Edwards maligns Bush tax policy
Democratic Presidential candidate Senator John Edwards made a campaign stop in Hanover last night, speaking to an overflowing crowd in a town hall meeting at the Top of the Hop.
Edwards, who receives just single-digit support in most nationwide polls, spoke briefly to those in attendance before fielding questions for the next hour on a variety of topics ranging from the economy and Bush's tax cut, to health care and his "College for Everyone" plan.
The attentive crowd numbered nearly 450, according to Elisabeth Smith '05, an Edwards supporter and event organizer, and was receptive to the Senator, erupting into applause after almost every strong attack on President Bush.
Throughout the night Edwards heavily criticized President Bush for his handling of the economy, post-war developments in Iraq, and the civil rights and liberties of the American public. He accused Bush of shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to middle-class Americans, and implored Bush to "explain to the American people why a millionaire is paying a lower tax rate on capital gains than his secretary is paying on wages."
"I want to create wealth," Edwards said, "but not for the people who already have it. For the people who don't have it."
He criticized the Bush administration for failing to follow-through on many of its social programs, such as the "No Child Left Behind" program, which he claims "is leaving millions of children left behind each day." He accused Bush of under-funding his own plan and proposed changes he felt were necessary in the country's educational system.
"We still have two segregated school systems in this country," Edwards said. "It's not based on race any more; it's based on affluence."
Among the educational reforms Edwards stressed were the need for a national initiative to pay teachers better, bonuses to good teachers who teach in less affluent areas, increased investment in early childhood and after-school programs and scholarships for young people to teach. However, Edwards's most important educational proposal is his "College for Everyone" program.
Edwards also pledged to provide health care for all Americans under 21 and fund the $30 billion international war on AIDS, prompting a question from the audience about how he proposed to pay for all these new social programs.
By stopping the Bush tax cuts to those making over $200,000 per year, by raising capital gains taxes on those earning over $300,000, and by closing select corporate tax loopholes, Edwards claims to be able to raise $1.5 trillion over the next 20 years. That number would be sufficient to pay for all his social programs and leave $300 to $400 million for debt reduction, according to Edwards.
The other dominant thread of discussion was the post-war handling of Iraq. Edwards claimed to be the first Senator to publicly announce that he would vote "no" on Bush's most recent request of $87 billion for Iraq.
"We can't keeping giving the President a blank check when he's doing nothing to make this work," Edwards said. "We need to relieve the tax payers and relieve the troops. We will never get the help we need until we relinquish some control."
The funniest moment of the night occurred while Edwards was responding to a woman's serious question about abortion. Edwards said he stood behind a woman's right to choose and voted against the partial birth abortion ban because it did not include exceptions for a woman's health. As he finished his answer by explaining to the crowd that "of course, we want to avoid abortion as much as possible" a baby began to cry in the background, eliciting raucous laughter from the crowd.
The other strong civil rights stand Edwards took was in support of gay and lesbian rights, supporting the provision of increased benefits to committed homosexual couples, such as tax breaks and hospital visitation rights.
He ended his speech by requesting the support of those in attendance and making one last jab at the incumbent President.
"Bush has no chance of re-election unless he receives the votes of a sizable chunk of the very people he's leaving behind," Edwards said. "These are the people I grew up with, that I have fought for."