The post-mortems on the Edwards campaign continue, with most political analysts attributing the failure of his candidacy to his embrace of what the pundits insist is class warfare, the focus on the country’s staggering and growing economic inequality.
A secondary analysis focuses on Edwards’ ambition. A prominent North Carolina columnist wishes Edwards had stayed in the Senate instead of beginning his first run for the presidency during his first term.
It’s not clear if he feels the same way about the two Democratic candidates still in the race, both of whom are also very early in their Senate careers and seeking the White House.
But it almost always comes back to a version of class warfare that was Edwards’ problem, that aggressively challenging the aspects of the economic system that expand the gulf between the rich and poor is somehow a declaration of war against corporations and the wealthy.
Ironically, the critique of Edwards’ economic policies comes the same week that President Bush released the details of his budget proposal to Congress, a plan that slashes funding for programs that help the poor while giving more than a trillion dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent of the nation’s households over the next ten years.
There’s your class warfare, though not many pundits can seem to the bring themselves to use the term to describe the budget that way. And Bush’s budget is not a declaration of class war as much as it is a continuation of it, the latest proposal from this Administration to give breaks to the wealthy and corporations at the expense of people struggling every day to make ends meet.
Bush wants to not only wants to make deep cuts to federal programs that protect the environment, control the spread of infectious diseases, and provide heating assistance for poor and elderly families, he wants to reduce the amount of federal dollars sent to states to help pay for initiatives that include vocational education, worker training, family services, and public safety programs like community policing and preventing violence against women.
He can’t claim the cuts have anything to do with fiscal responsibility. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says that the budget Bush sent to Congress would add $547 billion to the federal deficit between 2008 and 2013, largely because of the tax breaks for the wealthy.
The Center calculates that North Carolina would lose almost $500 million in the next fiscal year after adjusting for inflation. That means state policymakers would either have to cut services to the poor and elderly in the middle of the economic downturn, or find state money to replace the federal funding. And that does not include cuts in Medicaid that Bush is proposing.
The state budget is healthy, but no one expects much of a surplus and there is little appetite in an election year to raise taxes to replace federal dollars. That means the bottom line for North Carolina in Bush’s budget is fewer services for the most vulnerable people in the state at the very time the need for the services is expanding.
Tax cuts for millionaires, less help for families trying to lift themselves out of poverty. That’s Bush’s plan in a nutshell and it’s real class warfare at its devastating worst.