After The Bailout

I was sharpening my chain saw when they called me from Washington, D.C., to ask me how to fix the economy.

This request focused my thoughts, or the lack of 'em, to such a fine point, I gave my 14-inch Echo an edge it never had. Good enough for cutting half a cord at least, to keep the wood stove going through October. I love not paying the oil company a nickel. Except for the half-gallon of gas and the chain oil, but I'm fixin' to make the thing run on plum brandy. I've got a plum tree.

Ah, where were we? The economy, yes: $700 billion is more than enough money to buy every able-bodied American a chain saw, a solar-powered generator and a stake in a communal well and windmill. Also, red dirt and plum trees. That would probably only cost about $100 billion, and you can use the other $600 billion to buy everybody their house outright.

Now everybody can own their house and be green and self-sufficient, and can go back to whatever they were doing before the world ended: watching TV. Except for me. I was sharpening my chain saw.

So I go back to it, and I see a line of refugees coming up the road to move in with me. Oh my God, it's the '70s again. All my deadbeat friends — dead and alive — are being chased out of their homes and heaven for not owing any money. They are debt-free in a world that can't exist without interest rates. The dead are especially egregious in this regard; you can't squeeze even an extra penny out of them.

Oh, no, now that they are getting closer, I don't even think it's people from the '70s: It's people ... from the future!

It's worse than I thought: These are people independent from foreign oil, carrying solar-powered chain saws, full of American ingenuity. After the bailout, they owned their own homes, they didn't pay into a corporate energy grid, and they didn't worry about food because they grew it on the roof. They didn't drive, because they didn't have any jobs to drive to, and every garage in America was the site of an invention that was so darn beneficial nobody needed anything from the store.

Without worries about money, without a job, and with extra space in the garage to grow food and invent, these people forgot about the stock market, stopped borrowing money, even forgot how to shop — in short they stopped being American. These un-Americans got their exercise raking the compost instead of circling the mall; they home-schooled their children and were never again embarrassed that their kids knew more than they did. Heck, they were in heaven, the place where the pursuit of happiness leads to when you stop pursuing it.

Such self-sufficiency made the economy grind to a halt, so the government had to do something again: They called in the Army to chase everyone out of their self-contained greenhouses.

And now they are coming up the road to my place because I'm a poet, and I live in a compound defended by polygamist haikus.

"What did you do wrong?" I asked the first of the refugees to get over the palisades.

"Nothing," he said. "We just got out of debt and stopped watching TV! So the urge to buy things on credit disappeared. So they sent in the troops. First thing they did was to put a 40-inch plasma TV in every room and fixed it just so we couldn't turn it off. Just like in Orwell, only with much sharper images. They are calling this the Second Bailout, or the Bail Back In."

"At least the Second Amendment is safe," I said. "Nobody took away your guns, and the Founding Fathers didn't say anything about TV."

And with that, my chief haiku welcomed them thus:

make yourselves at home

you won't be bailed in or out again

you're safe in Second Life

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