Page 18


from the debate. It is inequitable but it is easy. It’s also been pushed nearly to the limit, as Luna says. As of now it can be modernized expanded to bring in a more stable source of revenue so that state government is not so vulnerable to unpredictable industries. But ultimately the tax structure would be more solid and more fair by decreasing the reliance on sales taxes and mixing a variety of taxes, as most states do. “Quite frankly, we don’t have much choice at this point other than a state income tax, both on individuals and corporations,” says Hinojosa. Business activity in Texas “goes almost unscathed compared to other states in the union,” said Senator Hugh Parmer of Fort Worth in Senate debate May 27. Texas ranks third in the nation in business wealth, he said, but 46th in total tax load on business. For the long range health of the state, Democrats should be aggressively promoting true tax reform, using a mix of taxes that takes the money from the sectors that can most afford it. An income tax could be sold to the public if it were progressively structured, with low rates for the lower middle class, and if the case were made that a well-funded state government will prevent the need for tax increases by local government, which tends to rely heavily on property taxes. Certainly the public is already open to the institution of a corporate income or corporate profits tax. But what to do about the immediate crisis at hand? What must be done in the House this special session? The answer is simple. Roll over the governor. Those Democrats who wore prairie chicken insignias in the regular session should now wear steamrollers. The first thing to do is to push through the sales tax expansion. This is not really such a bitter pill surely not a fate worse than death as some in the service sector have portrayed it. It is, as well, the issue that Clements waffled on in May, saying that an expanded tax base “might increase our revenues and at the same time reduce the rates,” and that that would be a desirable objective. “What I have done here is, once again, demonstrated my flexibility,” Clements said on May 6. To further demonstrate his flexibility Clements backed down the next day from the proposal amid howls from Republican hardliners who thought he was abandoning his stance against new taxes. By now the governor’s credibility is so shot that any more time spent trying to tailor a tax proposal to his liking is wasted time. Most legislators, Republican and Democrat alike, realize that what we have at the helm is a crotchety old businessman who ran for office without a plan, who never had a plan, and is without a plan, even now. The matter should be taken out of his hands. That means passing a tax bill and overriding a veto. Gib Lewis needs to stiffen his spine and 100 House members must resolve to stand up against a governor who’s done nothing but waste their time for the last five months. Clements is one reason people all over the state are laughing at the Texas legislature. But if legislators don’t decide to steamroll Clements this summer, there won’t be so many people laughing. D.D. Sports Rap THE WORLD of sports continues to offer our best metaphor for the larger society when it comes to racial issues and racial tension. Elsewhere in this issue, former Observer editor Geoff Rips finds a meaningful parallel between the white-dominated management of major league baseball and the treatment of the political campaign of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Now we can thank professional basketball for giving the discussion a new turn. Shortly after the Detroit Pistons got edged out of the NBA playoffs by the Boston Celtics, a comment by Pistons forward Dennis Rodman started the ball rolling. Rodman, who is black, said Celtics star Larry Bird is “overrated” and has won his most valuable player awards primarily because he is white. amplified the charge. While giving Bird his due as a basketball player, Thomas said if Bird were black he’d be seen as “just another good guy.” Then Thomas, in an interview with a New York Times sportswriter, made some well-chosen remarks about the perpetuation of stereotypes about black and white athletes. “When Bird makes a great play, it’s due to his thinking, and his work habits,” Thomas said. “It’s all planned out by him. It’s not the case for blacks. All we do is run and jump. We never practice or give a thought to how we play. . . . we’re playing only on God-given talent, like we’re animals, lions, and tigers, who run around wild in a jungle, while Larry’s success is due to intelligence and hard work.” It is difficult to imagine how anyone who has listened to an NBA telecast recently could not be aware of the kind of stereotyping that Thomas is talking about. One would think from listening to the white TV sportscasters that Larry Bird is indeed the smartest basketball player in the league. Bird himself is happy to perpetuate this image he told the press that in the crucial final seconds of the game in which he stole the ball and, falling out of bounds, passed to teammate Dennis Johnson for a winning lay-up, the only thing going on in his head was a mental count of how many seconds he had to make the play. Thus, he was able to portray what was an instinctual reaction by a never-say-die champion into something of an intellectual event. The truth is, Larry Bird has a cagey way of playing basketball but off the court he is about as dumb as he looks. He is a small-town Hoosier from a mediocre college who gives very little evidence in sideline interviews of what most of us sportscasters excluded consider intelligence. Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, a superstar who shows little desire to impress the press with his mind, may be one of the most “All we do is run and jump .. . we’re playing only on God-given talent, like we’re animals who run around wild in a jungle.” intelligent athletes in the league, as anyone who has read an interview with him knows. But the difference between Jabbar’s image and Bird’s is like night and day. How can anyone deny that this has something to do with a predominantly white media? After all, the media are the image-makers. Their racial biases come out in subtle ways in the heat of a play-by-play, when there is no time to check their assumptions. As white men they can’t seem to help seeing Larry Bird a little bit differently as he is surrounded by black athletes, often getting the best of them. This is natural enough, because everyone tends to identify with similar types more than the “Other,” but what is annoying is when the “color commentary” is always colored white. And so we immediately heard a chorus of white people’s opinions about what Isiah Thomas said. “It made little sense,” wrote San Antonio Light columnist Buck Harvey, who 4 JUNE 12, 1987