John Edwards' central issue is solving poverty. He even has a plan. The problem is that his ideas have been tried and are proven failures.
If there is a personal imprint on Edwards's plan, it is his argument for reducing racial and economic segregation -- that, as he put it in one speech, "if we truly believe that we are all equal, then we should live together, too." To achieve this, Edwards proposes doing away with public housing projects and replacing them with 1 million rental vouchers, to disperse the poor into better neighborhoods and suburbs, closer to good schools and jobs.
The idea sounds bold, but it faces a deflating reality: A major federal experiment conducted for more than a decade has found that dispersing poor families with vouchers does not improve earnings or school performance, leaving some economists puzzled that Edwards would make such dispersal a centerpiece of his anti-poverty program. Edwards said he was unaware of the experiment.
And here's the really bad news for liberals:
Standing apart from the back-and-forth has been an unavoidable fact: No program has helped lift up the poor in recent years as much as a strong economy. In the prosperous 1990s, the number of people living in high-poverty neighborhoods fell by 24 percent, or 2.5 million people. Since then, the poverty rate has increased, to higher than it was 30 years ago.
"The ultimate goal is to create tight labor markets that create opportunities for poor people," said Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson.