Steve Novick: the interview

At 14, Steve Novick was a full-time student at the University of Oregon. By the time he was 18, when most people are just beginning to think about college, he was starting law school at Harvard.

At 14, Steve Novick was a full-time student at the University of Oregon. By the time he was 18, when most people are just beginning to think about college, he was starting law school at Harvard.

Since then, Novick, a Democrat running for Gordon Smith’s seat in the U.S. Senate, has worked for the U.S. Justice Department, on Ted Kulongoski’s first campaign for governor and on the board of directors of the Oregon Environmental Council.

The Vanguard sat down with Novick earlier this week to discuss the state of higher education, the war in Iraq and the environment. Novick, who is known for his 4’9″ stature and the steel hook in place of his left hand, will speak today in Smith Memorial Student Union, room 101, at 1 p.m.

What do you think the role of the Oregon University System and PSU are within the state?Well, I mean the role of the university system should be to provide higher education at a fair price. I mean, one thing I have been telling all audiences, particularly student audiences, is that I feel a real sense of guilt because I was part of the last college class that got really serious financial aid from the federal government. I graduated in ’81, and that was the year Regan came in and started cutting everything. And, obviously, it made a big difference when the federal government was telling lower and middle-income kids that you can get through college without emerging with a mountain of debt.

What system are you an advocate for?I think that we should try to restore the level of federal financial aid back to closer what it was of the percentage of student costs in the ’70s, which is something that’ll cost some money, but its something that you would do without breaking the bank. It’s not like the cost of the Iraq war, or something like that.

I know you’re an advocate of pulling out of Iraq, but do you think it’s realistic?Unless the Democrats really stand up and say what John Edwards was saying, which is, if you [President Bush] veto a budget with a time table, then we’re just going to send it back to you, and if you veto that, we’ll send it back to you. And eventually you either have no budget for the war at all, or you have a budget with a timetable. That’s what they should do. I don’t know if that’s what they will do.

You’ve been an Oregonian for a long time, right?My family moved to Cottage Grove when I was 10, and then I left when I was 18, which was in ’81, and came back in ’96. So I’ve been in Oregon a total of 19 out of 44 years.

What do you think of Measures 49 and 50?I strongly support 49. If we don’t pass 49, we will lose our character as a state. We will see rampant development in forest and farmland, and it will be unsustainable development. We’ve got to pass measure 49.

And measure 50 is worth passing. I mean, it will provide health care for kids. And, raising the cost of cigarettes deters some young people from starting smoking. There’s a couple of objections to it, which are valid. It’s kind of silly to put this in the constitution. And it is true that any kind of sales tax, including the cigarette tax, hits poor people harder than rich people. It’s easier for a rich person to pay an extra 60 cents than for a poor person. So, those are valid objections to the cigarette tax. But on balance, I think giving health care to kids and deterring young people from starting to smoke by raising the price are worthwhile.

What made you want to run?I think the country is going to hell in a hand basket. We’re not dealing with the health care system. And we’re not dealing with the growing federal debt. And we’re not dealing with growing economic inequality where a few rich and powerful people have all the stuff. And we’re not dealing with global warming.

On global warming:Bernie Sanders (D) from Vermont and Barbra Boxer (D) from California have the most aggressive legislation in the senate to deal with global warming by both requiring higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and better energy efficiency standards for household appliances and buildings. But there’s also additional research beyond renewable that we need to do.

The United States is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses–before we ask other countries to do anything, we need to get our own house in order. We’ve got to get our act together on global warming, and I think that young people are at least as concerned about that as middle-aged people.

On healthcare:What you see happening is there’s more and more jobs that don’t have health care. And the jobs that do have health care, the cost of health care is eating into people’s wages. Really, what you need to do is restructure the whole healthcare system, so that you’re paying for courses of treatments, and paying for outcomes, rather than just paying for procedures. That’s something that John Kitzhaber talks about a lot. You need to restructure the system so that you’re paying for outcomes, rather than paying for people to run up the bill, in fact.

Don’t a lot of the problems with health care come down to funding that we get for health care in the state?Actually, no. We spend far more per person on health care than France, or England, or Canada, and we don’t have better health outcomes. We have an extremely inefficient system. We’re spending too much on drugs, we’re overusing technology, and just the cost of having insurance companies is a huge chunk of the cost of the system.

Statements made in this article were edited for brevity and clarity.