in energy, in finance and consumer protection.

They have rolled back the nation’s clean air standards to allow increased pollution from the oldest and dirtiest power plants. Blocked the investigation of 70 power plants suspected of violating clean air standards. Permitted logging in old-growth forests, but done little to protect homes from wildfires.

Under this administration, Enron took advantage of utility deregulation to rip off California before ripping off its employees and shareholders. Mutual fund companies are cheating their investors; mortgage and credit schemes are putting families deeper in debt; worker safety standards are being lowered.
Americans deserve better. It’s time for corporate America to clean up its act.
And an important step is ensuring that American workers are allowed to organize to protect their interests. Organized labor played a critical role in building the middle class of this country. Yet the Bush administration is doing all it can to make it harde, not easier, for workers to join unions today. Workers should be able to join unions if they freely choose to sign a union card. We need card check legislation, so that workers can organize without enduring coercive anti-union campaigns.

We need to protect the rights of employees to be paid overtime and defeat the outrageous attempt of President Bush and the Republicans in Congress to take overtime pay away from 8 million American workers.

And it’s time to recognize another reality of the 21st century – the fact that there are nearly as many working women as there are men.

The average woman starting out today will be paid half a million dollars less over the course of her lifetime than her male counterpart. That’s unfair and unacceptable. Closing the pay gap will be one of my top priorities as President.
Let me be clear: My program is pro-business and pro-jobs. It will help small businesses and emerging businesses. Entrepreneurs built America. They have always understood the promise of our nation, and seized the opportunity.
Small businesses create more jobs than big business. They’re part of our communities – they don’t move their headquarters or their jobs offshore. Fourteen million American women own small businesses – we must do more to help them grow and succeed.

Small businesses have the right to expect equal access to capital. I have proposed the creation of a major new financing tool for American small businesses, built on the model of the home mortgage finance system that has made our nation a leader in home ownership and the envy of the world.
Business also has the right to expect that government will help keep the nation’s economic engine focused on the future. This means investments for the future not only in our nation’s human capital, but also in the research, science and technology that builds a common base of knowledge for the future.
For instance, America should be a leader in developing and using alternative energy. It’s a major industry ready to take off – ready to create thousands of jobs and major sources of power. Whether it’s wind power, or solar energy, or hydropower, or other new technologies, all we need to do is open the market, take away the old subsidies and corporate welfare, and let them compete.


Taxes are what we pay to be Americans – to live in a democracy, to have opportunity, and to use the vast resources of America – the highways, the schools, the national parks, the internet, the medical centers and scientific breakthroughs of government research. No one likes the idea of payroll deductions or writing a check to the IRS, but the truth is our taxes are the membership fees we pay to belong to the world’s greatest society.
And that responsibility includes corporations. Two generations ago, American corporations carried 30-40% of the tax burden in this country. Twenty years ago, under Ronald Reagan, that number went down to less than 20 percent. Today, the corporate share is less than 10 percent, and individuals are shouldering over 90 percent of the tax burden for the country. That balance has to change.

The New Social Contract I am proposing will include fundamental tax reform to ensure that every wealthy American individual and corporation is paying their fair share of taxes – and that the tax burden on working families is reduced.
Not paying your fair share is equivalent to turning your back on being an American. And that’s what American companies that move to offshore shelters are doing. They’re avoiding $70 billion a year in taxes – enough money to bring a real tax cut to every family.

Better and fairer tax enforcement could collect another $30 billion a year from known tax cheats. Closing corporate loopholes and ending unnecessary tax subsidies would bring $100 billion into the US Treasury each year – money that the rest of us are paying today.

I want to get rid of the Bush tax program and repeal the “Bush Tax”. Let’s start over with a real tax reform plan to make the code fairer and simpler, based on a few simple principles:

• We must eliminate abusive tax shelters and crack down on corporate tax evaders.
• Corporations and inherited wealth should pay their fair share of taxes.
• Individuals and small businesses should spend less time dealing with taxes, and the tax code must be simplified.

Our government is the guarantor of the future of America. It is the repository of our trust, and the ultimate keeper of the promise of America.
If our government is to be there in the future – if it is to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”, we must be responsible stewards, not profligate spenders.

