There are moments when you see suddenly crystallized in a particular event, a threat to democracy as ominous as the smoke rising from Mt. St. Helens.
This week it was that enormous payoff to big corporations by their subjects in Congress. I say payoffs advisedly. Business elites provide politicians with the money they need to run for office. The politicians pay them back with a return on their investment so generous it boggles the mind. That legislation enacted this week is worth $137 billion in tax cuts for corporations. One company alone -- General Electric -- will receive over $8 billion, despite earnings last year of over $15 billion. Many companies -- Microsoft, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, Eli Lilly, among others -- have been parking profits overseas rather than bring them back to America where they are taxed. So Congress has now blessed them with a one-time "tax holiday" during which they can bring home the bacon at about one-seventh of the normal tax rates.
These plums are usually couched in such language they would defy a Delphic oracle to interpret them -- all the more to hoodwink us. What's behind those hieroglyphics in Section 713, Subsection A and B, Page 385? Why a multimillion-dollar windfall to Home Depot for importing ceiling fans made by serfs in China. And that little clause written in Sanskrit so tiny it would take a Mount Palomar telescope to read? Nothing less than a $27 million tax present to foreigners who bet at American horse and dog tracks. On and on it goes, the pillaging and plundering by suits with Guccis.
In a time of war, terror, and soaring deficits, you would think the governing class would be asking these corporate aristocrats to make a little patriotic sacrifice like that asked of single mothers or our men and women in Iraq. Instead, they're allowed to pass their share of the burden to workers and children not yet born. At the least, they ought to be required to remove the flag from their lapels and replace it with the icon they most revere -- the dollar sign.