Ending Poverty: Edwards vs Gingrich

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We all know that the hallmark of John Edward’s presidential campaign was ending poverty in this country. And during the primaries, we were able to hear at least some of his thoughts about how to do that.

But did you know that Newt Gingrich also has a plan to end poverty? Well, until today, I didn’t either. And since both Edwards and Gingrich have written articles recently about their ideas, I thought it might be interesting to compare them. Neither of these men is running for any office right now (at least not that I’m aware of). And when I read these, it reminded me of some of the basic fundamental differences between the Democratic/left and the Republican/right. So lets take a look.

Lets start with the words of the one most of us know more about, John Edwards. This is from an article he published in Time Magazine last month.

But, the hard truth is that it’s been 40 years since we have led a sustainable effort to fight for economic justice in this country. We had many successes and failures in the 1960s, but we’ve forgotten the most important lesson: in order to end poverty you have to make it a priority. Well, if Moses was able to find the Promised Land after 40 years in the desert, then certainly we can renew the cause after wandering in our own.

Our journey begins by letting Americans know that something can be done: that acceptance of the ways things are can be replaced with real actions that will build a just world.

Last week, I joined a new campaign called Half in Ten which focuses on the belief that we can cut the poverty rate in half in the next ten years.

Here’s how. We can make sure that waitress earns enough by raising the minimum wage so that it’s a livable wage. We can give her a tax break by expanding the Earned Income Tax and Child Tax Credits. We can ensure that parents all across this country don’t have to choose between the job they need and the heartache of leaving their child in substandard care by guaranteeing access to quality child care. And when hardship hits when a job is lost, we should expand eligibility for Unemployment Insurance so families don’t slip deeper into trouble.

Newt Gingrich has a seven-point plan which you can read here.

1. First, it is important to recognize that we have an absolute, verifiable model of minimizing crime. It’s not a mystery. It’s not a secret. The difference in the murder rate per 1,000 people between Philadelphia and New York is breathtaking. And yet where are the leaders who want to know how to transfer this knowledge to their cities?…

2. Second, I believe that adolescence is a failed, nineteenth-century idea. Prior to the middle of the nineteenth century, people were either children or they were young adults…I believe we should begin an experimental policy, where if you work either part-time or full-time at ages fourteen through sixteen, there would be no taxes on your money. You get 100 percent of what you earn as take-home pay, reinforcing a culture of self-sufficient work. I would also propose that we fundamentally redesign learning in America on an achievement base in which students are rewarded for finishing school earlier. Every year earlier that you graduate will be transformed into an automatic scholarship that would reduce the costs if you agree to national service.

3. Third, wealth creation for all Americans must be encouraged. Across the world, jobs get made in places with low tax, limited regulation, and limited litigation models.

4. Fourth, we have enormous opportunities to fundamentally rethink disability in America. There are millions of Americans, from “workmen’s comp” to birth defects to people who have car wrecks, that could lead dramatically better and fuller lives with a capital investment, information technology, modern capability approach. We must fundamentally address how we think about disabilities.

5. Fifth, we must save failing cities like Detroit by dramatically shrinking government, with lower taxes and pro-business policies.

6. Sixth, we cannot address poverty in American without fundamentally questioning the current social contract with Native Americans. We have allowed a politically controlled model of cultural isolationism-and citizens that have no private property-in which people have no rights to acquire personal wealth, no ability to rise, and it has produced a disaster…This entire topic, of the rights of Native Americans, deserves a much deeper and much more profound approach and entire wave of dialogue about it.

7. Finally, we must rethink our prison system. It is completely unacceptable to put 3 million people in prison. And it is totally unacceptable to have the current prisons. You should not be in physical danger when you are a ward of the state. And if we truly want to help people, we have to have a model that says we want you to go to college and not to go to prison. But we also have to have a model that says that if you did break the law, we want to maximize your chance to learn so that you never break the law again.

I don’t completely disagree with everything Gingrich says. For example, I would agree that we need to rethink our prison system and that its totally unacceptable to put 3 million people in prison. Of course I would suspect that when things got past that general agreement, I might have trouble with some of Newt’s specific ideas. But who knows? He didn’t go there.

Other than the normal Republican drivel about low taxes, limited regulation, shrinking government and pro-business policies (classic trickle-up economics), the idea that we can end adolescence (huh?) by putting kids to work and applying even more pressure on them to finish school early, or that we need to convince our Native American brothers and sisters to buy into the “personal wealth” mantra of greed and consumerism is just preposterous and insulting.

I suppose this is what happens when Republicans try to sound smart about something that they ultimately don’t give a damn about.  


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  1. As with a significant number of Republican talking points, things on the surface sound good with some of Newt’s points.  Implementation is another matter.  Wealth creation?  Great.  How? cut taxes on the rich so they’ll hire maids and gardeners, probably.  Reduce the number of people in prison?  Sounds great.  How?  Execute a lot of people.  

  2. Here’s some ideas. Personally, I think Edwards fixes in that excerpt do not go far enough.

    First, we need to find where our money that should be used to make America a better society is going. Personally, I think we have squandered our nation’s wealth on wars and military hardware over the past 50 years, or so.

    So, over the next year, end the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Decrease military hardware spending by 1/2.

    Then, close overseas military bases over the next 20 years.

    Now, take the money saved by not waging war and buying military hardware and invest in Americans.

    I want a nation that innovates without fear of poverty if a person fails. So, I would reduce risks for people who want to take a chance to start a business or an endeavor. I would invest in provide universal single-payer healthcare, have public young education programs, and improve the social safety net (Social security, welfare, etc). I do not want kid warehousing, aka daycare, for our nation’s children — I believe children deserve better.

    Eliminate the Federal Reserve system and our system where debt means creating money. Allow only the U.S. government to create money by investing in public works and infrastructure. I believe a government should never be in debt and should never borrow money. The current system is wrong and needs to be changed.

    Invest in the following ways to create jobs and infrastructure:

    * Greenhouse gas reducing technologies

    * High-speed rail between cities 450 miles or less apart

    * Distributed, renewable energy grid

    * Public mass transit

    * Science research

    * Arts for the public

    To distract the military-industrial complex, I would set Mars colonization as our nation’s next goal.

    A nation needs cheap, reliable energy and transportation to power its economy. The jobs that are created

    For quality of life issues, investments in the arts, parks, national parks, and Headstart and public education need to be made.

    Decriminalization of marijuana would help empty prisons and if we tax and regulate it, it would be a way of paying for programs for addiction, etc.

    Lastly, if we don’t have enough money to pay for this by simply cutting military spending, then I’d raise taxes.

    Just some ideas of the top of my head. Oh and Gingrich is nuts. He’s simply repackaged a failed century of Republican talking points.

    • brobin on July 9, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Newt Gingrich holding forth on how to end poverty is like asking Genghis Khan to give a seminar on how to make friends and influence neighbors (without killing them).

    What a fraud.

  3. early on in the primaries. One day I saw a video of him sitting with several people in Iowa being interviewed. He was lounging back in an easy chair having a conversation.

    When someone asked him about how we end poverty in this country, he sat up of the edge of his chair and got 100% engaged.

    I think we’re always looking for signs of authenticity in politicians. That seemed like a moment when I saw some from Edwards.  

  4. When will people stop treating Gingrich like a savvy intellectual and start treating him like what he is, a hypocritical, misogynistic, heartless, fear mongering jerk.

    If you couldn’t tell from that. I don’t care much for Newt Gingrich or anything he does. He doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself.

    John Edwards on the other hand is a different story.

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