~by Janice Harbaugh for GreeneCountyNewsOnline
It was standing room only for the Elizabeth Warren town hall meeting hosted by the Greene County Democrats at History Boy Theater on Aug. 8 in Jefferson. Chris Henning, Greene County Democratic party chair, introduced Warren.
Warren, senior senator from Massachusetts, is competing for the Democratic nomination for president in the 2020 election. Warren spoke for more than an hour to an estimated crowd of 200 people about her ideas for change in government.
Warren spoke of a need for structural change in government to take control away from drug companies, big investors, and oil companies that she believes control decisions made by the president and Congress. She proposes “the biggest anti-corruption plan since Watergate.”
Warren proposes “attacking corruption head-on” by ending lobbying, making the Supreme Court follow ethics rules, changing the relationship between “Wall Street and Washington,” and requiring disclosure of tax returns for office seekers.
Warren spoke of positive structural changes in the economy that could occur by enforcing the anti-trust laws and supporting unions. Warren said, “Unions built the American middle class.”
Warren stated support for a “wealth tax” on incomes more than $50 million, citing the idea that all Americans helped provide the opportunities and conditions that allowed the individual to achieve that level of wealth. She proposes an additional tax on income more than $50 million go toward providing opportunities for others. She listed possibilities for the additional tax money including tuition-free college and cancelling current student debt. Warren said a 2 percent tax on income above $50 million could generate $50 billion in additional money.
Warren also spoke about the need to “protect democracy” by securing the voting process so it is “safe from Russia and Korean interference,” rolling back voter suppression, outlawing gerrymandering, and overturning Citizens United.
Citizens United refers to a 2010 Supreme Court decision granting corporations, nonprofits, and unions unlimited political spending power and was based on First Amendment right to free speech. This gave power to Super Political Action Committees which then have great influence on who receives money to run for office. A Democracy for All amendment introduced in 2014 would have overturned Citizens United and limited the role of large contributors to campaigns. It was six votes short of passing the Senate.
Three town hall attendees were chosen by drawing to ask questions of Warren.
The first question was, “How can we get the Koch brothers out of higher education?” The questioner was concerned about research grants in universities being affected by the entity funding them.
Warren agreed topics chosen for research are affected by the sources of funding and the results of the research could be skewed depending on the source of funding. Her suggestion was to require the identity of funding sources on all research reports.
The second questioner spoke about advertising of prescription medications on television to the general public who has no control over the prescription of them and about the cost of medications.
Warren spoke at length about pharmaceutical companies controlling decisions in Washington and setting prices on medications such as insulin, which should be generic but are priced at non-generic levels in the United States. “Washington needs to work on the side of the people, not big Pharma,” she said.
Warren supports Medicare and Medicaid being allowed to negotiate prices for medications. She also supports the importation of medications from Canada. According to Warren, insulin that would cost $300 in the United States costs only $30 in Canada.
The third question came from a woman battling cancer. She was concerned about carcinogens in the environment.
Warren expressed personal concern for her condition, then spoke of the need for government to listen to “science instead of lobbyists.” She advocates making the Environmental Protection Agency stronger. “We’re running out of time on (dealing with and preventing) climate change” effects.
Warren ended the town hall meeting with thoughts about current “threats to democracy” and the 2020 election “changing the course of American history.”
Joyce O’Tool, a visitor from Sac City, told GreeneCountyNewsOnline she came to the Warren town hall meeting because she has a daughter in Massachusetts who is a strong supporter of Warren. “But I like to hear all sides and try to make an informed decision.”