AS BUDGET CUTS LOOMED, ONE AGENCY TRIED TO SURVIVE
When the global economic crisis began, most average Americans had difficulty comprehending the numbers being tossed around like so much ticker tape. In our day to day lives, we find it hard to make sense of the fact that, as a nation, we could be (according to the Office of Management and Budget) 1.3 kajillion dollars in debt.
Listen to Dorothy, a waitress at the Bacon N’ Lard in Ottumwa, Iowa:
“Look, if me and Ernie miss one payment on our Discover card, we get all sorts of phone calls and letters letting us know, you know, that we owe some money. How could the government get over a kajillion dollars behind? How could they keep spending when they weren’t making enough money? Where did all the money go? Do you want to see a couple of menus?”
These are the questions which prompted a three month investigation, involving both Google and Wikipedia, into the inner workings of the American economy. What we found was astonishing.
One nondescript building in Northern Virginia, hardly visible frome the street, houses an agency which was formed in the heady days after World War II, when the American economy was a global behemoth. The agency, which prior to this investigation had been shrouded in mystery, has apparently had an unlimited budget under every administration since Truman. The agency is officially known as the Council for Wasteful Spending, but as with all government agencies, this name obscures the Council’s true mission.
It was apparent at the main security desk that this was not a typical government office. The concierge led me to my meeting with the head of the CWS, where we were to have a no-holds-barred interview regarding his agency’s purpose, as we try to find the root cause of the country’s financial meltdown. What follows is a transcript of the meeting between our reporter and the head of the CWS:
CWS Guy: Come in. Would you like a menu?
Reporter: Uh…no thanks.
CWS: Some caviar? Chilean Sea Bass crudite? Maybe a muffin? Seriously, we’re just gonna toss all this when the interview is over.
Rep: Fine–I’ll have a muffin. First, why don’t you tell me about the Council on Wasteful Spending. When it was founded, your mission…
CWS: Gladly. Well, this agency was founded initially (grabs a solid gold plaque off the wall behind him and reads inscription) “to find ridiculous ways to spend taxpayer dollars in these heady times after World War II”. What we do essentially, is try to come up with projects the cost of which far outweighs any possible benefits.
Rep: So the actual purpose of this agency is to waste taxpayers’ money?
CWS: That’s right.
Rep: …but…ok…um…you see the thing is…it’s just–the economy is in probably its worst shape since the Great Depression. How can you reconcile your agency’s mission with the fact that the United States is in the midst of a potentially devastating crisis?
CWS: Well that’s the beauty part. We don’t have to–what was your word?–reconcile anything. We just have to keep spending the money–(phone rings) hold on I need to take this…”yeah, bring it to the loading dock like usual”…sorry, one of our delivery trucks.
Rep: What kind of shipment are you getting?
CWS: Oh, it’s a couple pallettes of money. New driver I guess. Anyway, why don’t I tell you about some of our current projects so you can better understand what we do here.
CWS: (hands folder to reporter) This is something we’ve been working on for several years. Our scientists are attempting to…oh what’s the techical term…transmute–that’s it–transmute lead into gold. So we would be able to take piles of lead and, if our theories are correct, turn those into piles of gold.
Rep: This used to be called alchemy. In the Middle Ages. And it was proven impossible.
CWS: Just open the folder.
Rep: There’s nothing in here.
CWS: That’s right–because so far, we have not been able to accomplish the goal. The alchemy thing. But, we were able to spend over $800,000 last year alone to show that we couldn’t do it. Now here’s another project we’re very excited about. Remember as a child learning that dolphins are highly intelligent and can actually communicate with each other in a complex language? Well we have established an underground oceanographic institute here–filled with 100 million gallons of actual ocean water–to try to decode the dolphin’s secret language.
CWS: Not much at this point. The only things we’ve been able to translate so far are the phrases “let’s swim over there for a while” and “I think I’ll jump out of the water for a second”, but we just were approved for more funding, so who knows.
Rep: It seems like you’re just throwing money away here.
CWS: Oh we do that too–fiscal year 1987–we actually couldn’t spend all of our funding and had to throw out 2.5 million dollars.
Rep: So you have no qualms about taking the money of hard-working Americans and just…wasting it?
CWS: It’s what we do. Besides, it’s not like this country was gonna use that money for anything truly important. Universal health care? C’mon that’s been a non-starter for years–what are we, Scandinavia? A free and competetive public school system where teachers are compensated with high wages? Please! Infrastructure upgrades to create high-speed rail networks? Oh yeah, conservatives in Nebraska will be all over that. Nah, we’re better off spending our money on projects that we know won’t go anywhere. Like this new kind of gun with a special sensor that allows you to shoot only endangered species.
Rep: Well–thank you for your time.
CWS: No problem. All in the interest of transparency. Sure you don’t want take a couple of muffins with you?