The Right to Know Frightened by a Six-Pack -__Chating on 5hin ice `Boris Only Smiled The people of Texas deserve a few straightforward answers from the socalled “Citizens for a Sales Tax.” Before the general retail sales tax which the organization has been so vigorously thumping in the name of the greater citizenry reaches the Senate floor, the people of Texas should demand the right, know : Where the money to finance the campaign has been coming from. OHow much money has been spent. If Mr. Sealy and Mr. Bracewell are getting $25,000 and $20,000, respectively, in their efforts to protect the Texas business and oil and gas community from further taxes while leading the campaign to place 90 per cent of the tax load on the average consumer. Mr. Sealy and Mr. Bracewell are hiding under the skirts of an inadequate and anachronistic law when they refuse to answer. Because our Texas political culture has before now been too anemic to place dentures in its lobby control legislation is sad justification for a group that presumes to call itself a citizens’ organization. In terms of civilized political ethics, the Citizens for a Sales Tax are skating on very thin ice, and they should know it. Surely it must give one pause that Mr. Sealy, while receiving his part of legal fees from several large oil companies, is now working overtime for a bill that taxes shoes, schoolbooks, and nosedrops while exempting the oil and gas products, the oil and gas equipment, and the offshore rigs of his clients. Governor Daniel’s criticism of HB 727 this week was without question one of the finest and most penetrating statements of his political career. Only 21 pages of tough logic could do justice to the measure. Besides underscoring the sharp regressivity which is the mark of any sales tax, and the great unfairness of such a levy in a state where almost half of all families earn less than $4,000 a year, Daniel’s warnings of easy evasions, administrative and financial burdens, and inequitable special-interest exemptions were eminently persuasive. It seemed very much like a veto message in advance. As a tactical move to fight down a general sales tax this session, those AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A MOTH? Published by Texas Observer Co., Ltd. Entered as second-class matter, April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. MAY 13, 1961 Willie Morris Editor and General Manager Bob Sherrill, Associate Editor Sarah Payne, Office Manager Ronnie Dugger, Contributing Editor It must give one pause also that Mr. Bracewell, lobbying in the name of a citizens’ group for the most regressive tax of them all, lobbies contemporaneously for Gulf States Utilities, working all the while for a tax that exempts the utilities bills of industrial and commercial concerns. The people of Texas have a right to know that the “citizens” group which has been organized so carefully and which has hired such immensely able lobbyists is little more than a mask for those interests which want a general retail sales tax to forestall a personal income tax and corporate and natural resource taxes. Would anyone expect the Citizens to come out in support of a corporate tax or a gas tax to round out an appropriations bill built upon the sales tax? It only takes one probing glance to see who the Citizens really are: bankers, TMA officers, chamber of commerce executives. Indeed, it is most indicative that 10 of the 31 members of the executive committee, to our knowledge, have actually lobbied in Austin for one business interest or another. As those of our Eastern readers who have also browsed the latest New Yorker installment on our political culture may surmise, this is the way it’s done in Texas. The legislature now has before it legislation to make compulsory the reporting of funds and sources in lobbying. The example before us should be enough. liberals and moderates who have found the governor’s predominantly selective sales tax route only slightly more palatable than a straight sales tax are now going to have to rally, at least partially, behind the Daniel alternate program. There are parts on the governor’s proposals which should be fought down on their own merits. Other parts of his selective tax program must now be accepted, if we are to kill the sales tax this session, and upheld along with the corporate income tax and the Eckhardt natural gas tax in financing the appropriations bill. It is probably too late in the Senate. But the threat of a Daniel veto, coupled with strong pressure on the House-Senate conference committee, may yet save the day. The governor has, in part, offered an honorable retreat from a sales tax. The time has come to realize that fact. Under the dismal circumstances of this session, and with the possibilities ripe for a major political turnover in both houses next year, a tax bill comprising parts of the Daniel program, the corporate levy, and the Eckhardt tax will be well worth the fight. As soon as this 57th legislature closes shop, a concerted effort should then immediately be made to form a hard-working and effective “citizens against a sales tax” organization. What is needed now, as never before, is a serious campaign to convince the people of Texas that a graduated personal income tax has become the convenient whipping boy of politicians and is, in truth, the most feasible, the simplest, and the fairest broad-based tax. Published once a week from Austin, Texas. Delivered postage prepaid $5 per annum. Advertising rates available on request. Extra copies 15c each. Quantity prices available on order. EDITORIAL and BUSINESS OFFICE: 504 West 24th St.. Austin, Texas. Phone GReenwood 7-0746. HOUSTON OFFICE: Mrs. It D. Randolph, 419 1A Lovett Blvd., Houston 6, Texas. In his lively weekly column in The Daily Texan, student newspaper at The University of Texas, Chandler Davidson describes his experiences with seven Russian exchange students who visited UT two weeks ago. AUSTIN Perhaps the Russians