John Edwards began his second Podcast by thanking listeners, and he then invited his wife Elizabeth to welcome them. Once again, they were podcasting on their son Jack's special blanket. Precariously perched atop the blanket, along with the podcasting equipment, was Elizabeth's Diet Coke and John's Diet Sprite Zero. (John has gone "cold turkey" on Diet Coke - after he realized he was drinking 8-10 of them each day). They joked that, if they did happen to spill some of their drinks on the blanket, it surely wouldn't have been the worst thing to have spilled onto it! (*anyone with wee ones will get that joke).
John wanted to tell us where he's been since he last podcasted. He said he'd been visiting the state of Wisconsin during the time of the NCAA Final Four playoffs. Elizabeth got to go to the games, however, along with chasing Jack and Emma Claire for hours at a time (*which, as you know, Moms and Dads, is always an exhilarating experience!) Before the final championship game between North Carolina and Illinois, John got to take his children Cate, Emma Claire and Jack to see the famous Arch in St Louis. People usually stop John wherever he goes, just to say hello and to have a friendly chat, and St. Louis was no exception. John says he wound up playing a "pick-up" game of football under the Arch as he and his children waited to board the tram. He says that Jack especially loved that part of the trip.
John visited Harvard's Kennedy School on April 13th and gave a speech on Tax Reform at the New School in New York City. He got to see daughter Cate while he was there. He jokingly said that, although Cate was not particularly excited about Tax Reform, she was glad to see her father.
In the state of Kentucky, John had attended a meet-up and took questions from the group. He stated emphatically that he wanted to attend more meet-ups across this country to answer more questions and hear more concerns.
Elizabeth is about half the way into her radiation treatments for breast cancer. She schedules the sessions for the times the children are at school and while she says it can be boring and tiring, she knows it will help to make her well. She said that their daughter Cate will be headed to North Carolina this weekend for a "Generation Engaged" function.
The first questions were about Podcasting technology. John advised that we'd soon see a "Poscasting FAQ" to the one America website to address such questions.
Kelly Gossnan and Ben Goodman asked how John would have voted on the recent Bankruptcy bill, to which John replied that his vote would have been: "No, No, No." He said it would only serve to put people who are deep in debt in a much worse place. He used the example of a single mother with a lot of medical bills who has no honest means to pay them, regardless of how hard she'd tried. Under the current bill, which Edwards claims is "badly written law", she would be stuck with those medical bills, and that this is inconsistent with what we believe in America. Elizabeth was a bankruptcy attorney, so she can speak from experience on the issue. She said, while the Homestead Exemption was a good idea, inconsistent state-to-statelimits on the amount of exemption serve to make it "bad part of the law". For example, in Florida and Texas, there is no limit, meaning that you can go and buy a million-dollar home and then file bankruptcy. Credit card companies, banks, and loan companies were the ones "all for" this law. Credit card companies have tried to get it passed for a decade. a point they wanted to stress was that many people misunderstand (or misjudge) when they think that, if you're poor and seeking ways out of debt, that you are taking no personal responsibility. That's not necessarily so, said Elizabeth Edwards. In cases of bankruptcy, judges have been able to discern honest efforts on the part of citizens to be responsible in the past, but will now have far less opportunity to decide on idividual cases with the passing of the current "bad" bill. More people will be stuck with debt. The practice known as predatory lending will be able to thrive. People who are already having a difficult economic time will be preyed upon. The saddest and most ironic thing I heard was that they still get credit offers in the mail, on a regular basis, addressed to their son Wade, who passed away nine years ago.
"The Bush administration has served, through the AMT, to move tax responsibility further away from Capital Gains and has placed it directly onto Work."
Alternative Minimum Tax
The next question was about the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). John Edwards stated that it was meant to keep rich people from avoiding the paying of their fair share of taxes. Instead, the AMT is hitting lots of middle-class folks while people making a lot of money on their investments (capital gains) can avoid the AMT. Bottom line, the AMT is not doing that for which it was intended to do. The Bush administration has served, through the AMT, to move tax responsibility further away from Capital Gains and has placed it directly onto Work. We need Tax Reform, as Edwards spoke about in his New School speech last week. The idea especially hit home at that speech in New York, where a restriction on deductibility of already-sky-high NY State tax really hurts. (*I know this well - I pay those painfully high New York State taxes).
