On the Table

By Lynn Ashby 21 March 2011

At the first budget-cutting meeting the Dems declared, “Everything is on the table.” The GOPers agreed that it’s all there – on the table.
“Right,” said the Tea Party members. “Medicare, Medicaid, the defense budget, NPR – especially NPR – plus DNA testing on the Unknown Soldier, food for prisoners….”
“Everything is on the table,” the GOPers said again, “including the Defense budget, except, of course, for the Boeing contract — that 35-billion dollar gold mine for Air Force tankers.”
“Why does the Air Force need tanks?” asked a new Tea Party member, who had previously worked as a shepherd in Utah.
And so that first meeting went smoothly. At the second meeting it was agreed to keep Medicare on the table, but to table Medicaid. The Dems agreed to Republican demands to abolish the EPA, destroy its headquarters building in Washington and sew salt in the ground where it had stood. In return, the GOP agreed to merge NPR with the Voice of America and to only broadcast from 3 to 4 a.m. — in Swahili.
The negotiators found common ground to cut funding for lighthouses (“They’re mostly foreign-flag vessels anyhow.”), but the motion to cut Congress members’ salaries by 1 percent died for lack of a second. The members agreed that such a cut would make little difference in the overall budget since the salaries accounted for only one-tenth of 1 percent. “Hardly worth the bother,” the Congressmen agreed.
Before the next meeting, demonstrators blocked the doors to the committee room with John Deere Drawn Planters and Bushwacker Rotary Cutters, demanding no reductions in farm subsidies. “You’re trying to kill Mom and Pop farms,” said a lawyer for ConAgra. This was echoed by the lobbyists for Monsanto. The demonstrators left when the negotiators agreed to limit farm subsidies to 200 percent of the current amounts. “We’ve got to take a stand somewhere,” the GOPers said in a press statement. This was echoed by the Dems, who added, “If it weren’t for farm subsidies, Americans would be paying far less for food. What are we, some third world country? Besides, what goes on the table should be taken off the table. This includes elbows.”
While the negotiators were dealing with farms, they agreed that ethanol is vital to our national interest, and should continue to be heavily subsidized. Noted a senator from Iowa, “Some day someone will find a practical use for ethanol, and we must be ready. Besides, the ethanol subsidy is only two-tenths of 1 per cent of the budget.”
After Medicare was taken off the table, an aide pointed out only left 18 percent of the budget was left to cut. A Tea Partier asked, “We don’t really need meat inspectors, do we? Or air traffic controllers? And how often does anyone drive on interstates in North Dakota? I have a list here of other possible cuts. Let’s see. Have any of you actually been rescued at sea by the Coast Guard? We already have a navy. This is government redundancy at its worst.”
Foreign aid was on the table since polls show many Americans think that’s a good place to cut. But it was pointed out that if, say, aid to Poland was cut then all the Polish-Americans would be mad. Same for aid to Italy, Ireland and Israel. Soon all that was left was Greenland and Lichtenstein, which didn’t receive any foreign aid. It was suggested that the two start receiving foreign aid so it could be cut. All other foreign aid was off the table.
The cost-cutters returned to the military budget after one negotiator asked the Unknown Soldier, “What are you bringing to the table?” More suggestions were trotted out: several billion dollars could be saved by making the Pentagon a square. We have too many generals, whose numbers should be reduced, except for General Motors and General Electric, which are generous campaign donors. When it was noted that the military has more musicians than the State Department has diplomats, the budget-cutters were appalled at this discrepancy and voted to increase the number of diplomats. “Introduce coin-operated machineguns,” it was suggested. “We’ll just pay the troops in quarters.” One member questioned why the U.S. Surgeon General dresses like an admiral. All agreed it had something to do with don’t-ask, don’t-tell.
There was a move to cut Part D of Medicare which covers pills except for those who fall in the doughnut hole. The pharmaceutical lobbyists threatened to halt campaign donations, so everyone agreed to exempt doughnuts. An adviser from the Congressional Budget Office suggested abolishing Congress’s expense and travel accounts. The negotiators unanimously approved abolishing the Congressional Budget Office. A senior GOPer suggested, “We can cut the budget of the SEC to zero because, as we have seen, Wall Street can police itself. Same for HMOs. Also, I always thought keeping the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in those big glass cases was a bit ostentatious. And can we privatize the Smithsonian to Disney?”
The next gathering began with a Tea Partier asking, “Who’s going to chair this table?” A Dem brought up taxing the top 2 percent of income earners. Republican members banned him for life. Immigration came up for discussion. The negotiators agreed that illegal immigration is bad for the economy except when it involves nannies, gardeners, waiters and anyone who works cheaply but avoids going to school or to a hospital. A compromise was reached to tax the top 2 percent of illegal immigrants.
A Dem argued that this would still be only one-tenth of 1 percent. A GOPer shouted back, “Everything in the budget is only one-tenth of 1 percent. Canteens are only one-tenth of 1 percent. So are mops for VA hospitals, a secretary’s salary, Tom DeLay’s Congressional pension! It may be symbolic, but we’ve got to start somewhere, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. So everything’s on the table.”
A Tea Partier asked, “Do we really need this table?”

Ashby chairs at ashby2@comcast.net

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