It is done. Signed, sealed and delivered. Budget cuts and tax cuts. Guns over butter. Rich over poor. We are following the faith of the president.
In the next three years, the big money and big business community will, to put it succinctly, get more.
But there are strings attached to this shifting of wealth. Though they are unwritten, they are common knowledge: a list of ethical and moral promises to be fulfilled.
The cynical, and I have been among them, may simply believe that Reagan and his rich men have done what they always wanted to do: allowed those who make the most money to keep the most. Allowed a few to buy bigger yachts while the majority struggle to keep afloat.
But the glossy presentation to middle-class and working-class American people contained a more saleable visual package. It was a sponsor's dream of what the rich individuals and the big companies could do if only they were given the chance.
If we believed, if we bought the deal, they could replace the failing public "largess" with the private. If we allowed individuals rather than governments to make decisions about money, we would get the economy to work better for all of us.
If there is any truth in advertising, then we are not merely allowing the rich to keep more of the money, to do with it as they will. We are, in effect, giving them our money to use. In return, we expect investments and winnings, and we expect the winnings to be shared.
This is not a wing and a prayer on the part of the working class, the poor, the unemployed. It's a moral obligation on the part of the rich and the big.
So, there are strings and a cost-accounting to be done on the ethics of these economics and on the morality of the moneyed. We will tally up the ethical balance sheet in at least two human ways: in jobs and charity.
These are not new ideas, but they are measures of decency. As we shift our faith from the public sector to the private sector, we also shift our needs and our hopes. The burden of proof is on those who have promised to be responsible.
There are whole families waiting who have been hit by the buzz bombs of state and federal budget cuts. Some of them have seen a lifetime of public work suddently dubbed "unessential," a lifetime status changed to "unemployed."
They are now on the losing side of this transfer of wealth.
Others, the poor, whose security has been patched fragilely out of federal programs, have worried less about the government on their backs than the wolf at the door. They are also losers.
The winners in this national gamble have to perform as promised: to invest in growth, in the creation of jobs for the unemployed, especially those people whose rugs have been pulled out from under them. To behave as advertised, by improving the common wealth.
They will also be judged for charity, for their efforts to replace public support with private. Again and again, Reagan has said that private citizens can and will do what the government has done: care for their own communities. He referred more than once to the Mormon Church, where tithing is common.
The president is himself a poor role model in the annals of private charities. Less than one percent of his own income was given away.
Yet those who have joined in his marketing campaign bandied about these slogans behind the budget cuts and the tax cuts. Now, the $100,000-a-year people will have $2,137 extra in 1982, $4,648 in 1981, $5,822 more in 1984.
They must also join the supply side of fundraising. The most modest supporter of the Reagan philosophy can pay back with the labor of the volunteer.
If all this sounds harsh, full of shoulds, obligations, responsibilities, well, I feel that way. I have had little confidence in the sincerity of the ad campaign. I have seen crude self-interest under a veneer of common sense.
But we bought it, and we bought it with these invisible strings attached. It's up to the winners now to live up to their side of the deal.
We had all better hope it works.