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It's my high honor and great pleasure to introduce one of the most passionate, moral men in American politics, somebody who started his campaign in New Orleans, for which we are grateful and the friends of New Orleans are grateful. Somebody who flew around North Carolina with Wendy Kopp and myself trying to figure out how Teach for America and the new types of schools could work to make sure every child in America gets a decent shot, somebody who has been standing on picket lines for the past two making sure that the working people of this country get a decent shot. I am not going to waste your time; I am just going to say please welcome John Edwards. Thank you Walter; I am trying to figure out, am I the only person here with a tie on? What is wrong with me? Well hello, thank you that does feel a lot better. Thank you, thank you all very much for coming. I had a relatively formal speech prepared which I am not going to give. I am going to just I am going to talk about some substantive subjects, things that I think are important for you, important for the country and then I want to spend some time just answering your questions. So we are going to do this pretty informally. I do have a couple of things that I want to talk about first. A lot of you have heard me at least at from the last campaign if you remember, talk about the two Americas and I want to say Walter to you and the friends of New Orleans, I am very proud of what what all of you are doing. And I hope we get a chance to talk more about what has happened in New Orleans, because I think it's a national disgrace. We have so much work to do in New Orleans. But after hearing me talk about two Americas, and sometimes I think there is a misunderstanding in the country about what I mean when I talk about two Americas, because I think some people think and the media sometimes portrays it as "The Rich and The Poor". And that's just not right. Now what I mean when I say two Americas are mostly large multi national corporations and the very wealthy and everybody else. That's actually the two Americas; because one is doing one group the first one, is doing extraordinarily well, and the other one is struggling all the time. Now I also believe and this is more sort of a basic issue I think in this presidential campaign, I also believe that having seeing the way Washington operates and knowing the way things are done there I believe that we need change in the worst kind of way. And do we need do we need change from Republican to Democratic administration? Yes, but that is not enough that is not enough. We have much more serious structural problems in the way this government works that have to be changed. Now one of the things that I have been talking about is I believe there are powerful interests that are embedded in Washington DC that are totally against any serious change. And they are willing to spend millions and millions of dollars to keep change from occurring. And I think we must begin from my party. The Democratic Party needs to lead the way. We should say, and I have said this already it's not going to be new, we should say that "We will not take any more money from Washington lobbyists, we are done with that." You know, we are going to stop their game and these are people just to be clear about this, these are people whose job it is to influence and to peddle influence. It's what they do. And sometimes the response is but wait a minute there is some good lobbyists, there are lobbying for teachers and the Sierra Club, why should they need lobbyists? I mean really, I mean they are being out spent 18 or 20 to one. And we know where the power is in the lobbying business; I know. I know because I will just give you one example as in the side, when a Medicare prescription drug deal was being considered, I know who wrote it, the lobbyist for the drug companies wrote it. That's who wrote it. And when every time we tried to change it, they were there fighting against us. And by the way I am sure this is not a news bulletin to any of you; the way it works is they lobby during the day and what do they do at night, they raise money, they give money. And this is the way I think about this you know in Washington now let me give you an example. I was a lawyer for as long as you know; for 20 years and our job was to convince a group of people, the jury, that about the rightness of our position and we were paid to do that. Well lobbies do that. So their juries are members of Congress, right. But when I walked into a court room if I paid the jury that's called a bribe but in Washington they give money to the jury they give money to members of Congress, and its called politics. I mean we have to change this system and we have to take it on very directly. It is the only way we are going to get a serious change. And I am going to talk about today, some of the serious change that I believe I believe we need. But it will not happen unless we take this system on and take it on very directly. And I do have some differences with some of my colleagues who are running for president. We have a great field of democratic candidates, I am proud to be able it's a great privilege for me to able to run, especially with such a powerful field, a good filed. But we do have some differences about how much change is needed and how do we have to go about it, because I don't believe we can change America by sitting at a table with the drug companies well just to use an example or an oil comp with the oil companies and negotiating. The idea that they are going to voluntarily give away their power is a fantasy. It will never happen. You have to take them on directly. And hopefully during the course of the day today, we will get a chance to talk about how we can do some of those things. But they are the drug companies and insurance companies; you want to know why you don't have universal healthcare, that's it; that simple. And we and they will fight against it. I guarantee you they will fight against it. So let me talk about a few substantive issues, because want to focus today on the economy. Trade; you