I am from rural, small-town America. That is why I enthusiastically embraced the Rural Recovery Plan put foward by John Edwards. Not only is it badly needed, but it addresses huge swaths of rural voters who have voted against the Democrats, and gives them a reason to come home to our party again. That being said, I realize that it is not only rural and small town Americans who are falling further and further behind.
John Edwards realizes this to. He, like me is sick of conceding rural voters and wants to help them because he comes from that party of America. He also realizes under the neglect of the Bush Administration Americans that live in our cities are hurting too. These voters are in many ways the base of our party. With this in mind, Edwards also wants to address their concerns too. Saturday, he released his "Cities Rising" agenda to provide long needed relief to urban Americans. I want to look at this plan now. First we have the overview by Edwards:
Des Moines, Iowa – Today, Senator John Edwards unveiled his "Cities Rising" agenda to revitalize urban America and make sure Americans living in urban areas have the chance to work hard and build better lives for their children. Edwards' urban agenda would strengthen cities and support families in urban areas by creating more good jobs, strengthening urban schools, expanding affordable housing, ending poverty within a generation, and fighting crime and reforming criminal justice.Now, unfortunately despite what Mitt Romney thinks, there are literally millions of us that live in that other America that Republicans cannot admit exists, because frankly, they just don't care. Everyday America has lost high-paying union jobs in manufacturing, and every other industry to to low-paying service type jobs. Somewhere a long the way we traded in creating things to sell all over the world to flipping burgers at Mickey-D's. Now, I see many college graduates wasting their skills working menial-type service jobs, all because they want to live where they were born and raised.
"Today, too many Americans are separated from the opportunities of our country because of where they live," said Edwards. "Many cities are dealing with struggling schools, high-poverty neighborhoods and increasing violence. Urban families are often cut off from good jobs, good schools and opportunities to get ahead.
"We need to make sure families living in urban areas have the same chances to succeed as the rest of America. As president, I will strengthen our cities and build One America, where all Americans, whether they live in big cities, small towns or the suburbs, have access to good-paying jobs, health care, and a great education. With a real commitment to our cities, we can restore hope to urban America and make sure we leave our children, in every part of the country, a better, more prosperous life."
One thing rural and urban workers have in common and have had for sometime now, is we are hurting. America seems to have forgotten that a hard day's work should be equally compensated by a fair day's pay. Our workers watch in horror as big business fleeces American workers and outsources good union jobs to third-world countries to take advantage of virtual slave, and in some instances even child labor.
But nobody has to tell our Urban-American workers that. In places like Detroit, and cities in Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as many other urban places our workers have been forced to swallow that bitter horse-pill. What I want to stress to all Democrats, rural and urban is that we simply must nominate a leader who is determined to fight for us NOW!! The damage is so great if it is not immediately addressed it will soon be irreversable. Say what you want about Edwards and his past but the simple fact of the matter is that John Edwards has the vision, policies and most of all, BACKBONE to fight for us now.
He is not shying away from the problems such as poverty and hunger that beset millions of Americans and workers, but has bucked traditional wisdom that those issues are suicide to fight for us. He has worked hard on really solving problems and has turned those thoughts into a wealth of policy proposals that are the perfect place to start from in fighting Congress for Progressive vision. I believe strongly in this vision for our country and party, and most of all I believe strongly in what it stands for. To me it stands for the premise that the Democratic Party will no longer be ashamed of its principles, and of fighting for our workers, and will stand up and fight tooth and nail for our vision of America and the world once more.
But back to the new policy proposal for Urban America. Sorry about the rant. Edwards points out the areas most needing addressing here:
Metropolitan areas are the center of our nation's economic and cultural activity. The largest 100 cities and their surrounding areas make up just 12 percent of the nation's land mass but produce 75 percent of America's economic output. Today, however, many cities are struggling. The middle class is shrinking in many central cities. Urban schools struggle to attract teachers and suffer high dropout rates. Nearly every big city has very poor neighborhoods, often disproportionately black and Latino, that isolate residents from jobs and good schools. [Brookings, 2007; Berube and Katz, 2005]This myriad of problems dating back to NAFTA, and even before reflects the poor leadership and disdain for American workers that has become the trademark of our government. Of course we all know this first point, creating good jobs:
In America today, families are working harder to get by. Over the last 20 years, American incomes have grown apart: 40 percent of the income growth in the 1980s and 1990s went to the top 1 percent.Now, that first one is genius, and way past due. Even at the Conservative University I go to the Proffessor states that our government has failed us monumentaly by not addressing the Energy Independence issue sooner. One million high-paying jobs in poor communities where they are needed most, by researching and manufacturing the clean fuels of the future to serve two purposes, making us energy independent, and halting global warming. Can we all at least agree that this is what our Democratic leaders need to be not only talking about, BUT DOING? Edwards is leading in a way we should all want to follow!!
