John Edwards On “The Working Society”

Ken AshfordDemocrats, DisastersLeave a Comment

Sure, it’s political rhetoric, but it’s really good political rhetoric.  John Edwards hits all the right notes:

So many young people are struggling against the odds to do right, and they need America’s support. Words are not enough. That’s why it is time for a new social compact. When President Bush talks about an "ownership society," he means the more you own, the more you get. For most Americans, his approach is the more you work, the more you pay and the less you make.

Where I come from, what matters the most isn’t how much you have, it’s how much you give. Work gives pride, dignity, and hope to our lives and our communities. And so the President is wrong: America is not, and never wished to be, a Wealth Society.

To be true to our values, our country must build a Working Society – an America where everyone who works hard finally has the rewards to show for it. In the Working Society, nobody who works full-time should have to raise children in poverty, or in fear that one health emergency or pink slip will drive them over the cliff.

In the Working Society, everyone who works full-time will at last have something to show for it – a home of their own, an account where their savings and paycheck can grow.

In the Working Society, everyone willing to work will have the chance to get ahead. Anyone who wants to go to college and work will be able to go the first year for free.

In the Working Society, people who work have the right to live in communities where the streets are safe, the schools are good, and jobs can be reached.

In the Working Society, everyone will also be asked to hold up their end of the bargain – to work, to hold off having kids until they’re ready, and to do their part for their kids when the time comes.

The first test of the working society will be in the Gulf. And the central principle of our effort should be the one I just outlined: We can only renew the Gulf if we renew the lives of the Gulf’s people by encouraging and honoring work.

The President doesn’t get that. At a time when a million people have been displaced, many already poor before the storm; when the only shot many people have is a good job rebuilding New Orleans, the President intervened to suspend prevailing wage laws so his contractor friends can cut wages for a hard day’s work.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the President never suggested cutting million-dollar salaries for the heads of Halliburton or the other companies profiting from these contracts. A President who never met an earmark he wouldn’t approve or a millionaire tax cut he wouldn’t promote decided to slash wages for the least of us.

Seventy-five years ago, our government was led by a President who actually succeeded in navigating America through a disaster. Faced with the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt saw that relief requires more than food and shelter; it requires the dignity that comes from a job at a decent wage. And he saw something else: as Allida Black put it at a forum here last week, we have to "build to last."

Many of our children still go to schools that the WPA constructed; many of our homes are lighted because of dams that the PWA built; many of our families still hike on trails that his CCC blazed. That’s why trailer parks are not the answer.

In fact, if we know anything from a half century of urban development, it is that concentrating poor people close to each other and away from jobs is a lousy idea. If the Great Depression brought forth Hoovervilles, these trailer towns may someday be known as Bushvilles.

UPDATE:  Ezra Klein likes it even more than me: "So what say you, John? Ready to be right on everything?"