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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

EDWARDS: On Day Two Of Graniteroots Tour, Edwards Outlines Middle Class Rising Agenda

December 19, 2007

Audrey Waters


Joined by Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, Edwards discusses his bold vision to help all hard-working families achieve the American Dream

Manchester, New Hampshire – On the second day of his Graniteroots trip with special guests Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, Senator John Edwards outlined his bold vision to lift up middle-class families and make sure that all Americans have a fair shot at the American Dream. Today, Raitt and Browne performed at town hall meetings in Portsmouth and Manchester before Edwards took the stage to discuss his Middle Class Rising agenda. Edwards’ plan will help build One America where the middle class prospers and all hard-working Americans can find good jobs, save for the future, and have guaranteed health care and retirement security.

“I take it very personally when I see powerful, well-financed interests taking over this democracy, and taking it away from regular Americans,” Edwards said. “We’ve got to stand right and reclaim our democracy to make absolutely certain that America rises again.

“Every time that we stand up for 135,000 people in New Hampshire who have no health care coverage, America rises. Every time we speak up for the 85,000 Granite Staters living in poverty, America rises. When we make sure that a high school graduate in rural New Hampshire knows that college is in the cards for them, and that they'll be able to find a good job in their community, America rises.

“And I’ll tell you this,” Edwards continued. “You can feel the New Hampshire voters rising up right now and giving voice to all those in this country who deserve a voice – for the poor, for the disenfranchised, for the working middle class in America. That’s what this election is about.”

To help the middle class rise again, Edwards' Middle Class Rising agenda will:

Create good jobs: Edwards will invest in renewable sources of energy to create new industries and at least 1 million new, good-paying jobs. He will pursue a trade policy that ends tax loopholes for companies that send American jobs overseas, and end the NAFTA trade model. Edwards will also raise the minimum wage, reform our tax code, build career ladders, and strengthen organized labor.

Give middle-class families the tools to build a secure financial future: Edwards will create Universal Retirement Accounts that people can take with them from job to job, and to respond to the mortgage crisis, he will pass a tough new national law to prevent predatory lending abuses. Edwards will also reign in credit card and other abusive lending practices by creating a new consumer watchdog agency.

Remove the burdens that are weighing families down: Edwards will help families afford rising home heating costs, make sure that college is affordable for everyone, so that every child can have a fair shot at the American Dream, help people balance their work and home lives by making sure that workplace policies are keeping up with changes in the economy, through expanding early education programs, providing paid leave, including sick leave, to all workers, and expanding job protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Create universal health care in America: Edwards' top domestic priority will be making sure that every man, woman and child in America is covered with high-quality care.

For more information please see Edwards’ Middle Class Rising agenda included below.


Middle Class Rising: A Plan to Strengthen America’s Middle Class

The social compact with the middle class is under siege because big corporations and special interests have taken over Washington. That compact says that if you work hard and do what’s right, you’ll get some security and the chance to build a better life for yourself and your family. But today, middle class families are not rising, and the gap between the haves and everyone else has grown wider than at any time since the great Depression.

The American middle class is struggling. Wages are stagnant even though the economy is growing, while the cost of middle-class essentials like health care and child care continues to grow. The basic American bargain is breaking down.

· Our economy is growing only at the top: Forty percent of economic growth over the past 20 years went to the top 1 percent of households. Income inequality is at its highest since the Great Depression. [EPI, 2006; CBPP, 2007]

· Families are working longer hours, but finding it harder to get by: Families work 10 more hours a week than they did 20 years ago. But middle-class incomes have stagnated for the past seven years. [DOL, 2007]

· Higher costs for the basics: Costs for middle-class essentials – including housing, health care, college, child care and transportation – have all outpaced wage growth. A child born in 2003 will cost middle-class families 15 percent more to raise than a child born in 1960, after adjusting for inflation. [Draut, 2005; USDA, 2003]

· Powerful corporate interests have taken control of our government: The number of Washington lobbyists has tripled to 36,000 since 1996, more than 60 for every member of Congress. Their impact can be seen across our society: a broken health care system, reliance on old sources of energy, the neglect of poverty, unfair terms of credit, and subsidies for corporate agribusiness. [Senate Office of Public Records, 2006]

· Losing hope for the American dream: More Americans are worried that the next generation will face fewer economic opportunities and less security and mobility. Only 30 percent of Americans think life will be better for the next generation. [Pew, 2006]

Today, John Edwards outlined his Middle Class Rising plan to restore the American dream and meet the moral test passed by 20 generations before us: to leave a better future to our children than we inherited. We must strengthen America’s middle class to make sure that all Americans have a fair shot at the American Dream.

