Page 24


4 DECEMBER 25, 1992 the way the system works now.” The General Accounting Office of Congress estimated that a similar national health care plan would save $70 billion in administrative costs alone. Which is approximately how much the insurance companies and health care providers are prepared to spend at the state and national level to scuttle any such single-payer plan. McGiffert and 30 other Texans travelled by bus to Little Rock for a rally on the eve of Clinton’s economic town meeting, only to be disappointed when the President-elect refused to speak to them. Approximately 800 people, rallied by the Universal Health Care Action Network, marched a mile and a half to the state Capitol, only to see Clinton get in his car and drive off. “We really were treated like the opposition,” said McGiffert. “We felt for sure if that many people gathered in Little Rock, Clinton would at least come and say ‘Hi, y’all.’ … It really made it clear to us that he’s got his plan and it doesn’t include consumers.” So the work must be done in the New Texas. Environment Fiscal conservatism has been the cover for stretching regulatory budgets to make it practically impossible to enforce environmental regulations, and the budget struggle will encourage a multitude of sinners in the coming session. The saving grace is that many environmental programs are fee-driven, although there may be a push to do away with “dedicated funds,” another bogeyman for legislators. Environmental lobbyists will push for an increase on air emissions, from the current $5 per ton of industrial pollutants to the $30 per ton set in federal guidelines. “That federal requirement is sort of our saving grace,” said Ken Kramer of the Sierra Club. There also is an incentive for industry to support enough of a strengthening of state wastewater regulation, with the fees to pay for it, so the state can take over that duplicative chore from the . U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A counter-proposal for regulatory staff cuts is that the Legislature provide for reimbursement of citizen groups and local governments that intervene in environmental regulatory hearings. “It’s not hard to intervene, but it is very costly,” said Rick Lowerre, an Austin environmental attorney. “This would, you might say, deputize the world.” The federal government provides for recovery of costs of intervenors, as the Texas Public Utility Commission reimburses cities that intervene in rate cases. Ethics The most important good government vote in the Texas House of Representatives may be the second order of business, after election of its new Speaker, when members adopt rules for the 73rd Legislature. The reform movement already has produced the unlikely spectacle of liberal Democratic Rep. Glen Maxey of Austin and conservative Republican Rep. Talmadge Heflin of Houston working the House floor together, seeking reform commitments in the closing days of the special session. House Speakerapparent Pete Laney, a conservative Democrat from Hale Center, reportedly has said he will go along with the will of the House on rules reform, but the will of the lobby will be hard to resist in the weeks preceding the opening of the session. Now is the time for the people to express their demand for an open legislative process. Maxey said the reformers hope a special committee on rules reform, headed by Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston, will accept the reforms. If not, Maxey said, individual House members will offer the reforms on the House floor, where record votes are expected on.issues such as opening up the Calendar Committee, which in past sessions has been a secretive graveyard for bills targed by well-connected special-interest lobbyists. Another important initiative is the effort to increase the amount of time lawmakers have to review bills and amendments to bills before they vote on them. The people have to use their opportunity to reform the system and then take advantage of the new rules. “If the people of Texas and the public-interest lobbies don’t use the system, the [corporate] lobby will retake control,” Maxey said. And after Laney gets used to the rules, it may be another decade before the public interest gets another shot at them. J.C. OBSERVATIONS The Fox and His New Field BILL CLINTON’S APPOINTMENT of Lloyd Bentsen to be Treasury Secretary is a bad sign for the progressivism of the Clinton Administration. It was also the first momentous action by the President-elect and was followed at once by commendable appointments; it would be premature to draw overall conclusions yet. We who go way back in Texas very well remember Bentsen’s service to the reactionary cause and the corporate establishment in 1970, when, with a campaign of low blows, he knocked Ralph Yarborough, the state’s greatest progressive holder of high office in this century, out of the Senate. That is there and will never go away. Lloyd Bentsen is the Lloyd Bentsen who was willing to do that and did it. Bentsen could have gone on to become a clearly conservative senator, but he is shrewd and calculating, and has a bold streak, and he became instead an unpredictable one. He has tracked a zig-zag ridge of his own selection to avoid being labelable as either a conservative or a liberal. Anything but a leader for the people, he is a leader for the corporate establishment. But he has been “a loyal Democrat” \(a phrase which now has the quaint sound of an the particular interests of Texas, and he has exhibited mild interest in the needs of ordinary people. Nothing radical, mind: Small steps, and at the worm’s pace. That Clinton has chosen this very Bentsen the chief of the Treasury means that there will be a strong negative voice at the Cabinet table against anything which will upset Wall Street to a degree that Bentsen regards as undue. The real special interests real estate, oil, banking, insurance, all those interests are licking their chops, and the Washington lobbyists now know they have a back-door to the White House. Clinton admires the late Jack Kennedy, the moderately liberal Democratic President, who named, for his Treasury Secretary, the Republican Douglas Dillon. Perhaps Clinton is trying to ape Kennedy’s way of “reassuring the markets,” which means in the present context, among other meanings, not so to frighten big businessmen and major investors that they drive stock prices so far down and interest rates so far up that the President finds his policy options hemmed in by a renewed and worsening recession. As the New York Times said, Clinton chose for his economic team “old hands from Washington and Wall Street,” including Bob Rubin, the co-chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Co. and a leading Democratic fundraiser, as his senior economic adviser, and Roger Altman, an investment banker, as Bentsen’s deputy. There is also a way of seeing an upside to Clinton’s selection of Bentsen, although one must adopt, in order to see it, a certain perversity of interpretation. Bentsen, as his own boss, running his fiefdom as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, might have decided to block or materially modify some or many of the proposals that Clinton sent him. Bentsen’s committee reigns in the Senate over taxes, Social Security, welfare, trade, health policy, and much of the federal budget. Instead, he will now be Clinton’s employee, serving at Clinton’s pleasure. Clinton said last Friday that Bentsen will be “the principal economic spokesperson after the President for this administration,” but added, “I will make the ultimate decisions.” Bentsen may have extracted some agreements from Clinton in advance of accepting the appointment, but except for these, if there are any, he will be expected to fall in behind Clinton’s decisions. As an aide to Clinton has been quoted as saying, they have been thinking of enlisting Bentsen’s “influence.” The Treasury Secretary will be expected to use his influence to help attain Clinton’s objectives whether he agrees with them or not.