EDWARDS VS. OBAMA ON POVERTY.

EDWARDS VS. OBAMA ON POVERTY. In today's WSJ, Christopher Cooper writes that John Edwards "seems to be playing an outsized role in driving the terms of the party's debate -- generally to the left -- on everything from Iraq to health care." Poverty also comes to mind. Referencing back to the 2004 election, Cooper writes:

Mr. Edwards seems to feel freer to address issues that might alienate the party and business establishment. Just as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean pushed the Democrats toward more staunch opposition of the Iraq war four years ago, Mr. Edwards seems to be having a big impact on forcing the pack to follow his agenda.

Whether Cooper is right or not, Barack Obama did recently offer some poverty proposals of his own. As the Washington Post puts it:

Edwards has focused on the malignant effects of the concentration of poverty in inner cities. He has argued for dispersing low-income families by replacing public housing with a greatly expanded rental voucher program to allow families to move where there are more jobs and better schools.

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Although Obama offered some of the same proposals as Edwards, such as a transitional jobs program and an expanded earned-income tax credit, he presented a sharply different overall objective: fixing inner-city areas so they become places where families have a shot at prospering, without having to move.

As an example, he cited the Harlem Children's Zone, an initiative that seeks to improve one section of that New York neighborhood with an array of services, including prenatal counseling, early childhood education and free medical services. Obama urged replicating the program in 20 cities, which he estimated would cost a few billion dollars a year. "If poverty is a disease that infects the entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, then we can't just treat those symptoms in isolation," he said. "We have to heal that entire community."

Obama's plan is here. Edwards' is here.

--Steven White

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