John Edwards came to UNC Chapel Hill this morning and spoke to an intro economics class of about 300 students from 9:15-9:55. I just wanted to write and let everyone know what he said.
First off Edwards was 15 minutes late getting there, once he arrived he said he just wanted to talk for a few minutes about Income and Asset Gaps and ways to alleviate them.
Edwards spoke of a growing inequality in our nation's distribution of income and wealth, that had become stablized into our economy. He said that these inequalities eroded democracy by the gradual disappearance of the middle class. Edwards segued into his policies by talking about the lack of ability of poor people to save.
His first policy dealt with decreasing the Income Inequality. He wants to raise the minimum wage, and to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit.
His second group of policies dealt with alleviating the asset gap. First of all, he wants to set up bank savings accounts for the poor, then have a government fund provide matching deposits up to a certain amount to encourage people to save instead of consume. He also spoke of the racial and economic segregation that we as a society are facing and wants to give housing vouchers to poor single mothers to help them buy homes in middle class neighborhoods, (a policy that has been shown to be helpful for the children of these families, but not so much for the mothers themselves---my addition, not edwards words).
Edwards also believes that education is the key to success in society today and he wants to make college free for every qualified student and in return the student has to do like 10-15 hours of work a week.
After this Edwards opened the floor up for questions. Seeing as how this was an entry level econ class (mostly freshmen) most of the questions were dumb. For example: why should we have to pay for poor people...etc. But there were a few good ones. I will update them later, I must go now, but they will be added in the comments section.
Other questions were just generic ones really, healthcare, education, he didn't say anything specific.
I asked him about dealing with the structural side of poverty, that transfers and savings incentives don't really fully address and things like housing vouchers may make worse. He responded by saying that the federal government should expand money available to states to help pay for affordable childcare for working families. I asked him if he had thought of any transportation and development policies or federal incentives that could help provide for less segregated development and less expensive lifestyles. He didn't really say anything except they'd looked at giving more federal grants for public transportation etc. really just lip service to it.
The one question that he really answered with specific policy iniatives is dealing with malpractice law. He said that more investigation needs to go into seeing if insurance companies are overcharging for malpractice insurance (which he said they are), and basically a more regulated enviroment to prevent collusion. He also said the lawyers who sue in these kinds of cases should be more accountable for what happens. For example, if the plaintiff loses, the losing lawyers, not the clients should pay the court fees. Also, there should be some sort of three strikes rule put in place to prevent lawyers from just sueing for anything they possible can make up in order to collect fees. He said the best way to fight frivilous malpractice lawsuits is to put the burden on the lawyers filing them, not just the plaintiffs.
I don't think I agree totally with that. It seems that this provides a disincentive to lawyers to take malpractice lawsuits. Certainly preventing specific lawyers who abuse the system over and over again from filing that type of lawsuit isnt bad, but I feel that this will cut out on lawsuits for people who need them the most.