Been lagging on my Edwards blogging, here is some catchup:
First, Edwards announced a plan for the government to buy up drug patents and release them into the public domain (Kucinich introduced the Free Market Drug Act back in 2004). This is a brilliant idea and hopefully one which will gain more support after everyone’s seen SiCKO.
Second, Edwards visited the Googleplex and you can watch the discussion on YouTube.
Third, Edwards already gets kudos for having been the first to release a far-reaching plan for health care reform, now he has also released a “Plan to End Poverty in 30 Years.” Here are some of my favorite parts of the policy:
- Raise the Minimum Wage to at Least $7.50.
- Strengthen Labor Laws. Union workers earn 28 percent more than non-union workers, on average. Federal law promises workers the right to choose a union, but the law is poorly enforced, full of loopholes, and routinely violated by employers.
- expand the supply of affordable housing that is economically integrated with other communities.
- “Work Bonds” … a new tax credit to help low-income, working Americans save for the future.
- subsidizing bank accounts for working families and national rules to prevent abusive payday lending.
- Triple the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for Adults without Children. Working adults without children are the only Americans living in poverty who pay income and payroll taxes. … This proposal will give 4 million low income workers a tax cut averaging $750, lifting workers out of poverty and drawing more men into the workforce.
It doesn’t even matter if these are the best ways to lift people out of poverty or not (I left out some of his more Clintonesque proposals, which seem designed to placate critics), but it is great to see Edwards putting forward concrete proposals and raising the bar for the other Democratic candidates.
Finally, the NY Times Magazine had an in-depth profile of Edwards. Not unusual for the Times, it was weirdly nervous about Edwards’ populism, but it does say things like this:
Even Democrats who support other candidates admit, grudgingly, that Edwards’s proposals would very likely have some measurable impact on American poverty. The expansion of the earned-income tax credit alone, Democratic analysts say, would translate into a $750 annual windfall, on average, for about four million poor Americans. Social scientists say pilot projects along the lines of Edwards’s work bonds have lent credence to the idea that the working poor can successfully be encouraged to save some of their wages, as long as the process of setting up the account isn’t onerous.
But then, in typical fashion, the Times goes on to tell us that poverty won’t really be eradicated unless we teach people to be good mothers… The author seems to get Bourdieu backwards – the point isn’t to give the poor cultural capital but to make our institutions value the cultural capital that they do have.
The piece concludes with an important point, which is that Edwards’ poverty plan may be a hard sell to middle class voters:
He is most compelling about poverty when he’s talking about it as a national obligation — what he calls “the moral issue of our time.” But he also recognizes the need to persuasively connect it to the self-interest of middle-class voters. “For the majority of Americans, you have to convince them that it’s good for America and good for them,” he told me. “Which means it’s important to strengthening and growing the middle class. It’s important to the inequality issue. It’s important to America, and as a result important to them personally.” Edwards summarized his message to voters this way: “We’re all in this together. Do you love your country? We want everyone to have a chance.”
At times, he seems to fall back on the “vanishing middle class” idea, telling audiences that five million more Americans have already slipped into poverty during the Bush years. (Translation: You could be next.) But when we talked about it, he bluntly admitted that such a pitch probably doesn’t work. “They don’t feel that way,” he said, referring to middle-class voters. “I think there is a discomfort, but most people don’t accept the idea that they’re going to go backward.”
Which probably explains why Edwards is still trailing in the polls, but even if he doesn’t win the primary, I agree with Dean Baker that “he is having far more influence on the substance of this campaign than any other candidate.” Somehow he is able to say things Kucinich has been saying all along and make them sound respectable. Maybe its the haircut?