October 27, 2005

"Americans are looking for something moral and just. Something other than this mess in Iraq we are engaged in."

"They need a champion. That champion is you." So said John Edwards, stopping by the UW campus today on his "Opportunity Rocks" tour. The message:
Poverty is the great moral issue facing America today....

The number of Americans living in poverty rose by 1 million in 2004 and now stands at 37 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"It's not a complicated thing," Edwards said. "It's just wrong."

Katrina exposed the ugly face of poverty. "We saw that poverty has a face in America. It's largely black," he said.

Edwards, dressed in faded jeans with the sleeves of his blue oxford shirt rolled up, said that the typical African-American family has about $6,000 in assets and that the typical Hispanic family has about $8,000. White families have about $80,000, he said.

Most of the nation's poor are people who work or are capable of working, Edwards said. Many of them are single mothers who are working two or three jobs for minimum wage. They are working 15 to 16 hours a day, six or seven days a week, trying to survive and give their kids a better life, he said....

Asked what his dream ticket would be for 2008, he responded, "Somebody who would stand up and fight for the kind of people we're talking about here today."

Before Edwards spoke, Scott VanDerven, 51, was musing about Edwards-Feingold in '08.

"It's youthful. It's certainly not traditional. But is it too far left for mainstream voters?"
In case you were wondering what John Edwards was up to! Personally, I'd rather hear John Edwards try to come up with ideas for lifting people out of poverty than John Kerry offer his plan for Iraq.

69 comments:

Paul said...

I especially wouldn't care to hear from either of them.

bill said...

It just depends on what the definition of poverty is.

I agree with Paul, I really don't care to hear from either, given a choice. But there is something about a slick channeling lawyer talking about others poverty that just grates me.

Adriana Bliss said...

Well, maybe you should listen to them - maybe if 51% of the country listened to them in 2004, our country wouldn't be neck-deep in Bush administration criminal investigations, a 2000 dead milestone in Iraq, not to mention the increasing deficit and have-not population.

Tom T. said...

Oh well. When I read the opening "champion" quote, Ann, I thought you were endorsing Walken for President in 2008.

Synova said...

I did listen... and no matter how bad Bush is, I'm still glad he won. I'd echo whoever it was I read today "I may have voted for Bush while holding my nose, but to vote for Kerry I'd have had to have both hands around my neck." Or something like that.

And, as bill pointed out... Edwards waxing eloquent about poverty is... rich.

reader_iam said...

Well, Edwards didn't grow up rich, though. So it's not as if he has zero personal insight into the experience. I mean, he's not Ted Kennedy or some other silver-spoon spawn.

Only sayin' ...

Jake said...

Our Poverty rate went up because the government (as they do every year) raised the bar for what is considered poverty.

Our poverty cutoff point is so high that based upon standard of living, 40% of all Europeans now live below our poverty line.

So we end up with these statistics on people who live below our poverty line:

60% own their own homes
75% own cars
45% have air conditioning
90% have color TVs.

Someone should tell Edwards that people with $25,000 cars do not take take to the streets because someone else has a $45,000 car.

Steven said...

We had a trendline, 1900-1928, of poverty declining 1 percentage point of the total population per year.

There was a Great Depression spike, but it was counteracted with the wartime economic upturn, and by 1950 we were right where we would have been at the 1-percentage-point-per-year decline. And the decline resumed a peacetime 1-point-per-year decline.

Right up until the mid-1960s, when we declared a War on Poverty. At which point it stablized into a 15-10 band, with the only occasional outlier. And so poverty has been with us twenty-five years longer than anyone looking at the trendlines in 1960 would have predicted.

What did we do wrong? When we declared war on poverty, we responded by handing money to people for being poor. Like any sane economist could tell you, whenever you subsidize something, you get more of it. We started subsidizing poverty, and accordingly it stayed around.

So, what is Edwards proposing? To cut off the subsidies and resume our progress, or to repeat the fundamental mistake of the War on Poverty?

Jake said...

Adriana Bliss:

No the Bush administration is not neck deep in criminal investigations. This is neck neck deep in criminal investigations and it is called the Clinton administration:


Number of individuals and businesses associated with the Clintons who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to crimes: 47

Number of these convictions during Clinton's presidency: 33

Number of indictments/misdemeanor charges: 61

- Number of congressional witnesses who have pleaded the Fifth Amendment, fled the country to avoid testifying, or (in the case of foreign witnesses) refused to be interviewed: 122

Steve Donohue said...

As someone who really, truly, comes from a povery that most politicians only hear about, I'm instantly nauseated by discussions about our lack of ability and the need for government to pull us out of this mess. No, sorry- I've never lived in an America that didn't comndemn us to failing public schools because we couldn't afford better private education, or pour money down the never-ending drain of entitlement programs that cannot possibly exist as they currently stand today when I'm 65.

Does John Edwards understand what its like to leave a welfare office with your mother and be offered crack in return for your food stamps (true story). Does John Edwards care in the least about the poor people who's standard of living goes down every time we as Americans insist upon "fair trade" (not to mention 3rd worlders who have it even worse than my family.)

No, of course not; to men like Edwards, we poor are nothing more than the wards of the state, who are entitled to government beneficience. Indeed, the presence of poverty means the government isn't giving enough! No, Mr. Edwards, there will always be an underclass as long as men such as him exist; the well-enough-off to think about poor people, enable them, talk about them, but nonetheless completely foreign to the problems which life presents us every day.

Sorry for the long comment, but that was cathartic.

Adriana Bliss said...

To Jake, I'll take Clinton's "criminal" activities any day over Bush's crimes, ten times over I'll take them.

SippicanCottage said...

"There's one segment of the black population that suffers only a 9.9 percent poverty rate, and only 13.7 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. There's another segment that suffers a 39.5 percent poverty rate, and 58.1 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. Among whites, one segment suffers a 6 percent poverty rate, and only 9.9 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. The other segment suffers a 26.4 percent poverty rate, and 52 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty populations among blacks?

