Edwards Unveils Young Families Rising Agenda To Help The Next Generation Of Americans Build A Better Future
On the fifth day of his Main Street Express bus tour across Iowa, Senator John Edwards will unveil new proposals to address the challenges of today's economy that are hitting young Americans just as they try to start their lives and begin families. Edwards believes our government should help hard-working families get ahead, instead of looking out for special interests. At events in Manchester and Elkader today, Edwards will discuss his Young Families Rising agenda that will protect young adults from debt and help them save, assist young families in balancing their jobs and home life, guarantee true universal health care and create more good jobs.
"My grandparents and parents worked in the mills because they wanted their children to have a better life," said Edwards. "That's the great promise of America - that if you work hard, and you're responsible, you can make certain that your children have a better life. But young adults are struggling to gain a foothold in today's economy. This generation is the first to start their adult lives in a nation where wages are stagnant, benefits are disappearing, college and credit-card debts are larger than ever, and the cost of middle-class necessities like affordable housing, health coverage and child care keep going up.
"Young mothers face additional challenges," Edwards continued. "Two-thirds of mothers now work - most of them full time - but our workplace practices and public policies don't reflect this change. It's time we offered universal preschool and expanded affordable child care. We must also extend the Family and Medical Leave Act so that working parents don't have to choose between taking care of a sick child and losing their jobs. And we need to make sure every American has access to quality health care and a good-paying job. As president, I will fight to make sure young families can succeed and build a better life for their children."
To address the challenges of today's economy that impact the lives of young families, Edwards will introduce a four-part Young Families Rising agenda. Edwards' agenda calls for:
Protecting young adults from debt and helping them save: Edwards will make college more affordable, reign in credit card and other abusive debt, offer a new "Get Ahead" tax credit for savings, create universal retirement accounts that move from job to job, and support young homebuyers with a tough new national law to prevent lending abuses.
Helping young families balance their jobs and home life: Edwards will support young families by offering universal preschool and expanding affordable child care. He will expand job protection under the Family Medical Leave Act, and offer paid leave, including paid sick days, to all workers.
Guaranteeing true universal health care: Under Edwards' plan, employers will have to help cover their employees and the government will make insurance affordable with new reforms and subsidies, including the option of a public plan that could evolve to a single-payer system. Edwards will also deliver better care at a lower cost by cutting needless waste in the health care system.
Creating more good jobs with a future: Edwards will invest in the industries of the future and create economic fairness for independent workers. He will also strengthen workers' right to organize and build career ladders, helping low-wage workers to train on the job, gain new skills, and move into better jobs.
Edwards has spent his career fighting for regular families like the ones he grew up with in his small, rural hometown. During the eight-day Main Street Express tour, Edwards is highlighting his plans to stand up to the special interests on Wall Street and help hard-working families on Main Street. Joined by award-winning actor Kevin Bacon, Edwards will visit Dubuque, Cedar Falls and Mason City on Saturday, and on Sunday, Bacon will join Edwards at a community meeting in Ames. Edwards will also hold events in Colfax and Ottumwa on Sunday.
More information on the Main Street Express can be found at www.JohnEdwards.com/Iowa. For further details on Edwards' plan to address the challenges facing young Americans, please see his Young Families Rising agenda included below.
Young Families Rising Agenda
"The greatness of America is the promise that every generation will give children the chance to rise higher, dream bigger, live greater. But today's young adults are the first to come of age during the middle class squeeze, facing high levels of debt, stagnant wages, and rising costs of things like health care and energy. I am fighting to make sure every family has the same chance to get started in life and build a better future" - John Edwards
Today's young adults are struggling to gain a foothold in an increasingly slippery economy. Over the course of the 20th century, America built the strongest middle class in history due to a basic bargain that delivered to millions of workers job security, upward mobility, and critical benefits like health coverage and a secure retirement. But globalization, technology and demographic changes have transformed our economy in challenging ways, while Washington puts narrow interests ahead of the middle class. This generation is the first to start their adult lives in a nation where wages are stagnant, benefits are disappearing, college and credit-card debts are larger than ever, and the cost of middle-class necessities like affordable housing, health coverage and child care keep going up.
America's challenge today is to help young families pass on a better life to the next generation. Today, John Edwards announced his four-part Young Families Rising agenda: (1) helping young adults out of debt and start saving, (2) helping young families balancing their jobs and home life, (3) guaranteeing true universal health care, and (4) creating more good jobs.
