Wednesday, February 16, 2005

It’s a good thing the middle class in this country has a self-deprecating sense of humor, because these days it’s the butt of every joke in D.C. Despite the claims that Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 portrayed President Bush in an unflattering light, he actually showed the president as a very competent comic, admirably able to make his audience of wealthy patrons laugh. All the way to the bank. I especially liked the one about the haves and the have-mores. Har har har. A real knee-slapper.

My personal fave’s gotta be the one about deficit spending, better known as the “Lucky me, I hit the trifecta” joke, which Mr. Bush told over and over to appreciative laughter at Republican fund-raisers after September 11th. A “trifecta” is the big payoff you get at the races for picking three winners. What were Bush’s big three? Recession, war, and 9-11. Our Comedian-in-chief. Anything for a laugh.

But President Bush’s side-splitting budget is by far his biggest, most elaborately set-up joke to date. And it’s on us, in more ways than one. He started work on this one when he signed the slyly ironic Jobs and Growth Act back in 2003, ensuring the have-mores would have even more, while the rest of us foot the bill. These are heady days for our burgeoning class of kleptocrats: Congress has installed a vomitorium for those who can’t stop binging. And why should they?

This budget is even more boffo than the last. The Paris Hilton of American presidents has slashed already meager funding for local cops, taking half a billion from them and throwing it into his wacky manned mission to Mars. He’s working on some totally awesome sketches for a way cool escape pod, that he’s axing food stamps to pay for. He’s also axed 48 Department of Education projects, hacking away at preschool literacy programs. The Environmental Protection Agency’s wastewater treatment programs for poor communities has been gutted. And the National Park System budget seems to have dried up, too. But who needs parks when you’ve got that big ol’ ranch in Crawford? With all the brush you could ever want to clear.

On the bright side, there’s another $81 billion for the war, and untold billions next year, and for who knows how many more years thereafter. But a funny thing happened on the way to Iraq. Somehow, according to an official US audit last month, over $9 billion bucks went missing there under Paul Bremer. $9 billion. Poof, just like that. Bremer, an obvious jokester himself, shrugged off the audit, saying it’s unfair to expect proper accounting practices at a time of unrest in Iraq. I mean, it’s like asking the libertine to remember the names of everyone at the orgy.

As for his own $2.57 trillion orgy, with its huge hidden costs, Mr. Bush, typically tongue-in-cheek, has called it “lean” and “disciplined”. Clowns in Congress have called it “principled, fair and restrained”. Some of the funniest lines since “let them eat cake.”


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