Edwards rails against “corrupt capitalism”

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards delivered what his campaign called a "major policy address" this morning in Des Moines.  The event was held in the auditorium inside the student center at Grandview College.  The last time I was in the room was for a Howard Dean event where Dean stressed his credentials as a doctor and his health care reform plans.

About 300 people were in the room to listen to the speech — and they had to wait for a while because Edwards was 45 minutes late.  According to his staff:  "He’s talking to Elizabeth." 

Edwards tie Once show time arrived, an announcer said "Senator John Edwards" and Edwards walked onto the raised stage wearing a dark suit, white shirt and North-Carolina-blue tie (upon later inspection by reporters gathered around Edwards for the Q&A afterwards, the tie’s pattern featured tiny octopi and clams…the plural of octopus can be ocotopuses, octopi or octopodes, by the way).  Thanks to a FOB (friend of the blog) — Dan — for the photo.

"They were saying back stage they’re very excited to hear your tax speech," Edwards began, as the crowd applauded his entrance.  "I said: ‘No, they’re just tired of waiting."  The crowd laughed.

"I’m very pleased to be here with all of you.  My, uh, my, uh — I’m trying to think of the right word to use — my bottom is sore from riding in RAGBRAI yesterday but we had a great time," Edwards continued, referencing his pedal time on the bike ride next to Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong.  "Elizabeth was with me and Jack and Emma Claire and I rode for a short time with Lance Armstrong and we had a great discussion after the ride because Jack was saying to me, he said: ‘Dad, did Lance ride faster than you?’ and I said: ‘No," and Elizabeth, as usual, chimed in and said: ‘It’s because he chose not to, Jack." 

The crowd, and Edwards, laughed.

Edwards then launched into a nearly half hour long speech in which he touted a series of tax breaks & tax cuts for lower and middle class Americans, plus tax hikes on the rich.  Here’s the Radio Iowa story.

The jist of the speech is a continuation of the point Edwards was making in the YouTube debate — arguing he is somebody who as a trial lawyer went up against big business and the monied interests, and who will do the same as president.  Edwards referred to "crony capitalism."

Some of the things that drew responses from the crowd:

"A typical CEO in this country today makes more by the end of lunch than the average wage worker makes all year long," Edwards said.  Some in the crowd said "wow" and a few groaned. 

A few in the crowd laughed when Edwards re-told the story about his dad borrowing $50 in order to bring him home from the hospital after he was born. 

In talking about attacking vested interests that have "rigged" the system:  "They will not change until they’re made to change.  You can’t do this by being nice.  You have to tell the truth.  You have to be strong and you have to fight and the time to talk to them is after you’ve beaten them," Edwards said, to applause. 

"…I can tell you I’ve been in these battles for a long time, before I even got involved in politics I was battling these very same people — big corporations, insurance companies, drug companies — and I did beat ’em over and over and over.  I’ve got some experience in dealing with them.  I know what it’s like," Edwards said, to applause.  "But that’s what it’s going to take to bring big change in this country."

The biggest applause came when Edwards proposed raising taxes on the richest Americans.

Edwards did not stick to the speech text much and ended his speech by reissuing his call to arms — using some of the same mantra he’s been closing speeches with here.  "We have to express the outrage that so many of us feel," he told the crowd.  "…I’m not waiting to see what the other candidates say to lay out strong positions.  That’s not leading.  That’s following.  I intend to lead."  The crowd applauded, with a few hoots thrown in.

UPDATE:  Dan Leistikow of the Edwards campaign offers this in regards to the $$ —  "The middle class tax cuts cost about $30 billion – paid for by raising the top capital gains rate to 28 percent. The other steps announced today to fight offshore tax havens and close abusive loopholes will raise at least $50 billion – money which Edwards will invest in education, health care, and other priorities."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Tax the rich more. Equality under the law? Justice? Punish sucess? There are so many reasons that’s wrong, I can’t usually decide which argument to use.