Would you buy an explanation that it's because white people practice discrimination against one segment of the black population and not the other or one segment had a history of slavery and not the other? You'd have to be a lunatic to buy such an explanation. The only distinction between both the black and white populations is marriage -- lower poverty in married-couple families.

In 1960, only 28 percent of black females ages 15 to 44 were never married and illegitimacy among blacks was 22 percent. Today, the never-married rate is 56 percent and illegitimacy stands at 70 percent. If today's black family structure were what it was in 1960, the overall black poverty rate would be in or near single digits. The weakening of the black family structure, and its devastating consequences, have nothing to do with the history of slavery or racial discrimination... the statistical reality is that people who get into the American job market and stay there seldom remain poor unless they do something self-destructive."

Walt Williams' column today. Of course, it's OK that that well meaning poverty programs destroyed the black family. After all, the only important thing is for those women to be autonomous

knoxgirl said...

Can't swallow rich trial lawyer waxing on about poverty

Bruce Hayden said...

I guess, despite his plebian roots, I don't think that I can truly respect someone who made millions and millions putting OB/Gyns out of business on the basis of junk science.

The other thing though is that I don't ever remember him making viable proposals about what to do about poverty. As some of the previous posters have pointed out, a lot of our current poverty problem is a direct, forseeable, result of feel-good politics of the 1960s (also know as the War on Poverty).

Indeed, to some extent, Edwards sounds little different than Kerry does on Iraq, as we discussed on another thread tonight. And the reason is probably obvious - they are both already running for president in 2008.

PatCA said...

Sounds like a rehash of their campaign: you are too stupid to take care of yourselves, so the govmint will do it, even though the govmint has doon a piss poor job of it to date. Black Republicans call this Democrat ploy as "keeping blacks on the plantation."

All the commenters here--Steven and Sippican, especially--touch on the reality that we all have come to know in the last three decades. There's no way we can end poverty for many people. They have to do it themselves. If you remove recent immigrants, unwed mothers, and drug users, the povery rate is quite low.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/20/AR2005092001412.html

PatCA said...

BTW Alaa, at http://www.messopotamian.blogspot.com/ has a great post on "this mess in Iraq." His view is a little different from Kedwards'.

Jeff said...

How much governmental help did John Edwards need to rise from poverty?

amba said...

Chris Walken for President?? Is that a joke? I went to the website, and I couldn't tell. It's all very straight-faced except the photos, which are weird (Chris is weird!), and the slogan in tiny print in the upper right-hand corner of the Platform page, which reads:

I believe in saving money.
I believe in having a house.
I believe in keeping things clean.
I believe in exercising.

I adore Chris Walken, but for President? He's much too strange and interesting an actor to be President. And too . . . androgynous? You have to be a square-jawed, forgettable B-movie stalwart like Ronnie.

Aspasia M. said...

At least John Edwards is talking about the reality and problem of the working poor.

2005 Poverty guideline:
Four people: 19,350. The poverty rate has increased from 11.3 percent to 12.7 percent from 2000 to 2004.

I would hate to raise kids on a salary of the working poor. Let's estimate a salary of 20K for a family of four living in the midwest.

With winter comming and gas prices up, it's going to be real difficult to make the natural gas bill each month. The monthly bill is expected to double. Quite frankly, I don't know what a lot of families are going to do in the midwest.

If I had a newborn, how many degrees could I turn down the thermonstat?

In much of the U.S. working people have to own a car because they have no other way to get to work.

If you don't care, then fine, you don't care. But don't kid yourself -- There are plenty of American children who don't go to the dentist or to the doctors because their families are poor.

EddieP said...

Jeff

Your question about what government help did John Edwards need is right on! I'd guess none. He got out of poverty the same way ,most people do it. Got an education, got a job, and worked hard. Whether his chosen line of work was particularly honorable is another question.

JimNtexas said...

We've taken some baby steps towards tort reform.

Should Edwards be elected all that would be lost as lawyers would be given a huge green light to loot every business in the country with frivolous lawsuits.

Think of the kind of judges Edwards would appoint.

Production of new drugs in the U.S. would end, Ford and GM would be destroyed, as would Boeing.

The country would wind up in a depression.

gs said...

"The country is hungry for a big issue - a cause, a calling - it can get involved in, Edwards told about 500 people Wednesday afternoon at the Wisconsin Union Theater...'Americans are looking for something moral and just...They need a champion. That champion is you.'"

I went to Ann's link and clicked on the picture to see a regular-size image of John Edwards and the Opportunity Rockers. The young champions behind Edwards sure don't look like they share the country's hunger for a big issue--a cause, a calling--to get involved in.

More rockin' opportunities (and opportunistic crocks) from cool but caring Senator John Edwards are here and here.

Elizabeth said...

60% own their own homes
75% own cars
45% have air conditioning
90% have color TVs.


Statistics, the best tool of propaganda!

Are you arguing that these are valuable homes, new cars running well, a couple of central AC units in the back yard, and flatpanel TVs?

There's a lot of poverty in the South; temperatures hit unbearable levels there. I've personally donated an air conditioner to a poor family that had an asthmatic child. It's necessary, not a luxury. Would it make you feel less taken advantage of by the welfare queen if those poor people all lived with heat stroke rather than buy a $100 window unit?

I know that in New Orleans, plenty of the poor people that owned cars weren't able evacuate in them, because they don't run well enough to spend 8-12 hours in evacuation traffic. Owning a 15 year old beater with a donut for one tire sure isn't scamming the welfare system. A car, no matter how crappy, may be the only hold poverty-level workers have on keeping their jobs.

people with $25,000 cars do not take take to the streets because someone else has a $45,000 car.

And who says they do? Back to Reagan's demon Welfare Queen again! This is propaganda; it's a lying representation about what Edwards is talking about. How sad you have to convince yourself there aren't reallypoor people, just whining welfare cheats.

