Edwards vs. Kerry on the Issues

by on February 20th, 2004

The New York Times has a summarization of where Kerry and Edwards stand on the “issues.”

I have to admit that I have not read either candidate’s position papers. But looking at the Times’ summary they don’t appear to be too far apart on most things. Here is a rundown:

Kerry vs. Edwards

Issue: Abortion

Both support abortion rights, however Edwards for whatever reason did not vote on the controversial effort to ban the “partial birth abortion” procedure, while Kerry opposed the ban. Kerry has also said he will not appoint abortion opponents to the Supreme Court while Edwards has apparently not taken a position on this.

Being from Massachusetts, I’m sure that Kerry has to be more specific about his pro-choice views while Edwards coming from a southern conservative state would probably rather just say he is pro-choice and leave it at that. I don’t see this as a defining issue between the two.

Issue: Death Penalty

Edwards supports it; Kerry does not. However, Kerry now hedges and says he would make an exception in cases of terrorism, whatever that means.

This is still not a defining issue. I’m personally opposed to the death penalty, but it would not be a major factor in how I cast my vote.

Issue: The Economy

Edwards is proposing to give companies that make products in the U.S. a 10 percent tax cut while punishing companies that send jobs overseas by scaling back their tax breaks. This sounds like a promising plan, but I have no idea how it would work in practice. What about companies that have plants in the U.S. and overseas?

Edwards also proposes a $5,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. Not sure if that would really make a difference in homeownership rates. It might just encourage folks to buy more expensive homes and/or get more upgrades.

Kerry wants to send $50 billion to the states “to create jobs.” I’d have to see some more specifics on that one. He also wants to give out manufacturing tax credits (how many do we already have?) and “crack down on trade violations” (how much do we spend on enforcement now?). Finally, he is promising to cut the deficit in half in five years. I find this promise to at least be more credible than George W.’s

Issue: Education

Edwards wants to give every student a free year of tuition at the public university or community college of their choice provided that they agree to do 10 hours of community service every week.

Frankly, I think this sounds like a logistical nightmare. Who is going to coordinate all these community service projects for all these thousands of students across the country? Who is going to make sure they don’t pull a George W. Bush and just not show up for their community service each week? And how much is it going to cost to make up for eliminating 1/4th of the tuition revenues at every public college?

Edwards is also proposing to increase teacher pay and breakup large high schools, which are local and state issues.

Kerry is proposing tax credits on first $4,000 of tuition for every year of college. As well as a $3.2 billion community service plan for high school students that would let them qualify for equivalent tuition at their four-year public colleges. I would have the same questions and reservations about his proposals.

Issue: Gay Marriage

Both say they are opposed to same-sex marriage, but support domestic partner benefits.

Bush is obviously trying to make this into a bigger issue for the campaign. I would like to see the Democratic candidate stand up to him on this one from a civil rights perspective, but that may be too much to hope.

Issue: Health Care

Edwards wants to provide government-subsidized health insurance for all Americans younger than 21 and cover half of nation’s uninsured at a cost of $590 billion over 10 years. Also proposes expanding the nursing work force by 100,000 (not sure how you do that) and wants to restrict drug company advertising.

Kerry wants to expand the insurance system used by federal employees to cover all private citizens; he would cover 61 percent of the uninsured at a cost of $890 billion over 10 years.

It’s amazing to me that George Bush has managed to run up such a huge deficit so quickly without providing health coverage for any of the nation’s uninsured. At least Edwards and Kerry aren’t pushing the elderly to invest all their Social Security savings in the stock market.

Issue: Iraq

Both voted to authorize the use of force and both voted against the administration’s $87 billion funding package.

Contrary to Republican claims, these votes are not necessarily contradictory. First, authorizing the use of force does not mean they approve the way the president decided to use that power (cherry-pick intelligence reports, ignore the U.N. weapons inspectors, thumb his nose at our allies), and secondly, opposing the dishonest way Bush sought to fund the war doesn’t mean the only other option was to provide no funding for our troops.

Issue: Taxes

Both would eliminate Bush’s tax cuts for people making more than $200,000. Edwards would increase capital gains rates for those making more than $300,000 while providing tax cuts for new parents, new home owners, and the working poor.

Kerry would support middle-class tax cuts for college, child care and health care.

These are standard Democratic positions that were proposed as alternatives to Bush’s budget-busting tax cuts for the last several years.

Issue: Trade

Finally another issue where they can disagree. Edwards wasn’t in the Senate when NAFTA was up for a vote but he says he would have opposed it. Kerry supports NAFTA. Both want to see environmental and labor standards added to trade agreements. Both voted in favor of having China join the WTO as a full trading partner.


There’s really not a lot of substantive differences between these two guys which is why everyone focuses on things like image and style. I agree that Edwards comes across as the more charismatic and dynamic speaker, but Kerry has the greater stature and more experience.

The problem with Edwards is that he is inexperienced on the world stage. I can remember Kerry during the Iran-Contra investigations 20 years ago. Edwards hasn’t even finished his first term in the Senate. Even Bush finished his first term as governor and got himself re-elected before running for president. And the other problem with Edwards, unfortunately, is his lack of military experience. He has even less military experience than Bush, who at least had four “active” years in the National Guard.

So I will be casting my vote for Kerry in the March 9 primaries here in Texas. Although I wouldn’t mind seeing Edwards on the ticket as the VP.

Mike Thomas