Smart Trade and Economy for American Workers

by Senator John Edwards

2008 Presidential Candidate

John Edwards outlined his agenda to put our economic and trade policies back in line with American values, and back on the side of regular families. To create One America where everyone’s hard work is rewarded and families can build a better life, he will:

· Enact Smarter Trade Policies: Trade deals need to make sense for American workers, not just corporations. Trade agreements like NAFTA and the WTO include special privileges for corporations, such as strong remedies for commercial rights and unprecedented rights to challenge environmental and health laws.

· Insist on Benefits for Regular Families: Edwards believes that the true test of a trade deal is not its reception on Wall Street or contribution to the gross domestic product. Instead, his primary criterion for new trade deals will be simple: considering its impact on jobs, wages and prices, will it make most families better off? He rejects President Bush’s use of trade agreements to encourage countries to support his foreign policy, rather than to strengthen our economy.

· Demand Strong Labor Laws: Edwards believes that all of our trade partners should be required to enforce at least the core labor rights defined by the International Labor Organization: the right to organize and bargain collectively and prohibitions against forced labor, child labor, and discrimination.

· Require Environmental Standards: Edwards supports strong environmental standards so multinational companies cannot profit by exploiting weak environmental laws and enforcement in some countries. For example, after the U.S. has capped its greenhouse gas pollution as Edwards proposes, trade policy could be used to encourage similar commitments by other nations.

· Eliminate Tax Incentives to Move Offshore: The U.S. tax code encourages multinational corporations to invest overseas by allowing them to indefinitely defer taxation on their foreign profits. In some cases corporations actually receive subsidies to invest overseas through a “negative tax.” Edwards will eliminate the benefit of deferral in low-tax countries, ensuring that American companies’ profits are taxed when earned at either the U.S. rate or by a foreign country at a comparable rate. [Grubert and Mutti, 2002; Altshuler and Grubert, 2001; Treasury, 2000]

· Revamp Trade Assistance and the Safety Net to Help Dislocated Workers and Communities: Americans today are more likely to lose their jobs and less likely to receive unemployment benefits. For too long, the federal government has stood by while plant closings devastate entire towns. Edwards will fight for these workers and their communities, by modernizing unemployment insurance to cover 500,000 more workers a year and creating a new “Training Works” initiative tied to high-wage jobs. He will help communities recover quickly from mass layoffs with better advance warning and more resources to shore upthe local tax base, plans for attracting family-sustaining jobs, and help for local businesses. [EPI, 2003; NELP, 2007]

An Economy in Line with Our Values

· Reward Work, Not Just Wealth: In America today, most families are working harder and struggling to get by. Our economy is growing and the productivity of our workers is at an all-time high, but corporate interests in Washington have rigged the system so that the benefits accrue to a privileged few. To put our economy back in line with our values, John Edwards will:

· Raise the Minimum Wage to $9.50 an Hour: Even after the New Hampshire minimum wage rises to $7.25, the earnings of a single parent with two children will still be below the federal poverty line. Edwards will set a national goal of a minimum wage that equals half the average wage. He will raise the minimum wage by 75 cents a year until it reaches $9.50 in 2012. He will also restore the minimum wage for tipped workers to half the full minimum wage – the minimum wage for these workers has stood at $2.13 since 1997 – and extend wage andhour protections to home health care workers, the fastest-growing job in America. [HHS, 2007]

· Strengthen Workers’ Right to Organize: Edwards believes that unions are essential to building the future middle class, but New Hampshire has lost almost 4,000 union members in the last eleven years. The right to choose a union is poorly enforced, full of loopholes, and routinely violated by employers. He will enact the Employee Free Choice Act, vigorously enforce labor laws and ban the use of permanent replacements for striking workers. [Census Bureau, 2007]

· Protect Workers’ Rights: As president, Edwards will revive the Department of Labor to protect the rights of all workers. He will protect the Davis Bacon Act, which prevents government contractors from slashing wages in order to win federal contracts with low-ball bids. He will make sure every American worker is protected by federally-approved safety and health standards in the workplace, including new mandatory ergonomics standards. Edwards will create a new Labor taskforce to target the industries with the worst abuses of minimum wage and overtime laws. He will also step up enforcement of themisclassification of employees as independent contractors.

· Help Low-Income Families Find Work and Join the Middle Class: 73,000 New Hampshire residents live in poverty, and the state’s poverty rate is up from 4.5 percent in 2000 to 5.6 percent. Edwards has set a national goal of eliminating poverty within 30 years. He will cut taxes on low-income workers by expanding the earned income tax credit for single workers and reducing its marriage penalty. He will create 1 million Stepping Stone jobs to help people struggling to find jobs gain skills and work experience. He will also expand affordablehousing near good jobs, rather than concentrating it in high-poverty neighborhoods far from opportunity. [Census, 2007]

· Guarantee Universal Health Care: More than 127,000 New Hampshire citizens don’t have health insurance and one in four Americans with health insurance are underinsured. Guaranteeing quality affordable health care for every American is the most important thing we can do to strengthen the middle class and working class in this country. Edwards has a true universal health care plan that offers every American the option of a public plan and will save the average family $2,000 to 2,500 a year. Employers will have to help cover their employees, thegovernment will make insurance affordable with new reforms and subsidies, and all Americans will buy insurance. [Census Bureau, 2007; Consumers Union, 2007]

· Fight Abusive Debt and Help Families Save: The number of properties being foreclosed on more than doubled in New Hampshire in the first half of 2007, compared to 2006. Edwards will crack down on abusive credit card companies, predatory mortgage lenders, and payday loan shops that take advantage of working families. He will reform the bankruptcy laws and institute a Home Rescue Fund to help families at risk of foreclosure keep their homes. To help families save, he will provide matched savings accounts for low-wage workers. [RealtyTrac, 2007]

· Make College Affordable for Everyone: A college education has never been more important, but young New Hampshire citizens who go to college graduate with an average of more than $22,000 in debt – the highest level in the nation. To help students work their way through college, Edwards will pay one year of public-college tuition, fees, and books for more than 2 million students who take a part-time job. [Project on Student Debt, 2007]