On a conference call with bloggers and reporters this morning, John Edwards was clearly still pleased with the debate last night. He dismissed the squabbling and talking over each other by the other participants as unproductive. At one point while the bickering continued, Senator Edwards thought, "I'm John Edwards and I represent the grown-up wing of the Democratic Party." [I certainly agree with that; the early stages of the debate made for good television but not a good sense of where Clinton or Obama want to take the country.]
This was part of the early comments from the call today as Senator Edwards laid out the economic issues facing South Carolina. He said that it appears the country is no longer on the brink of recession but is now in one, and that it could have been largely avoided.
The US markets didn't consider Bush's plan last Friday sufficient, and it looks like the Asian and European markets don't either. The US stock markets are continuing their downward pace today.
Edwards noted that the dream that our parents worked for is slipping away. Unemployment, bankruptcies are going up. People are going into poverty and losing health insurance. As many as 25 - 30 million jobs could be sent offshore in next decade. And income inequality is at its worst level since 1928. In South Carolina, in December, they lost 6,000 jobs and had 6.6% unemployment, the highest in decades.
A month ago, Edwards laid out a stimulus plan. It's time now to get off the fence and do something. And that something is not what Congress is doing now--rushing to compromise with Bush, but to put forth a responsible longer view stimulus package and force Bush to stop his war on middle-class families.
The stimulus package he proposed in December could provide significant support for the South Carolina economy, now facing a big deficit next year.
[update on the economic portion of the call]
"The problem is that we’ve had elected leaders who are more concerned with serving the interests of the powerful and the well-connected than standing up for regular, hard-working Americans," said John Edwards. "We need to end the cycle of leadership that has made decision after decision over the last 25 years that benefit big corporations and special interests at the expense of the middle class."
"If we want to stop saying goodbye to South Carolina’s manufacturing jobs, we need to start with a real stimulus package that creates new jobs and puts money in the hands of working families," Edwards said. "President Bush’s proposal is swiss-cheese stimulus that leaves out millions of hardworking Americans while toeing the line of right-wing ideology at the expense of smart planning for America’s future."
Facing oil that has topped $100 a barrel, the burden of an unemployment rate that rose 0.7 points to 6.6% for December--the largest one month gain in 17 years, and following the loss of 90,000 manufacturing jobs under the Bush presidency, South Carolinians are ready for a president who will fight for them. Edwards proposed a short-term economic stimulus plan in December, leading both his opponents and the White House with a smart plan to put money in the hands of people who need it the most and who will use it within their local economies.
The Edwards plan would:
- Provide about $1.5 billion to South Carolina
- Expand benefits for about 9000 long-term unemployed workers
- Provide fiscal relief for the state of South Carolina – which is facing a $430 million deficit next year, according to the state Board of Economic Advisors.
CWA of South Carolina Endorses Edwards
The Communication Workers of America union locals of South Carolina announced their endorsement of Senator Edwards on the call. [note: the national union released their locals to give individual endorsements last December. No CWA local has endorsed a different candidate from Edwards that I am aware of to date.] On the call were Debra Brown, president of CWA Local 3706 in Columbia. She pointed to Edwards's South Carolina roots, his understanding of the labor fight the union members face every day, EFCA, and health care for all Americans. Next up was Mike Parks, president of CWA Local 3716 in Spartanburg. He pointed out that in South Carolina, there are 7 very independent local presidents. He was pleased to announce that the vote to endorse John Edwards was unanimous on the first ballot. He also pointed to the same reasons as Ms. Brown, and added that he looks forward to a revamping of the NLRB.
Questions from Reporters
Jonathan Wiseman of the Washington Post wanted to know why Edwards thought Bush wouldn't veto something the Congressional Dems might present (on stimulus package) that he wasn't involved in writing. Edwards insisted that he would have to accept it given the economic situation. Further, this much needed stimulus package shouldn't be an excuse for Bush to push his ideological agenda against the middle class.
The reporter from (Columbia, SC) State newspaper asked when Edwards was going to start winning primaries. Edwards response was that he doesn't make predictions and he isn't a political strategist. "I'm a candidate for President." He said he is going to keep on making it clear what the differences are between himself, Obama and Clinton. He will keep working hard to get his message out, and reminded the reporter that only 3 of 50 states have voted.
The AP reporter asked about his pledge not to have lobbyists working in his White House. Senator Edwards responded that he has never taken money from lobbyists and won't have them in his White House -- no corporate lobbyists or lobbyists for lawyers.
In response to a question about whether he is concerned that he'll run out of money, Edwards said very firmly and confidently, "Absolutely not. We had the best fundraising online that we've had since I started my campaign last week. [h/t to KingOneEye!!] If anything we'll significantly increase our expectations in terms of budget. We'll raise more than we expected."
Well, those are my notes from the call. Let's see how much makes it into any articles, and how much it becomes distorted when reporters give it that special editorial twist they all like so much. If this campaign has taught us anything, it's that the profession of journalism is in deep trouble.
Just in from the JRE website, the latest South Carolina ad "What Happened"