Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards told a George Washington University audience yesterday that American families are being damaged by what he termed the failed policies of the Bush administration.

In the latest of a series of speeches on major issues, the North Carolina senator said that White House tax proposals and budgetary cutbacks in after-school and student aid programs are adding to the burdens of overworked parents.

"Thanks to this administration's economic policies, Americans are working harder, making less and spending less time with their families," Edwards told several hundred students. "Thanks to its security policies, Americans are more frightened and less secure than they should be."

Edwards proposed a refundable tax credit of $2,500 to families with a newborn, enabling one or both parents to take time off to care for the new member of the family, to pay for child care or to meet new expenses. The senator said that the program could be financed with half the money that could be saved by canceling the Bush tax cuts for people with incomes exceeding $1 million.

Other suggestions were an expansion of after-school programs, pressure on the liquor industry to curb advertising to people younger than 21, and an expansion of efforts to move men off welfare into jobs and require them to make child support payments.

In a question-and-answer period, Edwards reiterated his support for administration efforts to secure U.N. backing for a second resolution on Iraq and said that he would support U.S. military action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein if the United Nations fails to act.

Young and Involved,

Just Not Voting

Young people may not vote, but they are actively participating in the civic life of their communities and may be "the most engaged generation ever," said Alison Byrne Fields, former creative director and chief strategist for the Rock the Vote campaign, in a study released yesterday.

"Young people are volunteering at higher numbers today than in previous generations," she wrote in a report published by the Carnegie Corporation. "College students are protesting more than their parents, the baby boom generation" -- so much so that participation in organized demonstrations "grew to an all-time high in 2001."

Those soaring levels of involvement stand in counterpoint to young Americans' increasing absence at the polls. Only about 13 percent of all people between the ages of 18 and 30 voted last November.

One consequence is a spiraling cycle of disengagement that widens the gap between young people and their elected representatives. "Young people don't vote, because candidates don't discuss their issues, and candidates don't discuss their issues, because young people don't vote," Fields, 32, wrote.

To increase voting among the young, Fields recommended increased school-based civic education and forcing candidates to pay more attention to young people and their issues.

Ex-Rep. Watts to Head GOPAC

Former representative J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) will head GOPAC, a Republican unit that recruits and trains state and local candidates.

Watts, who retired after eight years in the House in January, will succeed former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating as chairman.

Watts, who was the only black Republican in Congress, served as chairman of the House Republican Conference for four years.

Polling director Richard Morin contributed to this report.