Edwards Campaigns for 'New American Initiative' to Rebuild New Orleans

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) appeared to be campaigning early for 2008 with a modern day New Deal for New Orleans Monday afternoon at the Center for American Progress.

He proposed a 15-point plan, dove-tailing off his 2004 “Two Americas” speech. To rebuild New Orleans he wants a “working society” that would unite Americans, wealthy and poor.

Edwards said:

It’s time for a new social compact–when Bush talks about an ownership society, he means the more you own, the more you get. For most Americans this approach is the more you work, they more you pay, the less you get. Where I come from what matters most is not how much you have, it’s how much you give to others. Work gives pride, dignity and hope to our lives and our communities. So, the President is wrong. America is not and never wanted to be a wealth society. To be true to our values, what our county needs to build is a working society. (emphasis added)

A “working society,” according to Edwards, is one where:

  • “Nobody who works full-time should have to raise their kids in poverty.”
  • “No one will live in fear that one more health care emergency or one more layoff will put them in the ditch.”
  • “In a working society, everyone who works full-time has something to show for it—a home of their own and account where their savings can grow.”
  • “Anyone who wants to go to college and is willing to work for it, will be able to go.”

In return for these rewards Edwards said in exchange Americans must work and “hold off having kids until they are ready.”

The following is the list of actions Edwards wants to enact under what he calls, the “New American Initiative.”

  1. Suspend Davis-Bacon
  2. Create a new WPA, where people who have lost their homes can rebuild their own city, communities and the Gulf Coast.
  3. Unite businesses, community colleges, non-profits and unions.
  4. Open bank accounts for the poor so they can save.
  5. Build an infrastructure with mass-transit, dams and energy efficient businesses by leveraging federal dollars for private industry to build it.
  6. Raise minimum wage to at least $7.50 an hour.
  7. Encourage unions to organize in the workplace.
  8. Allow workers who enter the workforce and change jobs without losing health insurance.
  9. Give the poor $1,000 per year for the first five years they are working to make a down payment on homes.
  10. Offer low-income families work bonds, of up to $500 a year direct deposited new account held by a bank or safe stock fund with low fees, for emergency, small business, retirement or a “rainy day.”
  11. Housing vouchers to let families move into areas with better schools, instead of giving school vouchers.
  12. Give incentive pay for teachers in low-income areas.
  13. Start head start earlier
  14. Tuition free first year of college in exchange for a year of work
  15. Eliminate the marriage penalty
  16. Finish child welfare reform to get more poor fathers in the workforce.

How will John Edwards pay for this?

He proposes repealing tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% and restoring the alternative minimum tax to ensure the richest pay at least a 28% rate.