CONTENTS FEATURES 2 Gramm-Rudman-White Dave Denison 4 Reading the Writing Geoffrey Rips 8 New Collar America Ralph Whitehead, Jr. 11 Twenty Years of Struggle Geoffrey Rips 13 Further Considerations Ronnie Dugger 17 The Hard, Coal Facts About Nuclear Energy George Barnwell DEPARTMENTS 5 Dialogue 19 Political Intelligence 30 Social Cause Calendar Books and the Culture: 26. ,A Fighting Retreat Gary Pomerantz 27 The Value Old Criterion Stephen Bronner 29 Seeing the World With Fresh Eyes Michael King Afterword: 31 On This Day In Texas History Dave Denison yags/NYININe. ,1111.1LI a once prosperous industry. Thus, we now see record unemployment in the Gulf Coast oil-dependent cities. And we see the Rio Grande Valley, traditionally the worst area in the nation for unemployment, falling even further behind. And we see more hungry people in rural Texas. And we see small towns and small farms drying up. But anyone who has been to Dallas knows there are posh hotels lining the freeways, and more going up by the day. There are Mercedes and Jaguars carrying well-groomed executives who pay more for a pair of shoes than a family in Brownsville spends on groceries in a week. Anyone who’s been to Austin knows there are more lawyers and lobbyists per square foot than at any other point in the history of Western civilization. There are happy consumers everywhere, motoring about on 90-cents-per-gallon gasoline. Each student at the University of Texas seems to come equipped with his or her own sporty coupe. There are people in insurance, real estate, computers, banking, law and liquor who are making money. Not even everyone in the energy industry is suffering. The Coastal Corporation, through recent mergers and acquisitions, earned $142 million last year, and has increased the value of its stock by 20 percent. The wealth exists. The reason the state government’s coffers are depleted is because the state government employs an antiquated tax system. GOVERNOR WHITE is giving no sign of understanding the fallacy of false limits, and no sign of willingness to meet the demands of the changing economy in a creative or politically admirable way. Instead of leading the way out of dependence on the oil industry, he is spending his energy carping at the Reagan administration to support a tax on imported oil, and meanwhile he is pretending the budget crisis can be solved by cutting back state government with no effect on state services. Though he differs with the. White House on many issues, he is in step with the political assumptions drawn up by the Republicans. “So far he hasn’t said anything on the budget that Bill Clements couldn’t have said,” observed one long-time state government analyst recently. The problem with simply taking sheers to the budget is perfectly illustrated by the buffonery on the part of Speaker Gib Lewis’s team when the House Administration Committee met March 3 to answer White’s call for 13 percent cutbacks in legislative spending. The House committee took the opportunity to eliminate the House Study Group, a non-partisan research team that helps legislators learn what bills are being brought before them. This maneuver was every bit as silly as it sounded the next morning when National Public Radio reported that, faced with a $1.3 billion shortfall, the Texas Legislature decided to do away with engraved stationery and legislative analysis. The Study Group has a $200,000 yearly budget, but what made the committee’s action truly absurd was that it would not have saved the state any money. The committee merely prohibited the legislators from using their office expense accounts to pay dues to the Study Group. The same money could have conceivably gone for anything else. Speaker Gib Lewis backed down shortly afterward and said he remains committed to an independent legislative study group, but thewhole affair makes for a cautionary tale when it comes to budget cuts and the Legislature: The true value of budget austerity to those in power is to use it to cut programs they never much liked anyway. In this case, a handful of conservative legislators include the Study Group in their own personal demonology because they perceive dangerous liberal tendencies at work. Liberals who are prone to indulge in daydreams could form their own budgetary hit lists. Imagine eliminating the nearly one million dollars the Department of Public Safety spends over the biennium for wiretapping and snoopery in a generally ineffective “War on Drugs.” Imagine going at the state’s Highway Department with an auditing team to investigate wasteful and inefficient use of the taxpayers’ money. But in the actual world of the Texas Legislature, liberals won’t be the ones deciding what to cut. If there is to , be a cutting war, it is most likely that we will lose programs that serve the underrepresented and least powerful sectors. And even state Sen. Grant Jones, who is no bleeding heart, will tell you that there is no welfare largesse here to go after. “If you look at spending in Texas compared to spending in other states,” Jones said recently, “we are one of the lowest spending states in the nation on a per capita basis. There’s not much fat in there.” What we would like to see is for top state officials to break out of the mold: to resist the Reaganistic nonsense that we are a strapped society and to realize that Texas can’t depend on the oil industry alone to keep the government solvent. It is a measure of the state of the Texas Democratic party that the only such talk among top officials has come from the Commissioner of Agriculture. Commissioner Jim Hightower told the Dallas Chamber of Commerce March 4 that beyond slashing budgets and finding new tax revenues, the state must THE TEXAS OSSE!’-V.,’EP,
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