Howard Dean: People Are Doubting Capitalism ‘Works’ for Them

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. (Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. (Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean delivered a stinging critique of modern day capitalism, warning that the economic system is “going to fail” unless substantial efforts are made to regulate the financial industry and reduce income inequality.

“Actually, capitalism works pretty well–until it doesn’t,” Mr. Dean said at New York Law School in Manhattan this afternoon. “Capitalism in this country [is] going to fail if there’s not a significant, substantial number of people who believe that capitalism works for them and people are beginning to doubt around the world and in this country whether capitalism works for them.”

Mr. Dean, a Democrat and former presidential contender, delivered his remarks at a New York Law School symposium called “Talking Income Inequality.” Members of the de Blasio administration had appeared on panels throughout the day and were present for his keynote address. Mayor Bill de Blasio himself–who Mr. Dean endorsed for mayor in 2013–traveled this week to Iowa and Nebraska to deliver speeches on a similar topic.

“I’m not here to lay out a scenario by where we should all become Central Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall,” Mr. Dean insisted. “I’m just stating a fact–I’m not an ideologue, I believe in facts.”

“I believe in capitalism. Capitalism has built this country but if enough people don’t benefit from the economic system we have, then the system will be discarded–whether we like it or not,” he continued. “Everybody wants the fewest rules possible and if you get rid of the rules, you end up suffering. Everybody ends up suffering. Even those at the top end up suffering.”

Mr. Dean said that “saving capitalism” required, in addition to more oversight of Wall Street, a robust labor movement, forgiving some (but not all) student loan debt and investing heavily in infrastructure. He championed public-private partnerships to rebuild roads and railways–and argued that the left should not vilify rich people who “do good things.”

Mr. Dean also broke from liberal orthodoxy on the issue of charter schools. He said burgeoning charter networks like Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter Schools are an asset in low income, minority areas, and he argued that some public schools aren’t adequate enough to educate these children.

Privately operated and publicly funded, charters schools are loudly opposed by teachers’ unions and many city elected officials who feel they exist to weaken the clout of organized labor and eventually privatize public education. Mr. de Blasio and Ms. Moskowitz have fought over the expansion of her network into more public school buildings.

Mr. Dean said there should be a truce between “the unions and all of the people on the left who are calling all the charter operators on left ‘corporatists’ and the corporatists who think the unions are the big problem.”

“The union is not the problem and the corporatists are not the problem,” he added. “The problem is that society is not willing to commit, not just the resources, but the intensity to fundamentally change education in the inner city.”

Howard Dean: People Are Doubting Capitalism ‘Works’ for Them