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T WOULD HAVE been more fun to lose with Jackson. So begins the argument of a former Observer editor. We’re beginning to agree. At least the Democratic left would have done some coalitionbuilding; genuine progressive positions would have been defined and promoted, and perhaps the American electorate would have gained something from an educational campaign. At worst it would have been recognized as a John-the-Baptist campaign, preparing the way for one who will come later to deliver us from Gramm-Rudman and four years of a George Bush/J. Danforth Quayle Administration. This is not to suggest that everyone at the state Democratic Party headquarters is resigned to defeat. The most recent polls suggest that George Bush is going to have to invest considerable money and time to win his “home” state. “Things are looking better here than they are on the national campaign,” one Dukakis staff member suggested, adding that even in East Texas, Bush’s margin is slim: “People there seem to be responding to the economy.” The economy, it seems, is an issue that the Dukakis campaign should be addressing. It was, after all, a black minister who never held elected office and who ran a volunteer campaign that spent one-fifth of what Dukakis spent who came in second in primaries across the South on Super Tuesday. And the fundamental message of the second-place campaign was economic justice. “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Ronald Reagan asked in 1980, of voters who faced the choice between him and Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter. This is the question that Michael Dukakis dare not ask, for fear that most would answer yes. Yet 37 percent of Hispanic children, 33 percent of black children, and 25 percent of white children today live in poverty. Perhaps the question, properly framed would be: Are they better off today than they were four years ago and are those levels of poverty acceptable to the American public? There are other issues on the economic agenda. That Drexel Burnham Lambert, the nation’s leading issuer of junk bonds, is now in court suggests that Governor Dukakis might follow the lead of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or lift a passage from a standard Jim Hightower speech about corporate capital chasing its tail. As Hightower explains it: “Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts is an investment syndicate that has engaged in two dozen buyouts since 1979. Last year they bought Beatrice Foods, the largest conglomerate in America, for $6.1 billion. Beatrice had previously bought NortonSimon for $1.1 billion and Esmark for $2.8 billion. That adds up to $10 billion changing hands without creating one new job or product.” Hightower usually continues with an explanation of how the Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts conglomerate then went after Safeway at a price of $4.2 billion: “But it didn’t use real money. Instead it leveraged Safeway’s assets to pay for the debt. That means Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts began closing down Safeway stores to pay for the deal. The stores were profitable, well-run by employees who had worked loyally for up to 30 years, and served a genuine economic and community need.” Mssrs. Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts, each of whom made over $40 million in the year they raided Safeway, are better off than they were eight years ago. “But,” Governor Dukakis might be asking, “are the 8,600 Safeway workers in North Texas, laid off to pay for the acquisition of America’s Favorite Foodstore, better off?” And what of 30,000 employees nationwide who have seen their jobs eliminated and their pensions abrogated? While the closing of Texas banks has become background noise, the Federal Savings & Loan Insurance Corporation is handing out promissory notes in a desperate attempt to keep the nation’s insolvent S&Ls alive. As financial writer Curtis Lang \(see simply a result of economic downturn, but rather a combination of deregulation and widespread fraud. Now that deregulation has failed and pyramid schemers have made off with their profits, the federal government has opted for the socialist solution. It is, however, the socialization of losses, after the profits have been made. FSLIC chairman M. Danny Wall is talking a $150 billion bailout. And as recently as three weeks ago, S&L advisors inside the Dukakis campaign, we’re informed, maintained that the thrift problem is regional, mostly affecting Texas and California. “Who,” the Democratic candidate might ask, “will THE TEXAS serv e SEPTEMBER 30, 1988 VOLUME 80, NO. 19 FEATURES Bryant’s Crusade By Richard Ryan A Breakthrough in Arms Control? By Frances Farenthold 6 The Rising Tide of Dropouts By Dave Denison 8 The Sordid History of the S&L Crisis By Curtis J. Lang 11 Bad Credit By Jack Hopper 14 DEPARTMENTS Dialogue 2 Editorial 3 Political Intelligence 17 Books and the Culture Talking About a Revolution By Louis Dubose 18 Socrates on the Stand By Otto Mullinax 20 Dream Weavers By James Sallis 20 Afterword Liberalism: Let’s Get Over it By Tom McClellan 23 pay?” That question, of course, is rhetorical. The real question is: “Why?” None of these issues have the visceral appeal of the Pledge of Allegiance issue. They do not easily convert into 15-second sound bites. Nor do they provide photo opportunities of the candidate dressed in combat fatigues and rumbling around in a tank. But since that night in New Orleans when George Bush led 10,000 patriots through the Pledge of Allegiance, the Republican campaign has framed the issues, leaving the Democratic candidate to scramble and respond. Michael Dukakis doesn’t need to sharpen his message. He needs to find it. L.D. EDITORIAL The John-the-Baptist Candidacy THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3