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Edwards Returns To 'Two Americas' Economic Theme

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is bemoaning the growing divide between rich and poor as he returns to the signature theme of ``Two Americas'' from his unsuccessful 2004 White House bid.

Looking to break out from under two leading rivals, Edwards planned to focus on the economic gap that he argues has widened since his last run.

``Our tax system has been rewritten by George Bush to favor the wealthy and shift the burden to working families. That is simply wrong,'' Edwards said, according to text provided by his campaign. ``There are still Two Americas.''

He planned to deliver the speech at Cooper Union college in New York.

The economic theme was at the core of his first bid, while this time he has focused on opposition to the Iraq war, universal health care and his work to fight poverty. He is putting a new emphasis on economic themes as he tries to expand his campaign beyond Iowa, where he holds the edge in some polls based in part on his ties from the last campaign and organization.

But Edwards trails Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in other states. The campaign recognizes that while momentum out of Iowa could help propel Edwards, he needs to make gains elsewhere to compete. He plans a new focus on New Hampshire in particular in coming weeks.

``I have learned something in the last four years, though,'' Edwards said in the speech. ``It's not enough to talk about the Two Americas. We also need to talk about what we need to do to build One America.''

Edwards' plan includes a Borrower's Security Act, new rules for the credit card industry to help give consumers debt relief. He also would limit payday loans that are frequently used by low-income earners.

``We should start with the Wild West of the credit industry, where some abusive and predatory lenders are robbing families blind,'' he said. ``It's time for a new sheriff in town.''

He also said he would create a Family Savings and Credit Commission to help protect consumers from abusive financial practices. He also said he would eliminate the Office of Thrift Supervision, a financial regulatory division under the Treasury Department that he called an ``excess regulatory bureaucracy.''

``We need to reform our tax code,'' Edwards said. ``Our current system favors the unearned income of people already doing incredibly well instead of rewarding the work of families trying to get ahead. It has all kinds of loopholes and shelters that lawyers can twist for their wealthy clients. It forces millions of families to hire help to figure out how much they owe.''

Dan Ronayne, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, scoffed at Edwards' economic theme.

``John Edwards likes to talk about the 'Two Americas' but he should add a third America _ his. The America of $400 haircuts, mansions, hedge funds and tax loopholes is one uniquely his own,'' he said.
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