Cruelest cut

Por Dios! A revolution in New Mexico politics!
Now follow this closely. For many, many years, off and on, the governor of New Mexico has been Bruce King, a fellow we love because he is fluent in Gibberish, the native language of former Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis. King, who is from eastern New Mexico and so even sounds like a Texan, once said a certain bill "will just open a whole boxful of Pandoras." My all-time favorite Kingism is "A promise is not a commitment."

So in November, ol' Bruce, a Democrat, was ousted for what is probably the last time by this Forrest Gump-like Republican (naive rather than dumb) named Gary Johnson, in keeping with your national Republican surge. Then what to our wondering ears should occur, but Governor-elect Gump in the course of speech announcing, "But a commitment is not a promise." You grasp the astounding extent of the change, do you not?

No place like New Mexico--ever proceeding in its own very individual and in fact unique way--to assure a body that all politics are, in fact, local.

Now the Roundhouse, New Mexico's state capitol, is famous among political buffs for a level of eccentricity which rivals that of Texas. I was trying to explain to a local Republican that while the new federalisma--giving power from Washington back to the states--always sounds fine in theory, the fact is that the Texas Legislature, on its bad days, bears an unmistakable resemblance to the space bar from Star Wars. He thought I was exaggerating and paid no attention.

Then I pointed out that this so-called federalism means giving much more power to the Roundhouse, and the poor man paled with terror.

Even in New Mexico, there is concern about U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich--that's the draft-dodging, dope-smoking, deadbeat-dad Newt Gingrich of whom I speak, of course. (I find that when one first stoops to the level of Rush Limbaugh, one feels slightly slimy, but it gets easier as you go along.) So anyway, the draft-dodging, dope-smoking, deadbeat-dad Newt Gingrich now wants to cut the federal program for severely disabled poor children.

Supplemental Security Income provides monthly stipends for poor children with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and mental retardation. The money can be spent for food, clothing, shelter, or a range of medical and social services.

The draft-dodging, dope-smoking, deadbeat-dad Newt Gingrich wants to cut it back to vouchers that could be spent only for a limited program of medical care.

Normally, picking on handicapped poor children is not a real popular thing to do, but the Republicans, who have hearts like caraway seeds, assure us that the money is sometimes paid to poor children with common problems and that some parents coach children to fake disabilities.

Ahem. Do you know any children with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, or severe retardation? On the whole, it is not actually easy to fake these conditions, especially as doctors are usually called in on these cases quite early.

Assuming that we have somehow sprouted a whole generation of tiny method actors who can successfully fake spina bifida (this is a very sick cruelty joke), would it not be rather simpler and fairer to require an accurate diagnosis of the condition than to cut off the program entirely?

My favorite poor kid with spina bifida is Kristy Reyna of Austin, some of whose SSI money is being spent to build a shower stall that she can use herself.

Kristy has had more than 15 operations, and we're fairly sure she isn't faking it. Putting her in an institution would, of course, cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. The cost of the new shower stall is in the very low three figures.

According to Kristy's mom, none of Kristy's SSI money can be spent without a doctor's certification that Kristy needs it--her braces, her wheelchair, the shower stall--all required orthopedic certification.

Informed of the Republican proposal, Kristy's mom stopped dead for a long minute and then said: "Tell them I will be happy to give up any amount of money in the whole world if she could just walk."

The first law of politics is: You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You. So let's take a look at who brung our new leaders.

Sen. Bob Dole's largest contributor clump is in finance, insurance and real estate, for a total of $537,356, about 60 percent from political action committees and the rest from individuals.

Rep. Newt Gingrich also owes most to finance, insurance, and real estate, a total of $360,208, with miscellaneous business a close second, $318,584, again with PACs predominating easily.

Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York, new chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, got a whopping $1,331,695 from finance, insurance, and real estate, with miscellaneous business a poor second at $456,775.

Now what do our new leaders think about campaign-finance reform, the root of the rot, the system of legalized bribery with which they buy office?

Why, those li'l ol' reformers, just listen: Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says, "Campaign finance reform will not be on the agenda. There's no groundswell for it. We won't waste any time on it."

Thanks, Mitch. According to national polls, 78 percent of Americans think that most members of Congress are more interested in serving special-interest groups than in serving the people they represent.

Which goes to show that you can't fool 78 percent of the American people. But that's no groundswell.

There are no congressional or electoral reforms that will make one iota of difference unless and until we change the way campaigns are financed. Our pols will continue to dance with them what brung 'em. We will continue to get government of corporate special interests, by corporate special interests, and for corporate special interests.

Watch the "reform" Republicans legislate amazing new telecommunications law. Watch General Electric lobbyists again draft corporate tax law that reduces the company's tax to below zero. Watch "reform" Republicans decide that regulating derivatives would violate sacred free-market standards.

Beloveds, until they reform the way campaigns are financed, "reform" is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Copyright 1995 Creators Syndicate, Inc.