Elizabeth from Atlanta said...

I'm delighted to hear that John Edwards is still out there kicking. I wish we had him in Washington now instead of Dick Cheney, who gives me the creeps -- but that's another comment, another day.

My main objection at the moment is the ridicule that is heaped on anybody who speaks up about poverty who doesn't currently happen to be poor himself. Not many who are truly poor have the ability to speak for themselves articulately. The same qualities that help an individual communicate his point of view (verbal skills, intelligence, energy, focus) also help an individual lift himself out of poverty altogether. By definition, those in poverty lack resources, and resources are essential to be heard. The working poor that Mr. Edwards described lack time most of all. And except for the poignant anecdotes, the stories about particular damsels in distress, the media-reading and -watching public is not much interested in the poor anyway. So why should Mr. Edwards, as the spokesman of the poor, receive less consideration than the mouthpieces for other interests?

Mr. Edwards's comments are especially appropriate at this time when governmental bungling has so recently allowed a foreseeable event to sweep away the homes and communities of poor, mostly black Louisianans. Now, the newly homeless from New Orleans are languishing in trailer cities, far from the work of rebuilding their former homes at the coast. Instead, strapped local governments can't get the federal help they need to restore infrastructure. Much of the work of rebuilding has been assigned to corporations such as the former employer of Mr. Cheney, which are now permitted to carry out this work as cheaply as possible, without such niceties as working papers or prevailing wages. The result is insult added to injury: not only did the poor, mostly black inhabitants of New Orleans and surroundings lose their past and present to the storm, they are also losing their future hopes of a real home. They definitely need a champion.

Sloanasaurus said...

Under a Edwards Administration, freeing people under tyranny would not be moral and just. Edwards would let the holocaust go on and on and on and on and on, just as Clinton did in Rwanda.

At least Edwards will be able to sleep at night knowing he was able to get a few more DVD players for some of the Amercia's poor.

Steve Donohue said...

If only we had a president like Mr. Edwards, the poor of New Orleans would never have lost their homes. Why, he would have built a shield to protect the poor from the ravages of the weather.

Are you arguing that these are valuable homes, new cars running well, a couple of central AC units in the back yard, and flatpanel TVs?

No, no one is, but does lack of flatpanel television signify poverty. And under whose system of measurement?

My main objection at the moment is the ridicule that is heaped on anybody who speaks up about poverty who doesn't currently happen to be poor himself.

You are right, it is not a requisite that someone be poor to talk about poverty. Frankly, to say that smacks of the ridiculous "chickenhawk" argument. But most politicians have absolutely no moral authority to talk to me about poverty, even if they did grow up in a "blue-collar" family. Too often their own selfish interests- i.e., getting reelected- gets in the way of sound policymaking.

For Mr. Edwards to go upon a stage and talk about two Americas, however, disgusts me. It just does. He would rather cover the wounds of poverty with certain politically favorable salves, rather than confront the problem head on. Instead, let's raise tariffs to keep our unions happy, and therefore let's allow the standard of living to erode. Let's raise the minimum wage and make a couple hundred thousand people unemployed- but don't worry, because big daddy government will take care of them. And then what happens when my youngest brother goes to look for a job? Well, he'll have no education because he was stuck in the abyssmal public school that we couldn't afford to take him out of. The industries that we protected will be skeletons of their former selves, and the entire economy will be the steel industry writ large. But for a few crucial votes in Ohio or Pennsylvania, to hell with the poor!

The worst fantasy is that poverty is an endless pit of desolation, the likes of which no one can pull themselves out of. This is not true. I hope to become living proof of that. And sometimes government needs to lend a helping hand, and I certainly don't oppose all, or even most, welfare. But Mr. Edwards finds it politically expedient to leave the poor enchained in a slave mentality that enriches no one in the long run, and probably doesn't help much in the short run.

Jake said...

Elizabeth:

The reason we have poor in this country is that left-wing Democrats have turned our major urban centers into kleptocracies:

These left-wing democrats have built their power structure on the backs of the minorities. In return, the left have given them corrupt city governments, inferior schools, no police protection and many other barriers to their success.

I believe what the former Superintendent of Milwaukee schools said at a speech two years ago. (he is black and I am paraphrasing).

“Everyone in this room as a duty to go forth and work for the defeat of every Democrat running for office. These Democrats have done everything in their power to rob black children of their dreams of a better life.”

These people will never achieve their dreams until they throw out corrupt left-wing Democrats just as the people of New York City did.

amba said...

To answer my own question (sorry for interrupting this serious discussion), Chris Walken for President a joke? Yep. Whew, thought I was hallucinating.

amba said...

Jake: Jesus said, "The poor ye have always with you." The Democrats aren't powerful enough to have created poverty all by themselves, nor would poverty vanish if every Democrat could be magically teleported to Tralfamadore.

That said -- New York City is much better under Republican mayors, and I would no more vote for Fernando Ferrer than I would . . . wait for a green light before crossing the street . . .

John Thacker said...

Paul Rubin and Joanna Shepherd of Emory University, two economists, peformed an interesting study recently that suggests that the US tort system causes more accidents and lost lives than it saves. Among other evidence, they show a very strong correlation between states adopting tort reform and a sharp decrease in accidental deaths. It does not make me think favorably of John Edwards.

In addition, as I recall quite a few of his ideas about trying to help the poor here involved using trade barriers to keep the even poorer in poorer countries in worse poverty. I can't agree with that. (Especially given that it wouldn't even make the poor richer here in the long run.)

Icepick said...

Damnit, I swore I wouldn't get involved, but...

Elizabeth wrote: There's a lot of poverty in the South; temperatures hit unbearable levels there. I've personally donated an air conditioner to a poor family that had an asthmatic child. It's necessary, not a luxury.

