By Jim Witkins
First let me say I like and respect John Edwards. When Kerry chose him as his running mate in 2004 I was cautiously optimistic and all things considered thought he was the best choice at that time, because after all he had a strong showing in the primaries finishing second behind Kerry in most states. It had the makings of a great ticket and it seemed Kerry was honoring the will of the democratic primary voters too. Edwards had a positive message for working class Americans and his down home style and upbeat sunny delivery was a good compliment to Kerry's more serious, statesman like demeanor.
In hindsight though, perhaps Kerry would have been better off going
with a more experienced security wonk with beefier credentials on foreign
policy and national security policy, however no use looking back now.
The point of this post though concerns fighting poverty
, Edwards' new
cause de jour since the 2004 election results left him without a job.
While I am, of course, in favor of reducing poverty in the US and abroad,
and I am sympathetic to those who live below or near the poverty line,
especially single parents, I can't help but wonder if Edwards is fighting a
rhetorical fight that can't be won. By attempting to fight 'poverty' a broad
and wide ranging term, isn't he setting himself up for failure, similar to how
the Bush's administration has failed to win its war on 'terror'.Concrete Solutions Not Empty Rhetoric
Fighting 'poverty' is certainly an admirable goal, however with US
budget realities being what they are, wouldn't it be smarter to promote
concrete solutions toward lifting up those people who seek to improve their
situation, rather than casting a wide net to fight poverty as a whole,
whatever that means exactly.
For instance, Kerry has invested considerable resources and thought in
devising a realistic health care plan for all children under 18, the Kids Come First Act
that would go a long way toward making sure kids, regardless of family income, are healthy. Healthy kids are more successful kids, period, and the benefits to the parents are enormous as well, among them less stress and financial burden.
Combine that idea with better funding for early education, public schools,
and increases to federal pell grants which would give more kids an
opportunity to afford to go to college and you'll go a long way to lifting people out of poverty in the US.
On a global scale, the US would show real leadership and help to rebuild its damaged credibility around the world by fully funding its commitment to the United Nations' Millennium Goals
which have concrete targets for helping lift people out of extreme poverty, along with many other health and security initiatives.
Yes, fighting poverty is noble, but there are so many demands for tax dollars at
the moment that you have to do it in a realistic way that gets you the most
bang for your buck. That's not to say people shouldn't donate and give their own time to help those less fortunate (THEY SHOULD), but lets be real about how much the US tax payers can accomplish.Avoiding a Global Poverty Catastrophe
Finally, I fear that if global warming is the looming crisis that most
scientists now believe it is, the US government needs to make clean alternative energy options a reality, and in a hurry, or the ranks of those in poverty
will most likely swell to catastrophic levels in the US and globally if certain doomsday scenarios
play out in the coming decades. Imagine if more coastal cities begin to flood regularly due to rising sea levels and storm surges similar to what we witnessed with Katrina. How can the American way of life, whether you're in poverty or not, continue if millions of people are continually being displaced by natural disasters or forced to fight for control over resources, like water, fertile land, or energy sources.
It sounds too scary to be real, but most scientists believe that to avoid such a disaster, the US Government needs to prioritize scientific research and development for a new Apollo Project
immediately while drastically curbing our carbon emissions in the near future.
I give Edwards credit for making poverty an issue, but I think he needs to offer more concrete workable solutions and think bigger picture.