The middle-class is eroding in cities, while the percentage of the urban population that is high-income and low-income is growing. [EPI, 2006; Brookings 2007]
Build the New Energy Economy and Create Green Collar Jobs: Edwards will create more than 1 million jobs, many in struggling manufacturing communities, by capping carbon dioxide emissions to halt global warming and prompting a shift to renewable energy and energy efficient economy. He will train 150,000 workers a year in green collar jobs to meet these economic needs and ensure that the benefits of economic growth are widely shared.
Enact Smarter Trade Policies: Trade deals need to make sense for American workers, not just corporations. Edwards will make sure any new trade agreements include strong labor and environmental standards and will vigorously enforce American workers' rights in existing agreements. He will also expand trade adjustment assistance to do much more for the workers and communities that are hurt by global competition and reform our international tax code to remove incentives for companies to move overseas rather than creating jobs here at home.
Strengthen Labor Laws: Unions made manufacturing jobs the foundation of our middle class, and they can do the same for our service economy. Federal law promises workers the right to choose a union, but the law is poorly enforced, full of loopholes, and routinely violated by employers. Edwards supports the Employee Free Choice Act to give workers a real choice in whether to form a union, and making penalties for breaking labor laws tougher and faster, so unions can compete on a level playing field and the right to join a union means something. He also supports banning the permanent replacement of strikers so unions can negotiate fairly.
Invest in Innovation and Ingenuity: The most important factor for America's future prosperity is investment in education, science, technology and innovation. As president, Edwards will make the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent. He will encourage research in the life sciences by lifting the ban on stem cell research and doubling funding for key priorities at the National Institutes of Health. He will also strengthen elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education in math, science and engineering.
What about that second point? No matter who voted for what when, John Edwards has seen the damage done American workers by bad trade deals and has had his fill. Say what you want about when he joined us, but he is here. Enforcing American workers rights, and ending the tax loopholes for companies that outsource are definately two steps in the right direction. We should all support this.
Now we come to the third point. To me, this is what the Democratic Party, especially in modern times should be all about. Making sure our workers are not being shortchanged and cheated by a system in Washington that is purposely set against them. John Edwards supports our unions and workers!! I have been involved in three attempts at getting a union in a workplace. If the Employee Free Choice Act was in place they would have all succeeded, but instead during the time after a majority of our cards were signed, the company was able to poisong the process by promising this and that, always "unofficially". Workers were tricked into giving up their rights to organize. I hope all union workers, and especially those who HOPE to work union will understand that John Edwards would be the most worker friendly President in decades!! We need to fight for him!!
The fourth point, investing in innovation and ingenuity should be a no-brainer, and it is a disgrace a candidate for President had to address any of these issues!!! They should have been dealt with a long time ago. We need a leader who is serious about more than lip-service. We need John Edwards to protect working Americans!!
Edwards next speaks on strengthening Urban schools:
Every child should have a chance to get a great education, a commitment that is at the core of John Edwards' plan to build One America where everyone has a chance to succeed. But more than 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, we still have two school systems that are separate and unequal. Many urban schools are hamstrung by a lack of funding and inability to attract good new teachers. American teenagers – particularly black and Hispanic students – trail their international competitors, and these gaps are most evident in high schools in the nation's largest urban and older suburban school systems, dozens of which fail to graduate even two-thirds of their students. [Brookings, 2007]All of these are excellent ideas that should be cornerstone's of what our party fights for in the new centurly. Can we not agree on that at least?
Prepare Every Child to Succeed: Quality preschool education should be as common as kindergarten. As president, Edwards will create Great Promise early childhood education programs, and make them available to all four-year-olds. He will also create a national Smart Start initiative – based on North Carolina's successful initiative – to link together health care, child care, education, and family support services for children under five.
Put an Excellent Teacher in Every Classroom: Nothing is more important in a school than the relationship between a teacher and a child. Edwards will raise pay for teachers in successful high-poverty schools by as much as $15,000 more a year. He will create a national teachers' university – a West Point for teachers – to train excellent teachers for our worst schools. He will also help teachers with extra support in their early years with mentors and extra planning time.
Make Every School an Outstanding School: Edwards will radically overhaul No Child Left Behind to live up to its goal of helping all children learn at high levels, rejecting cheap standardized tests, arbitrary formulas for school success, and unproven cookie-cutter reforms. He will help 1,000 great schools expand or start new branches. Edwards will invest more in low-income children, put us on a path to fully funding special education, and raise graduation rates with adolescent literacy programs and Second Chance schools for former dropouts.
Next Edwards speaks on the need for affordible housing for everyone:
In central cities, homeownership is half the national average. Nearly 6 million Americans live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty inside big cities. Nearly every big city has at least one very poor neighborhood – including 46 of the largest 50 cities – and they often include a racial as well as economic dimension. These neighborhoods isolate willing workers from entry-level jobs and children from good schools. [Berube and Katz, 2005]Again, these are all excellent ideas that offer real hope at equality for those of us who live in that other America that Romney and the Republicans just don't see.
Create a Million New Housing Vouchers: Edwards will create a million vouchers over five years to help low-income families move to better neighborhoods. At the same time, he will phase out housing projects that tie families to certain locations and are often lower quality and more expensive than private sector alternatives.
