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John Edwards: Long-Term Growth Requires Stronger Middle Class

North Carolina Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards argued on CNBC Thursday that maintaining long-term economic growth requires a tax structure designed to benefit the middle class--and it can be done without hindering Wall Street.

"If you look at what happened to the economy in the 1990s--when we were doing things to lift millions of out of poverty, to strengthen and grow the middle class, to create more economic security for the vast majority of Americans--investors and people working on Wall Street did extraordinarily well," the former vice presidential candidate said.

"They did extraordinarily well because they were part of a growing economy, not just part of an economy that was growing for a few people," he said.

Edwards' tax plan calls for repealing President Bush's tax cuts for people with incomes of more than $200,000 a year, eliminating the estate tax for everyone with an estate valued at less than $4 million, and raising the capital gains tax to 28 percent.

Edwards also wants publicly traded private equity firms and hedge funds to pay corporate tax rates, and he wants to cap deferred executive pensions at $1 million a year.

The candidate cited billionaire investor Warren Buffet, Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and Joseph Stiglitz, chief economist in the Clinton Administration, as people who support the idea that a change in the capital gains tax rate "is a good way to move forward."

"I think there are a lot of people ... who believe that to grow the American economy over time -- and not just looking at short-term profits -- that the way to do that is to have a tax system that works for everybody, and not just a few people," Edwards said.

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