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POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE Gambling with Our Future ART LESSONS In this world timing is everythingbut place is right up there, too. And what better place to exhibit a collection of photographs called “Denied: the Crisis of America’s Uninsured” than the Texas state capitol? After all, one out of every four Texans lacks medical insurance, the highest percentage of uninsured of any state. Moreover, Texas is home to that great humanitarian, former state GOP Chairwoman Susan Weddington, best-known for her Marie Antoinette impression during the 2003 budget debate. \(Weddington suggested that families whose children were removed from CHIP would simply have to buy their own health insurance and “maybe have a little less disposable income or And so it was only fitting that “Denied,” 20 powerful black-and-white photographs documenting the lives of just a handful of the more than 44 million Americans who lack medical insurance, was displayed at the Capitol from September 17 to 24. The exhibit was part of a six-city Texas tour, beginning in El Paso, that was sponsored by the nonprofit coalition Health Care for All Texans. The work of photographer Ed Kashi and writer Julie Winokur, “Denied” is an effort to educate the public on the realities faced by families who live without health insurance, such as the Wessenbergs of Coppell, a suburb of Dallas. The Wessenbergs once earned more than $100,000 a year and lived with their two children in a 2,200-square-foot townhouse. Seemingly overnight their lives changed when Sheila was diagnosed with breast cancer and her husband Jim lost his high-paying computerprogramming job. When Kashi and Winokur met the Wessenbergs, Sheila’s cancer had spread to her brain, and Jim had taken a new job making $11 an hour. The family, who also have an autistic son, was no longer able to pay monthly insurance premiums of more than $800. Sheila had begun panhandling to pay for groceries and other necessities. Among the other photographs in “Denied” is a particularly striking image of Marcia Felts Wimberly. With her stylish blazer, silver pin, and jeweled earrings, Felts Wimberly looks like a poster child for prosperity and propriety as she recites the pledge of allegiance at a mayor’s breakfast for community leaders. But as Winokur explains in the accompanying text, Felts Wimberly was photographed shortly after leaving her abusive husband. She had stayed in the marriage just to have health benefits to pay for a much-needed operation. Now, she is barely scraping by. As Winokur and Kashi point out, the majority of uninsured Americans are neither poor by official standards nor unemployed. In fact, seven out of 10 uninsured Americans come from families in which at least one adult is working. “It’s not a sexy subject;’ Kashi told the Observer. “But we have to bolt through the apathy.” The photographs, he explained, “are a good way to get people to react… to get people’s attention and empathy!” “Denied” has also been exhibited in the state capitols of New York and California, as well as the Empire State Building. It ends its Texas tour at the downtown branch of the Houston Public Library, October 13-18. MORE VOODOO IS DOODOO Perhaps the most interestingand most underreportedelement of the current presidential campaign is the growing schism between the Bush Administration and the fiscal conservatives in the GOP. A key part of George W. Bush’s stump speech these days is his argument that the tax cuts of 2003 should be made permanent. It’s the same supply-side economics argument the GOP has been touting for the last two and a half decades: Lower taxes will mean more jobs, more investment, and that will ultimately mean more tax revenue for the government. During his 1980 bid for the White House, George H.W. Bush famously derided this approach as “voodoo economics!’ Democrats have long argued the same. But forget the elder Bush and the Democrats for a moment. Instead, consider this assessment, “In retrospect it seems incomprehensible that anyone ever believed supply-side theory would work.” Instead, “spending increased and your generation was left with the bill.” That’s from the last chapter of Pete Peterson’s new book, Running On Empty. Peterson is a staunch Republican, an insider’s insider. He’s the chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. His book is a treatise on the dangers of the massive debt that the Bush Administrationand previous administrationshave run up. This year’s federal deficit will exceed $400 billion. Add in entitlements and future obligations, says Peterson, and the U.S. faces a national debt that totals some $74 trillion. On September 8, Bruce Bartlett, of the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank, wrote in the National Review that Bush’s addition of new entitlements, particularly the new prescription drug benefit for Medicare is fiscally reckless. “It goes without saying;’ writes Bartlett, “that if any private corporation had behaved the way the government has, it would soon find its executives being sentenced by a federal judge.” So now that GOP stalwarts are attacking Bush’s reckless fiscal policies, the key question is: Will voters pay attention? TEXAS FOLD ‘EM Every hot streak comes to an end. On September 14, the law of Texasnot to mention the law of averagescaught up with the owners of illegal 8-liner game rooms in Montague Country \(TO, “Texas Hold ‘Em,” July lose big. Shortly after 9:30 p.m. in the sleepy rural county northwest of Dallas, law enforcement agents began storming one game room after another, serving warrants, confiscating cash, and disabling the video poker and video slot machines. By dawn the next morning, the raid had netted $36,000 in cash and closed down seven game rooms, including Grand Ma’s in Fruitland, Dice’s in Nocona, one in Montague, and four others in Bowie. “There may be some people out there who THE TEXAS OBSERVER 10/8/04