May 28, 2024

John Edwards’ 4 Steps

Edwards, running a reasonable 3rd in the Democratic primary polls, today published a 4 step program to a healthier America in the Boston Globe.  But would following his recipe really make America a better place to live?

The first thing we need to do is create more jobs and make sure those jobs pay enough for people to get ahead. As president, I will end the failed NAFTA trade model and pursue a trade policy that ends tax loopholes for companies that send American jobs overseas. I will also invest in renewable sources of energy to create new industries and good-paying jobs. I will make sure work pays by raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, and I will build career ladders to help low-wage workers move into better jobs. I will put the government back on the side of working people by strengthening organized labor. And finally, I will reform our tax code to make sure that the people who need tax breaks – our middle-class families – are the ones getting them.

So Edwards is in favor of protecting American jobs by creating barriers to free trade…  That’s denying the reality of the world – the pressure to trade with countries who operate on a lower cost basis is a natural phenomenon; attempts to artificially stop this trade will inevitably fail.

As for the minimum wage, it’s bad enough the way it is, let alone raising it more than 40%.  Employers don’t pay a given wage to shaft workers, they pay it because $X/hr is a close approximation of candidates’ willingness to work and the value they provide in return.  Skills are the answer to low wages, not federal mandates, and it’s easy to get them in this country – if one wants to.

The second thing we need to do is give families the tools to build a secure financial future. In today’s economy, people cannot rely on their employers for their long-term retirement security, so as president I will create Universal Retirement Accounts that can be taken from job to job. To respond to the mortgage crisis, I will pass a tough new national law to prevent predatory lending abuses, and I will rein in credit card and other abusive lending practices by creating a new consumer watchdog agency.

Is Edwards saying he’d like to have a privatized supplement to Social Security?  If so, then I’m all for what he’s planning.  If not then it’s just more hot air.  Most Americans already have access to 401k plans and IRAs that can transcend employment and we have little need of another government program to do the same thing.

The third thing we need to do is remove the burdens that weigh families down. We need to help people balance their work and home lives by making sure that workplace policies keep up with changes in the economy. As president, I will expand early-education programs, provide paid leave and sick leave to all workers, and expand job protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act. I will also expand opportunities to attend college through my “College for Everyone” program.

“I will expand” pretty much says it all.  Every one of these expansions has to be paid for by tax dollars, so it seems obvious that Edwards is a proponent of higher taxes.  He claims that the middle class will benefit from his tax policies and no Democrat can dare approach a “less progressive” tax structure with a 10 foot pole.  Clearly he’s for soaking the rich, a popular but ultimately self-defeating tactic.

The fourth thing we need to do is create universal healthcare in America. Not only are healthcare costs putting a huge strain on American families and our competitiveness in the global economy, but our broken healthcare system that leaves 47 million Americans without healthcare is also a moral disgrace. I have proposed a healthcare plan that calls for shared responsibility among people, businesses, and the government, and will ensure that every man, woman, and child in America has access to affordable, quality coverage.

Likewise, no details on how this would be paid for.  Costs, it’s safe to assume, are not about to go down in any time soon; therefore, any expansion of coverage to people unable to pay for their own care must require distribution of those costs to the rest of us.

At some level this is a good thing.  Edwards is right in saying that every American ought to have easy access to quality basic medical care.

Taken to a higher level, American health care is often about denying reality, which is that everyone has to die eventually.  There have to be limits what a public health care system can cover. 

For instance, how would Edwards’ proposed system handle a case like that of Nataline Sarkisyan?  In perfect world Nataline would have never been ill; in a better one than this she would have received the medical care her family wanted.

But would it have made a difference?  And who should be responsible for the enormous cost burden?  And whose lives would be adversely impacted by directing such a large amount of health care dollars her way?

These questions should be asked of any candidate who is campaigning with the universal care plank in his or her platform for, if done wrong, the entitlements generated by such a plan – indeed, all of the plans Edwards discussed today – could adversely impact the economy as a whole.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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