PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden spoke with KGW's Christine Pitawanich on Sunday morning about several topics, including the GOP tax bill and net neutrality.
The following is a full transcript of Wyden's answers.
On the GOP tax bill and how it will impact Oregonians
Wyden: This is just a horrible bill for the people of Oregon. We have high state and local taxes. This bill essentially unravels the federal deduction for those taxes. The fact is Oregon also has a corresponding arrangement with the federal government, so Oregonians really get hit with a double whammy. It's important for folks to remember those taxes go for police and fire and essential services. This is a bad bill for Oregon.
On the GOP argument that corporate tax cuts create more jobs and higher wages
Wyden: That's not what the evidence shows, and in fact, these multinational corporations are already awash in money. And the evidence shows that they're going to use this very substantial reduction for stock buybacks, for dividends. What this bill is all about is creating a double standard in terms of the American economy. We saw this morning reports about additional tax breaks for major oil companies, and then we saw that if an employer gives a gift card to a worker — we're talking about an Oregon employer giving a $25 or a $50 gift card to a worker — that would be taxed. What we're talking about is something that really betrays the middle class, and this was supposed to be the year of the working person and what it is, is the year of the powerful and the special interests.
On what would need to change in the GOP tax bill to garner bipartisan support
Wyden: What I'm going to be doing is pushing back on things that really hurt the middle class. For example, I'm very concerned about students and seniors. Students, for example, a lot of them are from working-class families, they really struggle but somehow they were able to get money together to pay for education. The House bill takes away the deduction for interest that you pay on debt. So I'm going to be pushing hard to protect our students. Also, for the older people, the folks that are pre-Medicare, between 55 and 65, the House unravels the medical deduction as well. So, as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, I'll be pushing back in every way on those kinds of things that ought to be changed to give the middle class a fairer shake.
On the next step in the tax bill process
Wyden: As I indicated, we're going to push back on those key things that are so important to students and seniors and middle-class folks. Another example is the tax-breaks, so-called for the middle class, are temporary. The breaks for the people at the top are permanent. I hope there will be an actual conference, where the House and the Senate get together. As ranking Democrat on the finance committee, that would give me a significant number of additional opportunities to make the case about how unfair this is, what a betrayal it is for the middle class. The middle class drives 70 percent of our economy. These are the folks that buy cars and pay for housing and send kids to childcare. It's just a mistake to give the middle class the short end of the stick the way this bill does.
On net neutrality
Wyden: It's so important for Oregon because our state has long been committed to free and open internet; I introduced the first net neutrality bill. So viewers know what we're talking about, net neutrality essentially means after you pay your internet access fee, you get to go where you want, when you want and how you want, and everybody gets a fair shake. Everybody is treated equally. Now, what the powerful cable companies and communication interests want to do is upend that. They would essentially like what is called paid prioritization, and they'd like to give special breaks to folks at the top, extra breaks for content, access, and some of their arguments have been ridiculous. In the past, they've said, 'well, maybe we could have voluntary net neutrality,' because they know net neutrality is popular. Well, I can tell you, voluntary net neutrality is about as likely as getting my son, William Wyden, 10 years old, to voluntarily limit the number of desserts he eats. These are ridiculous kinds of concepts. And at my website, Oregonians will be able to see how they can push back for real net neutrality and an equal shake for everybody.
On town hall meetings
Editor's note: Wyden will hold a town hall meeting Sunday at 1 p.m. at Cleveland High School
Wyden: What we do is believe deeply that you ought to just throw open the doors of government. With people as frustrated as they are about government, what we want to do is make sure their voices are heard. This will be my 80th town hall meeting of the year. There are going to be some folks from the Town Hall Project who are going to come, apparently, and say some nice things about me. I want to say some nice things about the people of Oregon, because we believe deeply in grass-roots participation in government, folks being heard. They'll have another chance to do it at Cleveland [High School] today.