Monday, February 27, 2006

Edwards Misses the Mark with War on Poverty Campaign

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please do some research before you go give a speech about how Edwards has missed the mark. Have you even heard/read Edwards' speeches about poverty? You point to a stupid article published a couple of days ago and make a judgment that somehow Edwards is missing the mark or is fighting a rhetorical war. Well, please consider the following resources to enlighten you:

This is a vide of his latest speech in Vermont which is more "big picture" than Kerry will ever get (do I sense bias in your perspective towards Edwards, if you are a true independent then I hope not): Edwards at DFA sponsored poverty conference in Vermont Watch it and tell me that this guy doesn't get the "big picture."

And, following are more speeches where he outlines his vision, policy ideas on poverty etc.:

Tax reform: Tax policy speech at New School University

His version of the State of the Union that he published on his blog and at The America we believe in

Looking at the problem of structural poverty: Structural Poverty and Katrina

Once again, I understand that being a Kerry supporter you would be so inclined to dismiss anyone else, however, research is often a good tool to make your argument valid.

Edwards is not fighting a rhetorical war. He has opened a college for everyone program in the poorest NC county where he is funding college education through a pilot program that he proposed in 03/04. And, he is doing a lot of other good work. Check out his website to find more: One America Committee

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The link to his website didn't work, here it is:

11:34 PM  
Blogger IFK Editor said...


I see you felt so strongly you couldn't even include your name.

In any event, I'm sure Edwards has some good plans to fight poverty, however I repeat my main critique: Making poverty your signature issue, while admirable, is not a realistic path to winning votes or preparing/protecting America for the uncertain future it may face with global competition for jobs, energy shortages, and global warming on the horizon.

By focusing on creating opportunities for people, with better health care and education, people stuck in lower economic levels can better themselves.

You also neglected to address any of my concerns about the real crisis looming which is global warming and the many catastrophic effects it could have on civilization as we know it.

Poverty is often a symptom of bigger problems: Overpopulation, bad governance, environmental degradation. You work to fix these and you go a long way toward improving people's lives.

If Edwards wanted to make 'sustainability' his main issue, I'd be more inclined to accept his agenda with open arms.

10:17 AM  

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