You know what we thought, we of our little grease-and-gab lunch club? We thought our stockbroker member — to our knowledge the only straight-ticket Republican voter among us — would be the last to arrive at our first post-election gathering, that he would shuffle in, plop down and mumble something about how America used to be America.
But no. Dude got there before anyone else. And greeted each of us so heartily you would have thought Ron Paul had won instead of Mitt Romney losing.
“Starts at the bottom and grows like topsy,” our broker buddy explained. “Trickle up,” he added.
So that was it: frustrated by President Obama’s re-election though he might be, there was the Arkansas General Assembly as compensation.
“You got the House by a single vote,” cautioned one of our lawyer members.
“Fifty-plus-one, that’s the American way,” replied The Incredible Broker Man, exuding satisfaction, for now, with the Arkansas way. He leaned toward the lawyer and grinned. “You’re leaving out the Senate. Got that one, big time.”
“Not as big as you’d like,” groused another of the lawyers, the one we think of as Big D Democrat.
“Big enough to drive you nuts.”
He had it right, the broker, though Big D wasn’t yet lathered, and his knife remained, for the moment, alongside his plate.
Then the insurance man thought to add some salt to Big D’s wound.
“Four seats, four Republicans,” he remarked. He was talking about the other House, call it the Big House, the one in Washington; the one that has four seats for Arkansas, all four of them hosting Democratic fannies not that long ago.
“The Old Order,” I marveled aloud.
“Feeling sentimental?” joked the stockbroker.
“Old,” I replied.
“But it’s a new day!” he exclaimed, raising his arms in jubilation, and, in so doing, sending a morsel of chili from his fork onto the insurance man’s lapel.
No harm done, the insurance man chuckled — and it was a dark suit — but wasn’t Mr. Obama’s re-election more than our friend could take? Why such unbounded optimism from an arch-conservative, and with the fiscal cliff ever closer?
He’d been in touch with some of the new statehouse majority, the broker explained, and you could take it to the bank: we’d all have more to take to the bank before the January legislative session ended.
“Income, corporate income, capitol gains — we think we can do it.”
“‘We’?” a couple of us teased.
“Ah, you know,” he waved us off. “You’re gonna see a state tax code that makes sense.”
“For who?” asked Big D, a bit of edge creeping into his voice. Oh my, I thought; we’re all friends.
“It’ll be something that makes sense to business,” Broker Man retorted, “makes sense to the folks with capitol they want to put to work.”
“Since they’ve already got it, why aren’t they doing it now?” Big D demanded. I checked to see that his knife was still on the table.
His brother lawyer, wanting to limit a decibel level we could all sense was about to rise, volunteered that a change in the state tax code was plainly overdue given that the top marginal rate was created 40 years ago and, what with inflation, the bank teller was paying the same percentage as the guy who owned the bank.
“Paying trainees pretty well these days,” Broker Man muttered.
Before Big D could cut loose the state agency manager agreed that some changes would do provided they didn’t lower overall tax collections — revenue neutral, they call it.
“But that’s the whole point,” insisted Broker Man. “Cut government’s share of the pie and there’s more to do business with.” He paused. “More for everybody.” He drew out “everybody.”
“Here’s more for everybody,” the state employee suggested. “Let’s get on with health reform and start sweeping up those federal bucks.” It was precisely the thing to bring fresh flush to Broker Man’s face. Big D’s, too. Fortunately, our server materialized to ask one check or two?
And I had to go, gratified, upon glancing back from the door, that Broker Man and Big D, standing at the cash register, had each wrapped an arm around the other’s shoulder. I was off to the State Capitol, to see if something like that could happen among there, now that things have changed, now that it’s a new day.
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Steve Barnes is host of Arkansas Week on AETN.