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John Edwards on Corporations

2004 Democratic Nominee for Vice President; Former Jr Senator (NC)


Some corporations lobby against people, but not all are bad

Q: A conservative columnist wrote, “Edwards’ angry campaign against greedy corporations has failed to move him above third place, despite a worsening economy. Business lobbyists and Republicans dismiss his campaign as old-style class warfare that they sa turns off most voters.”

A: That’s just right-wing rhetoric. There is nothing angry about what I’m talking about. What I want to do is make the promise of America available to everybody. And I do think there are huge obstacles to making that happen. Just take health care as an example. I do believe that the drug company and insurance companies lobbies stand as an obstacle to what we need to do. That doesn’t mean all corporations are bad. Of course there are great corporate citizens in this country. But these entrenched moneyed interests, that have been in Washington lobbying for a very long time, have a reason, an incentive to keep the system exactly the way it is. And unless we’re able to get through that, America can’t get what it needs.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer Jan 20, 2008

Big multinationals account for all current economic growth

We need more transparency; we need to know what’s actually happening. But the fundamental problem is what’s happening at the core of the American economy.

If you look at it from a distance, we have economic growth in America; we still do. But almost th entirety of that economic growth is with the very wealthiest Americans and the biggest multinational corporations.

You ask any middle class family in America, and they will tell you they do not feel financially secure. They’re worried about their job; they’re worried about paying for health care; they’re worried about how they’re going to send their kids to college; they’re worried about, in many cases, their home being foreclosed on.

The great moral test that all of us have as Americans, which is to make certain that our children have a better life than we have. This is the great challenge that we’re facing in this election. Are we going to do what our parents and our grandparents did, who worked to ensure that we would have a better life?

Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008

No cut in corporate tax rates; change incentives instead

Q: Do you believe there should be a cut in corporate tax rates right now to stimulate the economy and create jobs?

A: That is not what I would do. I think that there have been an awful lot of corporate tax loopholes that have been created over a period of decades now. In fact, there is actually a tax incentive today for American companies that are sending jobs overseas. I think that needs to be stopped. That loophole needs to be closed.

Q: Some economists say that this very high US corporate tax rate, one of the highest in the world, is really, in the end, hurting American workers because it simply encourages these companies to go overseas where the tax structure is a lot lower.

A: Well, I think what we have actually done, bot through our trade laws and our tax laws, is incentivize companies to go overseas. I think those incentives need to be changed, both in our trade structure and in our tax structure. We need to be pay more attention to the impact on middle class families.

Source: CNN LATE EDITION tag Jan 13, 2008

Trade policy caters to interests of big corporate America

Q: How would you balance human rights and trade with China?

A: This whole issue of balance--if you look at what’s happened--and this didn’t just happen under George Bush; this has been going on for a decade and a half now--in my hometown, the mill that my father worked in, and the people that I grew up with--that mill’s closed now. The jobs are gone. The same thing has happened in Newton, Iowa, and all across this state.

I met a man a few years ago, who talked about having to look his child in the eye and explain why her daddy, who had worked in that mill his entire life, that factory, had lost his job and hadn’t done anything wrong, because his child did not understand.

American trade policy is catering to the interests of big corporate America. It has been for a decade and a half. And we desperately need a president of the United States who, instead of asking, is this going to help corporate profits--is this actually going to stand up for American workers and American jobs.

Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR Dec 4, 2007

Corporate interests have taken over democracy

Q: What do you think the toughest choice you have left to make is? What haven’t you made up your mind on yet? And why haven’t you?

A: I think we have an enormous struggle to try to restore the power in the country and the democracy back to the American people and take it away from big corporate interests, et cetera, who’ve taken over the democracy.

Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR Dec 4, 2007

I was wrong to vote for Bankruptcy Reform Act

DODD: [to Edwards]: Back in 2001 the congress passed I think one of the worst pieces of legislation of all time: the so called the Bankruptcy Reform Act. Senators Clinton, Biden, and Edwards voted for that bill, which drove a lot of people working class families into poverty, & made it very difficult for them to manage their lives & to get back on their feet again. John, you made a big issue of poverty, something you have dedicated your life to. So could you explain to me why you’d vote for a piece of legislation like that which did so much damage to so many families in our country?

EDWARDS: Yeah, I was wrong. I was wrong and you were right Chris. I should not have voted for that bankruptcy bill. It was a bad, bad piece of legislation. I think any of us who voted for it were wrong to have voted for it. I think there were some good provisions in it but I think on the whole when you look it at it actually did damage to low income families and working families in this country.

Source: 2007 Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum Dec 1, 2007

Oil windfall tax is most serious blow against wealthy

Despite believing in the sincerity of Edwards’s concern for the poor, [one reporter] concluded: “While he talks incessantly about economic justice, Edwards isn’t proposing anything--beyond the oil company windfall tax--that would strike a blow against multinational corporations or the top tier of American earners. Edwards seems to deliberately avoid pitting one class against another the way a true populist would, unless you count taking a few easy shots at Wal-Mart.”

