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Edwards Says Follow a Real Leader: Him


In holiday-ready N.H. today John Edwards talked leadership. (AP).

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. -- One day after Hillary Clinton accused her Democratic rivals of playing into Republican hands by offering plans to shore up Social Security, John Edwards fired back by saying that withholding ideas for Social Security reform showed a lack of leadership.

"What people want in a presidential candidate ... is leadership," Edwards told reporters after speaking to several hundred voters in a high school cafeteria here. "Leadership is showing where you believe the country needs to go. We're not running for the Congress. We're running for the presidency. What people expect from us is to lead on these issues...Taking a position and taking a stand is leadership."

Was he suggesting that Clinton was not showing leadership? he was asked. "I'm saying I am," he answered.

Social Security has emerged as a flash point in the Democratic debate. Edwards has proposed raising the cap on income that is taxed for Social Security, which now stands at $97,500, possibly allowing for a "doughnut hole" of income over $97,500 that is not taxed but then taxing income over $200,000. Barack Obama has also said he would favor raising the cap, on some occasions endorsing a doughnut hole approach and on some occasions referring simply to lifting the cap.

Clinton has declined to lay out specific options for shoring up the Social Security system, saying that she would start by restoring fiscal discipline and then convene a bipartisan commission to study a long-term fix. Her rivals have seized on this in recent months as a sign of a lack of candor and forthrightness, but her campaign has fought back by accusing rivals of accepting Republican talking points suggesting that Social Security is in worse shape than it actually is.

On Wednesday, Clinton went further than she had before in defending her approach on Social Security, calling it a "mistake" for her rivals to offer specific reform ideas.
"Most of my opponents are more than happy to throw out all their ideas," she said in Gilford, N.H., according to the Concord Monitor, in response to a question about whether she'd consider more payroll taxes on higher-income earners. "I just know - maybe it's because I'm a student of history and I've been studying this - I know that eventually you've got to have a bipartisan commission. That's the only way we're going to resolve this."

She added, referring to raising the income cap, "I think all these are ideas a bipartisan commission has to look at. But I think it is a mistake for Democrats to be throwing these ideas out when we know we can't do anything unless Democrats and Republicans hold hands and jump together."

--Alec MacGillis

By Washington Post editors  |  December 7, 2007; 6:51 PM ET
 
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Comments

Posting the comment four times was the product of refreshing to see if you were still out there and had yet replied. This is something I have done in many other forums and never wound up with multiple posts, so I can only assume it is some defect with the compatibility of Mozilla and the WP's site.

As for your reply: of course removing the cap doesn't solve the problem if the revenue from doing so doesn't go where it should. Getting a raise won't help me pay off my credit card debt if I just waste it all on expensive new things. I am not sure if you think you are making some profound point here or what, but in my world that just goes without saying.

There is a simple legislative fix to ensuring that all incoming revenue from social security taxes stays in the system...simple meaning one sentence in a bill would do the trick. Anyone else remember Al Gore's "lockbox"?

I am not denying that there is a problem with social security. The problems are that it is a regressive tax that falls proportionately less on people that make more than the cap, and that it was designed so that current benefits are paid for by the active workforce. These two flaws have set up the problem we now face. Pretending that this is some intractable dilemma that can only be solved with fewer benefits and a higher retirement age, i.e. that there is no "easy fix", is completely bogus. It is a rightwing talking point, sadly bought into by some corporate Democrats (Lieberman, the Clintons, etc.), that does nothing but distract from the obvious. If people who can afford to pay more into the system do so, then the system will be solvent.

I am not trying to "get at the wealthy", I am pointing out the clearest and fairest solution to the problem. If the system was set up unfairly, in favor of the wealthy, to begin with, asserting that it should be fixed by making the taxes fall on everyone equally is not a spiteful solution.

As for Edwards, despite all his fine policy suggestions, he is still a politician running for office and sometimes frustratingly vague in the speeches he gives...details in that forum would not help him get elected, they would put everyone in the audience to sleep. I do credit him for giving out fairly detailed ideas on his website...again danielhancock, doing a little research would help. I do not speak for Edwards, although I will certainly vote for him if he is still in the running when Ohio holds its primary, and can only imagine that if pushed Edwards would also admit that legislation like the "lockbox" is also necessary to keep social security solvent, but I repeat, that is really a no-brainer.

