"That is not it at all," the president said, accidentally quoting
T.S. Eliot. "That is not what I meant, at all."
He was talking to himself againas he had often done in the years
following the 2005 abolition of all taxes. It had
started the year before with what the president called a "little bitty" tax
cut of more than $300 billion on stock dividends. His approval ratings
soared, and in the heat of his 2004 campaign, he promised to abolish taxes
teetotallyand thereby won a second term.
The president was talking to himself now in 2007 because there
was no one else to talk to, all his staff and cabinet having resigned
when the government went bankrupt and no one would cash their paychecks.
The president heroically stayed on without salary.
What had happened, of course, was that Corporate America grew
surly when the government couldn't continue paying tax rebates, so the CEOs
foreclosed on the mortgages they held on federal property.
Thus the president's office was no longer in the White House. The
West Wing was now occupied by Halliburton, the East Wing by Enron
Resurrected. And losing the Oval Officenow the CEO suite of Bechtel
Corp.was what the president was talking about when he accidentally
quoted T.S. Eliot.
Losing his office was not it at all. That was not what he meant, at
The president had just wanted to get government off his back.
And now his office and residence were the opposite ends of the main
reading room of the Library of Congress, the only federal building that
Corporate America allowed the government to keep. And the Library of
Congress was driving the president crazy. Nothing there but 18 million
It drove him crazy enough that he considered calling out the Marines to
get his Oval Office back, but the Marines were now owned by Victoria's
The Army was now the possession of the National Rifle Association and
the Navy and Coast Guard belonged to Evinrude.
There was no longer an Air Force, all the planes (including Air Force
One) having been disabled by crash landings brought on when customers pushed
the wrong buttons in the rentals from Whee-Fly-Supersonics, Inc.
The president's father had warned him about voodoo economics, but
what did his father know? He was one of those economic geezers like:
Alan Greenspan who told Congress back in 2003 that the tax cut on
stock dividends wasn't needed to jumpstart the economy, and that reducing
taxes without reducing spending would be economically ruinous.
Warren Buffett who claimed the tax cut was unfair because only the
rich would get the cuts because only the rich get stock dividends.
The Concord Coalition, a group so out of it that they said the tax cut
would mean "an insupportable tax burden for the new generation."
But the president had more immediate worries now: police and fire
stations across the nation were empty; Medicare, Medicaid, and Social
Security were gone; and the Interstate Highway System now belonged to
The Truth, Mainly
The I-80 toll from Omaha to the Wyoming line was $450, red-light
And worst of all, the public schools had closed.
The president had long talks with Laura about it before they fell
asleep on their army cots in the Library of Congress. Laura was ecstatic about
waking up each morning surrounded by 18 million books, even though she
would have preferred not having to share the rest rooms with library
And as a public school product herself, Laura was pleased to respond to
the member of the Texas legislature who back in 2003 had asked, "Where
does this idea come from that everybody deserves free education. . .? It
comes from Moscow. From Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of
So Laura looked up the letter Thomas Jefferson had written to John
Adams in 1813 about free education. It said that the U.S. should "establish in
each ward a free school for reading, writing, and common arithmetic," the
graduates of which should then "receive, at the public expense, a higher
degree of education," and thereby become "completely prepared by education
for defeating the competition of wealth and birth for public trusts."
She showed the president the letter and explained what it meant.
"Government is supposed to help the poor at the expense of the rich?"
the president said. "I thought it was the other way around. How do we do
"Taxes," she said. "Putting the government on the back of free
enterprise. Enough taxes and we'll get this country running again. As a
judge said back in 1904, 'taxes are what we pay for civilized society.'"
"Are you sure that we're not supposed to help the rich at the
expense of the poor?" the president asked.
At which point, the collected works of Thomas Jefferson fell from a
shelf and bonked the president on the head, breaking the skin enough to draw a
"That," the president said, accidentally quoting Shakespeare, "is the
most unkindest cut of all."
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail