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Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
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is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 09.17.03

JIM AUSTIN

Ya gotta believe

Alabama, the state, not the band, conjures images of rural vistas, grits and gravy, rabid football fans, and old time religion. Did you also know that Alabama has one of the most regressive tax structures in the country, where the poor are proportionally taxed three times that of the rich.

Lately, Republican Governor Bob Riley has had a religious epiphany. Apparently this Southern Baptist has received Word from On High that taxing families whose income starts at $4600.00 won't even pay for the chalk in Alabama's underdeveloped school system.

His blasphemous "Make the rich pay their fair share" credo has sent large landowners and the powerful Alabama Forestry Association into a tizzy. Just the thought of slicing off a chunk of their profit margin is enough to curdle the brandy in every CEO's snifter.

Governor Riley didn't just wring his hands and weep croc tears for the poor. He put the matter into the hands of the people. On September 9 he put "Amendment One" on the Alabama ballot and asked people to vote yes or no to a $1.2 billion revenue raising tax package which would be spent on education, health care, and job training.

No brainer, right? Only the Robber Barons would oppose this one. Wrong. Amendment One was soundly defeated. So sweet home Alabama will remain sweet for the plutocrats and fat cats who run the joint. They proved that with a calculated campaign of misinformation over radio and TV they could convince poor people to stay in the cotton fields where they belong. They further proved that the propensity of the American voter to cast his ballot against his own best interests is alive and well.

As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tells us, Americans will believe just about anything: 47 percent of Americans believe that the Antichrist is on earth right now (is it Al Franken?), 48 percent believe in creationism (our President included), and 68 percent of Americans believe in the devil. Who can blame these poor benighted, ignorant citizens when they believe what they hear on the television?

Thus when George Bush forgets why we invaded Iraq and substitutes "the evil Sadaam" for his reason, there are people who believe him. They say "Right on" when he says that Saddam and Osama are best buddies and are working to destroy America together.

Evidence shows that the President is not doing "everything he can" to protect our homeland from attack. Why do people believe him and not Senator Warren Rudman whose Foreign Relations Task Force found that we were dangerously unprepared for a terrorist attack on our soil?

Police and fireman don't have the equipment promised them to handle building collapses and are short on radios and breathing apparatus, according to the report.

Most public health labs don't have the personnel or the training to handle a chemical or biological attack.

"The task force estimated that the country will fall $98.4 billion short in the funding needs for first responders over the next five years."*

Coincidentally, that is just a few billion more that the President has requested from Congress to permit him to pursue his mysterious goals in his Iraqi adventure.

Remember when he landed on the aircraft carrier in his flight suit and told us the war was over? Maybe if he had been wearing a red seersucker suit with boater hat and matching bowtie carrying a suitcase full of "Made in Taiwan" kewpie dolls we would have been more skeptical.

As it stands most voters believe the chief, no matter what he states. How do these people find their way to the polls?

* The Nation, Sept. 22 page 26.

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