I haven’t been following news about Presidential candidates yet, but this speech by John Edwards is good.
Our ancestors came here to escape a world where birth was destiny, and build a nation where all are born with the right to control their own destiny. For more than 200 years, our country has been propelled by this single, powerful idea: that all Americans should have the opportunity to rise as far as their hard work and God-given potential can take them.
That idea is the very bedrock of America —- as President Andrew Jackson put it, “Equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none.” Take that away, and the dream our forefathers fought and died for will no longer exist.
And yet, in the first years of what ought to be America’s greatest century, too many of our leaders have walked away from the values that got us here: Work, responsibility, country, a fair shake for all and a free ride for none.
Our great free enterprise system has been rocked by some at the top who put their own fortunes ahead of their company’s future and their employees’ hard work. Our democracy has been wounded by some at the top who put favors for the few ahead of what’s right for the whole nation. Worst of all, the character of our country has been betrayed by some at the top who want the measure of an American to be how much she is worth, not how hard or how well she works.
Here in Washington, some of our most powerful leaders stand accused of letting big campaign contributors write special favors into law. And tonight, a President and Vice President who have doled out special privilege more quickly than any administration ever will begin a two-week sprint to collect, in return, more special-interest money more quickly than any administration ever.
[…]The President and I agree on one thing: this campaign should be a debate about values. We need to have that debate, because the values of this president and this administration are not the values of mainstream America, the values all of us grew up with —- opportunity, responsibility, hard work.
There’s a fundamental difference between his vision and mine. I believe America should value work. He only values wealth. He wants the people who own the most to get more. I want to make sure everybody has the chance to be an owner.
For a man who made responsibility the theme of his campaign, this president sure doesn’t seem to value it much in office. We’ve lost 3.1 million private sector jobs. Over $3 trillion in stock market value lost. A $5.6 trillion budget surplus gone, and nearly $5 trillion of red ink in its place. Bill Clinton spent 8 years turning around 12 years of his predecessors’ deficits. George Bush erased it in two years, and this year will break the all-time record.
Yet even with all those zeroes, the true cost of the administration’s approach isn’t what they’ve done with our money, it’s what they want to do to our way of life. Their economic vision has one goal: to get rid of taxes on unearned income and shift the tax burden onto people who work. This crowd wants a world where the only people who have to pay taxes are the ones who do the work.
Make no mistake: this is the most radical and dangerous economic theory to hit our shores since socialism a century ago. Like socialism, it corrupts the very nature of our democracy and our free enterprise tradition. It is not a plan to grow the American economy. It is a plan to corrupt the American economy and shrink the winners’ circle.
This is a question of values, not taxes. We should cut taxes, but we shouldn’t cut and run from our values when we do. John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan argued for tax cuts as an incentive for people to work harder: Americans work hard, and the government shouldn’t punish them when they do.
See also William Saletan’s analysis of this speech in Slate.