The reporter quotes former Labor Secretary Robert Reich: “Rhetorically, if you’re calling Edwards an economic populist, it’s true he cares a lot about the poor,” says Reich (who is hardly radical, though he himself cared too much about the poor to stay for Clinton’s 2nd term). “He evinces a lot of concern for the middle class and middle-class anxieties. But he’s not in any way attacking the rich or corporations. He is not explaining one fundamental fact of modern economic life, which is that the very rich have all the money.”

Source: The Contenders, by Laura Flanders, p.121-122 Nov 11, 2007

Worked for hedge fund in 2006, but close hedge fund loophole

Q: In 2005, you gave a speech decrying the ‘two different economies in the country: one for wealthy insiders and then one for everybody else.’ Four months later, you began working for a hedge fund, as a consultant for Fortress Investment Group. Why would you associate yourself with a hedge fund, when you’re decrying the existence of two Americas?

A: I laid out an aggressive plan to get rid of the tax breaks that are available to hedge fund managers. They’re not right, they’re not fair, and they are not available to ordinary Americans.

Q: But working for a hedge fund that has foreclosed on mortgages in Louisiana, is that the kind of image that you want in a presidential campaign?

A: When I found out that there were foreclosures going on in New Orleans, I immediately told people at Fortress that they needed to take action. If you look at what my life has been about, instead of isolating one short period of time, it is very clear I have spent my life fighting for the poor & the disenfranchised.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series Oct 7, 2007

Eliminate all tax breaks for outsourcing jobs

Q [to Sen. Gravel]: A lot of Americans are concerned with outsourcing of US jobs. What’s your solution?

GRAVEL: Outsourcing is not the problem. What is the problem is our trade agreements that benefit the management and the shareholders.

EDWARDS: This is something I don’t have to read about in a book. I’ve seen it up close. I saw what happen when the mill that my dad worked in all his life, and I worked in myself when I was young, closed and the jobs went somewhere else. It was not just devastating to him & to the community, and the same thing has happened all over America. America’s got to compete. We have to be the best-educated, most innovative workforce on the planet. We also need trade agreements with real environmental and labor standards that the president of the United States is willing to enforce. And we need to eliminate all tax breaks for companies who are taking their jobs overseas and getting a tax break for doing it.

Source: 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard University Jun 28, 2007

Hedge fund investors help figure out and reduce poverty

Q: You’ve been a paid legal advisor to hedge funds. Do hedge funds make America any better in any way?

A: I think the financial markets are an important component of trying to figure out what it is we need to do about the fact that we have 47 million people without health care, 37 million people who wake up in poverty every day. They play an enormous role in how money moves in this country. And I believe that we have a responsibility to the people in this country who wake up every day worried about feeding and clothing their children. And I think those people in New York who work in financial markets understand--in some ways, at least--what can be done and can play a significant role in trying to lift people up who are struggling. I am proud of what I’ve been doing for the last few years. You know, I’ve been all over the country, organizing workers into unions and raising the minimum wage, and also working at a poverty center at the University of North Carolina.

Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC Apr 26, 2007

Record corporate profits don’t benefit tenuous middle class

Millions of families have only the most tenuous hold on their middle-class status. While corporate profits have increased over the last several years, most working Americans have not reaped the benefits. Median household income fell by 2.7% between 2000 and 2005 after inflation. Corporate profits now make up a larger portion of America’s gross domestic product than at any other time since the1960s. In contrast, salaries and wages now make up a lower share of the economy than they have at any time since the government began recording the data in 1929. The rate of upward mobility--the core of the American dream--is stagnant or even declining.
Source: Ending Poverty in America, by John Edwards, p.263-264 Apr 2, 2007

Support organized labor against mistreatment by corporations

Let’s stand up for the working people whose labor made this country great. Organized labor has fought for and made better the lives of every working man and woman, by giving them a voice - labor never stands silent where wrongs need to be righted. It is time we acknowledged that it is organized labor, which has protected the American worker against mistreatment by corporate America . I am proud to stand beside organized labor?
Source: Campaign website, johnedwards.com Feb 1, 2007

FactCheck: Halliburton fined for actions while Cheney CEO

EDWARDS: While Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, they paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false information on their company, just like Enron and Ken Lay. They did business with Libya and Iran, two sworn enemies of the US. They’re now under investigation for having bribed foreign officials during that period of time.

FACT CHECK: Edwards made several allegations about what Cheney had done as CEO of Halliburton. We can only give Edwards partial credit for his Halliburton attack, however. He implied that Cheney was in charge of the company when it did business with Libya in violation of US sanctions, but that happened long before Cheney joined the company. Edwards was also slightly off when he said Halliburton paid millions in fines “ while Cheney was CEO.” He meant that it paid fines for matters that took place while Cheney was in charge. And in fact, the SEC announced Aug. 3 that Halliburton will pay $7.5 million to settle a matter that dates back to 1998, when Cheney was CEO.

Source: Edwards-Cheney debate analysis by FactCheck.org Oct 6, 2004

We can stop the job losses, by closing loopholes

Q: Is it realistic to talk to the American people about stopping the global economy and the movement toward it?