What utter bullshit. An air conditioner is not a necessity. I grew up in Central Florida, and lived in a house where my mother REFUSED to run an air-conditioner. She had moved down from up north well before I was born, and didn't see the sense in leaving cold weather behind to freeze in Florida. I lived through a couple of decades of Florida summers with 95 degree heat, 95% humidity, and no breeze. And Mom refused to even consider an air conditioner in her home until she had passed 70, by which time the original air conditioners no longer worked.

Elizabeth continued with: Would it make you feel less taken advantage of by the welfare queen if those poor people all lived with heat stroke rather than buy a $100 window unit?

-and-

And who says they do? Back to Reagan's demon Welfare Queen again! This is propaganda; it's a lying representation about what Edwards is talking about. How sad you have to convince yourself there aren't reallypoor people, just whining welfare cheats.

Nice ad hominem attacks, but Jake (whom you quoted) didn't mention welfare cheats, welfare queens, or even welfare. You complain about statistics being used for propoganda. What about claiming people made arguements that they didn't actually make so that you can get on your high horse and denounce them for being aweful AWEFUL people? What a crock.

Elizabeth said...

Jake,

Left-wing Democrats invented poverty! Wow, that changes history. What a conveniently black-and--white, simpleminded explanation. And to back it up, you pull out the conservative last ditch effort, quoting a conservative black politician. If a black man doesn't like liberalism, it MUST be true.

It doesn't sound to me as though you have any investment in addressing poverty, just in blaming it on Democrats. Except when you're denying poverty exists. That's a connundrum. There really aren't many poor people, but if there were, it would be the libruls fault. You've got the talking points down pat!

Icepick said...

Elizabeth, given the invective you're throwing around, I don't see where you have much room to complain about Jake's.

And Steve, it is certainly possible to climb out of poverty. Hell, I did it, and I'm no rocket scientist. (Although I was a mathematician-in-training at one point.) Just keep up with your education, and make certain that you don't choose a poverty inducing line of study(e.g., gender studies, Intelligent Design theorist) unless you really love whatever it is. Oh, and don't go to grad school unless it is a professional school! (Law, Medicine, an MBA program....)

And incidentally, the most important two things for reducing poverty that government has jurisdiction over are creating effective schools in poor areas and creating safe neighborhoods. Without those two preconditions nothing else will be worth the time or effort. And given that those are local issues, any national politician talking about the subject as a national policy issue is just blowing smoke up do-gooder middle class voters posteriors. (You can tell who these do-gooders are because they refer to the poor as "those people".)

Elizabeth said...

Icepick,

Good for you and your hearty mom. But people get sick from heat in Louisiana, Florida and other very hot climates, nonetheless. Poor people, and elderly people, tend to live in neighborhoods where leaving windows open at night is unsafe. There's nothing wrong with even poor people having a cheap window unit for comfort, health and safety. I'm rejecting the conservative notion that poverty doesn't exist if people aren't in rags living in huts.

Also, you misuse ad hominem; I don't attack Jake, I attack points in his argument, and the assumptions behind them. Listing items like cars and ACs as he did was meant to argue that there really is little poverty, that these so-called poor people own a car, or have a color tv, so they can't possibly be poor. (Do they even SELL B/W tvs anymore, or is owning any TV verboten for the poor? Is a radio ok? Maybe AM only?) If they claim to be poor, but they have some stuff, this povery gig must all be a big ruse. A cheat.

His comment about owners of $25k cars protesting about not having more expensive cars was just silly hyperbole. It's a rehash of Reagan's specter of the Welfare Queen, out to steal hardworking Americans' dollars to buy a Cadillac for her and her 20 kids. It's shameless class warfare. How is pointing that out an ad hominem attack? It isn't, of course.

Nor did I call him an awful person, nor any name--which would be an ad hominem attack. I called his argument sad, and pointed out that it is old-hat, conservative cant, i.e. propaganda.

Bruce Hayden said...

It is not that the Democratic party invented poverty, because, of course, they didn't. But throughout the last 80 years, they have done little to make it better, and a lot to perpetuate it.

Mind you, I am not suggesting for a minute that Democratic politicians, by and large, want to see this maintained, though, I am sure that there are a lot of conservatives who believe that they do in order to be able to continue to buy their elective offices through dispensing perks.

Indeed, many Democratic politicians have felt quite bad about poverty, and Edwards here at least has a legitimate claim to have known such, as opposed to a lot of his former senate colleges, like Kennedy, Rockefeller, etc. who were born rich and then spent their adult years trying to buy off their guilt for that through spending the public's money doing it.

No, the problem is not one of intent, but rather of actions. One liberal policy after another has had the opposite of its intended result. Instead of alleviating poverty, almost all have perpetuated it, and in some cases, indeed made it worse.

I think that someone above pointed out the failure of the Great Society and the War on Poverty. It did two things that have forced generations to enter or stay in poverty. First, it legitimized illegitimacy. And secondly, it provided economic incentives for women to have and to raise kids without husbands. And so they did. The women had kids without fathers, and their daughters did the same. The boys, meanwhile, ran in male gangs and ended up dead and/or in prison. All primarily because of these two liberal contributions of the 1960s.

The problem with Edwards is that he seems to be falling into this same trap. He sounds good. But then proposes programs that invariably result in increased, not decreaesed poverty.

An example of this is increased protectionism. It would probably benefit a small handful of semiskilled, or in today's technology, unskilled, workers, at the cost of raising costs of products for the other 275 million of us. And that increase in price for the rest of us is the key to why his proposals are counterproductive, but that increae in costs for the rest of us put far more people out of work than are ever benefitted by the programs.

Bruce Hayden said...

Elizebeth,

As I note in my previous post. The problem with Democrats is not that they don't feel the pain of the poor, because at least those like Edwards, probably do.

It is rather that their policies are, for the most part, wrong headed. It is not that conservatives like poverty. Or that they want it or like it. It is rather that, for the most part, they believe, with I think very good reason, that the vast majority of the programs that the Democrats have introduced for the last 75 years have been extremely counter-productive. Instead of alleviating poverty, as probably intended, and as obviously sold, they almost invariably perpetuate it.

