Edwards campaign comes to Tri-Cities


Photo by Dave Boyd
Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, meets with members of the public at Northeast State Community College Monday. Edwards visited Northeast Tennessee as part of a campaign swing before traveling to Boston where he will appear on MSNBCĂ•s "Hardball" with Chris Matthews.

N.C. Democrat wants incentives for rural economies

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
BLOUNTVILLE -- Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards believes revamped trade policies and investment in rural areas hardest hit by job losses should top the priority list of the next U.S. president seeking to bring the nation out of a persisting economic slump.
"We need not have just free trade in this country, but fair trade," said Edwards, who met with laid-off workers and local union representatives here at Northeast State Technical Community College on Monday morning as part of a Tri-Cities area campaign swing. He also held a "town hall" meeting with other displaced workers in Bristol on Monday afternoon.
Among the workers Edwards spoke with were former employees of Chiquola Fabrics in Kingsport which ceased operation in mid-September. The textile manufacturer closed its doors Sept. 10, leaving more than 200 employees out of work.
"I'm living without health insurance," said Mary Gamble, an ex-Chiquola employee who said she was now collecting unemployment and looking for work after 32 years with the company.
"There are a lot of jobs out there, if you want to work for six dollars an hour," said Dwight Taylor, another former Chiquola employee who spent 19 years with the company. "We're ones who fell through the cracks, so to speak," said Taylor.
Edwards chided the Bush administration's recent announcement that the U.S. economy was experiencing a "jobless recovery". According to his campaign policy plans, Edwards will enact the Rural Economic Advancement Challenge, or REACH fund, to bring venture capital and management expertise to entrepreneurs and small businesses in small towns and areas that are losing jobs.
Edwards said that, if elected, he would roll back the Bush tax cuts passed for the wealthiest Americans, close corporate loopholes, and eliminate wasteful spending. He also said he would offer tax cuts to help working poor and middle-class families buy a home and save for college or retirement.
"I take this very personally," Edwards told workers who had lost their jobs. "The people you and I grew up with ... their pay has gone up about 10 percent in the last 30 years. A CEOs pay has gone up 3,000 percent."
Edwards said he would eliminate tax breaks for corporations that send manufacturing operations out of the country and would also repeal parts of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that benefit Americans making $240,000 a year or more.
Other goals include raising capital gains taxes for people in higher tax brackets and lowering capital gains rates for people in lower brackets.
Edwards supports cutting taxes by 10 percent for companies that produce goods and create jobs within the U.S. and opposes a Republican bill creating a "tax holiday" for multinational corporations, cutting taxes on their foreign income by 85 percent.
"The economy always does better when the working people do better," he said.
Edwards announced in January that he would seek the Democratic nomination for president. He is one of nine Democrats seeking the party's presidential nomination to challenge President Bush next year.
Democratic hopefuls include Gen. Wesley Clark, Massachusetts; Sen. John Kerry, Missouri; Rep. Dick Gephardt; former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun; former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean; Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, Rev. Al Sharpton and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who officially announced his bid for the nomination on Monday. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida ended his campaign on Oct. 6.
At a meeting of the South Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held Sunday, Edwards, Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt and former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun all arrived too late for the forum because of mechanical problems with their plane in Phoenix, the site of a candidates' debate held Thursday.
Born in Seneca, S.C., Edwards was raised in Robbins, N.C. where his father spent 36 years working in a textile mill. He earned a law degree in 1977 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He spent 20 years as a trial lawyer before running for Senate in 1998. Edwards won his first term to serve in the Senate in 1998, knocking Lauch Faircloth, the incumbent Republican.
Monday was busy for Edwards. After the town hall meeting in Bristol, he flew to Boston where he appeared on MSNBC's political power show "Hardball" with Chris Matthews.