This administration has ignored that fundamental responsibility. It pretends that deficits don’t matter and that tomorrow will take care of itself. They have turned us from a beacon of financial strength to the world’s greatest debtor. Foreign investors now control our currency. We are running a credit card economy.
Balanced budgets matter. They lead to economic growth. Social progressives should be fiscal conservatives, because only fiscal responsibility guarantees that the American people will have the government they need when they truly need it.

Part of the New Social Contract will be controlling spending and bringing budgets into balance. I know it can be done. I did it eleven times as governor.
Building this New Social Contract won’t be easy. The interests that oppose change are deeply entrenched. They have built longstanding political relationships. Each hand has washed the other in the basin of Washington politics.

But in our nation, the people are sovereign, not the government. It is the people – not the media, or the financial system, or mega-corporations, or the two political parties – who have the power to create change.
The biggest lie that candidates like me tell people like you is, “Elect me, and I’ll solve all your problems”. The truth is -- you have the power to change this country.

You have the power to write a new social contract that keeps the promise of America.

And you have the power to take our country back and take back the White House in 2004.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Economic Recovery or Set Up for a 2004 Crash?

Is the economy coming back? The nightly business shows and commentators would have us all thinks so. Certainly the Bush administration is hoping so. Manufacturing is up. Growth is up. The DOW back up around 10,000.

But a little reading and research raises some questions.

Bear market rallies:
These types of rallies have four characteristics:
1. Low prices aren't that low
2. The hot stocks are the same type as during prior bubble
3. The upswing is sharp, speculative and persistent
4. Investor confidence bounces back.

Doing a little more online reading I found out that right now:
1. The low in September 2002 wasn't that much lower than the highs during the bubble.
2. The leading sectors are growth and tech stocks, same as during the bubble.
3. The rally has certainly been sharp and persistent. Speculative? Well apparently NASDAQ margin debt is at an all time high.
4. Newsletters are as confident as they were in 1999 while cash holdings are far below normal.

Looks like a sucker rally to me.

Some point out, however, that this rally has gone on much longer than other bear rallies. What's going on? Maybe this really is a recovery.

Well this is where it gets interesting. Apparently there is something called the presidential cycle, in which the administration stimulates the economy in year three so year four will be good. Since 1932 on average years 1 and 2 are down by 4 points, year 3 is up by 8 points, and year 4 is flat or up a tick. This administration has done a really good job of artificially stimulating the economy. So we're in the middle of Bear Market Bubble being propped up by year three of the presidential cycle. But historically the presidential cycle effect pretty much disappears by year four. Could we be looking at a spectacular "correction" sometime next summer or fall?

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Saddam's Capture

This is great news. I woke up this morning to this news on NPR. Actually I woke up to my son yelling, "It's snowing. It's snowing." But then I heard the news.

But the meaning of it is unclear. Now NPR is saying that some areas are celebrating while others are angry and resentful. Some experts are worrying about a counter attack. It doesn't sound like Saddam was in a bunker directing the attacks. And when his sons were killed that actually led to an increase in attacks. What a mess.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Hosting a Meetup

A million developments in the last few weeks.
I got a mysterious package from Burlington. Surprise! It was an autographed Dean baseball bat.
My son's birthday. My first experience with hosting a kid's birthday party.
My first shot at hosting a Meetup. Our regular host couldn't be there, so I volunteered to fill in. It was great. We had new people, heard some great stories and wrote a lot of letters.
Then the Al Gore endorsement. That was a happy day.
Then I sent out my first mailing. I wanted to make sure everyone who missed the Meetup got a copy of "Common Sense." I had to laugh at myself. All along I have been talking about how when you volunteer for a traditional campaign, they stick you in a corner stuffing envelopes. So here I was stuck at the dining room table, stuffing envelopes. But it felt great going to the post office with a box of envelopes to go out into the world.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Governor Dean Announces National Invest for Success

Early Childhood Initiative Gives Equal Opportunity To Every Child

Democratic presidential candidate Governor Howard Dean, M.D. joined today by national children’s advocate and film director Rob Reiner, announced his plan to give every child an equal opportunity to learn. Governor Dean toured the Des Moines MACC Child Care center before discussing his Invest for Success initiative.

"We like to think that every child starts kindergarten with the same opportunities, but the truth is, some kids have great preparation and others have nothing," said Dean. "By the time those kids start kindergarten, even the best teachers can't make up for 6 years when a child was never read to, or never taught the alphabet, or never even saw a doctor."

