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“We’re proud to do this.” George Bush, Sept. 3, 1992, Fort Worth, announcing the reversal of a 10-year policy against selling advanced jet fighters to Taiwan. One fool said we Texans ought to feel insulted that President Bush came down here and tried to buy our votes by switching his policy on selling Fort Worth planes to Taiwan. Don’t be silly. Grab the money and run. Three thousand jobs is not a hare-lipped mule. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with following the old motto of Texas legislators either: “Drink their whiskey, take their money and vote against them anyway.” Thirty-seven-and-a-half-million Americans living below the poverty line, including one out of every four children. That’s $13,924 a year for a family of four. If you haven’t tried living on that lately, give it a go for a month and see how it feels. Texas’ poverty level at 17.5 percent. Median household income down 5.1 percent $1,624 since 1989. Naturally, we were all looking forward to the Bush spin on the latest numbers from the Census Bureau. Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman, emerged to announce that the numbers were “certainly understandable” and should be expected in a recession. What we didn’t expect, Marlin, was a four-year recession. There’s really no great mystery here. Economics may be dismal, but it’s not mysterious. Ever since John Maynard Keynes wrote The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money in 1936, we have more or less understood the government’s role in managing a capitalist economy. I always thought our current problems stemmed from the fact that Ronald Reagan went to college before Keynes published, back when some now-discredited theory by a guy named Say was being taught. Say’s theory does bear an eerie resemblance to the Laffer curve. If you want to be bipartisan about it, our current economic troubles can also be laid at the feet of Lyndon Johnson, who fought the war in Vietnam without paying for it. That in turn led to the stagflation of the ’70s. Then along comes Reagan with this dotty notion that you can cut taxes, spend $2 trillion on the military and still balance the budget. Reagan subscribed to the quaint notion that dollars spent on the military had a “multiplier effect” that would gin the economy so that it would produce more tax revenue even at lower rates. He was wrong. The ’80s “boom” was a creditcard spree and it was poor Bush who inherited the bills. Now I grant you, no one knows what Bush really believes. But I for one was laboring under the happy illusion that he really did think supply-side was “voodoo economics,” as he called it in 1980. I just figured that his apparent conversion to this nutty nonsense was just another of his political conversions of convenience. It’s still hard to tell what Bush believes after four years in office. He did get serious about the deficit at one point and signed off on a tax increase, which he now repudiates. He says, “Congress made me do it.” In fact, George Bush has used his veto 15 times now, and he’s never been overridden. Lloyd Bentsen passed an economic package that had all the economic stimulus stuff Bush says he wants in it, but Bush vetoed it because it also contained a surtax on millionaires. On the spending side. Bush keeps whining about congressional big spenders and pleading for a balanced budget amendment. Really, he should thank Congress for having spent $1 billion less than Bush himself proposed in his budgets. The president’s latest goofy proposal is this deal where we’re supposed to check on our IRS forms if we want 10 percent of our tax money to go to the national debt. Listen, more than 10 cents of every tax dollar we pay now goes to the national debt! What is this man talking about? Ross Perot deserves credit for dragging the debt into the public debate. Trouble is, Perot doesn’t seem to have read Keynes either. If you cut government spending during a recession, it drastically weakens the economy. That’s why Clinton is talking about all these investments in roads, schools and bridges, more or less cutting defense and taxing the rich. The enthusiasm of the conservative establishment for Perot’s plan, e.g., The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, reminds me of the zeal with which adults who don’t have to take it urge castor oil on children. No, there is no easy, painless way out of this mess. On the other hand, there’s no point in making it worse by trying to do it all in five years. Perot himself originally said it would take 12 years to balance the budget. He was right the first time. Family Values and the First Amendment Decoding Bush is becoming so exhausting that I turned to Dan Quayle this weekend for relief, thus stumbling across another of the defining moments of the ’92 campaign. This was Quayle’s speech pitting the values of Huntington, Ind., one of his hometowns \(the other being Calif. The tinny, inauthentic sound of Quayle as Moral Authority has to be heard to be properly appreciated, but I shall do my best to reproduce the gist. It seems “They” in Hollywood do not understand Huntington, Ind. “They” do not appreciate Huntington. “They” do not like Huntington. One’s mind does tend to wander during a Quayle speech. Do you suppose people in Hollywood actually do spend a lot of mental and emotional energy thinking about Huntington, Ind.? Should the good citizens of Huntington refuse to see ET and Indiana Jones because Steven Spielberg has a complicated love life? What is this man talking about? What is he running for? Why is he Vice President of the United States? Mercifully, before the minds of citizens who had accidentally flicked onto C-SPAN and then remained there, paralyzed by boredom, could turn into complete porridge, the tube produced an infinitely more informative discussion of the dark side of American culture. Tipper Gore and Bill Buckley appeared, along with a rock critic from the Village Voice, to kick around the exploitation of sex and violence for profit by the entertainment industry. Since Tipper Gore, unlike Dan Quayle, has actually done something useful about all this she being one of the chief instigators of the ratings system now used by the music industry it was a pleasure to hear her educate Buckley on the subject. She combines respect for the First Amendment, appreciation of rock music and a determination to protect children with modesty and common sense. After hearing Quayle, it was such a relief to hear someone who knows what she’s talking about. Being a First Amendment feminist is not one of our society’s easier roles these days. We often seem to be swimming through such a miasma of sexual violence in advertising, television programming, heavy metal, rap, films and, worst of all, in the home that even First Amendment absolutists sometimes daydream about how nice it would be to have government-as-nanny just outlaw all this effluent. It is quite reasonable to subscribe both to the old saw that no good girl was ever ruined by a book and to the perception that it is not good for children to be constantly exposed to the sexual violence in our popular culture. Protecting children seems to me logically, legally and rather easily differentiated from censorship and good on Gore for helping parents protect their children. Sexism is comparable to racism in many ways, and one of them is that as racism has become less acceptable in our society, so have racist literature, films, music, etc. We have not outlawed racist expression, it continues to exist, you can order it from crummy mail-order houses in California. But you can no longer trot down to the Jiffy Mart and buy overtly racist magazines not because of censorship, not because of laws, but simply because it is socially unacceptable. So eventually, pray God, will sexist literature and films be socially unacceptable. But anyone who thinks we can rid ourselves of pornography by passing laws against it needs to read more history. The wonderful thing about the First Amendment is that while it protects even the most vicious and hateful forms of speech, it also protects our right to condemn such speech in terms just as powerful and as vigorous as we can manage. So that if I want to condemn peddlers of sexual violence for puking the rancid remainders of their sick minds all over this society, I am free to do so. Likewise, if Oprah Winfrey, herself a victim of incest, wants to put together a stunning television documentary called “Scared Silent” to educate the public and to give hope to victims of incest, she too is free to do so. In Dan Quayle’s back-to-Ozzie-and-Harriet vision of “family values,” there is no place for Winfrey’s documentary about the tragic problem of incest. And as that documentary so painfully reminded us, incest is not caused by poor family values in Hollywood. The great majority of those who commit incest were themselves victims of it. It is a self-perpetuating problem that festers and flowers in silence. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11