Vice President Joe Biden is notorious for his perpetual gaffes. But his declaration on July 16: “We have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt” as reported by CNSNews.com and others, was no gaffe. Instead, possibly Biden was trying to amuse his audience at an AARP town hall meeting. Its possible intent: to engage in one of our nation’s sacred goals—the pursuit of happiness.
Biden may believe, as do other officials, that the government itself must be a happy place where humor is spread around, just as President Obama wants to do with wealth. Obama made his intent plain to Joe the Plumber during the election campaign.
One federal agency, took direct action to bring levity into government. The agency is part of the Department of Treasury. As if there wasn’t plenty of hilarity in the operations of the Internal Revenue Service. And most Americans are still grinning—or is it grimacing--knowing the Treasury is led by a man who had such trouble paying his own overdue taxes.
The Treasury’s Bureau of the Public Debt (BPD) formally solicited humor proposals from “qualified contractors with the capability to provide presentations” to management meetings at the Public Debt Bureau. The solicitation stated:
“The contractor shall conduct two, 3-hour Humor in the Workplace programs that will discuss the power of humor in the workplace, the close relationship between humor and stress.... (Stress may well top humor, knowing that the national debt as of July 18 had reached $11.6 trillion, not counting Medicare and Social Security Trust Funds and proposed bailouts).
“Participants,” the Bureau’s solicitation continued, “shall experience demonstrations of cartoons being created on the spot. The contractor shall have the ability to create cartoons on the spot about BPD jobs. The presenter shall refrain from using any foul language during the presentation, (Well, that eliminates most show biz comedians.) “This is a business environment....”it stated piously.
Responses were called for by , July 9.
“Upon completion of the course, participants shall be able to:
-Understand the importance and power of humor in the workplace in a responsible manner
-How to use talents in a creative way that adds humor to everyday experiences
-Alleviate stress in home and the office
-Know how and why humor is important to communication
-Improve workplace relationships
“Please provide the following information if you have performed similar presentation services:
Then the solicitation asks for “a brief capabilities statement (not to exceed 5 pages)...a list of customers your company has recently (within the past 3 years) provided these or similar services for...
“Interested offerors may register at http://www.fedbizopps.gov (a website for government contracting) to receive notification when the solicitation and any amendments are issued and available for downloading....Responses to this request can be emailed to psb2bpd.treas.gov-Attention Angie Zoller.
But on July 17, the solicitation was abruptly terminated stating it “no longer has a need for this requirement.”
While Joe Biden may believe the government needs to spend more money, the amount of our national debt owed to foreigners has doubled since 2000, according to an article from the Trumpet.com. China holds more than $300 billion worth of U.S. Treasuries, compared with $60 billion it owned at the end of 2000. While China is seen by many as the largest lender to the U.S., Japan owns more than $600 billion worth of U.S. Treasuries. We have also borrowed heavily from nations that hate us, such as Venezuela and Iran. So more and more of our creditors are not our friends. This is certainly no laughing matter.
Commenting on the holders of U.S. debt, Frederick Kempe wrote in the Wall Street Journal “The more closely economists study that data, the more they worry,” especially over our “decrease[d] influence over...the world’s largest market, the $2 trillion in foreign exchange that changes hands daily. The dollar forex market can increasingly be shifted by decisions that foreign governments make about selling dollar assets. What’s also at stake is leverage on matters as diverse as U.S. home mortgage rates and America’s global political clout.”
Let’s not forget what happened in 1997 when then Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto wondered out loud what would happened to the U.S. economy if Japan began to sell some of its $300 billion (at that time) in U.S. Treasuries. In the wake of Hashimoto’s remarks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hurtled downward by the largest amount (at that time) since the 1987 crash. Hashimoto aides quickly made amends.
What if our debtor enemies wanted to sway U.S. global policy? Even if China, say, reduces its purchases of our Treasuries, we would have difficulties. Chinese leaders have bragged that “Beijing is holding a dagger to Washington’s throat,” according to the Trumpet.com article.
Our staggering debt is endangering our country. As the Trumpet article also reported, Edwin Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Affairs, who directed the Federal Reserve’s Division of International Finance for 20 years, has said there is a 10 to 15 percent probability of a “catastrophic collapse of the financial system” on the scale of the Great Depression or worse.
The Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Public Debt may have believed that humor was good for the soul, but it probably can’t reduce our national debt any more than by spending “more money to keep us from bankruptcy” as Joe Biden advised.
The Bureau, at my request for an explanation, issued a statement that its procurement request “seeking a training consultant to aid managers has been cancelled”....It “did not represent an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars, and we regret the early steps taken on this effort.”
Maybe if the country’s policies are deliberately funny enough, we won’t even need Obama health care. After all, laughter is the best medicine.