Governor Dean's plan, based on successful initiatives he created in Vermont, will provide all families with young children early access to health care, early education, and other supports critical to children’s health and working families. The Dean Invest for Success plan will double the current investment in early education so that parents will have the resources to be their child’s first teacher without having to struggle to pay for childcare or preschool. This $110 billion commitment over 10 years for community-based services will ensure all children start school ready to succeed at age six.

"The truth is that when we help parents who have young children, the benefits reach far beyond those families," Dean said. "Kids who start school ready to learn do better in every grade. They're more likely to graduate. They're more likely to go to college. They help build a strong workforce and a strong economy. In fact, every dollar we spend on childcare produces $7 down the road. So when we invest in helping parents raise smart kids, we’re really making an investment in our future."

In 1992, Governor Dean created the Vermont Success By Six initiative, which includes a Welcome Baby program. Community-based partnerships offer Welcome Baby Activities such as meeting new parents at the hospital or in their homes on a voluntary basis. These visits provide community partners with an early opportunity to share information about the local resources available to help families raise healthy, successful children. Since then, Vermont has seen a 43% decrease in child abuse, and a 70% decrease in sexual abuse of children.


Equal Opportunity for Every Child

This nation has not developed adequate options for the care of children, even though we know that investment in young children yields a return of seven dollars for every one dollar invested. While society has changed, our leaders have failed to provide adequate early care and education options for children of working parents.

The first six years of a child's life are critical for brain development and preparation for success. America's children are not starting kindergarten having had equal access to quality resources that will prepare them for school. By the time a child starts kindergarten, even the best teachers cannot make up for 6 years when a child was never read to or never taught the alphabet, or never saw a doctor.

We must help children in the early years, otherwise they will not reach their full potential, and our country will not reach its potential. For some children, what they miss before kindergarten can trap them for the rest of their lives. Now, we have an opportunity to make the most of the time that young children must spend away from their working parents.

National Invest for Success will address equal opportunity for every child.

Governor Howard Dean announced today that as part of a new social contract for the 21st century he would make a significant new investment in educating our next generation by creating a national Invest for Success initiative that will provide all families with young children early access to health care, early education, and other supports critical to children’s health and working families.

The Dean Invest for Success plan will double the current investment in early education so that parents will have the resources to be their child's first teacher without having to struggle to pay for childcare or preschool. This $110 billion commitment over 10 years for community-based services will ensure all children start school ready to succeed at age six.

The Dean plan to educate a generation is based on his success in Vermont.

In 1992, Governor Dean created the Vermont Success By Six initiative, which includes a Welcome Baby program. Community-based partnerships offer Welcome Baby Activities such as meeting new parents at the hospital or in their homes on a voluntary basis. These visits provide community partners with an early opportunity to share information about the local resources available to help families raise healthy, successful children. Since then, Vermont has seen a 43% decrease in child abuse, and a 70% decrease in sexual abuse of children.

Dean's Invest for Success gets kids ready to succeed in school.

Governor Dean's plan will expand his signature Vermont initiative, Welcome Baby Activities, to interested new parents in communities across the country, and make a significant down payment on universal preschool activities for all interested families.

To address the needs of children ages 0-6, the plan sets aside $2 billion over 10 years for Welcome Baby activities that will help parents during their child’s first year, and puts $108 billion in a Fund for Early Childhood which states can use to meet their largest early education needs.

These two components--targeted funds for the first year and a flexible, well-funded plan for children ages 0-5--together will provide parents the resources they need from the day their baby is born until they day that child enters kindergarten.

Welcome Baby Visits

The Welcome Baby Visit plan will make it possible to offer new parents information about community resources and services available to help them be their child’s first teacher.

In communities across the country, local partnerships of nonprofits, local government, health providers, and others will be able to apply for funding to support Invest for Success activities that incorporate Welcome Baby Visits. Qualifying partnerships will commit local funding and in-kind contributions to support the initiative. States can also provide the matching resources as part of a state plan to develop or expand Invest for Success initiatives.

States and communities will be expected to work closely with the non-profit community to build on existing networks to create partnerships that will sponsor the Welcome Baby Visits. The $200 million a year proposed for this initiative will provide matching money to communities to take on this challenge.

