03 June 2009

A Conversation with State Representative Leo Berman

Occasionally God smiles on us and fortuitous things come about.

Last week, arch-conservative and reknowned xenophobe, Republican State Representative, Leo Berman (District 6 - Smith County) pre-announced his intent to run for governor. His real announcement, we are told, will come on July 4th. And...

Yesterday as I was entering my favorite smoothie place for lunch, I noticed parked in front a Mercedes Benz and BMW each with Texas State Official License Plates. As I approached the counter to place my order I noticed an older couple setting at a table by the window and being the rude, crass S.O.B. that I am, I told them that Texas state officials driving foreign luxury cars didn’t resonate all that well for me given the state of our economy.

The short explanation was that he paid for the cars himself and that one of them was assembled in Tennessee. “Oh”, I thought to myself, “obviously a Republican.”

He went on to identify himself as state representative Leo Berman and I took that as an invitation to send my split finger fast ball up under his chin. “How come”, I say, “You people didn’t go along with the Senate and vote to accept the $550-million stimulus money earmarked for extended unemployment benefits for working families?”

He replied that “”working” families don’t draw unemployment”, and I quickly answered, “Yes they do, when they’re laid off. And I can tell you that they’d much rather get a paycheck than an unemployment check!”

He cruised past that and said that Texas didn’t need to help out the President by taking money that would obligate us to changing our unemployment compensation program. I replied, “It would not have been helping the president, it would have been helping working families in Texas.”

He then launched into the Rick Perry Republican talking points about “strings” and having to extend unemployment compensation and Texas just didn’t need to do that to help out the President. I reminded him that Obama would not get a dime of that money, that it would have gone to hard-pressed unemployed, and that come October, without that infusion of money, the fund will be facing a billion dollar shortfall.

Back and forth we went, until he offered that the legislature put a lot of money on the table for retraining of unemployed people. My quick response was that job training was fine in an economy when jobs are available, but right now jobs are scarce and none of the training in the world will create those jobs nor will it put food on the table or pay rent for those who are out of work.

At this point the conversation began to disintegrate when he saw I was not buying his “talking points”. “Well”, he said, “the reason the bill did not come up was because the Democrats stalled us on the voter ID bill. It’s the Democrats fault.”

“No”, I said, “The problem is too many people in politics have lost touch with the notion that we have civilization and society and taxes in order that we look out for and take care of each other, not business and corporate interests.” I went on to mention that back in the day, Ralph Yarborough best summed it up by saying, “We need to move the jam down to the lower shelf where the little fellow can get his fair share.”

Berman made some sneering comment about Ralph Yarborough which left me pissed and with the choice to continue this exercise in futility or to disengage and enjoy my smoothie. I chose to end the conversation with some civil comment and watched as they toodled off in their Mercedes and BMW.

Dang old Republicans, they just don’t get it! But, I felt really good afterwards, that at least on one occasion Berman got to hear it straight! He’ll ignore it, and has no doubt washed it from his memory, but the important thing is that it got said—I wish more people would do the same.


tolbertme said...

Thanks for sharing Shane! Ever notice that we always hear about our elected officials making "public" appearances after they have already left town? They certainly prefer to speak to voters of their own choosing. I ran in to Louie Gohmert at the grocery store, and the first thing he did was start defending GW Bush. But, I did remind him that there are some moderates out here.

Tracy said...

I SO wish I could think on my feet like that. Gotta bookmark your blog.

Thanks for trying.