know America needs to trade. It's important. It's important to us and it's important to the rest of the world. But my view is we have made a mistake in how we have gone about trade, because the focus has been and the result has been a focus on the profits of big multi national corporations. And they have done well under a lot of these trade agreements, they have. But working middle class families have not; lower income families in America have not. NAFTA I think is a perfect example of what I am talking about. And so I believe we have to change first of all the basic question we ask ourselves about trade agreements. Are they good for middle class families in this country? Are they good for working families in this country? And do they have the kind of standards that all of us I think in America believe in? You know they need real labor standards. They need to be at the text of the trade agreements. And we need to be willing to enforce those standards. We need a president who will enforce them. This president is completely this is just one in a long list of things he is not doing. But he does not enforce the standards that exist and a lot of these trade agreements are basically standard less anyway. They need environmental standards. I mean real environmental standards that the President of the United States, a new administration is ready to enforce. And the other change that I think we need to make oh and one last thing; we need to have in as a result of these agreements; the ability to control and do something about currency manipulation. The Chinese are manipulating their currency. And we need the capacity to be able to do something about that. Now who should do it? I am getting little more technical, but stay with me. Who should the enforcing? Right now the way the system is setup is the people who do the negotiating of the trade agreements are responsible for enforcing them. I think that needs to change. I think we ought to take the enforcement and give it to the Justice department; give it to people who had nothing to do with the negotiation and who can see what the agreement provides and are willing and able to enforce them. So those are the things that I think need to change about our trading policy. I think we ask ourselves a different question to begin with; we look at who will be benefited and we have basic standards and by the way also basic prohibitions. These are moral issues. Child labor, slave labor, sweatshops, the United States should never enter into a trade agreement that permits any of those things; period. And we ought to say so. The President of the United States should say so. And I want to talk for a second about tax policy, because I think and don't get sleepy. It's not going to be that boring, I promise. I will do it quick and it will be easy easy. I think that we need multiple changes in our tax policy. I think what's happened is we have a tax policy in America accelerated being made much worse by George Bush, that values wealth and the income from wealth much more than it values work and the income from work. I will just give you one example and then talk about what I think we need to do to change. Today the Capital Gains Rate in America is 15 percent. Maybe Warrant Buffet says it's better than me. But that means that Warren Buffet is in mini towns paying a lower tax rate than his secretary is paying. This makes no sense, none. And I know the argument for capital gains rates; I have heard them all a thousand times. But on a basic values basis, this distinction makes no makes no sense at all. So how do we change the system to make it work? These are the things that I think we need to do. One, I think we need to roll back George Bush's income tax cuts for people who make over $200,000 a year. I would dedicate that money to universal healthcare, because I think we desperately need universal healthcare in America. In addition in addition to that, I think middle class and lower income families need help. They are now carrying the tax burden in this country. A burden that many of them just can't afford, they can't continue to do. And so I propose some very specific things it's in small type here on this thing and I can't read it. So because I am 54 now and my eyes don't work like they are supposed to. But I can remember basically what they are. What I proposed is that we expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is refundable tax credit for low income families, to help them, to make their work pay better. Also I think we need a tax break for middle class families to help them save. We have the worst savings rate in the industrialized world. We have a negative savings rate in America. And you have to think thanks to I know it sounds all abstract, but you have to step back from this for a second and think about why it matters, that we have a negative savings rate. I will give you one example why it matters? I did a poverty tour a few weeks ago and I went to a middle class neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio and where in a one block radius 38 houses were under for closure. What had happened was these people didn't have anything other than their house. They would work for years and one couple for example had worked in the Cleveland Public School System for 20 some odd years. But when something their predatory lender came in you know; and they either needed money or they want to improve their home; whatever the reason was and they are just stripping away what these people has spent their lives, building up. And they use their house in an effort to get it. So what we do? Here is what we do. We give them a tax break were we actually match what they are able to save, so they take to create an asset that they can fall back on when they get in trouble. Same thing should be done for lower income families, except in those cases we actually have to set up the the financial instrument, the bank account and we have to make sure that they are educated about financial literacy. So the whole idea is to help people say to help, we send the kids to college, which also as important. And expansion of the child care tax