At New School Forum, Senator Edwards Warns of Middle Class Woes
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
A potential candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, Senator Edwards, came to New York yesterday with a message about people in the middle class: They “are terrified they will fall into poverty.”
Mr. Edwards spoke to a packed auditorium at the New School as part of a panel of academics and journalists titled “American Middle Class: At Risk?” His appearance at the New School followed one last week by a possible presidential contender for the Republican Party, Newt Gingrich.
In comments studded with frequent references to his father’s experience as a mill worker, Mr. Edwards called for greater governmental involvement in the economy to protect low-income workers. “The government plays a critical role,” Mr. Edwards said. “The market has no conscience.”
“There is a natural disconnect between market values and moral values,” Mr. Edwards said.
On Friday, The New York Sun reported that a political organization controlled by Mr. Edwards, the One America Committee, received a $250,000 donation from Manhattan-based Oak Spring Farms LLC. Oak Spring Farms’s contribution represents more than half of One America’s funding for this year.
Established as a so-called 527 organization, One America can raise nearly unlimited “soft money” on behalf of Mr. Edwards while being shielded from the public scrutiny mandated for “hard money” donations directly to a candidate.The identity of the contributor or contributors behind the Oak Spring Farms windfall is unclear.
Mr. Edwards said he saw no inconsistency between his advocacy for the poor and his wealthy connections. “Most of the people I know who politicians raise money from, and that includes me by the way, pay a tax rate of 15%,” Mr. Edwards said. “Their secretaries are paying a higher tax rate. It’s fundamentally wrong for people who make their money from investment to pay a lower tax rate than people who work. People like my dad.”
Mr. Edwards was warmly received by the crowd at the New School. Four of the five panelists, including Mr. Edwards, said they felt that the status of the middle class was deteriorating in America. The lone contrarian, economics writer Stephen Moore, who claimed things have been getting better for the poor and advocated free-market policies, was repeatedly heckled and booed.
While speaking on behalf of the poor and calling for a raise of the minimum wage to $7.50 an hour, Mr. Edwards avoided calls for class animosity. “I don’t mind people getting rich,” Mr. Edwards said. “I got rich. Everybody should have that chance.”