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Thursday, December 20, 2007

EDWARDS: Edwards Launches “Fighting For America’s Voice” Tour

December 20, 2007

Audrey Waters


On day one of the tour across Iowa, Edwards discusses his plans to make sure the voices of rural Americans are heard in Washington

Council Bluffs, Iowa – Today, Senator John Edwards is kicking off a three-day “Fighting for America’s Voice” tour by discussing his commitment to making sure the voices of rural Americans are heard in Washington. During the three-day tour across Iowa, Edwards will discuss his plans to stand up for America’s workers, children and families – the very people who don’t have a voice in Washington. Edwards has spent his life speaking out on behalf of hard-working Americans, and as president he will fight to make sure that the American people are heard in Washington, not the special interests.
“Rural America has been ignored for too long,” said Edwards. “I grew up in a small, rural town and I know firsthand the challenges facing America’s rural communities. It’s time we had a president who will speak out for rural Americans. As president, I will help small towns and rural communities create and keep new businesses, and make sure rural Americans have access to quality, affordable health care, good schools and the support systems they need.”
During the tour, Edwards will be joined by numerous people whose voices he has fought to make sure are heard. Today, Edwards will focus on rural policy and his fight to give a voice to rural America. As part of the day’s events, Edwards will be joined by James Lowe, a former coal miner from Wise County, Virginia, who could barely speak for 50 years because he didn’t have health care and couldn’t afford the operation he needed to fix his cleft palate. Edwards met Lowe at the site of a Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic during his “Road to One America” tour in July. It was at this free rural clinic, a year ago, that Lowe finally met with medical professionals willing to donate their time to perform the surgery he needed so he could finally speak.

Tomorrow in West Des Moines, Edwards will deliver a speech about how we can help our children and make sure they have the opportunity to realize the American Dream. He will be joined in West Des Moines by Sandy and David Lakey, and their daughter Valerie, whom Edwards represented as a lawyer after Valerie was injured as a result of a faulty swimming pool drain cover that the company knew was dangerous.

On the third day of the tour, Edwards will deliver remarks on how he will fight for American jobs, smart and safe trade, and a stronger economy. Edwards will be joined by Doug Bishop who, in September 2004, was among the first wave of employees who were laid off at the Maytag plant in Newton, Iowa. Later that month, he and his family met Edwards as Edwards was campaigning for the vice-presidency on the Democratic ticket. Edwards looked Doug’s seven year-old son square in the face and said, “I’m going to keep fighting for your Daddy’s job, I promise you that.” After eight months out of work, Doug found another job and is back on his feet, a leader in his community. But many other people in Newton haven't been so lucky – the Maytag plant is now closed for good. To preview Doug’s story, today the campaign is sending an email to supporters that features a video of Doug explaining why he thinks Edwards is the best candidate to make sure the voices for hard-working Americans are heard in Washington.
Edwards grew up in a small, rural town and is committed to making sure rural Americans have a voice in Washington. In April, Edwards became the first candidate to announce a plan to help Iowa’s rural communities with his comprehensive “Rural Recovery Act,” to restore economic fairness to rural America, create new jobs and businesses in rural communities, help struggling counties and towns and protect rural people and their way of life.

At the event today in Council Bluffs, the campaign is also announcing a new effort to reach out to rural Iowans – a new rural DVD. The campaign will be showing thousands of rural Iowans the new DVD, “John Edwards: For the Country,” that discusses Edwards’ plan to revitalize rural America and his experiences growing up in his small, rural hometown of Robbins, North Carolina. The DVD, which is narrated by former Congressman and Dukes of Hazzard star Ben “Cooter” Jones, includes interviews with Edwards’ parents, Bobbie and Wallace Edwards, rural strategist Dave “Mudcat” Saunders and music from Ralph Stanley II. Additionally, the campaign is launching a new rural website,, that Iowans can visit to learn more about Edwards’ plan to restore hope to rural America.

To learn more about Edwards’ plan for rural America, please see the attached fact sheet.


