Sunday, September 23, 2007

John Edwards' Two Americas

Last presidential election, Senator John Edwards spent a lot of time talking about the "two Americas":
Today, under George W. Bush, there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America that will do anything to leave its children a better life, another America that never has to do a thing because its children are already set for life.
Yes, John Edwards would know a lot about the America "that reaps the reward... that never has to do a thing because its children are already set for life." From the January 26, 2007 Carolina Journal:
RALEIGH — Presidential candidate John Edwards and his family recently moved into what county tax officials say is the most valuable home in Orange County. The house, which includes a recreational building attached to the main living quarters, also is probably the largest in the county.

“The Edwardses’ residential property will likely have the highest tax value in the county,” Orange County Tax Assessor John Smith told Carolina Journal. He estimated that the tax value will exceed $6 million when the facility is completed.

The rambling structure sits in the middle of a 102-acre estate on Old Greensboro Road west of Chapel Hill. The heavily wooded site and winding driveway ensure that the home is not visible from the road. “No Trespassing” signs discourage passersby from venturing past the gate.


Knight approved the building plans that showed the Edwards home totaling 28,200 square feet of connected space. The main house is 10,400 square feet and has two garages. The recreation building, a red, barn-like building containing 15,600 square feet, is connected to the house by a closed-in and roofed structure of varying widths and elevations that totals 2,200 square feet.

The main house is all on one level except for a 600-square-foot bedroom and bath area above the guest garage.

The recreation building contains a basketball court, a squash court, two stages, a bedroom, kitchen, bathrooms, swimming pool, a four-story tower, and a room designated “John’s Lounge.”
Everyone needs a place to live. Unless you live in New York City, you need a car. I don't begrudge a person a nice place to live, if they can afford it. I also don't begrudge a person a nice car, if they can afford it. There is no clear dividing line between a necessary car and outrageous extravagance, or between an adequate house and a palace. But there are examples that are clearly the other side of that nebulous line--and when you spend much of your time delivering speeches about "Two Americas," while living like a Gilded Age robber baron, it is hard not to call John Edwards for what he is: a hypocrite.

If, instead of a six million dollar house, Edwards had settled for a modest million dollar home, he could put that five million dollars into a scholarship fund. With even modest skill, it would generate $350,000 a year in income forever. That would pay for 70 college students to receive $5000 a year in financial aid--enough to allow at least 70 kids who might otherwise not be able to go to college, to do so. Or provide catastrophic health insurance for at least 72 people a year. As I pointed out a few weeks back, if 1000 of America's billionaire and multimillionaire progressives each put in $100 million (and many of them could do so without any serious injury to their lifestyle), we could get a good start on creating basic health insurance for those uninsured Americans who can't afford it.

I've said it before, and I'm saying it again: the reason that America's wealthiest people support Democrats (Warren Buffett, for example, maxing his contributions to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) is not because they are concerned about the poor, but are too cheap to spend the money from their own bulging pockets--but are quite prepared to raise taxes on those of us who have to still work for a living. All this faux populism by billionaires seems to fool some people, but it sure isn't fooling me.

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