Page 12


MOLLY IVINS Snooze Along With Me.. . Gee, just four weeks to go until Election Day, and you can feel the excitement sweeping the nation. BobDolewhose wife calls him BobDole, whose friends call him BobDole and who calls himself BobDolecreated a thrill recently by pitching off a dais, fortunately without hurting himself But so far, that’s been it for electric moments. I’m waiting for President Clinton to smash a guitar on stage to get our attention. The election seems to be having a salutary effect on members of Congress; they’ve just rushed to require health insurers to pay for at least a forty-eight-hour hospital stay for new mothers and their babies. And House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is always whining about Clinton’s stealing Republican ideas, has come out foursquare against allowing those convicted of spousal abuse to buy gunsone of Clinton’s Chicago proposals. And of course we’re all sleeping more soundly at night since the Defense of Marriage Act \(sponsored by Representative Bob Barr, who is himself not with his first , was passed, forbidding marriage between those of the same sex. God only knows what that might have led tomaybe people getting married more than once. . On the negative side, the House, where physicians are still somewhat scarce, decided to go into medical practice in order to outlaw late-terin abortions. Members put their numerous years of medical training together and decided when the health and life of mothers they have never seen is or is not threatened. A most impressive performance. Then, we had a great environmental moment when the Prez declared a nice chunk of southern Utah to be a national monument. Anyone who has ever been to the red rock country of Utah \(and if you haven’t, ulous it is. But that set off a firestorm of protest from Utahans, one of who announced it was like living in Russia, where the government can just come in and grab your land. Senator Orrin Hatch, showing his deep grasp of property law, declared it the biggest land grab in history. Excuse me, but whose land are we talking about here? As it happens, the land in question belongs to the people of the United States. We own it. It is not owned by the foreign mining companies that want to turn it into a giant coal pit. OK, if we can’t find a burning domestic issue, how about foreign involvements? Anyone understand why we’ve been bombing Iraq again? On a scale of one to ten, how much hope have we got for Bosnia? These are ripe and juicy questions and might even lend some heat to our presidential campaign, except for the one thing: even though no one is sure that what we’re doing is working, no one has any better ideas, either. You don’t exactly see a chorus of knowledgeable experts leaping up and chanting, “Hey, we know just what to do about Saddam Hussein!” And if anyone knew just what to do about Bosnia, we’d have given him the Nobel Peace Prize by now. So is this it? A contentless, vacuous campaign dominated by vigorous discussion of school uniforms and teen smoking? Some pundit opined the other day that a campaign of modest initiatives is just what the country is in the mood for, on account of we don’t trust government much anymore and so don’t want to see it try anything significant. Like social and economic justice. I have a modest proposal along the lines of “Physician, heal thyself.” Let’s give our elected representatives a ringy-dingy and suggest that they start by…cleaning up politics. Natty notion, eh? You may recall that the last time we checked in on campaign finance reform, in June a year ago, Clinton and Gingrich rose on a stage in New Hampshire and shook hands on the idea of a bipartisan commission to reform campaign financing. But almost immediately, the two fell out after Clinton released a draft proposal to the public. This caused Gingrich’s office to have a cow: Anybody knows you don’t do a deal like that in public \(I guess because it’s none of the public’s busi publicity stunt, and Gingrich could not be expected to deal with someone who worked in bad faith like that. And that was the end of that chapter. Personally, I believe in the revolutionary principle that the American people are not fools. It has not actually escaped our notice that corporate special-interest money is pouring into the presidential campaigns like Niagara, through the back door known as “soft money.” And as this “soft money” piles up, so do the favors owed by our politicians to such generous benefactors as Archer-Daniels-Midland, the trial lawyers, the insurance companies, the banks, Wall Street, the steel industry, the auto manufacturers, the sugar growers, etc., ad nauseam. What’s really sickening is that we get ripped off for so much by these penny-ante contributions. Oh, I grant you that it seems like a lot of dough when you look at it in the aggregatesomething like $350 million in soft money this year alone. But look what the special interests get in return: they give millions, but they get back billions. Billions of dollars of special tax breaks, billions of dollars in subsidies, billions of dollars in tariff protections and price supports. And, of course, every billion dollars some corporate donor gets away with in tax relief and corporate welfare leaves the rest of us with an additional billion to pay in taxes so we can build schools, pay teachers, repair bridges and roads, keep health clinics open, provide Head Start for poor kids, and so on. The politicians get millions for their campaigns, and we get stuck with billions in taxes. It’s nuts! It’s actually worth getting excited about. Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist for the Fort Worth StarTelegram. OCTOBER 11, 1996 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15