For the second week in a row, the Lewis and Clark College Democrats had the privilege of playing host to a US Senate Candidate; Steve Novick. Like Jeff Merkley’s town hall last Friday, the event was informative and thought-provoking. Once again, I thought I would share some of my observations from the meeting.
As in my last post, I am paraphrasing Novick rather than quoting him.
Immediately, Novick discussed some novel ideas. For one, he would author a bill requiring the IRS to send thank you notes to taxpayers and a breakdown of how your tax dollars were being spent. He argued that voters would be more willing to entertain new taxes and programs if they were more informed on how their money was being used. Novick also proposed replacing Andrew Jackson’s picture on the twenty dollar bill with one of Chief Sitting Bull, noting that it was important to acknowledge our country’s historical mistakes.
Once again, questions regarding global warming were popular among the student audience. Novick immediately impressed the crowd with his promise to sign onto the Sanders/Boxer bill on his first day in office. Responding to another student question, Novick stated that we should not build new coal plants until we know that carbon capture technology works. However, even the best estimates for renewable energy such as wind, solar, and wave power fall short of our future energy needs, so eliminating coal altogether is impractical.
Fielding another question, Novick discussed the possibility of a carbon tax or a cap and trade system. He stated that a carbon tax is tough politically because people see gas taxes as unfair and regressive. Instead, we will have to rely on regulations rather than taxes to reduce carbon emissions. He argued that cap and trade system is better, but it doesn’t make sense for everybody. For example, you can’t reduce the carbon content of natural gas, but you don’t want companies to eliminate natural gas because it has less carbon than oil or coal. So cap and trade should be applied to companies that have flexibility in what they use, and the automotive industry.
Novick’s environmental views were thoughtful and found agreement from many audience members to be sure. However, what I especially noticed throughout all of Novick’s answers was a deep understanding of tax issues, his experience in this area shines through. These issues came up several times, such as the IRS thank you notes, the carbon tax, or another question dealing with the loss of timber funds in Southern Oregon.
In this case, Novick argued that his experience and knowledge of tax issues would be helpful as a Senator. One student from the area noted that her city’s libraries were closed for the summer due to the loss of timber funds, and asked what could be done. Novick (on top of supporting Ron Wyden’s efforts) argued that we should restore the funds immediately. He agreed that it may not be politically viable, but he also contended that he would have more success with these kinds of budget issues than Gordon Smith. Smith is always against taxation, so he’s not helping to resolve budget problems. Novick stated that he would constructively help with budget shortcomings, by insisting that the "Warren Buffets" of society pay their fair share in taxes, and by reducing exorbitant spending on things like exotic weapons systems. As a result, other Senators would be more empathetic to Novick's budgetary requests for Oregon.
The other characteristic of Novick that stood out to me was his tone throughout the meeting, he has a very down-to-earth, straightforward way of speaking. I think that is reflected in the way he would use his position as Senator. He talked about using the office as a bully pulpit of sorts, and of having frank discussions with constituents on numerous issues such as the environment, terrorism, and taxes. He showed a willingness to confront politically contentious issues head on. Throughout the event, he had an air of frankness and honesty about him that Oregon is sorely lacking from our current Senator.
Having seen both candidates in under a week let me say this; we have two great US Senate Candidates here in Oregon. Both Merkley and Novick are knowledgeable and passionate about the issues facing this country, qualities that they have exhibited throughout their respective careers. Personally, I’m not sure that the debate that has taken place so far on the internet has done these two men justice.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion in the primary; I have mine after hearing from both candidates. That said, in comments on blogs such as this one, supporters for both sides have shown exactly how not to have a primary. We need to maintain an air of civility in these discussions, personal attacks on either candidate will only hurt democratic chances of defeating Gordon Smith in the long run. Nor do such attacks do justice to the work that both men have put in over the years advancing progressive causes. We should remember the bigger picture; if either Steve or Jeff is elected Senator next year, we will all be better off.