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At Town Hall Meetings In Barnwell And Aiken, Edwards Introduces Plan To End Poverty In South Carolina Within A Generation

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Location: Barnwell, SC


At Town Hall Meetings In Barnwell And Aiken, Edwards Introduces Plan To End Poverty In South Carolina Within A Generation

On day two of his "Bringing It Home" tour, Edwards discusses ambitious plans to create a Working Society and end poverty in America within 30 years

Today, on the second day of the "Bringing It Home" tour, Senator John Edwards will hold town hall meetings in Barnwell and Aiken to greet supporters and discuss his ambitious plans to create a Working Society and end poverty in America within 30 years. To ensure every American has the opportunity to work hard and succeed, today Edwards introduced his plan for "Ending Poverty in South Carolina Within a Generation," which calls for major new policies for work, housing, education, debt and savings, and family responsibility.

Edwards' first town hall meeting will take place at the Historical Society in Barnwell, South Carolina. Barnwell has recently been hit by job losses and over the summer the unemployment rate increased to more than nine percent.

"Too many Americans are separated from the opportunities of our country," Edwards said. "Every day, 37 million Americans wake up in poverty. In South Carolina alone, there are 228,000 children living in poverty, and that number is growing. 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 - the great moral issue of our time."

Edwards' second town hall meeting will take place at the University of South Carolina in Aiken, South Carolina. At the event, Edwards will focus on his plan to ensure that every young person who is willing to work hard has the chance to go to college. Edwards was the first in his family to go to college and is running for president so that all young people have the same opportunities that he has had. At the event, which will take place at USC's Etherredge Center, Edwards will outline his plan to make college more affordable for millions of students through a national College for Everyone program that will pay for public college for students willing to take a part-time job.

"In America, every child should be able to go as far as her God-given talents and hard work will take her," said Edwards. "As the first in my family to go to college, I know that our system of public education should be our sturdiest ladder of opportunity. To build the better America we all believe in, we must find ways to make college more affordable. We've got to make sure that every qualified student has the opportunity to go to college and fulfill the American Dream."

Edwards has spent his life building One America, where every person has the same opportunities to work hard and get ahead. To make sure everyone has the same chances that America has given to him, today Edwards called for:

Ending Poverty within a Generation: Edwards called for a national goal of ending poverty within a generation by cutting poverty by one third within a decade and ending poverty within 30 years.

Rewarding Work: To create more opportunities for work and reward those efforts, Edwards will raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2012, helping the 33,000 South Carolinian workers who earn the minimum wage or less; cut taxes on low income workers; create 1 million Stepping Stone jobs; and strengthen workers' rights.

Overhauling Housing Policy: Edwards will create 1 million new housing vouchers over five years to help low-income families move to better neighborhoods, invest in struggling neighborhoods, and promote state and local efforts to build affordable housing close to good jobs and schools.

Strengthening Schools and Making College Affordable: Edwards will create a universal system of Great Promise early childhood education centers; invest more in teacher pay and professional development; radically overall No Child Left Behind; create Second Chance schools to help high school dropouts; and pay the public college tuition of everyone willing to take a part time job through a new College for Everyone initiative.

Helping Families Save and Get Ahead: Edwards will subsidize bank accounts for the 28 million Americans without them; create new Work Bonds to help low-income workers build up savings accounts; and protect families against abusive financial products, including payday loans, predatory mortgages, and abusive credit card terms.

Supporting Responsible Families: Edwards will encourage and reward responsibility from fathers by helping them find work and requiring the help support their children and discourage teen pregnancy. He will also call on community leaders to recognize that there is only so much that the government can do, and we all share the responsibility of promoting strong families.

Yesterday, Edwards launched his four-day South Carolina "Bringing It Home" bus tour to rally supporters and bring his fight for the middle class to the Palmetto State. Edwards is the only candidate in the race who was born in South Carolina and he is the only Democratic candidate to ever win in a "red" state. Edwards leads the Democratic field in both campaign stops and money raised in the Palmetto State, and his campaign boasts an impressive statewide grassroots organization strengthened by deep support from Edwards' 2004 campaign.

Please see the "Ending Poverty in South Carolina Within a Generation" policy paper included below for more information on Edwards' plan to create a Working Society and end poverty in America.
Ending Poverty In South Carolina 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 - the great moral issue of our time." -- John Edwards

Every day, 37 million Americans wake up in poverty, without enough income to pay for their basic necessities. Wages are stagnant for most workers and by some measures inequality is at its highest levels since the 1920s, but poverty is still not on the national agenda.