More interesting is whether the doughnut hole solution, keeping the cap from its current level to $200,000 and removing it above that, which Edwards advocates will bring in enough money. If it doesn't, then the percentage that either we or those who are above $200,000 pay in would have to be raised. Obviously the doughnut hole is a nod to the upper middle class and a realization that $97,500 a year doesn't mean the same in NYC or some other expensive cities as it does in middle America, but considering that I live off a graduate student's stipend, I don't feel too bad for them.

Posted by: evereye3 | December 10, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Posting the same comment four times does not make it any more valid.

The above poster is an example of a new school of thought on Social Security that believes the solution to the problem is to deny that there is even a problem.

Even if the cap is eliminated, how can it be guaranteed that the extra revenue will be set aside for Social Security instead of going into general revenues as it has in the past.

If we could pin down Edwards we could ask him if he thought that eliminating the cap would solve the problem.

If he said no, we could then ask him to elaborate on how to fix Social Security. Other actuaries had said that the system is inherently actuarily unsound even to the point of it being a Ponzi scheme.

I don't know if I go that far but it would be nice to hear more details from Edwards on the subject. Don't hold your breath waiting as it is likely that he will continue to hide behind the fig leaf of eliminating the cap as the solution.

Again people like the above poster and Edwards seem to just want to get at the wealthy as a matter of spite regardless of whether it solves the problem or not.

There is no easy fix. That is why candidates like Edwards offer few details.


Posted by: danielhancock | December 9, 2007 9:33 PM | Report abuse

DanielHancock needs to do a little research before shooting off his mouth. The problem with social security is that there are so many retiring baby boomers, that the smaller generations that have followed them cannot support baby boomer benefits given the current contribution system. A 2005 report by the social security administration's own actuaries revealed that removing the cap would keep the trust fund going for 74 more years. That is hardly a drop in the bucket, it is a solution to the problem. How many baby boomers are still going to be around collecting checks 74 years from now? If U.S. birthrates continue to decline, the percentage of income we each need to contribute might have to be raised, but the baby boomers present a one time problem, easily fixed by asking higher wage earners to pay social security taxes on 100% of their income just like the rest of us do.

Posted by: evereye3 | December 9, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

DanielHancock needs to do a little research before shooting off his mouth. The problem with social security is that there are so many retiring baby boomers, that the smaller generations that have followed them cannot support baby boomer benefits given the current contribution system. A 2005 report by the social security administration's own actuaries revealed that removing the cap would keep the trust fund going for 74 more years. That is hardly a drop in the bucket, it is a solution to the problem. How many baby boomers are still going to be around collecting checks 74 years from now? If U.S. birthrates continue to decline, the percentage of income we each need to contribute might have to be raised, but the baby boomers present a one time problem, easily fixed by asking higher wage earners to pay social security taxes on 100% of their income just like the rest of us do.

Posted by: evereye3 | December 9, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

DanielHancock needs to do a little research before shooting off his mouth. The problem with social security is that there are so many retiring baby boomers, that the smaller generations that have followed them cannot support baby boomer benefits given the current contribution system. A 2005 report by the social security administration's own actuaries revealed that removing the cap would keep the trust fund going for 74 more years. That is hardly a drop in the bucket, it is a solution to the problem. How many baby boomers are still going to be around collecting checks 74 years from now? If U.S. birthrates continue to decline, the percentage of income we each need to contribute might have to be raised, but the baby boomers present a one time problem, easily fixed by asking higher wage earners to pay social security taxes on 100% of their income just like the rest of us do.

Posted by: evereye3 | December 9, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

DanielHancock needs to do a little research before shooting off his mouth. The problem with social security is that there are so many retiring baby boomers, that the smaller generations that have followed them cannot support baby boomer benefits given the current contribution system. A 2005 report by the social security administration's own actuaries revealed that removing the cap would keep the trust fund going for 74 more years. That is hardly a drop in the bucket, it is a solution to the problem. How many baby boomers are still going to be around collecting checks 74 years from now? If U.S. birthrates continue to decline, the percentage of income we each need to contribute might have to be raised, but the baby boomers present a one time problem, easily fixed by asking higher wage earners to pay social security taxes on 100% of their income just like the rest of us do.

