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Edwards Speech Text: 'Two Americas' (class warfare)(Dec 2003) ^ | Dec. 29, 2003 | John Edwards

Posted on 07/06/2004 11:20:16 AM PDT by QQQQQ

Remarks of Senator John Edwards Des Moines, Iowa Monday, December 29, 2003 As Prepared It is an honor to be here at Creative Visions. Since 1996, your doors have been open to thousands of young people in need of a safe and caring place. Whether it's an after-school program, a job training class, or a Sunday night meal at the drop in for homeless young people, the work that you do every day is nothing short of heroic.

This is the time of year when we remember what matters to us: our family and loved ones, and the hope we all have for a better new year. For Democrats - and for all Americans who work hard and deserve a better life -- we have three more days until the clock strikes midnight and the calendar year changes to our year 2004! I know we all thought that it would never come, but here it is just days away.

Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel? Can you see the ending of the Bush Presidency and a new beginning for America? Can you see that in a few short months, once again America will no longer work for just a privileged few, but for all of us? Can you see that bright future for all of us because I sure can!

Last week, I visited my 99th county in Iowa, and the people of Iowa have been extraordinary. They have welcomed me into their homes, along their Main Streets, and in their schools. I have been listening to them over the course of the last year. They're worried about their country, and they want America to change course.

In a few weeks, George Bush will make his State of the Union Address -- and let this one be his last. According to press reports, White House aides are desperately searching for a vision -- and that one of the leading ideas is to propose that America go back to the moon. Well, I'm all for the space program, but Mr. President, if you're looking for a vision, it's time to solve the middle-class problems you've forgotten here on earth.

This President has done a lot of damage in the last four years, and he'll do a lot worse if we let him have four more. More American jobs getting shipped overseas. More seniors who can't afford the prescription drugs they need. More young people getting into trouble because there's no safe place for them to go after school.

We have 21 days until caucus night. The people of Iowa have had enough of George W. Bush. In three weeks, Iowa has a chance to prevent four more years!

Just like the work you do here at Creative Visions, I believe the 2004 election is about hope. It is about changing America to build the country we all believe in. This contest has been going on so long, it's easy for some to forget how much is at stake. Too often, politicians forget this isn't about how we're doing; it's about how you're doing. Too often, when politicians don't have faith in their ideas to confront the tough issues, they attack. That's why you have seen attack ads on Iraq. Attack ads on Medicare. Attack ads about attack ads.

Today, I want to talk about what really matters. Something much bigger, more disturbing, and more important is at stake. Four years ago, George Bush came here to Iowa as a candidate and promised to be a uniter, not a divider. But four years later, we are divided, not united.

Today, under George W. Bush, there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America that will do anything to leave its children a better life, another America that never has to do a thing because its children are already set for life. One America -- middle-class America - whose needs Washington has long forgotten, another America - narrow-interest America - whose every wish is Washington's command. One America that is struggling to get by, another America that can buy anything it wants, even a Congress and a President.

2004 is a make-or-break election because we need to create one America again. And that is the one thing George Bush will never do. Dividing us into two Americas - one privileged, the other burdened - has been his agenda all along. Just look what he wants to do to our tax code. From the beginning, this President has had one solitary goal: to shift the tax burden away from the wealth of the most fortunate and onto the work of the middle class. He wants to cut the capital gains tax, eliminate the dividends tax and the estate tax, and create new tax shelters for millionaires' stocks that are bigger than most people's salaries. By the time he's done, the only people who pay taxes in America will be the millions of middle-class and poor Americans who do all the work.

That's wrong. It's wrong for a millionaire who sits by the pool on the phone to his broker to pay tax at a lower rate than the cop on the beat or the waitress working two shifts.

What's more, by dividing us into two Americas, George Bush is hurting our economy, cheating our future, and undermining our very way of life. The engine of our economy is not that guy sitting by the pool. It is millions of guys and gals in factories, fields, and offices across America who go to work every day trying to do right by their families. When we invest in those Americans, our middle-class grows, and our whole economy grows. That is the simple truth George Bush will never understand.