credit just so that people and we will come back to that in a minute so that people can we know the child care costs are going through the roof; so that we give more help directly to middle class families so that they can get help with their child care. Now how do you pay for these things? This is how I would pay for it. I would first raise the capital gains rate from 15 to 28 percent for those who earn over $250,000 a year, because I think that puts the capital gains rate at least more in line with the income tax rates. So I would raise the capital gains rate. I would keep it the same for those who earn under $250,000 a year. Second, there are a whole group of offshore tax havens that need to be stopped. The only people in America who can take advantage of that are people who have tax lawyers and tax accountants and they take extraordinary advantage of it, and they do, I mean and you can't use you know, almost feel like saying you can't blame them for it; you know, the law is there, they can take advantage of, but ordinary Americans can't do that. And that will generate, by most estimates, about $50 billion a year of additional income, literally just closing those off shore tax havens. So the idea here is to have a tax system that values work, that helps middle class families, no more great extravagant giveaways to people who can take advantage of them, with loopholes and accountants and tax lawyers and I do have to say as an aside, George Bush had a press conference today where he said that corporate tax rates were too high and too complicated. So he wants corporate tax more corporate tax relief. This is completely out of whack with what Americans needs to be doing, completely in step with what he has been doing for seven years, but completely out of whack with what it shows he has no basic understanding of what's happening. The people who are there are people doing well within this economy, that's true. That that's not being made up. That's what supports the statistical evidence that the economy is growing. But the people who are doing well are the very people he now wants to give more tax relief to. He has taken a circumstance, which is globalization, where there are clear winners and there are clear losers. And he is accelerating the impact for the winners. That's exactly what he is doing. And for everybody else he is taking away the tools that allow them to compete in this global economy. I mean that's if you look at this from this altitude that's what is happening, that's exactly what is happening. Healthcare I mean I didn't plan to talk about it unless you ask your question; but healthcare is a huge competitive disadvantage for America, for American business, for American workers. We put more money in the healthcare than any country in the industrialized world; we give one of the worst products at the other end. We desperately need universal healthcare. Why is the president not talking about universal healthcare? Instead he wants to give more tax breaks for the most fortunate people in the country. And now he wants to give more tax relief to multinational corporations that are the winners of globalization. What about the rest of America? This is about it ends being about a very simple simple idea. Will we have a president who believes, yes we want to grow the economy, yes we want to be stronger, but want shared prosperity. Not just prosperity for a few people. But shared prosperity where everybody has a real chance to compete. Here is the truth. And Walter and I have talked about this, here is the truth. Education, education, education we want to make Americans the strongest that we can possibly be, we want to make the American economy what it's capable of being; we have to be the most creative, best educated workforce on the planet, period. It's just as simple. And that means and that means that we got to make sure that our public school system work and so here is what I think I am going to say a word about this, ask me about it, I will be more glad to tell more about it. But I think we think about education in a wrong way in America. There is a challenge. I think we tend to think about education as K through 12, maybe college, and for some people graduate school, right? We ought to think of education as a birth to death experience in America. We ought to get to kids as early as we possibly can and then just working our way through this; and I will be glad to talk about K through 12 if if you want to ask me about it. I have a but actually I have a very specific proposal about making sure all kids get to go to college, we want to go go to college for everyone. But we also need an infrastructure for continued learning post college, graduate school wherever education is, because there is one thing we know for certain; is if you graduate from college this year what you learned will be out of date five years from now and 10 for years from now, it will way out of date. So how does America think creatively? About how to create an infrastructure that actually works, for ongoing learning, for everybody. We don't want to lose our human capital and our capacity to be able to be competitive. And if we really believe and I believe it; that the only way America is competitive and strong over the long term, is to have the smartest, most creative, most innovative workforce on the planet; then we need an infrastructure for on going learning in this country, we just do. Now I want to say a word about poverty. And then I am almost done. You know poverty is the thing that I have sort of taken on as personal cause, which some of you know. I have been running a Poverty Center at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I consider this as a moral issue and an economic issue. I think it is a drag on the American economy. We have millions of millions of people who are literally worried about survival. And I think it says something about our character if we turn our heads and allow millions of our own people to be worried about survival. And the question is what are we going to do about it? Because the great argument on the other side is Americas we fought a war on