Page 23


pV* ida . . ti O4k , it, who are Th ose who oWil iiii0 p ,,,`and have it x value ddim. 4 fast seven y , vested w tton of mone y: n was a fund-r atole Hot e b ipartisan tribute t m’s aides had predicted t prate brunch would raise $6 Later they revised that estimate to tween $100.000 and $130,000. 41% l ‘44,11//frollipat%….0 by students so much. But quite frankly, in an economy with the problems we have, that’s just a luxury we can’t afford.” The woman who asked the question seems satisfied, as does the rest of the audience, and Gramm says he’ll take a couple of more questions. Before he gets to them, he asks about a Dallas Morning News article he had seen the day before, an article about a family skimping on food to avoid hunger. “Did you see the picture?” he asks. “Here are these people who are skimping to avoid hunger, and they are all fat!” He laughs and the audience laughs with him. “In fact, in an unguarded moment, this picture induced me to point out the other day that, because of the perverse impact of food stamps where we force people to buy food when, given a choice they would choose to spend the aid we give them on other things, that we’re the only nation in the world where all our poor people are fat.” Again his listeners laugh. HERE’S AN ECONOMY MK: WHY Olb lit POOR ECONOMIST SPEND tIIS FOOD STAMPS al TEN POUNDS Of POTATOES INSTEAD Of ONE POUND Of ARTICtIOICES? THERE ARE NO POOR ECONOMISTS! GET IT? HAR HAR HAR And so it goes, on this tour of the Sixth Congressional District. In Waxahachie, Gramm tells a group of elderly women that the federally funded program they depend on for training and part-time jobs might be cut. Later he discovered that the program will not lose any money, but he insisted at the time that the benefits from cutting the budget “are going to be benefits that we all have to pay for.” In Corsicana, Gramm says he doesn’t believe “there’s any hard-heartedness on the part of the people or Congress,” and he repeats his observation about poor people being fat. In the second row of this room in the Corsicana Public Library, Annie Mae Gaines, aluminum crutch propped against her shoulder, asks a question from her seat, a question that’s actually a rueful observation. “This conversation reminds me that the doctor’s treatment was successful, and the patient died. That’s what happens to me. These raises and things, really I get in worse condition every time I get a raise in Social Security. And all of the things that I try to do or see about, they don’t have funding, and they can’t help you, and things like that. I get $357 a month. About a hundred of that is medical bills.” Mrs. Gaines tells her congressman that she learned to survive during the Depression and that she burns butane to save money, but that she owes money for surgery performed last year, and that she has just been told she owes $41 for a hospital stay back in 1968. “I want to be self-sufficient,” she says, “but it’s very difficult, and all the things so far haven’t helped people on my level. With the income and the outgo that I have, it gets worse instead of better. All the fine talk, and maybe that’s one person thinking, but I doubt if I’m the only person, the only old lady around, who has that problem.” Gramm doesn’t quite know how to respond. “You’re talking about the existing programs that haven’t helped or the cuts haven’t helped?” he asks. “I know the cuts haven’t helped those problems specifically. You’ve been hurt by inflation. If you’ve gotta pay an old bill and gotta pay interest, you’ve been hurt by the interest rate.” Gramm moves on to another question and then recognizes an elderly black woman. “It’s easier to tell an old person, `Well, why don’t you go to a convalescent home?’ ” she reminds him. “If you are able to look after yourself, if you just could get somewhere to live until you die, that’s better than people puttin’ you in a home and people forgettin’ about you.” “You haven’t thought about a new husband, have you?” Gramm asks, smiling. The audience laughs, and someone quips, “She ain’t tired of him.” “I’m not going to get government into that either,” Gramm continues, laughing. “We’ve ruined everything; it’s one of the few good things left.” “My husband hasn’t been here for four years,” the woman says. “I’m just kidding,” the congressman assures her and moves on to the next question. In Hillsboro the next day, Phil Gramm tells two civic groups, “There are a lot of people who are going to be seeking miracles. Well, there aren’t going to be any miracles. . .. Things aren’t going to change overnight. We’re not going to reverse 25 years of bad government with six months of good government.” The tour ends on Gramm’s home turf with a Saturday night Democratic fundraiser in College Station complete with John Henry Faulk and a host of loCal Democrats, some of them party loyalists who aren’t too happy with their suddenly prominent congressman. “I think his behavior is atrocious,” Erma Jefferson, a College Station resident and member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, told Dallas Times Herald reporter Richard Fly. “I do not feel. he’s going along with the things the people sent him there to do.” “He will not be running in 1982 without an opponent,” she promised. Kent Caperton, the young state senator from Bryan, delivers a stem-winding speech after Gramm, reminding his fellow Democrats that they cannot turn their backs on the progress begun in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Nonetheless, those who talk about expulsion are “dead wrong,” he says. “But we have to beware of the sunshine Democrats who embrace the party when it is easy and abandon it when the going is tough.” 0 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5