Both candidates are critical of George Bush's tax cuts, though they differ on alternatives. Edwards wants to repeal only those tax cuts that go to the wealthiest, retaining some cuts aimed at the middle class. Dean has argued that middle-income citizens have not benefited from the Bush tax cuts because of increases in the cost of health-care, college tuition and other expenses. He wants a total repeal of the Bush tax cuts so that money can be invested in education, health care and social service programs.
On trade issues, Dean wants to use the current Free Trade of the Americas negotiations to push for stronger labor and environmental standards. On the campaign trail, he says the United States shouldn't accept any new trade pacts before it fixes the ones it already has. Dean also supports more funding for tougher enforcement of existing trade regulations.
Edwards wants to create "economic revitalization zones" to give companies incentives to locate in areas of the U.S. that have been hurt by foreign trade. He also backs stronger labor and environmental standards in trade agreements, and wants to give a 10 percent tax cut to corporations that agree to keep their plants in the United States.
Rejecting the kind of sweeping reforms that Bill Clinton proposed in 1993, both candidates want to build on the existing health-care system to see that more people are insured. Dean stresses his experience in Vermont, where coverage for both adults and children was greatly expanded. He would spend $922 billion over 10 years to extend existing children's health insurance programs to cover adults and families at rates subsidized by the government. Edwards' plan would cost $590 billion over 10 years and would expand coverage mainly through tax credits. Edwards also wants to require parents to enroll their kids in either private or government insurance plans. Both candidates have proposed helping small businesses pay for employee health coverage.
Dean has criticized Bush's "No Child Left Behind" education act because it ties funding to performance standards he says don't make sense. Edwards, who voted for the law, now says it has failed to improve public education. Dean would use money freed up by repealing the Bush tax cuts to pay for more school construction, special education and early childhood education programs. On the campaign trail, Edwards emphasizes his proposals for higher teacher pay, and free first-year college tuition for students who perform public service.
The War in Iraq
Edwards voted for the Bush Administration's request to wage the war, then against a later bill funding the ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq. He also voted for the USA Patriot Act, which curtails some civil liberties. In the post-invasion period, Edwards has criticized the Bush Administration for failing to enlist international allies in rebuilding Iraq, and for not having a better game plan for U.S. involvement there. Dean, though he had no vote on the matter, spoke out early against the U.S. invasion because he says Iraq posed no imminent threat, and because the Bush Administration made false arguments about the links between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. Dean also favors international and U.N. involvement in Iraq so that the U.S. military presence can be reduced.