Posted by: evereye3 | December 9, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

The Edwards plan to raise the cap just gives Edwards cover on a difficult question. He can just say that he will eliminate the cap on earnings when asked about how to make Social Security solvent even though the revenue raisied by that will only be a drop in the bucket.

Edwards plan to eliminate the cap does not come close to solving any problem except the problem of Edwards having to give a real answer to the difficult question of Social Security financing.

Posted by: danielhancock | December 9, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I think it's a good start, smoke and mirrors is when you talk but do nothing. I'd rather have a candidate who starts to solve a problem and builds on it, than one who ignores it altogether. Smoke and mirrors is saying you'll have to have fiscal responsibility and a bipartisan commission. One could take years, especially when you're freely spending money in other areas, and the other almost impossible when all you do is criticize the opponents and call every move they make a Republican Playbook stunt. I don't think Warren Buffet has to feel guilty about anything.

Posted by: BJLeone | December 9, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

BJ: The Edwards plan is woefully inadequate because it does not even start to raise enough revenue to solve the problem and only serves to give the illusion that Edwards has a serious Social Security plan.

I guess, as you mention, it will help to ease Warren Buffet's guilt. But that a lot different than actually solving the problem.

As with a lot of Edwards rhetoric, the masses are supposed to feel better because Edwards will stick it to the rich even though their own condition will not improve. More smoke and mirrors but no solution.

Posted by: danielhancock | December 9, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Why is Edwards' plan "woefully inadequate"? Warren Buffet regularly states how pathetic it is that he pays the same amount into Social Security as everyone making up to 97,500 dollars. And he's a Billionare. I believe Hillary has recently said she would consider raising the cap. But more importantly, and this is a big problem, why is it that this article as do many others start out as covering John Edwards, then make the majority of the article about Hillary Clinton? You not only cover Hillary's response, but then go on for three paragraphs which is far more than you devoted to detailing Edwards' plan. Enough Hillary press.

Posted by: BJLeone | December 9, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

John Edwards does lead on the important issues of today. He takes a stand for all Americans with a clear message for a better America and precise solutions to much of our concerns about the future. Honest, trustworthy and willing to fight for what is right and good in our nation. Yes, John Edwards is a leader the caliber we have not seen for many years.

Posted by: DeeW | December 8, 2007 10:41 PM | Report abuse

There is kind of a shell game going on. Edwards is criticizing Clinton for not offering a plan for Social Security but eliminating the cap as Obama and Edwards advocate would only be a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to make the system solvent. So what is the difference between offering no plan and offering a plan that comes nowhere close to solving the problem?

Is it leadership to offer a woefully inadequate solution to a problem and then accuse other candidates of offering no solution?

Posted by: danielhancock | December 8, 2007 10:26 PM | Report abuse

The history of this campaign shows that John Edwards knows how to lead:

Who focused attention on Hillary's Iran vote? John Edwards.

Who put out a plan for universal health care, forcing Obama and Clinton to respond month's later with their own plans? John Edwards.

Who made the influence of special interests and lobbyists an issue? John Edwards.

Not only is he a progressive leader, he is the most electable Democrat. Is that why the corporate media gives his candidacy so little coverage?

Posted by: rosaliefontana | December 8, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

"I'm saying I am."

Right on. I'm so sick and tired of the DISRESPECTFUL TABLOID MEDIA that passes for news in this country always asking some other candidate about Clinton or Obama.

%#@! Clinton and Obama.

Posted by: framecop | December 8, 2007 7:54 AM | Report abuse

John Edwards would be a great leader, I believe. He has all the personal qualities to lead the country, and avoid polarization that would occur with Obama and Hillary. It is time for people to realize that he would be the most sensible choice. Obama could be his running mate, and allow time for people to get used to the idea of him as preisdent. I believe that America will not elect a black man in 2008.

Posted by: river845 | December 7, 2007 11:41 PM | Report abuse

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