Fund for Early Childhood -- preparing children for lifelong success.

This new investment makes a very significant down payment on providing preschool options for every child.

This plan is effective because it:

• Makes a real financial commitment--It is no longer acceptable to cover half of our children that need help and call it a solution.
• Will give parents the resources the need--because parents are their child’s first teacher and the key to engaging young children.
• Is comprehensive. It will support parents at the three points in their child’s life when parents need it most: when they bring their newborn home, when they go to work and need high quality childcare, and when they want to put their children in pre-kindergarten.
• Protects children from falling behind beforethey reach kindergarten.
• Does not mandate one solution from Washington, D.C., but lets states focus on the most pressing needs facing their communities.

Using these guiding principles Governor Dean has developed an ambitious plan to transform how we treat early education in America.

Over the next 10 years, his plan will double the nation’s spending on early education.

That's enough money to:

• Double the number of children in Early Head Start,
• Fully-fund Head-Start,
• Offer child care for another 1.4 million children,
• Offer pre-kindergarten to every 4 year old.

The Dean plan means success.

Parents will finally get the support they need to be their child's first teacher.

Children will start kindergarten ready to succeed, and do better in life – regardless of their parents' income.

Not only will America have a strong workforce, we will live up to the promise that all children will have equal opportunity in America, and will restore America's community by giving every American a stake in the success of every child.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Sunday is for Pancakes: the best pancakes ever

My own recipe. After years of experimenting, my quest for the perfect pancakes has finally been achieved. Pancakes are either moist but a bit soggy and dense, or big and fluffy but kind of bready — until now.
The secret for pancakes that are moist, tender and fluffy is in the order in which the ingredients are combined.

2 cups of flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs, well beaten
3 cups buttermilk
1/4 tsp baking soda

Heat griddle to medium. Melt butter and set aside to cool slightly. Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Set aside. Beat two eggs until foamy. The secret step is to put baking soda in bottom of a medium bowl and add buttermilk to it, then beat a few stroke with a whisk. Add eggs to buttermilk and beat until combined. Add melted butter to buttermilk mixture and beat to combine. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture all at once and mix until combined, but don't over beat. I use a spoon first to fold in all of the flour mixture, then use the whisk to get rid of the big lumps. Batter will still have some small lumps. Pour by the 1/3 cupfuls onto hot griddle and cook until small bubbles start to appear, then flip and cook for another minute or so. Cover with real maple syrup and eat. Make 8-10 four inch pancakes.

Okay, this has nothing to do with electing Howard Dean president except that it is a good sign of good things to come. Plus it makes my family very happy so they don't mind all the time I spend writing letters and online working to get Dean elected. I do it all because I love them, and want the world they live in to have sane, rational leaders at the helm. But they also need pancakes. My family, not the leaders. Well maybe leaders need pancakes, too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Our Victory Day for Iowa

We had our Victory Day event and wrote plenty of letters. I wish someone could have taped our conversation.

One person was 69, a reformed Green who has had to return to work fulltime after seeing his retirement slashed by the Bush recession. Next to him was a college student who had just changed her registration from Republican to Democrat so she could vote for Dean. She has a weak immune system and is rightly worried about health insurance after graduation when she won't be covered by her parents anymore.

And then there was my husband, the cynical journalist, who wrote such a beautiful letter about being a dad and how Gov. Dean has given him hope for the first time. It made me cry. Those who think Dean is all about anger should read that letter.

Even my 3-year-old got into the act before his bedtime by insisting that he wanted to write his own letter to Howard Dean. I overheard him earlier telling the babysitter that he was going to vote for Howard Dean and expected the sitter to do likewise.

Writing these letters is a powerful affirmation of hope and commitment. I am coming to believe that the physical act of writing out these positive messages by hand over and over again is somehow powerful in and of itself. If you haven't already please sign-up for a Victory Day event for Saturday.

Here is the text of my husband's letter:

This isn’t a form letter from a campaign office. It’s a personal request from an ordinary Pennsylvanian and father of two small boys who’s concerned about the future of our country:

Please join me in supporting Howard Dean.

I’m 36, a lifelong registered Democrat, and never have been inspired by a candidate— until now. Dean has me excited about a campaign for the first time. Why? Because he’s the best choice to become our next president and help reverse the destructive path the current administration is taking this nation.

