John Edwards sighted in New York
Democratic presidential aspirant John Edwards summoned the economic thunder of the 19th-century populist movement and attempted to co-opt President Bush’s ‘values’ rhetoric by invoking President Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, in an April 14 speech at the New School University in New York.
Countering recent moves among Republicans to end the taxation of deceased persons’ estates and replace the income tax with a consumption tax, Edwards championed Lincoln as a wartime president who pushed through higher taxes and oversaw the creation of the income tax.
Edwards told his audience that among the contents of Lincoln’s pockets when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth was a newspaper article describing his campaign platform, which read: ‘“That the national faith pledged for the redemption of public debt must be kept inviolate, and that for this purpose we recommend economy and rigid responsibility in the public expenditures, and a vigorous and just system of taxation.’”
The former North Carolina senator savaged the Republicans’ efforts to change the tax code.
‘“Our opponents want to shift the tax burden from unearned income straight on to the backs of working people,’” he said. ‘“They want to give the wealthy more favors and call it reform, and they want working people to foot the bill. This radical notion turns on its head the very values that built America ‘— rewarding hard work.’”
Borrowing an idea from New School President and former US Senator Bob Kerrey, Edwards proposed creating a universal entitlement program he called ‘“baby bonds.’” The government would provide $500 to every child at birth, and match each contribution by parents until the child reaches adulthood. According to Edwards, children could save up to $40,000 by the time they turn 18 under the program. As adults, individuals would be allowed to access the accounts to pay for college, buy a home or save for retirement.
In addition to his speech at the New School, Edwards has spoken at Harvard University, appeared at a ‘meet-up’ event in Lexington, Ky., and walked a picket line with striking postal workers in Des Moines, Iowa this month. Edwards has traveled to 15 states since January, according to a recent report in the Raleigh News & Observer.