Next US president "should not ignore poverty"

A reminder in Davos that not everyone in the world has enough to eat

The agenda of the next president of the United States is an important issue at this year's annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

This content was published on January 26, 2008 - 21:00

Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a "good government" lobby group in Washington that works for politicians to be more attuned to the public interest, gave his views to swissinfo at a forum in Davos open to the public.

swissinfo: Whom would you like to see as next president of the United States in the elections on November 4?

Bob Edgar: We're a bipartisan group that does not take positions on presidents. I believe however that the problems of the past eight years will lead to a Democrat victory.

It won't be easy, but I think the key word that has emerged is that of change: a new vision for America that is less interested in being a superpower without humility and without care for everyone on the planet as well as the people inside the United States.

swissinfo: What is the agenda for the next president?

B.E.: My hope is that either a moderate Republican or a moderate to progressive Democrat is elected and that they will focus internationally on ending secret prisons, torture and pre-emptive war. Domestically I hope they will address the issue of health care and the fact that 37 million Americans are at or below the poverty level.

Much of what we've heard in the United States over the past eight years has been to give tax benefits to the rich and to the middle class and very little attention to the poor.

swissinfo: Realistically, what are your hopes?

B.E.: I'm very optimistic. I think on the Democrat side either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is going to be elected and I think we're going to see new people come to the State Department and the Defence Department who will stop thinking in Second World War terms.

[Politicians] run these films thinking they can get terrorists by bombing capitals as opposed to recognising that a handful of people can hold nations hostage. We need a police effort to go after terrorists not a military effort, and we ought to take the money we're spending on the military and address the needs of the poor domestically and internationally.

swissinfo: If you had a microphone in front of the 2,500 participants at the WEF's annual meeting, including world leaders, what would your message be?

B.E.: I would ask them to spend more time thinking about addressing the world's issues related to poverty and the issues of malaria, Aids and health care, and recognise that their money can't buy a better world. Their money can assist, but good people across the world need to come together and work together.

We need to lower the violence in the world and we need to increase our collaboration. We've spent a lot of money trying to address some of these issues and the money has not helped in many ways. It's got to be a combination of thoughtful use of money with more aggressive use of intellectual power... where Christians, Jews, Muslims and other faiths and traditions find ways to work together.

I think a lot of business and political leaders forget civil society and that they need to have an open forum, rather than a closed forum.

swissinfo-interview: Robert Brookes in Davos

Common Cause

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, non-profit organisation founded in 1970 for people to make their voices heard in politics and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

It says it has more than 300,000 members and supporters and remains committed to honest, open and accountable government, as well as encouraging citizen participation in democracy.

Bob Edgar is the president and CEO of Common Cause. He was the general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States for seven years before becoming Common Cause president.

Elected to the US House of Representatives in 1974 to represent the Seventh Congressional District of Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia, Edgar was part of the congressional class nicknamed "the Watergate babies", those elected in the wake of the Watergate scandal and who led sweeping reforms of Congress.

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