A heavy knock on the door startled me as I sat at my desk the other night, wallowing through a lengthy problem set.
“Come in,” I yelled, and then returned to my work. When I noticed my visitors I nearly fell out of my seat. President Barack Obama stood in my doorway, flanked by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). In the hallway, standing on his tiptoes and looking like a turtle with big glasses was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“Mr. President!” I gasped. Behind me, I heard a tap on my window. There stood House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), jumping up and down, struggling to see inside. Boehner strode past me and pulled my curtains shut.
“Ignore Nancy,” he said. He reached into my fridge for a bottle of wine — by which, of course, I mean grape juice — and poured a generous amount into a glass that was definitely not stolen from Ross Dining Hall. He let out a deep sigh, full of longing for times past. “We’ve got a problem,” he said to me. A solitary tear ran down his orange cheek.
Obama scornfully handed Boehner a tissue. “What he means to say is that we need your help. We just can’t agree on this budget, and Harry here says you’re the one to fix it.”
“Well, I don’t know about that, sir…”
“So tomorrow, we are endowing you with the power to take whichever steps you deem necessary to fix this budget crisis. We all pledge to support whatever plan you come up with. Even Mitch agrees to support it.” Obama reached out to shake my hand. “Good luck, Zach.” He snapped his fingers and they all disappeared in a flash of red, white and blue light.
Once in charge of fixing the budget crisis, my first step was to repeal the Bush tax cuts, restoring $3.7 trillion of revenue to the government over the next 10 years. I decided that we would bring the war in Afghanistan to the quickest possible end and stop throwing money at contractors when American troops could do the job just as well. I increased the age at which the elderly could receive Social Security benefits from 65 to 70 — except for those who could qualify for hardship benefits — and decided to phase out payouts for wealthy retirees entirely. When that law was first passed, average life expectancy was 62. Now that it’s more like 78, this seems not only necessary but also fair.
With the more obvious adjustments taken care of, I moved on to look at the harder choices. I found a few billion dollars in the government’s discretionary spending fund, but that was only a tiny chunk of the federal budget so I moved on to defense spending — always the first target of a liberal looking for some budget savings — and started by canceling a lot of expensive weapons that were under development.
Then, in a copy of Time Magazine to which I subscribed purely for Joel Stein’s column, I saw an article about the deficit. One of the things about a recession is that government revenue dries up pretty quickly, exploding the size of the deficit. Because of the economic climate, current debt projections are based on an anemic 2.8 percent growth rate in our GDP. In February, however, the Federal Reserve predicted that the economy will grow at a rate of 3.9 percent in 2011. At that rate, the annual deficit should shrink from $1.4 trillion today to a measly $113 billion by 2021.
I grasped the solution that seems to have been missed by most of the media. Massive cuts such as the House Republican budget plan that would lead to the loss of 700,000 more jobs are totally unnecessary.
So, I restored most of the weapons programs, because making weapons is what we do best. Someone has to fill that role; and have you ever seen an F-35 or a Reaper drone? The awesomeness makes them well worth the money, and the military drives a lot of technological innovation that makes its way into the civilian world in ways most of us would not imagine. The same company makes bomb-defusing robots in Iraq and dust bunny-diffusing robots back home.
I did, however, tell the manufacturers that they needed to stop writing “made in the USA” on all the weapons we’d be selling to repressive regimes. (Quick: Are the former protestors in Egypt more or less likely to buy American because of an advertisement stamped on the tear gas canisters that bombarded them?)
I changed U.S. trade laws to prohibit the importation of products made with child labor or in sweatshops. Suddenly, our manufacturers had a fighting chance. Sure, prices at Wal-Mart went up a little. But for the first time in a generation, wages for the middle and working classes began to rise. On the strength of a revolution in green manufacturing jobs, our trade deficit shrank and GDP growth increased. We were pushing a 4.5 percent growth rate.
The deficit was vanishing into history and I wanted more, so we used our awesome military technology and annexed Canada for its resources. This caused a bit of an uproar in the Canadian press, but when we decided to adopt their healthcare system, they settled down and were actually pretty nice “aboot” the whole thing.