Create Good Jobs that Pay Enough to Support a Family

· Invest in the Industries of the Future: Renewable sources of energy – including ethanol, biodiesel, wind and solar – can create new industries and at least 1 million new jobs. Edwards will establish the New Energy Economy Fund to jumpstart renewable energies with start-up capital and train over 150,000 workers for Green Collar jobs. He will also invest in other sources of innovation such as life sciences, technology and private-sector research.

· Enact Smarter Trade Policies: Iowa has seen the results of unfair trade – losing more than 17,000 jobs in the last six years due to growing trading deficits with China. Trade deals need to make sense for American workers, not just corporations. Edwards will reject NAFTA-style trade deals and make sure any new trade agreements include strong labor and environmental standards and will vigorously enforce American workers' rights in existing agreements. He will also expand trade adjustment assistance to do much more for the workers and communities that are hurt by global competition. [EPI, 2007]

· Eliminate Tax Incentives to Move Offshore: The U.S. tax code encourages multinational corporations to invest overseas by allowing them to indefinitely defer taxation on their foreign profits. In practice, this means that multinational companies pay little or no tax on their foreign profits. Edwards will eliminate the benefit of deferral in low-tax countries, ensuring that American companies’ profits are taxed when earned at either the U.S. rate or a comparable foreign rate, to eliminate any incentive to move overseas.

· Make Work Pay by Raising the Minimum Wage: Under Gov. Culver, Iowa has been a leader in raising the minimum wage. But even at its 2008 level of $7.25, the earnings of a single parent with two children will still be $2,000 below the federal poverty line. Edwards will set a national goal of a minimum wage that equals half the average wage. He will raise the minimum wage by 75 cents a year until it reaches $9.50 in 2012 and then set it to rise automatically with average wages, ensuring that all workers share in America’s growth. [HHS, 2007]

· Reform the Tax Code to Reward Work, Not Wealth: As a result of President Bush’s regressive tax policies, the share of the federal tax burden borne by taxpayers in the middle and fourth quintiles is increasing while the share of taxes paid by the top 1 percent fell. Edwards will overhaul the tax code with new tax breaks to strengthen the middle-class pillars of saving, work, and family. He will also ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes by raising the tax rate on capital gains to 28 percent for the most fortunate taxpayers and repealing the Bush income tax cuts for individuals making more than $200,000 a year. [Tax Policy Center, 2006]

· Build Career Ladders: Two of the fields with the largest predicted job growth – health care and education –have both low-end and high-end positions and offer the potential for mobility. Edwards will invest in career ladders in these and other fields, helping low-wage workers to train on the job, gain new skills, and move into better jobs. For example, health care aides could become certified nurse assistants and registered nurses.

· Strengthen Workers’ Right to Organize: Union families earn up to 30 percent more than non-union families, but union membership has fallen from 30 percent of private-sector workers in 1973 to just 8 percent today. The right to choose a union is poorly enforced, full of loopholes, and routinely violated by employers. Edwards will enact the Employee Free Choice Act, vigorously enforce labor laws, and ban the use of permanent replacements for striking workers. [BLS, 2007; Census Bureau, 2007]

Give Americans the Tools to Build a Secure Retirement

· Create Universal Retirement Accounts that Move from Job to Job: Only 27 percent of households within 20 years of retirement have adequate retirement savings. Americans who retire with a pension have nearly twice the annual income of those who depend only on Social Security and personal savings, but too few middle-class families are able to start saving. Edwards will create a new universal retirement account available to all workers without another pension. Workers will be able to build up these savings accounts over the course of their careers, regardless of how many times they change jobs. Edwards will match worker contributions up to dollar-for-dollar on the first $500 with a new Get Ahead tax credit, far more valuable than the 10 percent or 15 percent tax deduction that many workers get today on retirement savings. [EPI, 2006; PRC, 2007; Gale, Gruber and Orszag, 2006]

