Over $ 1 20 Million ance In Force 4;tei ,f,f4 te,ie4 INSURANcE COMPANY P. 0. Box 8098 Houston, Texas 56th Legislature: An Insight Into /-1 \(This analysis of the political and ethical values at work on the Austin scene is the result, says the writer, of six months of brooding at the press table in the Capitol. It is presented as one man’s response to the intellectual and moral vacuum of an entrenched regime around which the organized lobby swirls effortlessly.Ed. AUSTIN I Sometimes in a democracy, the elemental political ingredients of the society boil to the surface and spill out where all can see. At such times, the subtleties, the back-room deals, the public demagogeryall things that obscure rather than illuminateare over whelmed by the simple clarity of , the moment and the people Are permitted a view of the government they have wrought. In this sense, the 56th Texas legislature has become more than just another biennial meeting of a provincial American parliament; its record through 180 . days of writhing debate is a remarkable reflection of the values we hold most dear, now, in the year 1959. To see all that is there, it is necessary only to remove the blindfolds of complacency and mythology that_ have in this era of opulence so encrusted our thought processes. The most obvious conclusions to the unobstructed vision: As a people, we do not really care about higher education; we are disposed toward it limply, a value fragilely held, an interinittent ‘aSpiration’ tacled to our culture and easily superceded by other wants, more keenly felt. As a not irrelevant corollary, we have developed a frightening attitude toward truth; we are more concerned about its appearancehow it is wrapped and labeledthan in its substance. Worse, if we suspect the truth to be unpleasant, we are content to gaze at the wrapping approvingly and leave the package uninspected. FROM THESE two broad summa tions flow numerous pieces of intellectual and political flotsam now adrift in our state capitol. They all ooze inevitably from the values dominant in our culture and they all have been rather clearly exposed by the events of the 56th legislature, which representative assembly can, after all, only reflect the whole society. The acquisition of money having the meaning that it does in our land, it should not, I suppose, be surprising that the Businessman rules in Austin. Big Business having more monetary resources than little business, it follows that the state government reflects the wishes of Big Business. Monopolies being the natural result of effective Big Business, it follows further that government in Austin is by and for Monopoly, to the continuing detriment of free institutions whether they be free enterprise or free public educa tion. The two monopolies which by reasons of geography and opportunity arc dominant in Texas are Petroleum and Utilities. Within some constitutional limits these two corporate collossi run Texas. And they do so to the exclusion, of the interests of almost all other unrelated businesses, of school children, of college students and of the people generally. Especially omitted from consideration are the’ social and economic casualties of our highly organized technocracythe aged unemployables; the mental patients; the migrant laborers; the sons of migrant laborers who go uneducated and not infrequently end up imprisoned by a society that has alienated them; the thwarted youths, unloved and unguided, threshing about in overcrowded juvenile reformatories; the ,talented young who seek the far frontiers of knowledge, but who will have to conduct their pursuits beyond our regional borders, if they can afford it, or not at all. The blighted hopes of these citizens flow irrevocably from our attitude toward money, from our obsession for private production to satisfy contrived wants rather than public production to meet human needs. Accordingly, the man who manufactures a robin’s egg-blue toilet seat for a school privy is honored’ in our . culture above the man who teaches in the school, more honored even than the concept of education itself. Thus it is in Texas government that appropriations are held to the lowest tolerable point so that the taxes of the monopolies will not have to be raised. When taxation cannot be avoided because of the needs of an expanding, population, still further monetary relief is sought by saddling little business and people generally with as large a portion of the tax burden as Big Business can induce the lawmakers to levy. II To those who -would cast politics as being either liberal or conservative, I would suggest that the events in Austin, circa 1959, represent a triumph for neither. Rather a tragically inadequate appropriation bill financed by a sharply regressive tax structure is the product of deteriorated values, of a lack of interest in and respect for the truth, and of a thought process that compounds mythology with dogmatism and enshrines both in righteousness. Consider’ the dogmatism: State appropriations are bad. Only “spenders” advocate increased budgets. “Spending” means socialism. Beware of “do-gooders” and “utopian planners” who would destroy the AmeriCan, Way of Life. IN TEXAS IN 1959, there are I facts that relate to this dogma. cern among informed officials that now dangerous overcrowding in the prison syStem may result in full fledged riots before the legislature convenes again in 1961 to consider prison appropriations. The damage done by the riots will be costly, the more money-conscious of these informed persons point out. So costly it will outweigh the “economy” effected this session when the appropriations committee rejected Warden Ellis’s request for money for a second new prison farm. The additional unit would have held overcrowding to its present levels and converted 1500 prisoners from idleness to productive farming, the proceeds of which would go to the prison system. These arc the realities, although in the prevailing complacency that sustains the dogma, conservative government means sound, foresighted business management. somewhat improved over the incredibly medieval conditions prevailing a decade ago, are still best described as houses of lingering death. Treatment is not attempted because the meansthe psychiatrists, the nurses, the case *work Larry Goodwyn ers, the facilitiesare not at hand. Anyone admitted to a mental hospital dies there, a month or a year or 20 years later. In some wards of some of the hospitals, this description does not apply; there is some organized treatment, but it is the recent exception that emphasizes the Tong standing reality. I first visited a Texas mental hospital 15 years ago. From that day to this, I have not found a single person who has made such a visit who was not revolted by what he saw. In Austin, members of legislative