* There are 640,000 South Carolinians who live in poverty, including 228,000 children.
* South Carolina's child poverty rate grew from 18 percent in 2000 to almost 23 percent in 2005, the most recent available.
* There are 250,000 South Carolina households who went hungry in 2006 - the fourth-highest rate in the nation. [Census, 2007; Saez, 2007; USDA, 2007]

Today, John Edwards outlined his ambitious plans to create a Working Society and end poverty within 30 years. In the Working Society, everyone who is able to work hard will be expected to work and, in turn, be rewarded for it. The initiative includes major new policies in the areas of work, housing, education, debt and savings, and family responsibility.
Ending Poverty within a Generation

Edwards called for a national goal of ending poverty within a generation. A national goal will rally support for the cause and help us measure our progress, as it has in Great Britain. Specifically, Edwards believes we should:

* Cut poverty by one third within a decade, lifting 12 million Americans out of poverty.
* End poverty within 30 years, lifting 37 million Americans out of poverty.

Rewarding Work

Efforts to fight poverty in past decades had some success, but failed to do enough to create the opportunity for families to work their way out of poverty. To create more opportunities for work and reward those efforts, Edwards will:

* Raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2012 and then index it so it grows automatically over time. In South Carolina, 33,000 workers earn the minimum wage or less. [BLS, 2007]
* Cut taxes on low-income workers by tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for adults without children and cutting the EITC marriage penalty.
* Create 1 million Stepping Stone jobs for willing workers who cannot find jobs because of where they live, a lack of experience or skills, or other obstacles like a criminal record. These short-term jobs will help them move into permanent work.
* Create economic opportunity in rural America by investing in renewable fuels, creating a REACH Fund to help small businesses, and promoting fairness for family farmers. Nearly 90 percent of America's poorest counties are rural. [Rural Poverty Research Center, 2006]
* Strengthen worker rights by passing the Employee Free Choice Act to give workers a real choice in whether to form a union and cracking down on abuses of minimum wage and overtime laws. Union membership can be the difference between a poverty-wage job and middle-class security.

Overhauling Housing Policy

Decent, safe, and affordable housing near jobs and good schools is critical to economic opportunity. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development's programs concentrate low-income families far from jobs and schools, and HUD has become a symbol of bureaucracy and mismanagement. Edwards will:

* Create 1 million new housing vouchers over five years to help low-income families move to better neighborhoods. He will also phase out housing projects that tie families to certain locations and are often lower quality and more expensive than private sector alternatives.
* Invest in struggling neighborhoods, rather than abandoning them, by reforming and expanding the HOPE VI program to replace dilapidated housing in areas of concentrated poverty.
* Promote state and local efforts to build affordable housing close to good jobs and schools.

Strengthen Schools and Make College Affordable

A strong system of public education is the foundation of America's ladder of opportunity. Edwards will:

* Create a universal system of Great Promise early childhood education centers and promote young children's healthy development through a national Smart Start initiative.
* Invest more in teacher pay and professional development, particularly for new teachers in high-need schools, and create a new National Teachers University.
* Radically overhaul the No Child Left Behind law to promote a broader curriculum and help struggling schools with more resources and flexibility, rather than punishing them.
* Create Second Chance schools and invest in adolescent literacy programs to help students who have fallen behind or dropped out a chance to get back on track. South Carolina's graduation rate ranks 49th in the country. [Alliance for Excellent Education, 2007]
* Pay the public college tuition of everyone willing to take a part time job through a new College for Everyone initiative.

Help Families Save and Get Ahead

Savings are critical to financial security, helping families absorb a lost job, car repairs, medical emergency, or other unexpected needs. They are also the key to helping families build up assets and get ahead. To help families save, Edwards will:

* Subsidize bank accounts for the 28 million Americans without them.
* Create new Work Bonds to help low-income workers build up savings accounts.
* Protect families against abusive financial products, including payday loans, predatory mortgages, abusive credit card terms, and refund anticipation loans.

Support Responsible Families

Strong families are a foundation of economic security. To help support strong families, Edwards will:

* Encourage and reward responsibility from fathers by helping them find work and requiring the help support their children.
* Discourage teen pregnancy because the United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world and invest in home visits by nurses to for 50,000 new families.
* Call on community leaders to recognize that there is only so much that the government can do, and we all share the responsibility of promoting strong families.


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