Taxes


Does John Edwards’ work for a hedge fund contradict his populist fight for the Middle Class? I’m not sure, but John Edwards’ wealth has made a lot of people skeptical. Whether it’s the $400 haircut or the $1.25 million income this past year, most of which came from a hedge fund, many pundits would argue that John Edwards’ lavish lifestyle makes him a hypocrite when advocating for the poor. One particular comment from the MSNBC Political Blog said:

¬†Oh, I see what’s going on, Edwards is buying “capitalism offsets” he makes lots of money being a trial lawyer and now an undisclosed amount at a hedge fund, but, since he also helped to raise minimum wage and organize unions, etc. he’s not really a “dirty” capitalist. This way he doesn’t have to change his lavish lifestyle, that was afforded to him largely due to our capitalism based economy, in order to rail against the horrors of capitalism. He just has to buy “capitalism offset credits”. This is genius. I should start a company offering capitialism credits. I could make a fortune! Oh, wait, then I guess I would have to buy capitalism credits from myself. Oh, well its been done before.

I think its unhelpful to criticize the rich for helping the poor, but I understand the impulse. MSNBC’s First Read quoted Edwards’ talking about his financial dealings:

On Friday, in what seemed to be his most extensive comments on camera on the subject, Edwards dodged questions about his involvement with the hedge fund. When asked to reiterate his position, Edwards responded, “Sure. Well, basically, what I have been doing since the last election is a group of things. One of them is, I did consulting work for Fortress, which is a hedge fund in New York.” After a pause, Edwards listed his other activities during this time — running the poverty center at the University of North Carolina; helping to raise the minimum wage in six states and organize workers into unions; starting a college program for poor students in North Carolina; and doing humanitarian work in Africa. Edwards stated these experiences outweighed his work at Fortress. “So it is one of a group of things I have been involved in and I think that certainly if you look at all those things in totality, it is pretty clear where my commitment is.”

I’m not sure if this is Edwards dodging the question or not, it’s clear he was nervous or at least uncomfortable with his work at Fortress. This could be fear borne out of being caught in a hypocrisy, or a legitimate discomfort with his own privileged position within the anti-poverty fight. His conversation with MSNBC sought to answer the allegations a bit:

Asked if his work at the hedge fund conflicts with the idea Edwards is the candidate for the middle class, he reiterated the benefits from his consulting work. “I do think it’s important for the president of the United States to have a good understanding of our financial markets, how they operate, where the incentives are, where the incentives aren’t.”

In a surprising move today, all of the major candidates from both parties, except for one lone contender, have broken the 35-year-old tradition of Presidential candidates disclosing their income tax records.

Edwards even released his records four years ago when running for President, but no longer. He now refuses to give details about his income taxes or about the money he made consulting for controversial hedgefund Fortress. Giuliani refuses to speak about the millions he’s made with his consulting firm. He won’t even disclose the firm’s clients.

And who’s the lone candidate who’s kept up the tradition and released his tax returns? It’s Barack Obama. He went on record about it, saying,

“I think it’s critical that people know who their candidates are – what their sources of income are, if we have any potential conflicts.”

Bravo to Barack. How can the rest of the candidates speak about Government ethics and transparency when they themselves refuse to be personally transparent? And what has made them break this established tradition? While there’s no evidence to suggest unethical behavior, the appearance of impropriety is certainly strong.

On today’s Meet the Press, John McCain discussed why he adamantly opposed Bush’s tax cuts and then voted to extend them.

MR. RUSSERT: On tax cuts. You were on this program back in ’03, and I asked you this…

MR. RUSSERT: …”Do you believe the president, because of the war, should be asking Americans for more sacrifice,” “should” not “hold off any future tax cuts”–“should hold off” “any future tax cuts until we have a sense of the costs of the war and the state of our economy?”

“Yes, I do. I believe that until we find out the costs of this war and the reconstruction that we should hold off…”

MR. RUSSERT: “…on tax cuts.”

You came back the next year, I again asked you about opposing the Bush tax cuts…

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: …and this is what you said.

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

(Videotape, April 11, 2004)

SEN. McCAIN: I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportional amount that went to the wealthiest Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit.

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