Bruce Hayden said...

Elizebeth,

Yes, there is still some poverty today. I don't want to minimize it. It is just that by most of our "poor" are not that poor by either world or historic standards. Few American kids are going to be hungry these days, and, indeed, the problem is more the opposite - obesity is very highly negatively correlated with wealth these days, as opposed to the situation historically here, or, indeed, with much of the 2nd and 3rd world today. The rich don't get fat here, it is the poor who do.

One hundred years ago, my father's parents' families were living in hand built sod huts on the prarie, working dawn to dusk to bearely survive. They weren't unique. Rather, they felt themselves average, because they were, for the time. Yet they didn't have cars, electricity, running water, TVs, refrigerators, air conditioning, computers, fast food, etc. But most of America didn't have any of these things either. Now, every one of those things would probably be considered a necessity by you.

One of the things that our forrays into Iraq and Afganistan has done for a lot of us is to bring home that much of the rest of the world doesn't have those "necessities" to this day.

So, when I see modern
American poverty, does it bother me? Yes. Do I like it? No. But do I want to go out and pass a lot of progressive or liberal poverty programs? No, this makes me want to oppose them strenuously - because they almost always do more harm than good.

Bruce Hayden said...

Finally, we need to make the connection between John Edward's multimillions and poverty.

As probably all know here, Edwards became very, very, rich by suing doctors for supposed malpractice. He was very good at it, and it made him very, very, rich.

But the problem was that he wasn't suing bad doctors in many cases, he was suing decent ones who made professional decisions that could later be questioned.

And the most egregious thing he did was to sue them for vaginal deliveries instead of performing C-sections, when the kids delivered ended up having cereberal palsy.

The problem was that this was junk science. It turns out that there is no valid statistical correlation between type of delivery and whether or not a kid ended up with this malady.

So, what was the result of this? Obviously, he got very rich. But on the other hand, it had a number of very adverse results. First, malpractice insurance for delivering babies increased significantly (not just because of him, but rather, also because of the other tort attys. suing docs delivering babies). For some docs, esp. those in family medicine, this meant not delivering bablies at all. Some ob/gyns either retired, or moved. Again, the supply of docs in some areas delivering babies was significantly reduced. Those staying in the business had to raise their rates to cover their increased costs.

But probably more importantly financially, those who continued delivering babies had a lot more tests done on their patients and did a lot more, much higher cost, C-sections. After all, it is much easier to medically justify a C-section than it is a vaginal delivery, even if the later is much cheaper AND better for the mother.

So, what was the economic effect of this? Well, babies were still going to be born, so all this extra expense had to come from somewhere. Some of it came from increased insurance costs. But this ended up pushing more and more people out of private health insurance because of its cost, rising significantly faster than inflation. So, those at the bottom ended up having their health care paid for by the rest of the populace, either through state programs or cross-subsidization. But then, you got into the problem that since these people no longer had price as a limiting factor on their health care decisions, their utilization went up accordingly. (i.e. why capitalism works).

Meanwhile, all those people who are spending ever more of their income for health care, whether for their own, or for others (see above), have less and less left to spend for other things. That, of course means that they buy fewer and less expensive goods, resulting in fewer and less well paid jobs.

So, even excluding his voting record in the Senate, John Edwards probably did more than probably any one here to perpetuate poverty, even though, I am sure, he had no intention of doing so, when he was making himself rich. But, as noted, he did it on the backs of those less fortunate than himself.

Jimmy said...

"So, even excluding his voting record in the Senate, John Edwards probably did more than probably any one here to perpetuate poverty, even though, I am sure, he had no intention of doing so, when he was making himself rich. But, as noted, he did it on the backs of those less fortunate than himself."

Lets talk about how Buhs amde his fortune. Basically Bush bought a share of the Texas Rangers through insder connections (everyday Joe's don't get this deal). Got the city of Houston to build the team a new $135 million stadium and then sold the team (which was worth $135 million more) for a huge profit.

Edwards became rich by actually winning his clients, who had been wronged, huge settlements. And he had to be skilled enough to convince juries and judges that the law was on his side. Bush participated in a sophisticated transfer of money from the taxpayers to his pocket. I don't see conservatives disgusted by Bush's profiteering.

Goesh said...

-another rich honky worried about po' folks - what a jerk - no doubt the younger generation is preoccupied with uplifting drop-outs and addicts and unwed mothers and will vote for him. I'm sure they all feel so guilty about having some money and jobs... I've got half a notion to buy a $20.00 cigar and light it with a burning $20.00 bill...

Slocum said...

"Americans are looking for something moral and just. Something other than this mess in Iraq we are engaged in."

I have nothing whatsoever against politicians having a genuine concern with the needs of less-well-off Americans.

But I have a huge problem with setting that off against international concerns. This, to me, sounds very much like another reformulation of Kerry's "Building firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in New York" bit.

Pogo said...

Wonderful. All the usual tropes from the left on poverty.

Democrats care about the poor, while Republicans are just selfish and greedy.
Poverty is worse today than 10, 20, 30 years ago.
Poverty is solved by increasing welfare payments.

It's all garbage, of course, and always has been. There is no magic solution that Edwards can bring forward. He offers snake oil. The history of socialism is littered with such failed utopian claims, having caused extreme poverty and millions of deaths.

The richest people on earth become that way because of stable property rights, governments without bribery, and ease of entry into business. This requires tax burdens of far less than 50% of GDP (although the exact number is debatable).

Individuals in the US can reliably avoid poverty by (1)finishing high school, (2) not having children until married and out of school, (3) avoiding drug and alcohol abuse.

These are the unrefutable bare bones of relieving poverty. There are refinements, to be sure, and there will always be people who remain impoversihed despite their attempts to avoid it. The elderly, sick, and disabled are thus to be protected.

But Democrats cannot relieve poverty better by any wave of the magic government wand. But they can most assuredly make things worse by doing so.