Restoring Hope to Rural America

Edwards Outlines Proposed Rural Recovery Act

Too often, the problems of rural America are forgotten by politicians living and working in far-off capital cities and undermined by corporate greed. Many rural areas are struggling: rural families earn 27 percent less than other families and 244 of the poorest 250 counties are rural. Rural manufacturing has been hit particularly hard by international trade, the offshoring of jobs and automation. Struggling family farms are another challenge for small towns. As young people move away to find opportunity, rural communities are turning into ghost towns. Over the 1990s, Iowa lost one-third of its college graduates and ranked number two in out-migration of single, college-educated youth nationwide. [Carsey Institute, 2006; Davis, 2003; Census Bureau, 2003]

As a native of a small rural town, John Edwards knows that America cannot turn its back on rural areas. Small towns and rural areas are the keepers of American values like family, work, community, and freedom. America depends on rural communities for a strong manufacturing base, reliable and affordable food, and increasingly for clean energy as well. To make sure they share in our prosperity, we must fight corporate greed and turn the tables on runaway economic disparity. Today, Edwards outlined initiatives to restore economic fairness and create new jobs and businesses in rural America, help struggling counties and towns, and protect the rural people and their way of life.


· Support Main Street Businesses and Invest Seed Money in the Rural Economy: Helping innovative small businesses is a promising approach to economic development, but only 1 percent of state economic development funds now support entrepreneurs. Edwards will create the Rural Economic Advancement Challenge (REACH) Fund to bring capital and management expertise to small town America. The REACH Fund will connect investors with rural entrepreneurs, organize businesses into networks to help them succeed together, and ensure that rural areas have access to the investment capital they need. [RUPRI, 2007]

· Creating the New Energy Economy in Rural America: Renewable sources of energy -- including ethanol, biodiesel, wind, and solar -- can make the U.S. independent of foreign oil, cut global warming pollution, and create new industries and hundreds of thousands of jobs in rural America. Edwards will create a New Economy Energy Fund – financed by pollution permits and an end to oil industry giveaways – will help develop new methods of producing and using corn and cellulosic ethanol, support loan guarantees to new refineries, and support making the renewable production tax credit permanent. It will also support locally-owned biorefineries with start-up capital, skills training to make sure the jobs go to local residents and investments in public-private research partnerships to develop ways to maximize America’s biofuel ouput while minimizing pollution, soil erosion, and water, land and energy use. He will also require oil companies to install biofuel pumps at 25 percent of their gas stations and require all new cars sold after 2010 to be “flex fuel” cars running on either gasoline or biofuel.

· Creating Fairness for Family Farmers: Edwards recognizes that the rules are stacked against family farmers. He supports the strict enforcement of laws against anticompetitive mergers, unfair pricing, and country-of-origin laws. He will enact a strong national ban on packer ownership to stop the spread of large corporate meat packers and create a national moratorium on the construction and expansion of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). To help family farmers he will also limit farm subsidies to $250,000 per person, close loopholes in payment limits, and expand conservation programs.

· Investing in Rural Broadband: Once a world leader in broadband access, the U.S. is now 21st in the world, trailing Estonia. Rural households are only about half as likely to have a broadband connection even though digital inclusion is one of the quickest and surest ways to attract businesses. Just as FDR’s rural electrification initiative brought power to every corner of the country, Edwards will set a national broadband policy with a goal of giving all U.S. homes, schools, and businesses access to real high-speed internet by 2010. Edwards will establish a national broadband map to identify gaps in availability, price, and speed and require telephone and cable companies not to discriminate against rural communities in building their broadband networks. [ITU, 2006; CWA, 2006; Pew, 2006]

· Prohibiting Banks from Discriminating against Rural America: Rural communities have fewer bank branches, fewer per-capita small business loans and more high-cost mortgages. Deregulation has led to bank consolidation while small towns rely on community banks to support local businesses. Edwards will strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act to prevent banks from discriminating against rural areas and increase investment in rural small businesses. He will also establish a strong national law against predatory mortgages common in many rural areas. [NCRC, 2007; Carsey Institute, 2006; Federal Reserve Board of St. Louis, 2004; SBA, 2004; Independent Community Bankers Association, 2006.]