budget committees avoid inspection trips whenever possible. Continued enactment of scandalously low appropriations depends on innocence, real or pretended. Such budgets can be defended on no other basis. The juvenile boys school. at Gatesville is packed to the rafters. Authorized supervisory staff positions have not been filled because the money has been needed to buy food. An. employee who once supervised 60 boys now must try to cope with 90. Based on past rates of admissions and discharges, youth council director Dr. James Turman has been able to make extremely accurate forecasts of the future population of the reform school. For instance, in 1957, when the average daily population was 900 boys, he told the legislature he would need money to feed 1200 boys daily in 1959. The legislature gave him money for 850. As this is written, there are 1232 boys crammed into Gatesville. Existing money was stretched for food and everything else let go. You may draw your own conclusions as to what happens to “reform” under such conditions. This biennium, Dr. Turman told the legislature he would need money for 1420 boys in 1961. The legislative budget board decided he needed money only for 1260. The House has done better, but the Senate’s budget is far short of recommendations. The most aggravated instance of social imbalance, economic injustice and human frustration in Texas revolves around the problem of the migrant laborer. Taking his children with him to the fields, he breeds his own successor: the illiterate son of a migrant laborer becomes a migrant laborer. There is talent there, among some at least; it will never be developed. There is dignity there, at least among the very young. It does not lonk survive under the pounding of exploitation, sanctimoniously conducted in the name of free enterprise. In Texas, little is known about the migrant situation, how many of them there are, how most of them live, how long their children go to school, what remedies there may be. A study costing $15,000 was proposed by the Council on Migrant Labor, a recently organized state agency consisting of one young man and a parttime secretary. Purpose of the study was fact-finding, on which to base possible future remedies. The Legislative Budget Board recommended the study not be made, the $15,000 not be spent, and the dissoltition of the Migrant Labor Council, itself, be considered, “in view of our revenue situation.” The same board, composed of five prominent conservative senators and five veteran conservative representatives, r c c o ni in en d e d that $450 million be spent on highways. The business community, the contractors, the sellers of cement, steel, sand and gravel, do not object to state spending for highways. This is called “maintaining a good business climate.” University of Texas a “university of the first class,” a committee of 75 prominent Texans from all walks of life made a detailed study and published an authoritative compendium of its findings. To oversee the needs of all 18 state-supported colleges, the legislature established a Commission on Higher Education. It was heavily dominated by conservative businessmen. Authorized to develop a budget for overall higher educational needs, the commission cut back somewhat the goals `of the Committee of 75, and forwarded to the legislature a request for $21 million in additional appropriations for the 18 colleges including the U. of T. A substantial portion was simply to meet expanding enrollments, but one key feature was a pay raise for professors, an attempt to halt the growing number of prominent scholars lured away by out-ofstate universities. The $21 million increase was approved by the House, but in the Senate, the Finance Committee, chairmaned by Sen. William Fly, deleted $13 million from the bill; the Senate passed this version over the protests of Senator Henry Gonzalez. Some time later, a college fee bill, sponsored by Senator Fly, was introduced, authorizing increased compulsory student fees for various services. The fees were to apply to all students whether they used the services or .not. \(Such “socialistic” features did not bother the good conservative ate to pass his bill, And not “to slap in the face” the college presidents who endorsed it. In one of t’h o s e r a r e extemporaneous speeches that goes to the core of a question, Gonzalez called Fly a “hypocrite” for slashing college funds and then using the unmet needs as a blackjack to get approval of college presidents for a bill they opposed in principle. Meanwhile, it is understood House-Senate conferees have compromised on an $11 million figure, $10 million below the recommendations of the Commision on Higher Educationthe conservative recommendations of conservative businessmen. Even the increased take from students will not make up the difference. As now written, it is understood the bill contains no raise for professors in 1960. In Austin, no one mentions the committee of 75 anymore and talk of a “university of the first class” has subsided. And `this, in the dogma, is called “maintaining our American heritage orainst socialistic inroads.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER . Page 6 July ;25, 1959 ‘II So much for dogmatism and :;0 much for the facts. Now a brief word on the mythology. The rank and file Texas conservative, assured. of a onservative legislature with a conservative Speaker in the House and a conservative 1,1. Gov . wielding his broad constitutional powers over. the Senate, feels that government in Austin represents his approach. For twenty years he has thought it. and for twenty years it has been untrue. He still thinks it and it’s still untrue. Government in Austin represents, the two great Eastern monopolies that sprawl across Texas —the vertical monopolies of the major oil companies plus , their interrelated. gas pipeline subsidiaries and the vertical and hori zontal monopolies of the Utility trust. For example, the Texas Senate Will accept a token flatraise increase in corporation franchise taxes that fall on all Texas companies, large and small; Senators will not accept a corporation franchise tax, as proposed by Daniel, that falls substantially on large interstate companies with oily names like Magnolia, Texaco, Gulf, Humble, et al. ONE CAN only speculate as to how many Texas conservative businessmen car dealers, hardware store owners, printing company executivesrealize that in 1959 the Senate voted to take more of their tax money in franchise levies in order to preserve the revenues of the major ‘oil companies. Moreover, the same Senators have consistently voted to levy another tax increase on Texas oil producers; they ha -.72 riot as yetdespite pressure from the House and some publicity in the pressvoted
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.