Simply put, Dean’s views make sense to me. He wants health care for all. He’s against saddling our grandchildren with a huge debt and squandering our resources on tax cuts for the rich. And he believes in being a world power that works with its allies instead of alienating them.

But sound ideas alone aren’t why I’m behind Dean. I’ve always been skeptical, even cynical, of past presidential candidates. They all droned on about "plans" for the future but rarely seemed to understand them, let alone believe in them.

Dean is different— passionate, direct, and motivated not out of political ambition or ego but by his concern the safety and welfare of all Americans. He’s not promising to be a savior; in fact, he’s quite clear about saying the real power of change lies with people like us. It’s a message that has already energized more than a half a million, including me.

That’s why I think Dean is going to oust Bush in the fall. He’s awakened not just anger, as some reports would have you believe, but real hope in a wide range of voters – from students to labor unions to people like my father, a Democrat and retired business professor who voted for Nader in 2000 in disgust. I look at Dean and picture a brighter future for my children. I see a country living up to its promise at home and abroad. I see better times for America— enough to take pen in hand and ask you to help Howard Dean help us all.

The rest of the letter is about going to Deanforamerica or calling the toll free number, voting in the caucus, and writing back.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Letter writing tonight

This evening, several local Dean supporters are coming over to eat apple pie and write letters to undecided voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. I am so eager to see new polls from Iowa. Maybe if I sent them some pie. It's an old old family recipe, with crisp yet tender, flakey melt in your mouth crust — the way pie should be. I so much want to go New Hampshire and go door to door with my boys and ask people to please vote for Howard Dean.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Kids are the future

My toddler will be two at the end of the year. Right now I understand less than half of what he says, but it's getting clearer all the time. Yesterday he came up to me, put his little hand on my arm and said clear as day, "Howard Dean." He said it with conviction, with certainty.

My three year old has added George Bush's name to the list of bullies at his school. He even told his cousins that George Bush had bit him on the leg. We were off to the store this weekend, and I was putting on my Dean button. He insisted that he needed a Dean button, too. As I was strapping him into his car seat, he announced, " Mommy, I'm going to vote for Howard Dean. Who are you going to vote for?"

Monday, November 10, 2003

Democratic Party or Fox Survival Show

Letter sent to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Election watchers last week witnessed a fascinating media made cannibalism
show called, "When Democrats eat their own."

Presidential candidate, Howard Dean made a poignant remark about poor white
people being racially manipulated to vote Republican against their economic
interests. But it wasn't the Republicans, African Americans or Dixiecrats
who threw the hissy fit. It was liberal language control freaks.

Dean's mistake? He used the apparently banned term "Confederate Flag."
Democratic opponents fell all over themselves to score political correctness
points while pundits editorialized Dean's meaning beyond recognition. The
liberal anti-offensiveness disease became so epidemic that even some Dean
supporters asked for an apology.

Did I miss something? Has the Democratic Primary suddenly become a Fox
survival show where the PC police think they decide who gets voted off the
"electable" island? Now I know why seasoned politicians like Al Gore sound
so robotic. They have learned to pass language through the "offensiveness
checker" in their "conflict avoidance brain software" before they dare

As a standup, Truman-like, give 'em Hell doctor Democrat, Dean has the
potential to become the greatest populist politician of his generation if
the language sensitivity gurus would just leave him alone.

As more people TUNE IN, they are increasingly TURNED ON by Howard Dean¹s
courage, honesty and directness. We can only hope it¹s the PC
perfectionists who end up DROPPING OUT.

Common Sense Mom

Sunday, November 09, 2003

The real story behind Howard Dean's Confederate Flag Flap.

I've been so busy with Mom stuff and Dean stuff, but I just read a powerful letter written by another mom on the official blog. CommonSenseMom writes about Dean and the Confederate Flag comment lamenting that the Democrats are more willing to sacrifice on their own on the altar of Political Correctness than do what is best for the party and the country. I want to take her analysis one step further, taking my inspiration from Cythnia Tucker's insight into the character of one of the lead actor's in the drama — John Kerry.

