Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.
I ran into Howard Bashford last week at a local coffee house, where he had a textbook on macroeconomics sprawled out on one of the little round tables.
He told me he had been researching the national debt and had gone so far as to interview a famed professor of economics to seek understanding.
“Dr. Jill Poke was in town, and I buttonholed her after her speech at the Rotary Club,” he said.
I was impressed, asking, “Do you mean the Jill Poke who holds the prestigious Ethan Allen Chair in Economics at Benedict Arnold University, in Camels Hump, Vt.?
Howard nodded. “Not only did I meet her,” he said, “she kind of took a shine to me. She even invited me to attend a meeting of the Club for No Growth, upstairs at an old Odd Fellows Hall. It was something, I’ll tell you!”
I said, “Do go on,” and Howard obliged.
“There was a whole bunch of smarty-pants economists there,” he said. “There was Tim Geithner, our secretary of the Treasury, and Ben Bernanke of the Federal Reserve, and – you’re not going to believe this …”
“Don’t tell me!” I exclaimed.
“Yes!” he said. “Even Nobel Prize winner/New York Times pundit Paul Krugman! All these insiders wore academic robes and puffy, square, velvet hats. Poke put on her robe and hat and joined them as they marched in a circle, chanting.”
“Chanting what? Chanting what? I demanded to know.
“A bunch of stuff,” Howard replied, “but mostly they were saying, ‘There is no Laffer Curve; There is no Laffer Curve.’”
“That’s the graph showing that above a certain rate, tax revenues will drop because people lose their incentive to work,” I said.
“Guess you could call it the Depardieu Curve now,” quipped Howard, referring the flight of renowned actor Gerard Depardieu from France to escape a 75 percent tax.
“Anyway,” he went on, “after they chanted that for a while, they all sat down at a round table and talked about the national debt as a percentage of the gross domestic product. You may recall that last week President Obama was on the same theme.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It almost sounded like he knew what he was talking about. I’ve always wondered how the ‘experts’ arrived at what they considered a comfortable percentage.”
“They use a Ouija Board!” said Howard.
I suggested he was kidding, but he swore it was true.
“Two of them sat at the board and tried to contact John Maynard Keynes, but it wasn’t easy,” he said. “The late Nobel-winning economist Milton Friedman kept butting in, hectoring Krugman, ordering him to tell the Times’ Thomas Friedman to stop sullying their shared surname. It was wild.
“Finally, a spirit told the economists to stop messing around, because the national debt should not be based on some theoretical proportion of the GDP. The spirit said, ‘Debt is debt!’”
“Well,” I said. “What did the revered economists do?”
“Nothing right then,” said Howard, “but professor Poke said eventually they’d do what they always do.”
“Which is?” I interjected.
“They’ll just make it up,” said Howard. “They figure they can convince most of the public that government is just like a great, big business, and like all big businesses it has its operating debt.”
“But, Howard,” I said, “government is not like a business. If a private enterprise gets overextended, it goes out of business. And if a private business operates with the same tolerance for waste as government, it goes out of business. And if a company produces a whole lot of products nobody wants – like government – it goes out of business.
“How can these so-called economists keep peddling this lie – and get away with it?”
And Howard said, “With the country as debauched as it is, they figure that when it comes to telling the truth, there’s no percentage in it.”
Just wondering: When President Obama makes an announcement before a large group of citizens, who pays? This week’s display featured children and parents, and the topic was gun control. Did those folks pay for their own transportation, accommodations and meals, or was the tab paid with public funds, through the ministry of propaganda?
Still unanswered: Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. Somebody said “no” when our ambassador and consular staff asked for help when they were under attack. Who was it? Somebody allegedly asked the Libyan government for permission to send U.S. military assistance to the consulate. Did Libya say “yes” or “no,” and who received that message? And if the answer was “no,” who decided that was the end of the matter?
Perhaps when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies about the Benghazi scandal, somebody will demand answers to these questions.