ENDING POVERTY IN AMERICA WITHIN A GENERATION

“Restoring our moral authority means leading by example and making clear that the hard challenges don’t frighten us. There is no better opportunity than the challenge of poverty.” -- John Edwards John Edwards has challenged America to set an ambitious goal that could fundamentally change our country: lift 12 million Americans out of poverty in a decade and eliminate poverty over the next 30 years. To get there, he proposed major new initiatives to reward work, break up high-poverty neighborhoods, help families save, and encourage families to act responsibly. In his vision of a “Working Society,” everyone who is able to work will be expected to work and rewarded for working. Edwards also called on communities to discourage the reckless behavior that threatens the future of many young people. Rewarding Work: • Make Work Pay: Edwards will increase the reward to working by raising the minimum wage to at least $7.50 an hour, tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for adults without children and cutting the EITC marriage penalty. In 2001, a $1 increase in the minimum wage alone would have lifted an estimated 900,000 people out of poverty. [Sawhill and Thomas, 2001] Create One Million Stepping Stone Jobs: Every American should have the chance to work their way out of poverty, but some willing workers cannot find jobs because of where they live, a lack of experience or skills, or other obstacles like a criminal record. Edwards will create a million shortterm jobs to help individuals move into permanent work. Create Opportunity in Rural America: Nearly 90 percent of America's poorest counties are rural. Edwards will invest more in rural community colleges, link training to actual business needs, and support rural small business centers. [Rural Poverty Research Center, 2006] Strengthen Labor Laws: Union membership can be the difference between a poverty-wage job and middle-class security. Federal law promises workers the right to choose a union, but the law is poorly enforced, full of loopholes, and routinely violated by employers. Edwards supports the Employee Free Choice Act to give workers a real choice in whether to form a union.

Overhaul Housing Policy: • Create a Million New Housing Vouchers: Our current housing policies concentrate low-income families together, isolating willing workers from entry-level jobs and children from good schools. Edwards will create a million vouchers over five years to help low-income families move to better neighborhoods. At the same time, he will phase out housing projects that tie families to certain locations and are often lower quality and more expensive than private sector alternatives.
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Paid for by John Edwards for President.

Revitalize Devastated Neighborhoods: Edwards believes that it is better to invest in struggling neighborhoods than abandon them. He will reform and expand the HOPE VI program to replace dilapidated housing in areas of concentrated poverty.

Help Working Families Save: • • Create New Work Bonds: Edwards proposed a new tax credit to help low-income, working Americans save for the future. The credit would match wages up to $500 per year. Expand Access to Bank Accounts and Fight Abusive Payday Lending. An estimated 56 million Americans don’t have bank accounts, and they pay check cashers $8 billion for services most banks provide for free. Short-term payday loans regularly charge interest rates above 300 percent. Edwards will subsidize bank accounts for working families and set national rules to prevent abusive payday lending. [Center for Economic Progress, 2004]

Strengthening Our Schools: • Strengthen Public Schools: Edwards proposed expanding access to preschool programs, investing more in teacher pay and training to attract good teachers where we need them most, and strengthening high schools with a more challenging curriculum. Create Second-Chance Schools for High School Dropouts: As many as one-third of all students drop out of school, and the rates are even worse for poor and minority students. Large majorities of recent dropouts regret their decision. Edwards will create second-chance schools to help former dropouts get back on track. [Civic Enterprises, 2006; Manhattan Institute, 2006] Expand College Opportunity: Edwards will enact a College for Everyone program to pay tuition for students who agree to work part-time during their first year at a public college. Additional student aid can make the greatest difference in the first year of college. [Dynarski, 1999]

Support Responsible Families: • Encourage and Reward Responsibility from Fathers: Welfare reform required mothers to work and helps them find jobs, but it failed to do the same for fathers. Edwards will help fathers find work, require them to help support their children, and increase child support collections by more than $8 billion over the next decade and use those payments to benefit children. Fight Teen Pregnancy: The U.S. has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world. Edwards believes we should have more support for teenagers struggling to beat the odds.

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Paid for by John Edwards for President.