Naked City

Off the Desk

In the Eighties -- after he had introduced a resolution to impeach Ronald Reagan but before he had introduced a resolution to impeach George Bush -- Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez came to Austin to march from the Capitol to Fiesta Gardens. The march -- which included Austin State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos and the late Sam Terr, a quiet and dedicated peace and justice activist from Northwest Austin -- was a protest against illegal U.S. involvement in Central America. I had just returned from Honduras and Nicaragua, and Gonzalez wanted to know what I had seen. "How many American soldier boys did you run into?" he asked, before pressing me for details about economic conditions and the quality of journalism in our Central American protectorates.

The conversation only became interesting when Gonzalez began to talk. "You're a political journalist," he said. "So tell me, what is the largest transfer of wealth in the history of this country?" I muddled through a few New Deal and welfare programs and settled on Social Security. "You've got it all wrong," Gonzalez said. "It's mortgage lending." Then, the future chair of the House Banking Committee explained how interest on home mortgages moves money from people working to build assets to people who already have accumulated assets. It was a transfer of wealth from the working class to the ruling class, Gonzalez said, adding that any lending institution that charges more than 5% interest is engaged in usury.

Henry B. was right on U.S. intervention in Central America, he was right when he predicted that the Garn-St. Germain Banking Act would destroy the Savings & Loan industry, he was right when he stood on the floor of the U.S. House and denounced President Bush for serving in an administration that sold Iraq material to manufacture weapons and then dispatching U.S. troops to stand in the way of those weapons.

After 38 years in office, Gonzalez retired from the House in 1998 -- after casting his final vote against the impeachment of Bill Clinton. As quaint as it seems, Gonzalez believed that Congress' impeachment power should be reserved for "high crimes and misdemeanors," and that Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky didn't compare to funding, arming, and directing an army of terrorists in Nicaragua. A genuine American radical and maverick, Henry B. Gonzalez died Wednesday in San Antonio at 84...

Always looking ahead, the Bush campaign press office is preparing for the next round in the presidential election, should the decision devolve upon the U.S. House. Recent Bush press releases feature quotes by reps from both parties, who warn that if the presidency is to be decided by the House, they will support Bush. Bush even got a backhanded endorsement from Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Stamford, who observed that Vice-President Gore "is doing his best but that ... more and more people, Democrats as well as Republicans, are calling saying it's time to end it."

The press is already handicapping a future Bush administration. Railroad commissioners Tony Garza and Michael Williams are mentioned as two "equal access, not equal opportunity" appointees. Colin Powell joins Bush at the ranch on Nov. 31. A Washington source has Congressman Ralph Hall, D-Rockwall, on the Bush list. Will Bush find a place in his administration for Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, considering that Lay and his Enron buddies have invested $525,000 in Bush's two gubernatorial races? Does lobbyist, former Congressman, and waste pit owner Kent Hance have a shot? The giant sucking sound you hear in late December could be the sound of the permanent government departing for Washington.

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