poverty, it didn't work. And all the poor will always be among us. And there is nothing we can do to stop this. It's that's not the truth. Most Americans and the picture people get in their head about people who live below the poverty line are the people sleeping under bridges, right? Most Americans who live in poverty work full time. That is the truth. But they can't earn enough, they don't have healthcare coverage, they have nothing to fall back on, they don't save any thing and then by the way half the bankruptcies in America are the results of healthcare cost. What we know is they live on the edge, they live on the edge of the razor every day, and it takes almost nothing to put them in the ditch and once they are in the ditch they can't get out. There is nothing they can do. So what can we do? Just a couple of ideas, and then I will start taking your questions. We just finally raised the national minimum wage after a decade. It's going to go to $7.25 an hour, great, it's not enough. The national minimum wage ought to be at least $9.5 an hour; it ought to be indexed so that it goes up on its own. And we should not have to keep going back to the Congress and fighting this battle every year or two years to get the minimum wage rise. It ought to go up on its own. I talked earlier about the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit which has a direct impact on low income families. I think we ought to make it easier for workers to organize in the unions, because you see if you work in a union you are much more likely to earn a decent wage, to have healthcare coverage and to have pension protections. And right now our laws are slanted. They are slanted, against workers who are trying to organize themselves into union. We ought to make I think we have a dysfunctional housing policy in America. It doesn't work. What we have done for decades is we have clustered poor people together. It's a mistake. It feeds the cycle of poverty. What we want to do instead is we want to we want to break down these economic and racial barriers that exist in so many cities in this country. What I propose is we have a million new Section 8 housing vouchers; we have people who are waiting five to seven years to get a Section 8 housing voucher. Where are they supposed to live in the interval? So we want to use those vouchers though in a different way. We want to use them to help integrate neighborhoods, integrate them economically and integrate them racially; even though the US Supreme Court based on its decision a few weeks ago is not that hound as integrating our school system. I don't know if you have followed this. They basically turned Brown v. Board of Education on its head. You want to worry about the next election. I kind of got to stop wondering you got to worry about the next election, worry about where the US Supreme Court is going, because the things they have done I am telling you, if you care about women's rights, if you care about civil rights, we are not moving in the right direction. I mean there was a while I am just going to mention one decision there was one decision that basically said that if you are women standing beside a man, working in the work place and been there for 25 years, and for 25 years you have done precisely the same job, but he makes twice as much as you make, and you just found out about it, you can't do any thing about it because you waited too long to bring the claim. That was your US Supreme Court decision. So we have got a lot at stake in this next election, we really do. I want to mention, because it is important, I mentioned college just very briefly, college for everyone and here is my idea, very simple, this also goes directly into the issue of poverty. Any young person in America who graduates from high school, qualify to go to college and commits to work at least 10 hours a week their first year has their tuition and books paid for. So very simple, very straight forward, and but we don't give it to them, right? They got to work for it. And as a result they don't graduate from college with all these huge burden of debt that so many young people are and Elizabeth and I actually started this in a poor section of Eastern North Carolina, couple of years ago, and its working. It is no there is no government money in it. Well, I want to do this nationally. But we raise the money privately for it and it has been extraordinarily successful so far. The last thing I want to say is obviously there are a lot of subjects I haven't talked about in depth, so ask me about it, I will be happy to talk to you about them. But the last thing I want to say has to do with you, because here is the truth, I wish it were true that the next President of the United States can go the Oval Office and solve all these problems. It is not true, it is a fantasy. The power to change this country is with you. I really believe that, it's not rhetoric, I believe it. If you look at the great movements in American history they didn't start in the Oval Office. And I grow up with the Civil Rights Movement, I know where it started. It didn't start in the Oval Office. It started in cities and communities, college campuses, where young people had some backbone and spoke out and marched, helped do what was right, change this country. Same thing happened in ending the war in Vietnam, same thing happened in bringing down an apartheid regime in South Africa. I feel it happening right now about another subject I hope you will ask me about, which is the war in Iraq. But you have to be involved and have to be engaged. You got to just to paraphrase Gandhi, you got to be the change that you believe in; the change will not happen without you, it will not, you have to be engaged and active in speaking up. And the way I like to say it is it's time for the President to ask you to be patriotic about something other than war, to say if you want America to be strong, if you want to be us to be just and moral where everybody gets a real chance; we are going to have to do this together, we are I mean we are. All Americans are going to have to do it together. Thank you all very much for coming.