Thursday, December 28, 2006

Edwards enters the race

John Edwards is officially in the 2008 presidential race -- a day earlier than planned, after his staff prematurely launched his campaign Web site.

I voted for him in the 2004 primaries, as the best of a bad lot. He was green, but he was smart and articulate and I liked many of his policy proposals.

In 2008, though, the field will be tougher. So he'll have to up his game and demonstrate that he hasn't been standing still in the last four years. Otherwise his main credentials are his single Senate term -- not a big foundation to build a campaign on.

For now it looks like he's going to trot out his "Two Americas" theme again. But he hasn't been standing still. He's focused his antipoverty message through the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina, and has been lining up support among unions and other core Democratic constituencies.

He has some interesting ideas, like "Work Bonds" to encourage low-income workers to save money, "stepping stone" jobs to help welfare recipients earn work experience that will help them move up the pay scale, and push to get high-school dropouts back in school so they can earn diplomas.

He also has some standard social proposals, like universal health care and housing vouchers for poor families, for which the devil will be in the details.

Some strategists have suggested that his antipoverty message will seem dated, and won't play well among an electorate obsessed about Iraq. I disagree; while the war will be a major issue, a pure antiwar play isn't likely to be a winner. Even though there is widespread opposition to the war, and a growing sense that it was a mistake and badly botched in the bargain, there remains ambivalence about exactly how to get out, and when. Any candidate that calls for an immediate pullout will run into opposition (although by 2008, the scenario will be quite different). Further, any candidate that promises an immediate pullout must still answer the question of "Okay, you've pulled out of Iraq; what are you going to do for the rest of your term?"

So Edwards is being savvy by running against the grain. He has an Iraq plan, of course -- cutting forces by 40,000 immediately, followed by a gradual drawdown -- but by not focusing on it he distinguishes himself from the crowd that is focused on it. And that lets him keep presenting the upbeat, optimistic attitude that is one of his winning traits.

For now he's short on specifics on a lot of issues, but he's worth watching. He has clearly put a lot of thought and effort into planning the campaign; let's see where he takes it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow: nice picture you chose of Edwards. Looks like a model out of GQ!! I think this is the most he has going for him; his good looks. The "Two America's" theme will go nowhere, mainly because it doesn't exist. I think just about everyone knows that---but Edwards and perhaps Al Gore.


12/28/2006 9:44 PM  
Blogger Not Your Mama said...

The "Two America's" theme will go nowhere, mainly because it doesn't exist.

Thanks to folks like you the 2nd America has grown considerably. It just might win him the election.

Be careful, karma can really suck.

12/29/2006 3:43 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

JP5: There's plenty of evidence that the wealth gap has grown in the last 20 years. There are also plenty of reasons -- including the tax system, which has largely benefited wealthy taxpayers in recent decades, and outsourcing, which has most heavily affected the working poor.

One can argue whether it's government's job to change that. But if you believe it's not, then you need to demand that the government stop being part of the problem -- which it becomes by passing tax measures that disproportionately help the wealthy, providing federal subsidies and protectionist tariffs to favored industries, allowing below-market access to federal land for grazing, mining and timber interests, etc.

12/29/2006 10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, since the top 1% of income earners pay about 35% of federal income tax revenues collected, I'd hardly say it's overly "fair" to the rich. And since several million----what is it, six million----at the bottom don't pay anything, I'd hardly say it's overly unfair to them.

And the working poor are doing better than ever. This from a current WSJ article entitled, "The Wages of Growth," Dec 26, 2006:

"The latest reports on wages and income have been rolling in, and with them we can discount one more canard about the current economic expansion -- namely, that wages are stagnant and workers are doing far more poorly than they did in that second Age of Pericles known as the 1990s."

"Over the past year, the real average wage for non-supervisory employees has risen 2.8%. That equates to about a $1,200 increase in purchasing power for the typical household this year. Last year, real median household income was also up 1.1% after inflation."

"Contrary to popular myth, worker benefits have also been rising, not falling."

"The Labor Department measures employer pay packages and finds that fringe benefits paid to workers have risen 39% since 2000, or nearly twice the 22% rate of increase in nominal wages."

AND among the WSJ's recommendations to keep it going and make it even better:

"We certainly agree with those who'd like to do more to lift worker paychecks, so here are two ideas. First, make the Bush tax cuts permanent. If Congress lets them expire in 2010, as many Democrats are urging, the average family will suffer the equivalent of a $2,000 a year pay cut.

Second, slash the corporate income tax. A recent study for the American Enterprise Institute by economists Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur examined 72 nations over 22 years and found that "wages are significantly responsive to corporate taxation." In today's global economy, capital migrates across national borders away from high-tax nations to places where tax systems are less punitive. Workers suffer when capital flees, and job and wage growth slow."


12/29/2006 8:20 PM  
Blogger Not Your Mama said...

He was in Reno today, still waiting to hear how that went.

Interesting that he's kicking off his campaign here and not stupid. Someone on his team has probably figured out that if you can take Nevada you know you've taken the west.

The "two America's" strategy will play very, very well here. Particularly if he places emphasis on the "middle class" and doesn't over emphasize the "extremely poor".

A significant number of people in NV ARE extremely poor by national standards but they don't perceive themselves as being so, same could be said of most of the "western states". May seem like splitting hairs but just trust me on this one, eh?

12/30/2006 3:08 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

JP5: That stat leaves out the fact that the top 1% earn nearly 35% of the national taxable income, and that much of their revenue is not in the form of taxable income.

The WSJ article quotes "average" numbers, while ignoring the fact that the actual benefits are skewed heavily toward the wealthy. Real wages are finally rising after lagging for most of the recovery, during which corporate profits and income among the wealthy rose dramatically. Workers are supposed to be content with a percentage point or two gain in one year, while the wealthy have notched much higher annual gains in each of the past several years.

The fringe benefits "gain" is almost entirely attributable to the skyrocketing cost of health care. It doesn't represent an actual improvement in workers' situation. Especially when it was paired with higher premiums and increased out-of-pocket costs for employees.

12/30/2006 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, they EARN it!! Their tax rate is much higher too. And yes, the rich may very well have some tax-free interest income. Those are legal choices available to anyone. And they would be stupid not to take advantage of them.

I see a lot of the middle class out there in the malls, shopping and seemingly very happy! That's something you don't have in many other countries: a middle class. The U.S. has a huge middle class and they do quite well. I just can't understand why Democrats and liberals continue to complain as if we have it really bad in our country.


12/30/2006 9:41 PM  

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