Here's what really happened:
For months Howard Dean has been saying: I intend to talk about race during this election in the South, because the Republicans have been talking about it since 1968 in order to divide us, and I'm going to bring us together, because you know what, white folks in the South who drive pick ups with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us and not them because their kids don't have health insurance and their kids need better schools too. This is the quote that started all the trouble. Seems pretty clear that Dean is attacking the insidious use of racism by the GOP. In fact this was a big applause line in Dean’s stump speech, even in front of African American crowds.

All was well until the SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, was on the verge of endorsing Dean. The prior week stories ran in the press about Kerry, Gephardt, and Edwards conspiring to stop the endorsement.

Then Jesse Jackson Jr. endorsed Dean. In steps Al Sharpton who has his own history of using race to cause discord and division. Sharpton has long seen himself as the heir to Jesse Jackson Sr. His run for the presidency is supposed to emulate Jackson’s run in 1988, which elevated Jackson to the unofficial but very powerful position of national leader for African Americans. Sharpton also has a long simmering feud with Jackson, probably having something to do with the fact that Jackson isn’t ready to give up his leadership role, and certainly not to Sharpton.

Enter Jesse Jackson Jr. who endorses Dean thus denying to Sharpton the mantle of undisputed leader. The son of the man he is aiming to replace has endorsed his rival, a white man. So Sharpton reverts to form and attacks Dean as having an "anti-black agenda."

In defending himself against this attack and one by Kerry on gun control, Dean cites the line from his speech about pick-ups with Confederate flag. Kerry, Gephardt, and Edwards seize the remark and with feigned PC liberal outrage go for the jugular, hoping that by playing the race card themselves they can stop the ethnically diverse SEIU from endorsing Dean.

Not only does the SEIU endorse Dean, but AFSCME also decides to endorse Dean. Furthermore, a number of prominent African Americans come to Dean’s defense, including Constance Rice and Cythnia Tucker, as well as Paul Krugman, economic columnist at the New York Times.

Who is the real leader here? Howard Dean is the first politician to talk honestly to the American people about how racism is used to keep both blacks and whites in poverty? And what do the egomaniacs competing with him do? They lie, twist and distort this important message that everyone needs to hear.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Parent-Teacher conference this morning

Remember to print up a couple of position papers on education and early childhood, and invite the teacher and the director to Meetup.

I finally watched Trippi's message to the Nov. Meetup. We have so much work to do. Time to get all of those who say they like Dean to get active. We have to just assume that Dean is going to be the nominee and start thinking in terms of the beating Bush. Because Bush and Rove are raising so much money. With no opponent and a very late convention, things are going to get ugly once the primaries are over.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Sick, sick, sick

What happens when you send your child off to school? He or she gets sick. Then you get sick. But since you're a mom, you don't get enough rest, so it turns into bronchitis or worse. Thankfully we have health insurance through my husband's job. My mother finally convinced me to drag myself to a doctor. 20 minutes later I was picking up a prescription for an overpriced antibiotic.

But what about the single mom who works as a home-health care worker and then part-time at Walmart. She never gets enough hours to qualify for benefits, but she makes too much to qualify for Medicaid. She can't take time off to get rest and get well because she'll lose her job. So she drags around feeling miserable getting sicker and sicker until it turns into pneumonia. Or not. Maybe she just stays sick.

Then someone like my stepdad comes into the store. A year ago he had a lung transplant. Today the anti-rejection medications he takes mean he has no immune system to fight off the slightest cold. And every cold turns into pneumonia and an extended hospital stay with more overpriced drugs.

Her kids go to school sick because she can't take time off to stay home with them. Then my kids play with her kids, and they get sick. When they are sick they can't see their grandfather. All of the agony and discomfort and stress of the transplant was so he could have a few more years to get to know his grandsons. Instead they are bundled up on the couch sipping juice and watching movies.

Then three-year-old's cold has also turned into bronchitis. He HATES the medicine. And it was expensive, too. Even with health insurance, our co-pay on prescriptions has almost tripled. The employee portion of the premiums deducted from my husband's paycheck has more than doubled, consuming his entire annual raise and then some.

The health care system in this country is a mess. It is killing people. Howard Dean knows this. He's been on the front line of this battle. As a doctor he's seen first hand how inadequate the system is. The crisis in health care isn't just another vote getting issue to him. Dr. Dean will give us answers and solutions.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Then Life intervenes

Sometimes being a Mom means that family has to come first. The weekend was dominated by a visit to grandma's house. Monday was parents' night at my son's school. This morning was my first meeting of the grant writing committee for his school.

