NCO ANN WET of the total national income while the poorest 20 percent received only four percent of that income. Of the total number of income tax returns in America each year, about 36 percent are from families and individuals with net incomes of less than $11,000. \(And this does not count those who are so poor About eight percent of America’s families own outright about 26 percent of America’s privately held tangible assets and control an estimated ‘D percent of all private assets in America. Eleven percent of America’s families at all or hold debts that make them worth less than nothing. And without counting the homes they live in, 55 percent of American families would own total assets worth less than $5,000. Cataloging these stubborn facts not mentioned at the Republican National Convention might continue for quite a while. But the point must be already clear: Ronald Reagan has been a Pied Piper of resistless charm and tragic irresponsibility who for seven years has led Americans on a hypedup dance toward an abyss. And now George Bush expresses no higher ambition than to emulate Reagan and has a good chance of being elected President. Are the American people too dumb or too bewitched to recognize stubborn facts even after their noses have been rubbed in them for seven years? A Day on the Hustings BY ANN VLIET Johnson City IALMOST PUT the phone down thinking it was another solicitor, but the caller managed to say quickly that Dukakis and Bentsen were making an unexpected stop at the Blanco County Courthouse and did I think I could come. Driving down 290 earlier than I like to get up, it struck me that this could be a stunt cooked up by friends, knowing I’d dash off with a camera at the toss of a hat. I hadn’t been to a Texas whoop-’em-up since Pappy O’Daniel ran for Governor. In Johnson City I stopped for gas and asked if there was a Dukakis rally in Town. “Well,” the attendant drawled, “if you want to call it that. We’re having a parade, anyways, and I hear he might be at it.” But here was another Presidential candidate working Lyndon’s old stomping grounds and I wanted to see how it played. I remember Johnson City as a sweet place to drive through, to the naked eye incongruously unpolitical, a sleepy little hillcountry town with wonderful live oaks and Austin-stone buildings and signs bragging about LBJ in a kind of reluctant way, as if they’d all rather be fishing. Early in the day along Main Street, people were calmly dragging lawn chairs to the curb, not ready to get excited yet. On the square a few out-of-towners were milling about watching the preparations: the wiring of microphones, roping off band-bleachers, draping the podium. The first media crew was setting up on a high platform erected on a blocked-off street. On the porch of a genuine old hardware facing the square, a half-dozen town citizens sat on tin folding chairs, exchanging a sentence or two every now and then but mainly just waiting; they were old hands at it. I found a small platform under a tree and Ann Vliet is a freelance writer and book reviewer living in Kyle. Town square, Johnson City claimed its front corner while a couple from Austin argued about whether it was for people or cameras. A few more people joined us in the shade, none from Johnson City. They’d come, they explained enthusiastically, because this was their chance “not to have to fight the big-city crowds to see him.” A young yuppie proudly displayed the close-up photo he’d taken of Mike and bragged that this would be their third handshake. In front of us a middle-aged, middle-class black woman sat down quietly at a picnic table, her back to it and to us. A couple of Hispanic families climbed over the bench on the near side, setting their kids up on the tabletop just under my feet. But as the crowd began to take shape demographically, it was obvious that the speeches today wouldn’t be aimed at the black or Hispanic or even the hill-country vote; the dominant subculture here was one that shopped at Barton Creek Mall. A media platform filled up with video crews, and beside me two staff members of an Austin daily worried why their photographer hadn’t arrived. Around us and extending far out into the open sun now, more Austinites gathered, bandying opinion and explanations as intensely as New Yorkers, asking each other trivia questions and getting _off some pretty good Quayle puns. They argued about when Dukakis was supposed to arrive. The innuendo in the black woman’s “I reckon he’ll get here when he gets here” went right over their heads. Then came the drums and then music and the parade came into sight: high school bands and horses and fire trucks and pretty girls on gaudy floats Texas-sized glitter right out of the ’30s and ’40s and ’50s. The first band hardly had time to reach the bleachers before somebody yelled, “Wh000yeee,” and we all stretched toward the east side of the square where Ann Richards was riding the heaviest THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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