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08 April, 2011

Rolling in the Cut

"Rolling in the cut" was Putney Swope's answer to one of the barrage of questions launched by reporters when he had become rich and successful, and was stepping into his limo. But you've never seen that movie, most likely.

I have, though, and remember that hearing that line triggered some resonance. Seemed like something I'd heard old people say. The old-time way of describing someone who can sit back and watch the money flow in, who need not work. The "cut" I took to be the percentage that someone collects on transactions, on other people's production. 

Taxes are the government's cut. Profits are the corporation's. Crazy high compensation is the executive's. Lots of people hate the gummint, and wanna cut it's cut. Corporations are not universally loved, either, but Bush's economic debacle benefited some of them. On the other hand, many corporations' profits would be higher if the executives were not paid ridiculously high rates, rewarded regardless of what happens to profits, much less people.

In DC and Olympia, elected representatives are determining budgets, and the more blatant of the Business-serving parties is determined to address the economic fallout of their own failures by eliminating money spent on a social safety net. They've been unduly successful in tarring taxes as too high, unwisely spent, and unjust. They adopt stern demeanors and tell the cameras that our situation is dire, and that people must face that fact that government is too big, too costly, and must be reigned in.

The solution, they say, is to eliminate spending that benefits working and poor people. In DC, they dicker over a fraction of the domestic budget, while ignoring the expense of multiple wars (none of which, you may have noticed, has anything to do with a threat to national security) and the barrels of holy pork. Meanwhile, they not only won't allow tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, they propose expanding them, and giving corporations a massive break as well.

Here in Olympia, where we don't maintain an army, social cuts--education, health, parks, culture, and so on--are being targeted as the means for eliminating the deficit. Meanwhile, tax benefits are untouched, because they might put a damper on bank profits, private purchases of jets, cosmetic surgery,...the sort of thing that has extremely narrow benefit. The people have been asking, louder each time, that some of these loopholes be eliminated, but the legislature acts incapable. Those who bother to sound apologetic at all say their hands are tied, that the 2/3 majority required for "new taxes" can never be mustered, even though the removal of a preferential tax break is just a correction, not a new tax.

Locally and nationally, the GOP is determined to press its perceived advantage to make sure that the government's cut is shrunk (or to be more precise, the portion dedicated to domestic spending) while the corporations and plutocrats roll in an ever greater cut. 

I have little idea of what transpires within the beltway anymore, but I know that here, people are fed up. The Service Employees International Union and others protested at the capitol yesterday, demanding to know why no tax loopholes had been eliminated, why the representatives and governor they elected would balance the budget on the backs of the middle class and the poor, asking no sacrifice whatsoever of the better off. 17 were arrested.

Some people will spin this as evidence of union thuggery, welfaristic greed, an unruly lower class. After all, SEIU is full of uppity people, browner than most unions in this state, and not as inclined to get in bed with larger financial interests as some of the older unions. The fact is that people demanded accountability from elected officials, and asked to be arrested rather than walk away. One guy hit a couple of state troopers, who said they were not hurt. The arrests are symbolic, a statement of how deeply people object to unfair economic policies. They remind me of what started happening outside the South African embassy as pressure mounted to end apartheid.

Which makes me optimistic. Maybe the people have finally had enough, and know enough to identify some of the problems. The inchoate rage of the Tea Party is becoming more obviously stupid to a greater portion of the populace, but anger and frustration remain. We the people see that the ones really rolling in the cut, our cut by all rights, are the wealthy few, the cunning corporations who rake in money we gave to the government to do things like school our kids, protect our air and water, build roads, fight crime and disease, and on and on and on. 

The transfer of our common wealth to the uncommonly wealthy is unfair, and their days of rolling in the cut must end.

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