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Political Animal

An Allegory

By Brian Morton | Posted 3/9/2005

“Good morning. I’d like you to look at the new insurance plan I have for you. Your old policy, while it’s worked well enough for the past 70 years, just isn’t right for you anymore.”

“Wait—I’m perfectly happy with my old plan.”

“Well, you know, it’s in a crisis—it’s going to fail on you in, oh, 30 years or so.”

“They said that before, in the mid-1980s, and with a few tweaks it was fixed. Why can’t you do that this time?”

“That would cost money.”

“But wouldn’t your plan cost money?”

“Not really. There’s just a few transitional things—we’ll call them ‘fees.’ How’s that?”

“Oh, really? And what are we talking about in the way of these ‘transitional fees?’”

“Something on the order of maybe $750 billion over 10 years.”

“Is that all? Just $750 billion over 10 years? And this is supposed to fix my current plan?”

“Wellll—no. But the new plan, my plan, will be better than your old plan.”

“And how will this be better?”

“It will be personal. Yours.”

“So this private plan . . . ”

“Uhhh—we don’t use that word anymore. It’s your personal plan, see?”

“Right. So this ‘personal’ plan of mine, it’s not going to cost anything except for the $750 billion in ‘transition financing’—how come the people who say my plan isn’t in any danger are saying that your plan is going to cost $4.9 trillion?”

“What do they know? They haven’t seen my plan yet.”

“But wait—even your own No. 2 guy said not so long ago that your plan’s costs would run into ‘trillions of dollars.’”

“Did he say that? What a kidder he is.”

“Now wait a second—just a second ago, you said my plan was in a crisis, and your plan for privatization wouldn’t really fix that crisis.”

“I never said that.”

“Yes, you did, just a second ago.”

“Nope. Never said it. Anyway, I told you-we don’t use the terms ‘privatization’ or ‘private accounts’—they’re so . . . impersonal.”

“But you were using them not long ago! And this business about a ‘crisis’ . . . ”

“OK, it’s not a crisis. It’s a problem. A problem. A real big problem. Really, really big. It’s a problem with a capital ‘P.’ Problem with a ‘P’ that rhymes with ‘T’ that stands for trouble. It’s a troubling problem. Problematic trouble. Maybe not a crisis, but a serious problem.”

“OK, I get it. So what’s such a big deal about these ‘personal’ accounts?”

“It’s your money—you should be able to do what you want with it.”

“That’s not what you said when I didn’t want my money going to invade some country that didn’t attack us for weapons that weren’t there.”

“Hey, buddy—for a second there, I thought you might have said something that shows you don’t support our brave American troops..”

“And anyway, wasn’t my current plan designed to help not just me, but also my grandparents and my grandchildren? My grandmother isn’t going to be pleased if I pull my money out to stick it in your ‘personal accounts’ if it means she’s going to end up eating Alpo in some piss-smelling rest home.”

“That’s nonsense. We’d never do that to your sweet old grandmother. Her benefits will be paid the same as they always were.”

“I don’t see how you can say that when your own guy said that your costs are going run trillions of dollars.”

“And didn’t I say that your grandkids will be taken care of? See, this poll shows that your kids already think that your plan isn’t going to be there for them when they get older.”

“Lemme see that—Hey! You had the people running my current plan print out this brochure! That’s not right!”

“What, are you going to tell them that what they know in their hearts is wrong?”

“Now wait just a minute: I read something a while back that said you’ve been saying my plan was going to fail back in 1988.”

“I was right, wasn’t I?”

“You were saying this in 1978.”

“So my math was a little off.”

“Your math was ‘a little off’? Back in 2000, you were saying that we could afford a tax cut and never have to dip into my plan’s surplus money. Your competitor said he wanted to put that surplus money into a ‘lock box,’ and you ridiculed him for it. Two years later, not only had you blown the entire surplus, but your company had to bum $159 billion more!”

“Well, Sept. 11 changed everything.”

“It changed everything all right—you’ve since rung up two more tax cuts and two separate wars, and now you want me, my grandmother, and my grandkids to eat trillions of dollars in up-front costs for your supposedly spectacular plan? Lemme see this plan, then!”

“Well, it’s not really on paper yet.”

“What? You’ve lied about the existence of WMDs, your Medicare plan, your military record, and your drug use! What possible reason is there for us to trust you with our retirement money?”

“Now you’ve gone too far—why do you hate America?”

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The Fix (8/4/2010)

Police State (7/7/2010)

Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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