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The Truth, Mainly - 07/18/1995

New Wheeler Deal is a rerun

I need help, Professor Armey.

Itís this…uh, this really awful nightmare I keep having.

Before I tell you about it, let me say that golly, I want to stop thinking like a New Dealer and start thinking like a New Wheeler Dealer. I want to believe what you used to write on the board back when you were an econ prof at North Texas State:

ďThe market is rational and the government is dumb.Ē

I can see why your students ate it up. Itís fun to believe government is dumb when youíre 19. And now that youíre House Majority Leader, I can see why your House Majority eats it up: Congress has been run by New Dealers for so long that your New Wheeler Dealers forget theyíre the government now.

Iíd really like to be a True Believer in your rational market/dumb government gospel because I remember being in the U.S. Army and thinking how dumb that part of government was. And there are other parts I donít like. For example, I donít like it when DEA narcs break into the wrong houses and give innocent old guys heart attacks.

But I read that the New Wheeler Dealers want to spend a lot more on drug busts and on B-l bombers that not even the Pentagon wants, so I figure you must have something else in mind. Makes me uneasy.

Iíve been so brainwashed by the New Dealers, see, that I still remember my two stepuncles getting government jobs with the CCC when the market didnít have any work for them. I suppose theyíre still haunted by how they were used in those nefarious socialist experiments.

But—and hereís part of my problem, Prof. Armey—I donít see those CCC jobs as dumb. I think they were smart.

And when Ike and JFK and LBJ used government to open schools and public accommodations to all races, that didnít seem dumb either. And get this: I like PBS better than free-market TV. Iíd rather have Yellowstone owned by government than by private developers.

So I keep thinking that maybe sometimes the government is dumb and the market is rational, and sometimes, maybe itís the other way around.

I know thatís wishy-washy. Itís probably sacriligious. Itís clearly not up to date and New Wheeler Dealerish. But I canít seem to help myself.

Like last month when New Wheeler Dealers in the Senate kept the surgeon general nomination from coming to a vote and Sen. Trent Lott said we probably donít need a surgeon general anymore anyway.

You know what I rememered? I remembered a friend who got a bad sore throat when she was nine years old, so her mother made her smoke a Kools cigarette because the Kools ad said the menthol smoke was good for a sore throat or T-Zone or whatever they called it.

The Truth, Mainly


And you know what I thought? I thought well if we donít have a surgeon general then weíll get our information on the medicinal qualities of cigarettes from R. J. Reynolds.

Hereís how brainwashed I am: I thought uh oh. I thought look out.

And when I read about how the Japanese donít buy many American cars because our car companies wonít put the steering wheel where the Japanese want it, I just went into spiritual crisis.

How, I asked all a-tremble, can that be a rational market at work?

And when I hear that New Wheeler Dealers want to abolish the FAA and privatize air traffic control, and that pilots are worried that the free market will try to maximize profits and minimize costs so much that pilots and planes and passengers start running into each other way up in the air, I donít snort in derision the way I should.

I think of yet other ways to avoid getting on a plane.

And you know what I think of when New Wheeler Dealers say government should stop inspecting meat? I think of this book I read in an undergraduate English class—you probably didnít teach in your New Wheeler Dealer econ classes—called ďThe JungleĒ by Upton Sinclair.

He talks about all the ugly stuff they put in sausages back before the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. It makes the little dead frog someone found in a frozen Healthy Choice dinner last month seem like a healthy choice.

But the most sinful thought that goes through my mind, Prof. Armey, is that maybe the New Wheeler Dealers arenít much different from the Old Wheeler Dealers we had back in the Gilded Age of robber barons.

And that brings me to this awful dream I keep having. In it, the Invisible Hand of the Free Market is actually visible. Its fingers look like fat, gristly, hairy pre-1906 sausages wearing macho diamond rings.

And one of those fingers—how to be delicate here?—one of those fingers is raised. Straight up. The middle one.

I know itís a wicked and blasphemous dream and Iím deeply ashamed. But whatís it all mean, Dr. Armey? I need help.


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.


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