Thursday, July 26, 2007

John Edwards: shaping the debate

John Edwards, let us be clear, is unlikely to win the Democratic presidential nomination. But he is shaping the debate, and his ideas are hard to argue against. Even the tax-adverse magazine The Economist, in a recent article entitled "A man of the left", has plenty of kind words to say about him, and indicates that many of his words resonate across the political spectrum.
Mr Edwards is a man of big plans. No other presidential candidate, of either party, can match the sheer quantity, let alone the ambition, of his policy ideas. . . He is intent on helping the poor more than soaking the rich; his inspiration is Robert Kennedy, not Huey Long. The Edwards campaign openly evokes RFK's 1968 presidential bid, which combined vocal opposition to an unpopular war with a telegenic focus on alleviating poverty. . . even if the man himself does not make it, the Democrats' presidential platform will be shaped by Mr Edwards's plans.

It is good that he has influence, for the tax plans that he announced today, as the Associated Press reports, are intriguing, and seem to go beyond the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act co-sponsored by his rival Barack Obama.

"The engine of our economy is not Washington, D.C., or Wall Street. It is the tens of millions of men and women in offices, factories and fields across America who go to work every day trying to do right by their families,'' he said, adding that about $300 billion a year in taxes go unpaid, and about $1.5 trillion in personal assets of U.S. taxpayers are held offshore. He said he would allow the IRS to investigate offshore tax havens, and he pledged to crack down on peddlers of tax shelters and cooperate with other countries to fight tax havens' efforts to undercut other nation's tax bases.

"Drug and insurance companies write our health care laws, oil companies and power utilities write our energy laws and big banks write our lending laws,'' Edwards said. "It's no coincidence that regular families are finding it harder to get ahead.'' Read John Edwards' July 26 speech here. It contains some remarkable statistics.

Citizens of many other countries would sigh in recognition at his words. If America struggles to crack down on the tax dodgers, just think how much harder it is for poor countries to try to do the same.

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