"..there are millions of children living in poverty in America today and the cause - alleviating poverty and ending hunger - has the potential to unite us as a nation."
Faith and Poilitics
Warren Gottlieb and Ruth Klein wanted to know if John Edwards was familiar with Jim Wallis' book "God's Politics". He said he'd read the book and knows Jim Wallis. Jim has been to the Edwards home and they have discussed the book with him. Edwards said, if we're going to have an effective fight against poverty, that government cannot do it alone. Poverty and hunger are moral causes that are mentioned many times in the Bible. They are moral issues upon which our character and integrity are tested. How we choose to deal with those issues says what kind of human beings we are - and what kind of country we are. The Edwards were caring enough to be involved with Urban Ministries in Ralieghbefore they ever thought of entering politics. Elizabeth mentioned that there are millions of children living in poverty in America today and the cause - alleviating poverty and ending hunger - has the potential to unite us as a nation. Whether we are left or right; whether we are people of faith or people who profess no faith; this is a moral issue which we can we can all value and understand.
When will gas prices go down?
John Edwards craftily said that, when the price of gas and oil go up, oil company profits go up - which is why the Bush administration will probably do nothing about it. Dependence upon oil from the Middle East has a direct affect upon National Security issues; it can put a stranglehold on our economy; and it can create environmental problems. John mentioned Patty Ann Smith and her reminder that Earth Day is upon us once again. What better time to remind America that Jimmy Carter, when he was President over 20 years ago, asked us to make a commitment to developing alternative energy resources. All the lip service President Bush has paid to the issue of Alternative Energy has been a "spit in the bucket" and a continued reliance upon Big Oil, in the words of Elizabeth Edwards. John reminded us that drilling ANWR is not going to have the impact we'd require for our future energy needs. We should be looking toward wind and solar power, bio-mass/fuel cell energy, clean coal technology, and ethanol.
"..get involved with projects to fight poverty in your part of the nation. Make it a national effort. Connect with one another."
What Can We Citizens Do?
John Edwards recently visited a shelter for homeless Veterans in Asheville, N.C. They were going through a difficult time. They want to work, but the work's not available. They want to support a family but don't have the means. John Edwards believes we need to embrace these people and to fight the poverty which keeps them from sharing in the American dream. He invited us to visit his One America website at http://www.oneamericacommittee.com/ and the One America blog at http://blog.oneamericacommittee.com/. He invites you to find out what he and the One America Committee are doing. He asks that you get involved with projects to fight poverty in your part of the nation. Make it a national effort. Connect with one another. Get involved in fights to raise the minimum wage; help to organize or to support organization of a union; work in a shelter, food bank, or Urban Ministries. Many are hurting, whether they are homeless or middle class folks struggling to make ends meet.
About two weeks ago, I blogged about the 49,000 Illinois childcare workers who gained a voice on the job by joining a union. Yesterday, 41,000 Michigan home caregivers also chose SEIU. These women and men take care of the elderly and disabled in our communities. They typically receive poverty wages and have second jobs to make ends meet.
What will this mean for these workers and their families? Richard Sullivan, a Marlette home caregivers says, "I'm thrilled that we finally have a voice. I know what it's like to take back pop bottles just to pay for your kid's school lunch. Caregivers should get a decent wage that they can raise a family on." See the full story HERE.
Without these caregivers, many disabled and senior citizens would be in institutions. That's because home caregivers help seniors and persons with disabilities maintain their independence every day -- cooking their meals, bathing, dressing, cleaning, and feeding them.
This victory demonstrates once again that when caregivers come together with community leaders, consumers, and advocates, everyone in the community can win. The Michigan victory was the result of a broad coalition of caregivers, consumers, advocates, and community groups ranging from the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition to the Gray Panthers of Metro Detroit. For quotes from Michigan coalition partners on what the victory means to their members, go HERE.
The Michigan victory is part of a national movement of more than 370,000 home care workers who have joined SEIU and won improvements in wages and benefits in states such as California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois and New York. The 74,000 home care workers in Los Angeles County who voted to join SEIU in 1999 constituted the largest union victory in the U.S. in over half a century.