At the committee meeting we talked about importance of the first six years in a child's life, and how an investment in children at that age has major payoffs all throughout the school years and beyond. Yet in many cases preschool teachers are paid less than people who work in fast food. Talk about messed up priorities. It just drove to me again how desperately this country needs a really advocate for children in the White House — not someone who uses children to further political ambition. I know that Howard Dean will do whatever it takes to make access to health care universal for all children.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Debate last night.

We don't have cable, so I listened to the debate on while reading the commentary on the official Dean blog and on Gov. Dean statement about not just changing presidents but changing America really hit home for me.

Judy Woodruff was an atrocious moderate. Asking a question direct from the spinmeisters in Kerry's camp was pure slime, reflecting poorly on both Woodruff and Kerry.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Time for a little gardening

I wrote my monthly garden column, then had to take a break. The boys gave me their cold. Why are these kid colds always so much worse when mom gets them?

Reading through my column, I detect subtle ways that this campaign has begun to permeate everything in my life. For example: Weeding in the spring is just beginning the battle. Summer weeding is a never-ending war. But weeding now means victory is in sight. If I can get all those greedy, tricky, tenacious, unwelcome residents out in the next week or so, the falling leaves will form a thick mulch and keep my soil safe until spring. Hmmm....weeds or Bushes? You make the call.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Success by Six on Official Blog

I come downstair after getting my boys to sleep for their naps — they're both sick with colds and coughs — and turn on the computer to start my garden column. Instead great news. Howard Dean outlines his proposal to make Success by Six national. Thank you Gov.Dean

Please sign up for Moms4Dean. Please visit is coming together. The page explaining Vermont's Success by Six program went up last night. It's the Children link, under Dr. Dean's picture. What do you think?

Take a minute now and join the Moms4Dean yahoo group, so we can stay in touch, and we can let each other know about issues and developments important to moms and dads and aunts, uncles, grandparents, pediatricians, day-care providers, preschool teachers, and anyone who puts the health and well being of children before money and power.

This is all I can do for today. After a trip to the grocery store, we're all going to the park. Today is also the day I have to write my gardening column.

Dean and Malpractice

I posted a comment about Dean and medical malpractice on the official blog. Then I got some emails asking me to share Dean's statement. Here it is.

Here it is in a nutshell:
Vermont now has one of the lowest medical malpractice rates in the country. We protect the rights of patients, but our doctors do not face the crisis of rising insurance costs that confront doctors elsewhere.

Why is malpractice important to moms? Five little letters: ob/gyn. They can't afford the lawsuits. They are losing their malpractice insurance. They are quitting the profession. What are we supposed to do? C-section rates are rising again as doctors refuse to take risks. This is a horrible situation for doctors, moms and babies. It's becoming a crisis, especially in rural America. If the Democratic party nominates someone other than Howard Dean, someone who's campaign money has come from the pockets of trial lawyers, I foresee a vicious ad campaign next fall scaring people that they are going to lose their doctors if a "pawn of the trial lawyers is elected."

Dr. Dean explains his position:
As a physician, I understand the concerns doctors have with medical malpractice system. Faced with rapidly increasing insurance premiums, doctors are avoiding certain specialties, and many are leaving the medical profession altogether. This isn't good for patients or for the American health care system generally.

But access to the courts is a fundamental civil right for all Americans, and many patients receive compensation for their injuries through the justice system.

We need a medical malpractice system that works for both doctors and patients. Patients and their families should have recourse to legal remedies if they suffer injuries and are wronged. Doctors shouldn't be run out of business by soaring premiums or spend countless hours defending frivolous lawsuits.

The position page on Dean for America linked above lists some of the solutions to this crisis, but my favorite, typical of Dr. Dean's commonsense approach, is:
The Institute of Medicine found that thousands of patients die each year due to medical errors, many of which reflect system-wide problems instead of individual negligence. To reduce errors, we need to move from a culture of blame to a culture of safety in which the health care system learns from its mistakes. Reporting systems have had great success in the aviation industry. They can improve health care outcomes as well.