Sol said...

What caught my attention about Edwards' quote was this: "We saw that poverty has a face in America. It's largely black."

Last time I checked, that wasn't even vaguely true. A high percentage of blacks may be in poverty, but whites had higher absolute numbers. When you throw in Hispanics and illegal immigrants into the mix, I would be surprised if as many as a third of those in poverty in the US were black.

jult52 said...

Jimmy writes: "Edwards became rich by actually winning his clients, who had been wronged, huge settlements. And he had to be skilled enough to convince juries and judges that the law was on his side. Bush participated in a sophisticated transfer of money from the taxpayers to his pocket."

So, Jimmy, you are saying that Edwards -- with his unjustified trial victories -- and Bush are on the same moral level?

One of the frightening things about Katrina is that it showed a whole bevy of left-wing commentators had learned absolutely NOTHING from welfare's institution and subsequent reform. And they hadn't seemed to grasp that the problem with solving poverty was not poverty but that they had no viable solutions to offer.

Henry said...

I would be happy to pour tons of money into health care for all -- as long as it was grudgingly doled out by HMO bean counters determined to get the best return for every dollar.

I would also be happy to pour tons of money into public schools -- as long as it was accompanied by a reform agenda that included support for vouchers, charter schools, the decentralization of large urban schools, opening up the teaching profession to anyone with capability and knowledge, and the deregulation of home schooling.

I think the United States does have a responsibility to help alleviate third world poverty. That's why I support free trade without compromise.

So tell me, what party am I supposed to vote for?

Pogo said...

What the left has never seemed to grasp is that poverty is not a problem of money per se. Poverty cannot be solved by "redistribution," but it can be intensified and solidified by that method.

Bruce Hayden said...

Jimmy,

Much of Edwards' money was won on those cerebral palsy cases. He claimed that if the babies had been delivered via C-section, that they wouldn't have had cerebral palsy. This later was proven to be junk science. There is no valid statistical correlation between type of delivery and this malady. But, after the studies were finally done discrediting him and how he made those millions, he never bothered to give the money back. Why not?

So, your statement that "Edwards became rich by actually winning his clients, who had been wronged" is just plain wrong. These clients hadn't been wronged, at least not by the doctors sued by Edwards. Rather, he wronged the doctors, besmirching their reputations and costing them a lot of money in malpractice insurance cost increases through no true negligence on their part.

And I can't think that, in addition to all the money he immorally made, it is good for all the extra women who now have C-sections instead of vaginal deliveries as a partial result of his actions. And I can't think that it is good that some counties no longer have docs delivering babies because of him, etc.

Yes, his heart may have been in the right place. But we are back to the distinction that I was talking about with my posts to Elizebeth. This is another example of Democrats intending to do good, but as a result, doing bad, and then having no remorse for the harm that they have caused.

Lowlylawfirmassociate said...

I guess I see the poverty issue a little differently. I start from the standpoint that there will always be rich people and there will always be "poor" people. I put quotations around the word "poor" because, as I see it, there will always be people in this country, in this world, who are considered poor. It's all relative. Any one on this blog could be considered "poor" in comparison to someone else. I see the issue as making the standard of living for the people who are considered "poor" as compared to the people that are considered middle class bearable. Once this country gets to a point where a person that is considered "poor" as in comparison to someone else still has a standard of living that is bearable (when I say bearable I mean can own a home, car, maintain a solid credit rating, send their kids off to college -- basically what we would call the middle class) I think the issue of who is "poor" will be a moot discussion (This is subtracting those in society who are poor because of some bad personal habit [i.e., illicit drug addiction], or mentally ill etc.).

Overall, when a potential presidential candidate gives a speech about poverty, I don't really listen, because he is simply pandering to the masses and attempting to make the people who might potentially vote for him feel as though he'd be a good choice for president because he cares about those who are less fortunate. Truth of the matter is, most people only care about their own personal situation. You will give to the poor, but only if it doesn't adversly affect you. You can't believe they treated those people in Louisiana like that during the hurricane, but you cringe at the thought of any one of them moving next door to you. You want a candidate who cares about the poor, because, to be frank, you really don't give a damn. I think the academic and political discussion of what to do about America's poor is just that. A discussion. When it's all said and done, John Edwards will make just as much of a difference as any of us posting a comment on this blog.

Elizabeth said...

Bruce,
Your story about your ancestors isn't much different from my own. But comparing their life to the life of poor in urban America, or the descendents of slaves still working the same land in the Delta, doesn't hold up. This is a different world; I find the claim that owning a car, or having an air conditioner or tv means one is not poor wrong, and see it as a way to claim that there aren't people in need.

I don't advocate blindly increasing welfare, and I happen to agree with you that the policies that required households not to have an adult male in them in order to receive aid were deeply wrong. But Edwards is saying that poverty is an issue in America, and needs to be talked about, and dealt with more creatively. That's a broad approach, and one I support. And typically, many of the commenters here respond with "what poverty?" and "it's all the liberals' fault." Well, those are dumb replies, and their intent is to deny the need for thinking about the issue.

You say that very few Americans go to bed hungry. You're wrong. Food banks barely keep up with the needs of the urban poor. Old people are straining to feed themselves, keep a roof over their heads, and pay for their medications. They go to bed hungry. Kids go to school everyday, and the lunch they receive there may be the only thing they eat. That just adds to the cycle of low performance in schools that lead them to continue in poverty.

We have a lot of room for agreement; there's plenty to blame in liberal policy for school failures. But Reagan and Bush legacies as well. While I'll never, ever forgive Reagan for his divisive, hateful rhetoric on that issue, neither am I naive or accepting of the standard operating procedure for both parties, to use poverty as a wedge, and act on it when it matters in election cycles.

PatCA said...

"My main objection at the moment is the ridicule that is heaped on anybody who speaks up about poverty who doesn't currently happen to be poor himself."

