SECOND GUESSING: The Case FOR John Edwards

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BY LOREN R. DORGAN OF THE CONCORD MONITOR John Edwards says if he’s elected president, he’ll institute a New Deal-like suite of programs to fight poverty and stem growing wealth disparity. To do it, he said, he’ll ask many Americans to make sacrifices, like paying higher taxes.

Edwards, a former Democratic senator from North Carolina, says the federal government should underwrite universal pre-kindergarten, create matching savings accounts for low-income people, mandate a minimum wage of $9.50 and provide a million new Section 8 housing vouchers for the poor. He also pledged to start a government-funded public higher education program called “College for Everyone.”

“It is central to what I want to do as president to do something about economic inequality. I do not believe it is okay for the United States of America to have 37 million people living in poverty,” he said in a meeting with Monitor reporters and editors this week. “And I think we need, desperately need, a president who will say that to America and call on Americans to show their character.”

At every stop, Edwards said, he tells voters he’ll ask them to sacrifice. Asked to describe what he means, he described his plan for increases in capital gains taxes, saying taxes on “wealth income” should be in line with those on work income.

“I think if we want to fund the things that I think are important to share in prosperity, then people who have done well in this country, including me, have more of a responsibility to give back,” he said. Later, he added: “There are no free meals.”

Like other Democrats, Edwards named his top three priorities as ending the war in Iraq, enacting universal health care and overhauling the American energy system. “Those are three things instantly I would do,” he said. MORE

[JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photo]

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