Saturday, July 23, 2011

What To Do, What To Do?

During my last conversation with President Barack Obama, the man who once saved my life in 'Nam, he asked me how things were going at the El Paso Times.
     "If the newspaper business were a totem pole," I told him, "I'd be the section dogs like to mark their territory on." 
     He laughed.  It was good to hear him relax for a moment.  We did four tours in 'Nam together, and he always looked to me to perk him up when he was feeling low.
     "When we get out of this jungle," he promised, "I'm going to the top and I'm taking you with me."
     "You keep on talking, B.O.  That's what you do best."
     "That's my problem.  I've got vision, and the rest of the world wears bi-focals."
     But I digress.
     The reason he called me to Washington was he was stymied by the economy, and he thought that I could perhaps add some perspective.  I started with the obvious.
     "I remember once being told that President Kennedy accepted a yearly salary of only one dollar when he was in office.  That could work for you.  When the American people see you sacrificing they'll be inspired."
     "That's a good idea, really good.  Unfortunately, I can't swing it right now.  Michelle would kill me.  Maybe when we get back from our next vacation.  Hey, I've got an idea:  what if we were to freeze the salaries of all lower tier federal employees?"
     "That won't work.  Lower tier government workers can't generate additional income for themselves the way the upper tier can through bribes, kickbacks, and inside information.  Perhaps, instead, Congress and the people in your administration can take a 10% cut in pay.  In hard times those in charge must set the example."
     "That won't work either.  I'm sure that must be unconstitutional or something, and you know how much I love the Constitution.  Besides, their salaries are protected by various laws they've passed, but..."  He rubbed his chin gingerly, and thought for a moment.  "But federal employees are under no such protection.  Freezing their salaries.  That's a great idea you've just given me."
     "Hey, screwing over government workers wasn't my idea.  Get that out of your head right this minute."  Now I was stymied.  I gave him a few more suggestions.
     "Cut spending?"
     "Eliminate earmarks?"
     "Abolish congressional perks?"
     "Eradicate entitlements?"
     I never knew there were so many different ways to say "no".  I gave him a few more ideas, but my heart was no longer in it, and, since they all had to do with the three branches of government making sacrifices of some sort, he vetoed them faster than a Republican compromise.
     "Your first idea was your best," he finally decided. 
     "Don't say it..."
     "We'll freeze federal employee's salaries."
Fifty Shades of Satire

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