The point is, Elizabeth, is that he was poor and he worked himself out of it. He went to a professional school that assured him income and had babies only when he and his wife could afford them. He did not take addictive drugs.

Yes, there are many people who are sick or who otherwise fall through the cracks who need and deserve our help. What conservatives point to, what Democrats demonize, is that the War on Poverty has, in fact, increased poverty because it rewarded behavior that ensured more poverty. The frailities of human nature alway trumps good intentions.

Mary said...

"The frailities of human nature always trumps good intentions."
---
I'd agree with that. Which is a good reason for the U.S. not to play "world's policeman" and meddle in the Middle East.

Jeff said...

What did Reagan say that was "divisive, hateful rhetoric on that issue"?

PatCA said...

But policemen are needed, Mary, precisely because of the frailities of human nature: to protect good people from bad. We "meddled" in Japan and Germany to kill the tyrants and allow the the better angels of human nature to flourish there. I hope our efforts in Iraq have the same effect, even if it takes a few more months.

Ibid said...

The fact of the matter is, poverty is not something we can solve. Poverty has been around since the dawn of time. Our bodies largely expect it; hence the obesity of current nations who aren't as active or as starved as their ancestors. This is not to say we shouldn't try to help those in need-- absolutely we should. But to say we can "solve" poverty like it's a math problem is bad rhetoric. There isn't enough wealth in the world to do it. I myself live below the poverty line, and if I don't have enough money for food, I go hungry. But I would rather go hungry occasionally than not. It keeps things in perspective. Granted, I'm single and working through school, and this is not at all the same as living by the skin of your teeth trying to provide for your family. Nonetheless, I don't think the biggest issue today in America is poverty. It's a complete and utter lack of contentment or originality.

knoxgirl said...

Just watch footage from, say, the earthquake in Pakistan, and it puts things into perspective. I don't think "poverty" should include anyone who owns a car or a house.

Mary said...

patca:
If a weakened Iraq allows a stronger Iran, then we meddled in the wrong country.

"...to protect good people from bad."
But if lots of good people end up getting killed or suffering in our pursuit of the bad, perhaps would have best not to get directly involved.

We should devote more energy to the big picture in the region, and pursuing a peaceful solution we all can live with.

Optimism is good. Filtering out all the bad things you don't want to hear is not.

Time will tell...

PatCA said...

I agree with you that only time will tell, mary, as in every war, and that's a cruel reality. Yes, many people will die, but more will be freed. Again, look at Germany and Japan and the millions who died due to dithering with peace talk and appeasement.

We can't give up the fight against crime because it will always be with us, nor can we give up the fight against totalitarianism because it in some form will always be with us.

And we are looking at the big picture: Would Egypt, Libya, Lebanon have moved if we hadn't?

And please tell me how to make a peaceful resolution to Iran! A treaty, perhaps, guaranteeing peace in our time if we let them destroy Israel, as their president vowed today? If we had shut them down militarily when they attacked our embassy in 1979, we would not be facing a nuclear theocracy today. (Little war now or big war later.)

Mary said...

patca:
You raise some interesting points.

"I agree with you that only time will tell, mary, as in every war, and that's a cruel reality. Yes, many people will die, but more will be freed. Again, look at Germany and Japan and the millions who died due to dithering with peace talk and appeasement."
---
First, in my opinion, we should not compare past wars and leaders, which simplifies away much. This is not World War II, not the Cold War. This is a guerilla war, very different. "Know your target and beyond."

Many were sold on "Saddam is Hitler". "9/11 is Pearl Harbor." If we can get past emotional responses like those, we might have seen the road should have gone through Tehran, not Baghdad. Yes by all means, don't be afraid to act. But think it all through -- once, twice and then again -- before you act. There unfortunately are no "do-overs" in real life.

"We can't give up the fight against crime because it will always be with us, nor can we give up the fight against totalitarianism because it in some form will always be with us."
I agree because who really suffers when we are soft on crime? Other innocent people living closer to the criminals. That is why I dislike intensely when "liberals" from far away are sympathetic to criminals with unrealistic solutions. Who suffers when a poor child, for example, steals a bike? The liberals would have you feel sorry for the thief, for a having a lesser background, etc. What about the same kid with the same background living next door who had their bike stolen? They are the ones who pay, not the far away liberals sympathetic to the first kid. Unfortunately, they are too far away to see that. Sometimes things have to be worked out without far away interference, no matter the good intentions. Or you wind up creating worse injustices than you began with. Unfortunately, I believe this is what is happening to many Iraqis now.

"And we are looking at the big picture: Would Egypt, Libya, Lebanon have moved if we hadn't?"
Don't know, but I don't think you count your triumphs while so much fighting is still going on. For the record, I meant the Big, Big Picture: our energy policy for starters. Our involvement in the whole region.

"And please tell me how to make a peaceful resolution to Iran! A treaty, perhaps, guaranteeing peace in our time if we let them destroy Israel, as their president vowed today? If we had shut them down militarily when they attacked our embassy in 1979, we would not be facing a nuclear theocracy today. (Little war now or big war later.)"
Not calling for a peaceful resolution to Iran here!! You have to offer effective threats, then carry them out. Maybe our fiasco in Iraq actually has emboldened Iran. Maybe we picked the wrong "little war now". Some, many, situations can only be solved by using greater force. But force is a limited resource too. Think before you act. Consider not just one or two steps down the road, but as many as you can possibly imagine. This prepares you for whatever scenario does evolve. In this way, honest criticism and dissent can help prepare you and should never be summarily dismissed.

PatCA said...

"We should devote more energy to the big picture in the region, and pursuing a peaceful solution we all can live with."

"Not calling for a peaceful resolution to Iran here!!"

Mary, I think you're contradicting yourself. So, peace--and I'm off to dinner.

Aspasia M. said...

Huh - I was following the debate on the definitions and causes of poverty when the argument changed to Iran/war and crime.

Our country (the United States) contains millions of people who live in poverty and at the level of the working poor.

