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Sen. Ron Wyden in Newport: Too big to fail – Medicare debate – Defending the internet -Timber revenues to rural Oregon counties

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Brad Taylor Video

Wall Street and bank bail outs, preserving Medicare, the single payer option for health care, a constitutional amendment against corporate “personhood,” and rescuing a number of Oregon counties from possible bankruptcy were all issues discussed by Senator Ron Wyden when he visited Newport Saturday night at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Wyden said he still favors the break up of the biggest banks in the country because of their enormous power to throw the country back into an economic crisis at any time. He said effective regulation of banks and other financial institutions failed the country, a correction we’re just now starting to see happen.

Wyden said his support of Senator Paul Ryan’s attempt at Medicare reform came out of a bi-partisan effort to find common ground to give the private insurance industry ample opportunity to be price competitive in the market place while preserving guaranteed levels of medical care for those on Medicare. Wyden said while Medicare needs reforming, as in being able get big drug discounts like Veterans medical care enjoys, it also needs to more strongly emphasize preventative health care. He said if he has his way, private insurance companies, that bid for medicare contracts, will have to be eligible to bid; showing a willingness to bring down health care costs while preserving a standard of medical care established in the Medicare law. In short, it would be a price-controlled partnership rather than people getting sick and Uncle Sam writing a check for whatever amount the hospital/doctors’ group demands. He said it would not weaken of Medicare, but rather strengthen it, relecting the country’s commitment to affordable health care.

As for a single payer system of health care, Wyden said he wrote a portion of the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) that allows individual states, like Oregon, to explore single payer options within their own borders. He said Vermont says it’s ready to launch its own single payer program in 2014.

Wyden says efforts by the entertainment industry to use federal law to clamp down on websites that promote the pirating of copyrighted music, movies and other materials, or who display any unauthorized copyrighted material is an overreach. He says should the “Stop Online Piracy Act” become law, it would forever change the free and easy access of the internet to all Americans in that the government would be empowered to shut down ANY website that contained pirated material whether intentional or not. Issues like “fair use” of copyrighted materials (which are snippets of music/movie/text) for instructive or educational purposes would come under serious attack. Wyden says it would create a chilling effect across the internet, stifling free and open ended expression of ideas, knowledge and other resources the internet now provides free to whomever needs them. Wyden says when the SOPA bill comes to the floor of the U.S. Senate later this month, he will begin a filibuster against it. The bill has had several reincarnations in the Congress, all of which have been shot down. Those opposed say that although they respect copyright laws, such a hugely heavy handed approach to enforcement would do more harm than good and that there are other, more selective methods of prosecuting content pirates on the internet. Opponents also say that SOPA would destroy You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and other popular social networks on the internet.

And Wyden expressed optimism that Oregon’s rural timber counties will not go bankrupt because he expects the federal government, which owns vast tracts of forestland in those counties, will step up and resume its “in lieu” tax payments to the counties. It’s sort of a federal property tax program even when very little timber is being harvested for market.

Wyden said the U.S. Supreme Court gave the country the worst court decision in the history of the country when it ruled that corporations are people, creating the idea that “a rich man’s checkbook equals a poor man’s soap box.” He said the ruling cannot stand as law in this country and that there are several efforts underway to insure it doesn’t, a Constitutional Amendment among one of the ways to accomplish that.

And finally Wyden briefly touched on the growth of income inequality across our society is a major threat to our country’s democracy that can be traced to the country’s overall wealth congregating into the hands of fewer and fewer people at the top. At the same time he said government must find a way, as other countries have, to keep track of the economy, recognize employment trends early and prepare Americans to be qualified to take advantage of those employment opportunities as they arise in the future.

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