The burgeoning malpractice crisis is potentially far more dangerous and will cost many more lives than the threat of international terrorism. But it's not going to be an issue with the Democrats funded by trial lawyers or with Bush, whose campaign coffers are swollen is insurance company money.

Monday, October 06, 2003 is up and running

It's simple. It's rough. But is open and ready for business. is an information site — a place where anyone who cares about kids can go an get a solid introduction to Dr. Dean and his record on health care, education and child welfare. Moms4Dean, the yahoo group, is more for staying in touch, organizing, and building outreach. Please give me feedback so I can make these sites as useful as possible.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

New Yahoo Group: Moms for Dean

My husband took the boys to the park this morning so I could set up Moms4Dean. Please join. I am not sure what is the best medium for organizing yet, and I certainly don't want to get too spread out. But the faster we can grow our movement of moms, the more we can reach out, and the sooner I can call the New York Times and tell them that the women of this country want a doctor in the White House.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Let's Get Organized

Moms in my neighborhood are busy, but they are also eager to find out more about Dean. I am going to start hosting "Mom meetings" on either Tuesday mornings or Sunday afternoons. Any ideas?

Who I am and why I support Howard Dean

I'm Michele Gray, a 43 year old stay-at-home mom in Central Pennsylvania. I have two boys, Ted who is 3 and John Michael who is 21 months.

I also write a monthly garden column for the local paper. I have never donated to a political candidate before. I have never done anything like this before. Usually I don't even vote. Six months ago I didn't even know what a blog was. Now I'm doing my own because I believe Howard Dean is the best choice for President of the United States. From where I sit, he is the only choice.

Howard Dean doesn't just promise us yet another "plan" to fix the health insurance system in this country. He's actually done it in Vermont. His innovative Success-by-Six program slashed child abuse rates. As a governor he understands first hand that schools can't effectively teach our kids when they are saddled with trying to meet unfunded federal programs.

The other candidates running understand only too well how to make speeches, propose programs, and pander to interest groups and constituencies. But they don't know about the fear of a mother with a really sick child in the middle of the night debating whether or not to go to the hospital because her insurance might not cover it or else she doesn't have insurance at all. Dr. Dean knows, and he's proven that he will do something about it.

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Here is the part of the Times story where I come in, but read the whole article. It's excellent. Glen Justice really gets it.

From the New York Times:
The Dean fund-raising network has attracted people like Michele Gray, a stay-at-home mother from central Pennsylvania who went from supporter to solicitor in just a matter of months.

Impressed by a Dean speech, she became a regular on his Web site and started to contribute. She has now donated the maximum $2,000 to the campaign and she is asking the people around her to give what they can. She held a fund-raiser in her home, tracks contributions on a Web page provided by the campaign and has brought at least $5,025 into Dr. Dean's coffers.

"My $2,000 counts as much as George Soros's $2,000 or Ken Lay's $2,000," Ms. Gray said. "I may be just a mom in Pennsylvania, but I can be just as much a participant. That makes me feel powerful. That makes me feel like I'm participating in this country again."

Many of the campaign's efforts are focused on providing tools, such as software that helps plan a fund-raiser, or individual Web pages that help track contributions. Perhaps the most important is the Web log, or "blog," which allows supporters to communicate instantly with the campaign staff and each other. It offers a steady stream of information from the campaign and a nonstop chain of feedback from supporters.

Together with "the bat," a red baseball player graphic on the Web site that provides updated fund-raising numbers, it forms the heart of a system that takes supporters as close to Dr. Dean's organization as an outsider can get.

"It makes it fun," said Ms. Gray, who has been in touch with supporters from Hawaii to Alaska. "It really does feel like a community."

Supporters on the blog chatter obsessively about the numbers on the bat, challenge each other to give more and share thoughts on how their candidate is faring. The campaign often gets involved, challenging supporters to meet a fund-raising goal. It was in just such a challenge that Ms. Gray gave her first $100.

My First Blog Entry

I'm a grassroots mom supporting Howard Dean for President. Thursday I was quoted in the New York Times — not a letter to the editor, but several paragraphs in a big story about Howard Dean's third quarter fund raising. I received at least a hundred emails from all over America. Thanks to everyone who wrote me.

As a result, I'm going to try to keep a public record of my journey in this campaign. I am new to blogging so hang in there with me.

Let's go.