A: We can have a real impact on the loss of jobs. We can do something to bring jobs back to replace the jobs that we’ve lost. I’ve seen mills close, I’ve seen what it does to communities, I’ve seen what it does to families. We need to close loopholes in our tax code to give breaks to companies that are leaving, give tax breaks to American companies that will keep jobs here.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary Debate in Greenville SC Jan 29, 2004

Product liability suits attack corporate indifference

[In a case where a 5-year-old girl was eviscerated by a pool suction drain, we considered 4 parties responsible; 3 settled. We sued the manufacturer of the pool drain cover, Sta-Rite.]

North Carolina’s product liability statute was not crafted with the best interests of [negligence victims] in mind. For example, it protected a manufacturer from liability if its product had been altered or modified from its intended use. Sta-Rite contended, “If the screws are in place [on the drain cover], it’s not a hazard,“ but they didn’t indicate in their instructions that screws were required,] Sta-Rite had dumped a product on the market without considering its hazards. Underlying this case was Sta-Rite’s corporate indifference. It’s hard to sit there and listen to strangers say, ”Lawsuits like these are what’s wrong with America!“ and then go home to your innocent daughter and her feeding tubes. [The jury awarded $25 million against Sta-Rite].

Source: Four Trials, by John Edwards, p.187-198 Jan 1, 2004

Howard verdict forced trucking companies’ safety training

[Edwards won the Howard case, which awarded punitive damages against a trucking company for an accident by one of its drivers, who was induced to drive unsafely because of incentive pay.] There are 2 endings to the Howard saga-one quite happy, the other less so.

The trucking industry did indeed take notice of the verdict. Trucking firms in the state of North Carolina were soon placing greater emphasis no driver safety training. Some companies even abandoned the practice of paying drivers by the mile.

Unfortunately, the insurance companies lobbied the Republican state legislature and soon a bill was passed disallowing punitive damage awards against a company as a result of an employee’s actions, unless the particular action was specifically ratified by corporate officers.

Yes, our lawsuit had sent a message, and that message ultimately was: if you don’t like the law, change it. The message to me was: if you can’t help enough people being a lawyer, consider being a lawmaker.

Source: Four Trials, by John Edwards, p.157-8 Dec 1, 2003

Tax incentives to companies to keep jobs in America

Q: How do you draw the line between building walls to protect jobs and building walls that create isolationism economically?

EDWARDS: We ought to have trade agreements that have real protections in them that allow our people here at home to compete. But we also ought to close down loopholes in our tax code that give American companies an incentive to go overseas. In fact, we ought to give tax breaks to American companies that will keep jobs right here in America.

We have to protect the jobs we have. We have to create jobs. And in order to create jobs, we ought to identify those places in America where job losses occurred and say to new business, “If you’ll start there, we’ll give you the seed money with a national venture capital fund”; and second, to existing businesses and industry, “If you’ll locate in an urban area, in an inner city, in a rural area, we will give you incentives to go there.”

Source: Debate at Pace University in Lower Manhattan Sep 25, 2003

Crack down on CEO pay; and require honest accounting

Worker and Shareholder Bill of Rights. Some CEOs have lined their own pockets while workers lost their jobs and families lost their savings. Edwards will crack down on outrageous CEO pay, require honest accounting, and ensure pension fairness for ordinary workers.
Source: Real Solutions For America, campaign booklet by John Edwards Aug 6, 2003

Address moral crisis: Shareholder & Worker Bill of Rights

We need to take on these insider deals. There is not just an economic crisis on Main Street America, there is a moral crisis in corporate America. I want business to succeed, I want CEOs to succeed, but I want them to succeed by doing the right thing- by helping their workers, by doing right by investors. This is why I am proposing a new Shareholder and Worker’s Bill of Rights. It is not complicated. This will make our economy stronger, not weaker. This will restore confidence in markets and it will restore fairness on the factory floor.
Source: Speech at 2003 Take Back America Conference, Washington, DC Jun 5, 2003

Voted YES on restricting rules on personal bankruptcy.

Vote to pass a bill that would require debtors able to repay $10,000 or 25 percent of their debts over five years to file under Chapter 13 bankruptcy (reorganization and repayment) rather than Chapter 7 (full discharge of debt).
Reference: Bill HR 333 ; vote number 2001-236 on Jul 17, 2001

Rated 15% by the US COC, indicating an anti-business voting record.

Edwards scores 15% by US Chamber of Commerce on business policy

Whether you own a business, represent one, lead a corporate office, or manage an association, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of AmericaSM provides you with a voice of experience and influence in Washington, D.C., and around the globe.

Our members include businesses of all sizes and sectors—from large Fortune 500 companies to home-based, one-person operations. In fact, 96% of our membership encompasses businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Mission Statement:

"To advance human progress through an economic, political and social system based on individual freedom, incentive, initiative, opportunity, and responsibility."
The ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
Source: COC website 03n-COC on Dec 31, 2003

Other candidates on Corporations: John Edwards on other issues:
Nominees:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010