The horrible consequences of being poor has less to do with owning a TV set, and everything to do with being one paycheck away from absolute disaster.

Children who get sick can't afford treatment. People can't afford to pay for dental work.

Germany, France, Sweden, (ect. ect. almost all of the other 1st world countries) have figured out how to deal with poor sick children.

(And their citizens have 4 or 5 weeks of mandatory vacation. Just like President Bush!)

I don't think it is a morally tenable position to pretend that the lack of money causes acute suffering.

In addition to our large uninsured population, our public education system is ridiculously unequal.

I can't believe someone pointed to obesity as a example of why the poor are not poor enough to care about the situation. (Hello - starch is cheaper then fish and vegetables.)

(And I agree with Elizabeth - In the right circumstances air conditioning is a necessity. Don't you all remember the Chicago heat wave & all the deaths?)

tcd said...

This is for bleeding heart liberals like Elizabeth and geoduck. What do you want? What would you have taxpayers do? Should we all just hand over our paychecks to the federal government for redistribution? You seem to think that higher taxes only hurt the super-rich like the Bushes (whom you blame for everything bad) and the Kennedys & Edwards (who apparently are saints). You conveniently forget that higher taxes hurt everyone including middle class people who actually have to work every day of their lives for 30-40 years just so we won't have to be at the mercy of the government in our old age. Do you honestly think that the federal government can manage taxpayer's money better than we can ourselves? If you do, then please feel free to hand over your paychecks before you volunteer someone else's paycheck.

As for the lame A/C is a necessity argument, I call bullshit. My family survived for 15 years in a house without central air-conditioning. And here's another interesting fact. My parents, who came to this country 25 years ago as Vietnamese boat people, raised five kids on a laborer's wages and still managed to get all five kids through college (3 on academic scholarships). Twenty-five years later, my parents own their own home, have investment income, own secondary real estate, basically living the American dream. Of course, their road in life was not without its bumps and hurdles, but they made sacrifices and they presevered. My point is that the American dream is very real and possible to obtain. My fear though is that the American dream will die if politicians like John Edwards have their way.

Elizabeth said...

tcd,

You sure put a lot of words in my mouth about taxes. Go back and read my comments--there's nothing there about taxes. Just curious, do you want to pay no taxes at all? Or do you agree that in some things, the government actually does need to collect and apportion taxes? Are you ready to go out there and build your own little portion of the highway, police your own neighborhoods, form a bucket brigade every time a house in your town catches fire? I doubt it.

You have every reason to be proud of your parents, but I don't see how you can judge the fate of other people by their achievements. There will always be poverty; civilized communities have a responsibility to contend with that.

Elizabeth said...

Jeff, perhaps you don't recall Reagan's campaigning on the image of the "Welfare Queen," a figure he used to conjure support from angry white voters. Or his initial campaign speech, trumpeting states' rights, in of all godforsaken places, Philidelphia, Mississippi--where Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney were murdered by Klansmen. There's eight years of Reagan to dig through, but those come to mind quickly.

Aspasia M. said...

tcd,

Do I trust this government with my taxes? Do you?

I think this administration and congress is absolutely incompetent and horrible stewards of our money. Our deficit is out of control with no end in sight to spending. 17 Billion dollars have been stolen or "lost" in Iraq. That's a lot of taxpayer money.

That's not to say I wouldn't support competent government programs. (This doesn't include the new prescription medicine program.)


The Regan use of "welfare queen" was always racially coded. We all know the meta-language implication of that phrase.

tcd said...

Elizabeth and geoduck,

What do you propose as a solution to poverty? You don't have an answer, do you? Yeah, I'm proud of my parents, but that wasn't my point. I guess I neglected to say that my family's experience is not unique and we certainly are not special in any way. The point is that my family's experience has been replicated a million times over by countless generations of immigrants in this country.

And Elizabeth, taxes are fine by me as long as they actually do get used to build roads, schools, fire departments and pay for military and police. It's when taxes support lazy addicts and their addictions (whatever thier addictions may be) that make me mad.

Elizabeth said...

tcd,

Are you saying that our responses to poverty--WIC, food stamps, etc. --all go to addicts? Or that if there are some addicts among the recipients, then the programs are all wrong, and screw the truly needy?

There is no cure for poverty. But we can't abandon the poor; it's a dynamic process, and some people are able to take advantage of a little help to change their family's cycle. Many, maybe most, aren't. There's no single answer, so that means we have to look at all sorts of public policy issues to see how they affect the poor, the middle class, and so forth.

Finn Kristiansen said...

I'd rather hear John Edwards try to come up with ideas on how to resolve the Iraq situation in a manner that maintains (or restores, depending on viewpoint) respect for American values and influence, creating a society there that is marginally democratic, free and open for trade and capitalism. If such is achieved by Bush or a later president, we would have much to be proud of.

However, I don't think we should begrudge a potential candidate the opportunity to speak his thoughts on poverty. Indeed, I should think the more the issue is discussed, the better we can arrive at appropriate solutions that are not merely simplistic.

To talk about the options, or have a viewpoint, should be required of every candidate, whether discussing poverty or anything else.

Aspasia M. said...

tcd,

you asked if I had any ideas.

Balloon Solutions:

1) Education: Match the dollars per student until the poor school districts receive the same ammount of money as a typical well-funded middle class school.

2) Health Care: I like Germany's system. Almost everyone is covered.

3) Day Care: France has a public system that works.

4) With federal money fund a literacy program in every public school that the kids score below the 75th percentile in reading comprehension. This program would offer reading tutors, books, and small reading classes. OR

New Zealand has done a great job with teaching literacy in the public schools. Adopt their teaching techniques and funding system.

Note however:
The above ideas are politically impossible considering the politicians in office on the federal level.

Icepick said...

[Use] federal money [to] fund a literacy program in every public school that the kids score below the 75th percentile in reading comprehension.

And the government will stop when everyone is in at least the 75th percentile, right?< / sarcasm>