· End the Housing Crisis: Edwards has proposed a comprehensive plan to lead us out of the foreclosure crisis and help families keep their homes, without bailing out irresponsible investors and speculators. He will go further than the Bush-Paulson plan to give every family an opportunity to renegotiate the terms of their mortgage, with counseling and small amounts of aid from a new Home Rescue Fund. He will also let families adjust the terms of their mortgages in bankruptcy, like investors can on their second homes and investment properties. Edwards will prevent future crises by passing a strong national law against predatory lending and creating a new federal regulator for financial services products.

· Rein in Credit Card and Other Abusive Lending: Half of Americans say they live paycheck to paycheck – meaning millions of families rely on short-term credit just to pay the bills. Middle-class families are facing a radically transformed credit environment because interest rates were deregulated in 1978, which has led to looser lending standards and higher rates and fees. Edwards will require minimum protections on credit cards, such as restoring a 10-day grace before late fees and applying interest rate increases to future balances only. He will also create a new consumer watchdog agency – the Family Savings and Credit Commission – whose sole purpose will be to crack down on these kinds of predatory practices. [[MetLife, 2003; Draut, 2006]

Remove the Burdens that Are Weighing Families Down

· Make College More Affordable: The three-quarters of Iowa’s graduating college students who have debt owe $23,700, on average -- 25 percent more debt than the national average. Roughly one in five young adults reports that student debt caused them to delay starting a family and forced them to change careers. Edwards will create a national College for Everyone initiative to pay public-college tuition, fees and books for students who work part-time, take a college-prep curriculum in high school, and stay out of trouble. [TICAS, 2007; Nellie Mae, 2003]

· Offer Universal Preschool and Expand Affordable Child Care: More than two-thirds of mothers are working, most of them full time, but our workplace practices and public policies have not kept up with this new reality. Child care costs more than a rent for a family with two children. Edwards will create a Great Promise early childhood education program for every four-year-old. For younger children, he will more than double the child care tax credit and create a national Smart Start initiative to work with local nonprofits to make child care higher quality, more available, and more affordable. [BLS, 2005; NACCRRA, 2006]

· Create Paid Family and Medical Leave: Edwards will create a $2 billion National Family Trust to offer paid family and medical leave benefits to all workers by 2014, and he will make the federal government a model employer with a generous paid leave benefit. He will also expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover 13 million more workers by reducing the threshold for exemption for the law from 50 workers to 25 workers and help long-term part-time workers. In addition, Edwards will require businesses to offer their workers seven paid sick days a year, with pro-rated leave for part-timers.

· Help Families with Rising Home Heating Costs: John Edwards has championed the need to take on big oil and gas companies to halt global warming and build a new energy economy based on efficiency and renewable energy. Edwards has called on Congress to release some of the nation’s home heating and oil reserves to bring down prices and finally fully fund the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which could help more than 3 million more families. He has also proposed more than doubling assistance for weatherization programs and called on neighbors to help weatherize the homes of vulnerable seniors this winter. Finally, he has proposed helping states and non-profits offer low- or no-interest emergency loans so that squeezed families do not fall prey to high-cost lenders.

Guarantee True Universal Health Care

· Guarantee True Universal Health Care: Forty-seven million Americans live without health insurance. Edwards will take on the big insurance and drug companies and guarantee true universal health care for every man, woman and child in America. Employers will have to help cover their employees, the government will make insurance affordable with new reforms and subsidies, and all Americans will have insurance. His plan offers every American the option of a public plan that could evolve to a single payer system. [Census Bureau, 2007]

· Deliver Better Care at Lower Cost: Health care costs have consistently grown faster than wages for almost 50 years. Over the past five years alone, families have seen premiums grow by 90 percent while benefits have been cut. Edwards will take on the insurance and drug companies to cut needless waste in the health care system. He will also take much needed common-sense steps such as emphasizing preventive and primary care, requiring electronic medical records, and identifying and publicizing the most cost-effective treatments. Together these steps will save the average family $2,000 to 2,500 a year. [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2006]

Paid for by John Edwards for President.

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