Revitalize Devastated Neighborhoods: It is better to invest in struggling neighborhoods than abandon them. Edwards will reform and expand the HOPE VI program to replace dilapidated housing in areas of concentrated poverty, while ensuring that current residents benefit.
End Predatory Lending: While subprime mortgages can benefit families with poor credit histories, predatory mortgages include deceptive terms without any benefit to homeowners. Millions of families with subprime mortgages have lost their homes or could lose them in the next few years. Edwards will create a Home Rescue Fund to get these families into mortgages they can afford and pass a strong national law against predatory lending.
Strengthen Enforcement of Fair Housing Laws: Housing discrimination is still too common. Edwards will strengthen enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act by the Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development.
Edwards goes on to speak on an issue he is second to none on, that of ending poverty in America during our generation:
More than 37 million Americans live in poverty. Poverty rates are increasing in nearly half of large cities, a higher share than in suburbs, and child poverty is rising even more quickly in these areas. Edwards has outlined a Working Society initiative to lift 12 million Americans out of poverty in a decade and end poverty within a generation. [Census Bureau, 2007; Berube and Kneebone, 2006]These are all ideas whose time is past-due once again in our country. We simply must stand for hope, not poeverty. I would like to thank John Edwards for taking this issue, which everyone said was a loser, and taking it the American people and fighting for those in poverty. Real leaders make issues where none exist and Edwards has shown the character and courage to challenge us to do better.
Create 1 Million Stepping Stone Jobs: Every American should have the chance to work their way out of poverty, but some willing workers cannot find jobs because of where they live, a lack of experience or skills, or other obstacles, like a criminal record. Edwards will create a million short-term jobs to help individuals move into permanent work.
Make Work Pay: Edwards will increase the reward for working by raising the minimum wage to at least $9.50 an hour by 2012 and setting it to rise over time. In 2001, a $1 increase in the minimum wage alone would have lifted an estimated 900,000 people out of poverty. He will triple the Earned Income Tax Credit for adults without children and cut its marriage penalty for couples. The EITC is particularly important to urban areas – it delivers over $8 billion to large cities – and is used primarily for purposes like buying clothes, repairing furniture and appliances, and other activities that create a positive ripple effect through the economy. [Berube 2006; Sawhill and Thomas, 2001]
Help Working Families Save: Edwards proposed a new tax credit to help low-income, working Americans save for the future. The credit would match savings up to $500 per year. As many as 28 million Americans don't have bank accounts. Edwards will subsidize bank accounts for working families. [Federal Reserve, 2007]
Support Responsible Families: Welfare reform required mothers to work and helped them find jobs, but it failed to do the same for fathers. Edwards will help fathers find work, require them to help support their children, and increase child support collections by more than $8 billion over the next decade and use those payments to benefit children. The U.S. has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world. Edwards believes we should have more support for teenagers struggling to beat the odds.
Edwards plan ends with something that is on the rise, crime:
Violent crime increased in 2006 for the second year in a row, reversing a long trend of lowering crime. Violent crime in metropolitan counties grew by 3 percent and murder in those counties grew by 6 percent. Urban households also suffer higher rates of property crimes. [AP, 6/2/2007; FBI, 2007; BJS, 2005]http://www.johnedwards.com/...
Put More Cops on the Beat: Edwards supports the COPS program, which helped hire 117,000 police officers and bring down the crime rate. Legislation extending COPS is currently stuck in the Senate. Edwards believes the legislation should be extended to hire 50,000 more officers. He also supports funding for state and city initiatives to prosecute gangs, drugs and illegal guns, while supporting effective youth intervention and crime prevention programs. [Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 11/26/2007; Brookings, 2007; GAO, 2005]
Help Ex-Offenders Undertake Productive, Law-Abiding Lives: Edwards will help ex-offenders return to productive lives with literacy education and drug treatment, stepping stone jobs, and voting rights in federal elections. He also supports strict oversight for probationers and parolees with certain, swift and graduated punishment for probation and parole violations. He wants to increase resources for overworked parole officers and backs greater community oversight and support for former offenders so that people leaving prison don't go back to crime.
Stop Racial Profiling In Law Enforcement: Law enforcement based on racial stereotypes, such as arrests for "driving while black," violates our principles as a nation. Edwards will ban racial profiling in law enforcement. He also supports efforts to reform mandatory minimum sentences and alternatives to imprisonment – such as drug courts – for non-violent, first-time offenders.
Again, Edwards shows vision by not only calling for more cops, but for giving more hope to former criminals to not go back to crime. He wants to reform mandatory minimum sentences and wants to keep non-violent drug offenders from being grouped with violent criminals.
I think this plan, which builds on all other plans released by Edwards and compliments them, is excellent. I think John Edward vision of One America, where rural and urban workers are treated fairly and compensated justly, and compliment each other is well worth fighting for. I hope Democrats will realize what is truly at stake for American workers in this election, and will join me in nominating John Edwards for President!!
Best wishes fellow Democrats!!