Dear Aunt Sophie,
I thrive on stress but this is way beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. And what’s more I have to maintain a cool exterior. (Remember what used to happen every time Greenspan sneezed?)
I just became Secretary of the Treasury. Everybody says I’m uniquely qualified to turn things around and I’m sure they’re right - I can’t think of anybody else like me. I’ve always loved big jobs in finance. I like the excitement. When I wake up in the morning it takes a crisis to tell me I didn’t die during the night. But this? How in hell am I supposed to – I mean what button do I push? And now they say we’re going to cut the deficit in half before the next election!
OK, I’ll take a deep breath. The economy needs stimulus. Viagra. Cialis. Money. Whatever. It can’t be that complicated. It might even be easy. Everything in my life has prepared me for this moment. I can do this. I think I should go listen to my tapes for a few minutes.
OK. I can do this. But only if everyone trusts me. You may have heard something about my relationship with the IRS but believe me it’s not a big deal. As I said before, I like living on the edge. The knowledge that I could be audited and owe a big chunk of change just puts the jalapeños in my omelet. Actually, it was funny in an ironic sort of way - right as I was nominated this thing came up. I didn’t want it to queer (can I still say that?) the deal, so I paid up, although the more I think about it the more I suspect it wouldn’t have mattered.
Maybe you can explain why somebody like me is expected to care about such minutiae. It’s one thing if you don’t have anything important to do - I’ll bet your taxes are in perfect order - but for those of us with meaningful lives it’s impossible to keep up with this stuff. Besides, my accountant should have caught it even if Turbo Tax didn’t.
Anyway, none of that matters now. I’m your Treasury Secretary and I’m here to help. I’m going to fix this economy.
Did I really say that? I think I’m going to throw up. Help!
Sit up. Something about the fetal position discourages critical thinking.
Our economy may be gigantic but that doesn’t mean the problem is. Let’s look at it calmly. Where does money come from? Banks (just ask Willie Sutton). And where do banks get their money? From people. But some people don’t like to share. They put their money into banks with the understanding that it won’t be lent to anyone who can’t pay it back.
And believe it or not that’s exactly how the bankers were behaving until the government persuaded them to lend to everyone who applied, especially to people who wouldn’t be caught dead repaying a loan. (In fact, these borrowers were forced to sign confidential agreements promising never to pay back. No one has ever seen them – that’s how confidential they are – but they exist. Trust me.)
The system was working perfectly until people began honoring their non-payment agreements. At that point Fannie Mae, Home Edition moved into prime time. The economy tanked, which is how you came to be in that phone booth changing into the blue suit with the big red S on the front.
Of course only government can fix this crisis. Only the government can take money that people were going to spend on their kids’ braces and hand it over to contractual deadbeats. And only the government can cut the deficit in half by doubling it.
As for your taxes, why should anyone care whether or not the Secretary of the Treasury ponies up? It’s not as if you were the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman.
People will cheerfully excuse your lapse of patriotism as they struggle to pay off their neighbor’s mortgages. In fact, if you put it to them the right way, I’ll bet you can get them to pay your taxes, too.
Good luck and God bless.