· Fighting for Economic Fairness: Child poverty rates in rural areas are higher than urban rates for every racial and ethnic group. The highest child poverty rates are in the most isolated rural areas. To eliminate adult and childhood poverty nationwide within 30 years, Edwards will raise the minimum wage, cut taxes for low-wage workers, help workers save and invest, and expand affordable housing near good jobs and schools. [Carsey Institute, 2006]


· Guaranteeing Rural America the Funding It Needs and Is Entitled to: More than half of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $70 billion in rural development funds has actually gone to metropolitan regions, suburbs of midsize cities, and resort towns like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Edwards will rewrite these funding rules and get resources to the intended isolated and disadvantaged areas. Because many small towns lack the grant-writing capabilities of larger towns, Edwards will direct federal agencies to offer a simplified, one-page grant application for small grants to rural towns and counties, based on the successful COPS program. [Washington Post, 4/6/2007]

· Strengthening Rural Schools: Iowa’s rural schools don’t get their fair share of funding, and small rural schools often struggle to provide a complete curriculum and attract and retain excellent teachers. As president, Edwards will:

· Reward Rural Teachers: Iowa’s schools are facing teacher shortages in critical areas such as science and math. Rural schools have particular difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers. Edwards will raise pay for teachers in many successful rural schools by up to $15,000 a year and offer college scholarships for students who commit to teach in rural schools. He will also create a National Teacher University to train excellent teachers to serve in rural schools and other places they are needed most. [Iowa Department of Education, 2007]

· Break Down Educational Barriers: About one in seven rural students in Iowa receives special education services. The federal government’s failure to fulfill its obligation to special education and unique funding challenges facing rural schools mean that even a few students with significant special needs can force a rural school to make unbearable tradeoffs. This must change. Edwards will reverse the proposed Bush cuts to IDEA grants and get Washington on a path to fully funding its share of special education costs. [RSCT, 2005]

· Raise Graduation Rates: Rural teenagers are more likely than suburban teens to drop out of school and to be both out of school and out of work. Edwards will create multiple paths to graduation such as Second Chance schools for former dropouts and smaller alternative schools for at-risk students. He will keep at-risk students in school with the Striving Readers literacy program and one-on-one tutoring. [U.S. Department of Education, 2007]

· Support Education Technology: Distance learning through the Internet can bring the content of the world’s best universities, libraries, and museums to rural and remote areas. Software programs incorporating virtual reality, digital modeling, and intelligent one-on-one tutoring systems are proven to dramatically accelerate learning. Edwards will invest in cutting-edge research to integrate these new teaching tools and test them in rural America. [Digital Promise, 2003]

· Improving Rural Health Care: Over the past 25 years, 470 rural hospitals have closed. Iowa ranks 44th in the nation for physician-to-population. The Edwards plan for universal health care will cover the 7 million rural Americans that lack insurance and establish a nationwide network of safety net clinics and public hospitals. He will rewrite the unfair Medicare and Medicaid funding formulas that punish rural states and communities. He will also support investments in telemedicine to instantaneously connect distant specialists and advanced equipment with local doctors and patients, allowing better monitoring, chronic disease management, and emergency response. Health care is also an important source of economic development, creating jobs directly and attracting businesses and retirees. One study estimated that each doctor was worth more than eight jobs. [Winbush and Crichlow, 2005; Iowa Public Health, 2007; USDA, 1999; Wakefield, 2000; KFF, 2003]


· Ridding Rural America of Methamphetamines: Many areas of rural America are facing the devastating effects of meth abuse. It can be easily, quickly, and cheaply produced and is highly addictive. Edwards will invest in enforcing drug laws in rural areas, help states make meth ingredients more difficult to get, and expand programs that successfully treat addicts such as the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program for prisoners.

· Protecting the Tradition of Responsible Gun Ownership. Edwards hunted when he was young and grew up in rural areas where owning a gun was part of a way of life. He respects that way of life and the individual right to own firearms guaranteed by the Second Amendment. He believes that law-abiding citizens should be able to own firearms to protect themselves and their families, enjoy sport shooting and take part in the time-honored tradition of hunting. At the same time, we've all seen the terrible consequences when guns fall into the hands of criminals and those who could do harm to themselves and others. We can do two things at once: protect gun rights and promote gun safety.

· Expanding Access to Clean Water: Every household deserve clean, drinkable water and sanitation services, but more than 1.7 million Americans lack basic plumbing facilities. Rural households are four times more likely to lack proper plumbing than urban homes. Inadequate water and sanitation damage public health and impede economic development. Edwards will help local areas improve their infrastructure and tackle local pollution problems. He will also establish tough clean air and water requirements for concentrated animal feeding operations. [RCAP, undated]

Paid for by John Edwards for President.

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