were tired of meeting people and discussing serious topics by the time I met them last Friday night for dinner. Or perhaps they just didn’t like me and some of the other integrationists who were there. But whatever the cause, the Russian group was one of the most boorish, humorless, unimaginative bunch of “students” I have ever met. Boris Pankin, the leader of the group, and I conversed through a friendly little interpreter, Mrs. Anastasia Romanoff. Boris is the deputy chief editor of the communist youth version of Pravda. He told me it had a circulation of 3 1/2 million. I was hoping that by admitting America’s shortcomings I could draw some of the Russians to admit the same of their country, and engage in a lively discussion similar to those which the Chilenos enjoyed so much while here. My hopes were completely smashed after the first few minutes of discussing the segregation problem. Boris’ questions were probing : If America is a democracy, why don’t Negroes have equal rights? I explained that we didn’t have a perfect society, in any sense. But we had come a long way toward extending greater rights to greater numbers of Negroes. I asked him if the Soviets didn’t have their own minority group discrimination. Absolutely none, he replied, sounding as though he were quoting from Pravda. He didn’t mention the Russians’ treatment of the Jews. I told him of a group of Nigerian students who had left a Russian university, claiming to have faced a very real discrimination problem. “They must have had inferiority complexes,” Boris said. “Our people honor and respect Negroes more than their own race.” I asked him a number of further AUSTIN For an example of what it means to be a wage earner in Texas with a hankering to organize and improve working conditions thereby, Fred Schmidt, the most eloquent executive in the AFL-CIO hierarchy, told this .story. Although it may sound like something out of a Dickens version of life in Coketown, England, in the 19th century, it is a true story about the ordeals of unionism in Texas, and more specifically in Austin. The laundry workers in one of Austin’s larger laundries want to go on strike. Their reasons are manifold. For one thing, after working a full week they may get a check for something like $13. If they ask the management why so little, they will be told that deductions had to be made for “losses” or some other reason equally impossible to protest. True, some of the womenmost of whom are Negroes and Latin Americans make as much as $65 a week, piecework, but there is always a cloud of doubt hanging over payday. So the women decided they wanted to organize, form a union. They tried questions about Russia, aimed at getting him to admit that perhaps some one facet of his system was not perfect. Never did he admit it. He began to sound like an IBM machine might sound if it could talk. His light blue eyes never brightened. His grim features only once dissolved into a smile. DOWN THE TABLE Houston Wade, who is much more a student of Twentieth Century Russian history than I am, politely was asking embarrassing questions to another Russian, who fumbled, stuttered, and finally refused to discuss the issues further. Boris turned to me as I was eating dessert and stated that America had failed to eradicate race feelings in the 100 years since the Civil War, while Russia, in 40 short years, had completely done away with such conflicts. I told him I very much envied this aspect of Russia’s society, if it were indeed true. I added, however, that we in America look for other means of changing people’s minds than by mass extermination and terror. Boris only smiled. I then asked him if Russian students could protest a situation they disliked in a manner similar to SDA’s demonstrations. “Certainly,” he said. “Whenever the university administration does something against our wishes, we students get together, talk it over, meet the administration, and bargain.” “Well, do you ever protest the government’s policy in this manner?” I asked. He did not look at me. His face was blank. His words to the interpreter were clipped, as though he were delivering a well-memoriZed moral maxim. “The Soviet students are always very satisfied with whatever the government does,” he said. The meal was finished. Frank Wright, the “Y” director in charge of the group’s visit, said that SwingOut would begin in a few minutes upstairs. Any of the Russians who wished to stay and talk, however, could do so. The Russians rose in a mass and walked quickly away. A few minutes later Houston and I tried to invite one of the students out for beer. He quickly declined. The prospect of a free exchange of honest opinion over a six-pack was apparently too frightening for the bravest of them. CHANDLER DAVIDSON to talk with the manager. He learned they were coming and why they were coming, and he hid outliterally, hid out in back of the laundry. One day he came to his office, but he didn’t turn on the lights for fear his own workers would know he was inside. Now, according to one of the feudal laws on Texas’ books, in order to get a union election, a strike must be called. It must be recognized by a district judge, who in turn will order the election. It is a complicated procedure and all the laundry women know that the minute they step out the door on strike, the manager will simply hire a raft of replacements, and that will be that, the end of the fight. Three women who were especially vigorous in trying to work up unionizing sentiment were fired. No excuse. Just fired. So far they have been unable to find work in any of the other laundries in town. They tell where they worked last and immediately the face they are looking at darkens. “No opening, and we don’t know when there will be one. Sorry. No, no use to leave your name.” They know why they aren’t hired. B.S. 5ax 5actico THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7ct2 e 4= Life in Coketown
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