The Edwards agenda will address the challenges of today's economy that are hitting young Americans just as they try to start their lives and begin families:
* Young Men and Women Earning Less: Young men in their late 20s and early 30s earn less today than their fathers did at the same age, regardless of education. While young women have greater economic opportunities than before, they are still paid less than men. Families are working longer hours but their incomes remain stagnant. [Economic Mobility Project, 2007; IWPR, 2007; EPI, 2006]
* Higher Costs for the Basics: Costs for middle-class essentials - including housing, health care, college, child care and transportation - have all outpaced wage growth. A child born in 2003 will cost middle-class families 15 percent more to raise than a child born in 1960, after adjusting for inflation. [Draut, 2005; USDA, 2003]
* Losing Hope for the American Dream: More Americans are worried that the next generation will face fewer economic opportunities and less security and mobility. Only 30 percent of Americans think life will be better for the next generation. [Pew, 2006]
Protecting Young Adults from Debt and Helping Them Save
* Make College More Affordable: The three-quarters of Iowa's graduating college students who have debt owe $23,700, on average -- 25 percent more debt than the national average. Roughly one in five young adults report that student debt caused them to delay starting a family and forced them to change careers. Edwards will create a national College for Everyone initiative to pay public-college tuition, fees and books for students who work part-time, take a college-prep curriculum in high school, and stay out of trouble. [TICAS, 2007; Nellie Mae, 2003]
* Rein in Credit Card and Other Abusive Lending: Today's young adults are facing a radically transformed credit environment because interest rates were deregulated in 1978, which has led to looser lending standards and higher rates and fees. Today's young adults spend more than double what their parents spent servicing debt. Edwards will require minimum protections on credit cards, such as restoring a 10-day grace before late fees and applying interest rate increases to future balances only. He will also create a new consumer watchdog agency - the Family Savings and Credit Commission - whose sole purpose will be to crack down on these kinds of predatory practices. [Draut, 2006]
* Create Universal Retirement Accounts that Move from Job to Job: Americans who retire with a pension have nearly twice the annual income of those who depend only on Social Security and personal savings, but too few young families are able to start saving. Edwards will create a new universal retirement account available to all workers without another pension. Workers will be able to build up these savings accounts over the course of their careers, regardless of how many times they change jobs. Edwards will match worker contributions up to dollar-for-dollar on the first $500 with a new Get Ahead tax credit, far more valuable than the 10 percent or 15 percent tax deduction that many workers get today on retirement savings. [PRC, 2007; Gale, Gruber and Orszag, 2006]
* Support Young Homebuyers: Home ownership is the foundation of the American Dream. But in recent years, unfair and irresponsible mortgages with "exploding" interest rates and hidden fees - combined with the housing slump - have meant quick profits for lenders and brokers but put millions of families at risk of losing their homes. Edwards will pass a tough new national law to prevent predatory lending abuses. The new Get Ahead tax credit will help families save for a home downpayment.
Helping Young Families Balance Their Jobs and Home Life
* Offer Universal Preschool and Expand Affordable Child Care: More than two-thirds of mothers are working, most of them full time, but our workplace practices and public policies have not kept up with this new reality. Edwards will create a Great Promise early childhood education program for every four-year-old. For younger children, he will more than double the child care tax credit and create a national Smart Start initiative to work with local nonprofits to make child care higher quality, more available, and more affordable.
* Provide Paid Leave to All Workers by 2014: Edwards will create a $2 billion National Family Trust to offer paid family and medical leave benefits to all workers by 2014, and he will make the federal government a model employer with a generous paid leave benefit.
* Expand Job Protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act: Edwards will expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover 13 million more workers by reducing the threshold for exemption for the law from 50 workers to 25 workers. Because workers today often work one or more part-time jobs, he will also help long-term part-time workers.
* Offer Paid Sick Days: Nearly half of all private-sector workers - and nearly 80 percent of low-wage workers - cannot miss a day's work without losing pay or, in many cases, risking their jobs. Edwards will require businesses to offer their workers seven paid sick days a year, with pro-rated leave for part-timers. [IWPR, 2007]
Guaranteeing True Universal Health Care
* Guarantee True Universal Health Care: In part because of the cost of health care, adults younger than age 35 are almost twice as likely as adults older than 45 to lack health insurance. There are now 18 million young adults without insurance, the largest single group. Edwards will take on the big insurance and drug companies and guarantee true universal health care for every man, woman and child in America. Employers will have to help cover their employees, the government will make insurance affordable with new reforms and subsidies, and all Americans will have insurance. His plan offers every American the option of a public plan that could evolve to a single payer system. [CDC, 2007; Demos, 2006]
* Deliver Better Care at Lower Cost: Health care costs have consistently grown faster than wages for almost 50 years. Over the past five years alone, families have seen premiums grow by 90 percent while benefits have been cut. Edwards will take on the insurance and drug companies to cut needless waste in the health care system. He will also take much needed common-sense steps such as emphasizing preventive and primary care, requiring electronic medical records, and identifying and publicizing the most cost-effective treatments. Together these steps will save the average family $2,000 to 2,500 a year. [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2006]
Creating More Good Jobs with a Future
* Invest in the Industries of the Future: Renewable sources of energy - including ethanol, biodiesel, wind and solar - can create new industries and at least 1 million new jobs. Edwards will establish the New Energy Economy Fund to jump start renewable energies with start-up capital and train over 150,000 workers for Green Collar jobs. He will also invest in other sources of innovation such as life sciences, technology and private-sector research.
* Strengthen Workers' Right to Organize: Union families earn up to 30 percent more than non-union families, but union membership has fallen from 30 percent of private-sector workers in 1973 to just 8 percent today. The right to choose a union is poorly enforced, full of loopholes, and routinely violated by employers. Edwards will enact the Employee Free Choice Act, vigorously enforce labor laws, and ban the use of permanent replacements for striking workers. [BLS, 2007; Census Bureau, 2007]
* Create Economic Fairness for Independent Workers: Nontraditional workers - those who hold part-time, seasonal, temporary and freelance jobs or who work as independent contractors - now make up 30 percent of the labor force, and young adults hold nearly one-third of these jobs. Edwards will crack down on employers who misclassify their employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying taxes and benefits. Independent workers will save thousands of dollars on individual premiums thanks to group purchasing pools in the health care market. [BusinessWeek, 5/23/2007; Freelancers Union, 2006; BLS, 2005]
* Build Career Ladders: Two of the fields with the largest predicted job growth - health care and education -have both low-end and high-end positions and offer the potential for mobility. Edwards will invest in career ladders in these and other fields, helping low-wage workers to train on the job, gain new skills, and move into better jobs. For example, health care aides could become certified nurse assistants and registered nurses.