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Columbia Missourian

Edwards touts health care, economic polices in Missouri stop

By CHRIS BLANK/The Associated Press
January 29, 2008 | 2:27 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards told supporters Tuesday that he wants universal health care, a quick end to the Iraq war and economic policies geared toward helping the working and middle classes.


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Edwards, whose fortunes are fading as attention shifts tighter to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, told more than 100 supporters at a Jefferson City campaign stop they can create "a tidal wave of change that can spread across this country with a force that can't be stopped."

The former senator from North Carolina said Americans had a duty to do that if they are to leave a better country for the next generation.

The health care plan Edwards proposed would cost $90 billion to $120 billion per year. He proposed funding it by rolling back tax cuts for those earning more than $200,000.

The campaign stop was part of a multistate blitz a week before Missouri and 21 other states vote on Super Tuesday to select their presidential nominees. A day earlier, Edwards spoke in a Teamsters hall in southwest Missouri.

In his roughly 20-minute speech in the capital city, Edwards criticized neglect of the middle and working class, called for giving free tuition at public colleges and universities for students who also have jobs and blamed free trade agreements and corporations for driving down wages and shipping jobs overseas.

Edwards also criticized a proposed federal tax rebate, saying it didn't do enough to help the working and middle classes and should include funding to help bail out states that might face budget deficits.

The White House and congressional leaders have proposed the rebates to spur an unsteady economy.

"We have economic growth in America, but all the economic growth over the last several years has been for the richest Americans and the biggest corporations in America, not for working people, not for the middle class," Edwards said.

To help fix that, he proposed making it easier to unionize while increasing the federal minimum wage to $9.50 an hour and pegging it to inflation.

Kay Watson came about 100 miles from her home in Bevier in northern Missouri. She said she's an Edwards convert who hadn't supported him when he ran four years ago. She said she favors him this year because he wants to stand up to corporations.

Edwards had another event scheduled in Minnesota on Tuesday night before heading to Louisiana on Wednesday.