Look at what has happened to the middle class over the last 4 years of George Bush. In this state alone, since George Bush took office, 22,000 Iowans lost their health care, 23,000 Iowans lost good paying manufacturing jobs, 59,000 Iowans fell into poverty, and the number of people filing for bankruptcy increased by more than 50 percent. 12,000 Iowans filed for bankruptcy last year, most of them men and women who lost their job or who suffered a medical emergency. Their backs were breaking, but they could no longer make ends meet.

Middle-class families have gone from being able to save for retirement or buy a house, to now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. These aren't poor Americans; they're the working middle-class. And they are terrified that if something goes wrong-a lost job or a health care disaster-they're just one bad break away from falling off the cliff. For these families, the American dream of building something better is being replaced by the hope of just getting by.

If the current trend continues, one out of seven middle-class families with children will go bankrupt by the end of the decade. Think about what it means that 1 in 7 middle-class families could go bankrupt by the end of this decade. It means the middle-class-the foundation of our country-is sinking. Increasingly we are divided between those who live by the 1st and the 15th every month and those who don't ever look at the calendar when they write a check.

You don't have to take my word for it. Listen to the largest corporation in America, Wal-Mart. The New York Times reported the other day that Wal-Mart's own figures show that sales go up around the 1st and 15th of every month. Across America, millions are literally living from one paycheck to the next.

Of course, it would help if Wal-Mart paid its own workers higher wages, instead of driving down the pay scale for everybody. But in George Bush's Two Americas, workers don't matter. Only owners matter.

Next month, George Bush will roll out yet another set of new tax breaks for the wealth of the wealthy, to be paid for down the road by the children of the middle class. The President has a new name for this: he calls it the ownership society. After four years, we know what George Bush means by an ownership society: an America where those who own the most get the most, while those who work hardest own less and owe more.

We cannot go on as two nations, one favored, the other forgotten. It is wrong to reward those who don't have to work at the expense of those who do. If we want America to be a growing, thriving democracy, with the greatest work ethic and the strongest middle class on earth, we must choose a different path.

As President, I will put the government, the economy, and the tax code back in line with our values. No more tax breaks for corporations that move their headquarters overseas or buy life insurance on janitors and make themselves the beneficiaries. No more tax breaks for CEOs who give themselves millions in top-hat pensions while giving no pensions at all to ordinary workers. No more playing games with the budget and driving up deficits. And no more of the Bush administration's war on work. When I'm President, we'll be one America, not two.

I have a plan to make America work for all of us, by creating 5 million new jobs in my first two years, making health care a birthright for every child just like public education, reforming Washington to end the dirty politics as usual, saving Medicare, and securing our world from terror and weapons of mass destruction. But most important, I'll give every American the chance to build their future again. Under my plan, every American will have the chance to be an owner - to buy a home, save for college, or put money aside for a secure retirement. The ownership society should look like American society, not George Bush's secret society.

First, we'll give struggling families a chance to realize the American dream, with a $5,000 tax credit toward the down payment on their first home. There is no better way to build a strong, secure nest egg, and get ahead for the long haul than owning a home.

I was the first member in my family to go to college and it was a big deal. But today, hundreds of thousands of young people-who are qualified to go to college-give up on their education because they believe that they can't pay for it. So second, I want to make college affordable with my College for Everyone plan. For those young people who are willing to work 10 hours a week and can get into a university-you'll go tuition free for the first year. And I will increase funding for Pell grants and financial aid so you can stay in school.

Third, we need to reward family. We can start by offering a family leave newborn child tax credit of up to $2,500. This will give new parents some financial help so that they can spend the time they need to start life with their new son or daughter. This benefit would help more than 120,000 Iowans and give those families the peace of mind to take off work or pay for other expenses.

Fourth, when the time comes for Americans to retire, I want to help families who can't afford to put money away now by giving them a helping hand, a match of up to $1 for every $1 they save. A waitress who starts putting away a few dollars each week at age 25 could retire with $250,000 on top of other savings. And I'll help families invest in the stock market by lowering capital gains and dividend rates for the middle class.

Finally, while we offer tax cuts to help families save, we also need to take on the big financial interests that eat away at families' savings. Predatory mortgage lenders and irresponsible payday lenders and credit card companies are robbing families blind with their outrageous fees and penalties. When I am President, we'll pass tough laws to stop them.

I believe we need to ease the burdens on the middle class. And for the life of me, I can't understand why some other candidates in this race want to raise taxes on work and make life harder for the middle class. We know that President Bush's tax cuts did not do enough for working people. But our answer cannot be to raise taxes on the people who make the least, especially families with children.

We cannot say to an average family of four in Iowa, your taxes are going up by more than $1,700. To the average elementary school teacher here who is supporting two kids alone, your taxes are going up by $1,500. To an electrician and a nurse's aide who together make $40,000 and have no kids, your taxes are going up by almost $1,000.

These are men and women whose backs are already breaking. They are hungry for us to lead in a way that helps them get ahead and pulls our whole country forward. That money means a lot to them Means they can buy clothes for their kids. Means the mortgage payments are made. Means the bills get paid.

Now, we do need to roll back President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent. And I believe we need to go further and raise the tax rate on the unearned wealth of the top 1 percent, so they don't pay any less than the middle class. But my plan restores fiscal discipline by asking more from those who have the most, not those who need help the most.

I am proud that one of the Democrats' core values is to protect working families. This is a value I will never abandon. It is at the heart of what makes America the best place on earth: where individuals can take a great idea, mix it with ingenuity, might and muscle, and build a future and a country better than the one we found.

I have benefited from this middle-class dream because I have lived in the shining light of America. My life has been blessed with extraordinary success. My story should not be an exception-it should occur every single day and these opportunities should be available to every American.

These steps I proposed would change America. They would not only strengthen our middle class; they would strengthen our economy. You see, I have a much different economic vision than this President. I believe the backbone of the American economy is the hard work, determination, and ingenuity of the middle class, not the insiders. I believe the way to grow the economy is to grow and strengthen the middle class, not shrink its size and add to its burdens. I believe the way a rich nation gets richer is by giving all its citizens the chance to get richer, not by only helping those like me who've already succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. I believe the way to create new wealth is by rewarding work and responsibility, not coddling the privileged and going soft on executives, accountants, and analysts who squander other people's money.

We cannot let that handful of big corporations and insiders keep us from making the middle-class stronger. And I want to say this as directly as I know how to say it. Some people have said, now wait a minute Senator Edwards, you haven't been in Washington that long. You haven't spent your whole life in politics. How do we know you'll take them on? Because I spent more time than anybody in this race fighting these powerful interests.

I've been fighting this fight my whole life. For 20 years, I have sat in courtrooms across from these people. I have been an advocate for families and their children against armies of lawyers. I've won most of those battles. In the Senate, I fought for the Patients' Bill of Rights, against big HMOs, against big insurance companies. I fought to bring down prescription drug costs for every American, against big drug companies. I fought to do something about drug company advertising on TV when others weren't willing to do it. I fought to create energy independence in this country. I have been fighting this fight all my life, and will fight harder as President.

And together, we can build the America of our dreams. Standing here at Creative Visions is a lasting reminder of how great things happen all across this country. When you combine an advocate like Ako Abdul Samad, an idea, and the hope to improve people's lives-this country-there are no limits to what we can accomplish.

Throughout our history, whenever America became a place that was divisive and divided along economic or racial boundaries, we all suffered. And whenever we worked hard to lift up everyone and close our great divides, we prospered.

For every man and woman who is worried about paying their bills; for every child who needs health care and a strong school to go to, and for every American who waits for the 1st and the 15th of every month-together we will end this era of anxiety. We will replace the crass politics of greed and the current politics of rage with a new politics of opportunity.

We are all angry at what George Bush has done to our country, our values, and our way of life. But we all know in our hearts that our anger won't change America; our actions will. Democrats are the party of optimism and action, and I am in this fight to keep that tradition alive, and to build on our country's great successes.

Because I believe in an America where every man, woman, and child can reach his or her God-given potential. I believe in an America where the family you're born into and the color of your skin should never control your destiny. And I still believe in an America where the son of a mill worker can beat the son of a president to win the White House in 2004!

