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Can Edwards Tackle Poverty?

As Jared Bernstein and Matt Yglesias point out, today's Washington Post piece, which criticizes John Edwards for not having any "new" ideas on poverty (or, horrors, not having any ideas that "challenge liberal orthodoxies") misses the mark. Edwards is putting forward plenty of sensible proposals--the fact that many of them happen to be the same boring old ideas, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, that have worked in the past is hardly a knock against him.

On another level, though, there's probably only so much one can read into the specific policies that Edwards is bandying about on this front. Britain provides an instructive example here: Back in 1999, Tony Blair decided to make child-poverty reduction a major goal, had a vague notion of how to go about things, and then his government found the tools to do just that (reaching frequently into the grab-bag of "old" ideas). Having a leader who actually plans to focus on poverty and hire people who are serious about governing seems far more important than whatever clever schemes might get dreamed up on the campaign trail.

Update: Greg Anrig defends Edwards' idea of using housing vouchers to help integrate low-income families into middle-class neighborhoods.

--Bradford Plumer