TOPICS: Extended News; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 2003; classwarfare; edwards; johnedwards; populist; speech; transcript; twoamericas
"Today, under George W. Bush, there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America that will do anything to leave its children a better life, another America that never has to do a thing because its children are already set for life. One America -- middle-class America - whose needs Washington has long forgotten, another America - narrow-interest America - whose every wish is Washington's command. One America that is struggling to get by, another America that can buy anything it wants, even a Congress and a President." --- John Edwards

""Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you. We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." --- Hillary Clinton

1 posted on 07/06/2004 11:20:17 AM PDT by QQQQQ
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there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward

-I cant believe that he came out against the welfare state...oh he didn't, nevermind

2 posted on 07/06/2004 11:23:19 AM PDT by goldwaterlives
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Kate’s Take: Edwards’s “Other America”

by Kate O'Beirne

Senator John Edwards's stump speech stunningly shows that the genial, upbeat, fresh face in the Democratic field has found the rationale for his candidacy in a bleak past, unrecognizable to most Americans. Edwards has adopted the portrait of widespread, dire poverty famously depicted in Michael Harrington's The Other America — without checking its publication date. The passionate call to arms for anti-poverty warriors was published in 1962, when John Edwards was eight years old. Over 40 years, and hundreds of billions in welfare spending later, Harrington's, and now Edwards's, "Other America" doesn't exist.

Senator Edwards passionately talks about the deprivation facing the 35 million Americans identified by the Census Bureau as living below the poverty line. His audiences seem enthralled. Maybe they think he's cute when he gets on a roll? In fact, the incidence of material poverty has been dramatically reduced and those defined as "poor" today have a higher standard of living than those considered middle-class in my grandparents' day. Thanks to the Heritage Foundation's indispensable Robert Rector, we know that government studies paint a dramatically different picture about the well-being of our nation's poor than John Edwards's delusional portrayal. A judge would tell the experienced trial lawyer, "Argue the facts, counselor."

Someone should tell the excitable Edwards, "It's Nashua, 2004, Senator, not Appalachia, 1962."

3 posted on 07/06/2004 11:24:17 AM PDT by QQQQQ
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Which America do professional politicians and trial lawyers belong too?

4 posted on 07/06/2004 11:26:29 AM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Drug prohibition laws help fund terrorism.)
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Another point about Edwards' speech:

:Perhaps the most notable thing about "Two Americas," at least as it delivered from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina and beyond, was that it said nothing — literally nothing — about the issue of terrorism. Nor did the speech cover the war in Iraq, which Edwards voted to authorize. Nor, for that matter, did it discuss foreign affairs in general. In fact, the only mention of foreign issues in "Two Americas" was Edwards's promise to restore America's image in the world to "the image we used to have, America as the shining light on top of the hill, beacon of freedom, democracy, human rights."

A look at exit polls conducted after Democratic primaries shows just how little Edwards appealed to voters concerned about national security. In New Hampshire, for example, among voters who felt the war in Iraq was the major concern facing the United States, just three percent voted for Edwards, placing him barely ahead of fringe candidate Dennis Kucinich. Among those who felt that terrorism/national security was the top issue, just five percent voted for Edwards. The results were much the same in several other primary states."

5 posted on 07/06/2004 11:26:47 AM PDT by QQQQQ
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

Edwards belongs to the Ambulance chaser part of America.
Filing suits against Doctors to make 152 million. And in the process...driving up the cost of health care and thus making it harder for middle class americans to afford health care.

6 posted on 07/06/2004 11:29:35 AM PDT by ArmyBratproud
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To: ArmyBratproud

There are two Americas:

The patriotic, conservative, America-first America.


The treasonous, liberal, America-last version.

7 posted on 07/06/2004 12:12:41 PM PDT by applemac_g4
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I wonder if he can say the two america's line and keep a straight face as he's standing next to billionaire Theresa Heinz-Kerry.

Oh wait. He's a trial lawyer. Sure he can.

8 posted on 07/06/2004 12:51:04 PM PDT by junaid
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To: junaid

So, basically, Edwards thinks that the government should give working-class people more of our money so they can "make it," but if they do "make it and are really successful, we will take it all back in taxes. What a leader!

9 posted on 07/06/2004 1:03:16 PM PDT by Dems_R_Losers (Proud to be a Reagan Alumna!)
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