The budget negotiations – We’ve seen this movie before

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We are about to enter week three of the shutdown in which despite the name 87% of the federal government is in operation as “indispensable’. Payments to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for close to half a billion dollars and to a supplier of mechanical bulls for $40,000 were made and the spectacle of World War II veterans in their late 80’s and 90’s being turned away at the World War Two Memorial made Fox News but few other networks.

The president has hunkered down at 1600 Pennsylvania to emerge occasionally to state the he will be happy to negotiate as long as Congress gives him 100% of what he has demanded.

This movie is getting old quickly, though. We have seen it before. In 2011, when there was a dire prediction of disaster, Bob Woodward was the fly on the wall as the President careened towards disaster.

Members of Congress from both sides described the President as arrogant and incompetent in “The Price of Politics”. As one political blog called it at the time, “The Price of Politics is a stark recollection of the collapse of cooperation in government during Barack Obama’s first — and potentially only — presidential term from the inside out.”

The president survived that debacle and was re-elected only to have his administration riven with scandal after scandal. I am sure there are many in the Administration deeply grateful that Fast & Furious, the IRS Scandal, the DoJ/AP Scandal, and the Benghazi Scandal have been driven off of the front pages.

The shut down is a Godsend to Obama. He can remain intransigent and claim to hold the high ground on Obamacare and demonize the Republicans and the Tea Party all the while staving off accountability for his ever-growing record of incompetence, extralegal activities, and malice.

Woodward was very instructive. The President’s arrogance was legend, whether it was one day after promising shortly after his election telling House Minority Whip Eric Cantor “Elections have consequences, and I won”  the day after pledging a bipartisan administration or as The New Republic describes:

“The most vivid scene takes place in February of 2009, as Congress is laboring to ward off an economic collapse. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker, is hunkered down in her office with Harry Reid, her Senate counterpart, to negotiate a stimulus bill that can pass both chambers. This is no easy task. The bill must be modest enough to survive a Republican filibuster, but ambitious enough to satisfy Pelosi’s liberal caucus. But, then, these are veteran legislators—born deal-makers at that. They get to work with all the seriousness you’d expect.

At which point the president calls in via speaker phone and starts droning on about “unity of action” and “unity of purpose” (Woodward’s paraphrasing). It’s the kind of blather that can wow a stadium full of college students but means nothing in the power corridors of Washington. Pelosi and Reid thank the president coldly, and yet he doesn’t take the hint. Finally, Pelosi reaches over and hits the mute button. “They could hear Obama, but now he couldn’t hear them,” Woodward writes. “The president continued speaking, his disembodied voice filling the room, and the two leaders got back to the hard numbers.”

Very harsh indeed. The President’s frosty relations with both sides of the aisle are well documented. And today it is doubtful we will have a Boswell like Woodward to document the process. After the publication of his book he was vilified and attacked by the President’s minions. I don’t think he has been allowed back in on this one.

The White House staff have repeatedly been described as an unruly, callow political machine akin to a herd of cats. And now that the “A” listers in the administration have left the building, the cats are a tad more out of their league and unruly. Obama has always been a more successful campaigner than president and governs accordingly.

And yet the vitriol has been directed overwhelmingly against the opposition with the assistance of a supine media that simply takes the president’s dictation. The President’s press conference the other day was an especially low point where no questions that might discomfit a most vulnerable president were asked. Perhaps, like Cristina Kirchner, he is allocating newsprint. Or perhaps the media are simply fellow travelers.

The stories of the incompetence of the Obama Administration during the 2011 budget negotiations are legend. The Republicans have their own share of the burden to bear. It always takes two sides to negotiate.

From Woodward’s description it was wrestlemania with actors jumping in and out of the ring and the Sequester as the primary product. A sequester suggested by the President and never intended to have been executed. It was a stop-gap intended to allow more time for real structural improvements. And here we are at the cliff again.

But today the stakes are even higher. The Sequester has had barely any effect on our economy. Today we face a shutdown of which the primary images are of National Parks and Monuments closed to spite the public.

The debt ceiling is once again the central flash point. The President has refused to address our out of control debt nor his health care fiasco. Every day that now goes by without an agreement is squarely on his shoulders. In the meantime I expect the President to revert to the same “No Pasaran” tactics he has used time and again.

We have seen the movie before, but like many Hollywood movies these days, there alternative endings on the Director’s Cut DVD,. In this case almost none of them good for the American People.

 

 

The Administration of Diminished Expectations

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When Barack Obama was elected he campaigned on the message of hope. Today we live in an era of hopelessness for the first time in our country’s history. Unemployment and underemployment are at all time highs. Many have simply left the work force.

Our national reputation is in tatters. Our energy policy is insane. Our national debt is twice what it was just 6 years ago and now our Senate leaders want to remove any cap or control of  it. We are on the path of fiscal insanity. Our Treasury issues debt and the Fed buys it and the primary reason that the economy has recovered to the minimal extent that is the unceasing pumping of more and more debased money into the global financial system. The markets expectations of a cessation of QE is global disaster.

Our education system continues its accelerated deterioration. Race relations are at their lowest level since the early 1960’s.

And all the while, our President and his Administration have sought to avoid blame and manage expectations lower and lower and lower. This is the same Administration that has accrued more power to itself than any since Nixon’s Imperial Presidency. In fact, the new push to eliminate the debt ceiling would disembowel Congress’ power of the purse strings and with that what little power Congress seems to have retained.

He has left the global economic field to the Chinese, who are exercising soft power around the globe, and to the Russians, who have taken great joy in opposing our government in every way possible and rubbing our noses in it.

On the environment he has allowed the EPA to arrogate ever more power in its Luddite policies against conventional energy. The price of gasoline has doubled from the $1.80/gallon level to $4.00/gallon and this suits our president just fine. he has obstructed coal and oil and nuclear power and even natural gas, the cleanest option.

The president’s primary contribution seems to be leading from behind. Whether it is his Shakespearean inner conflicts on the Surge in Afghanistan or his verbal gymnastics on Syria or his lies and silence on Benghazi and the IRS scandal and the NSA scandal.

The “most transparent” administration in history is the most opaque. And as the president arrogates power, he has also instituted internal witch hunts and assaults on the press which resemble Stalinist Russia more that the world’s leading democracy.

His signature health care policy is being shown to be a disaster every day it continues. Access to care will be diminished at ever higher costs.

And yet the president seems to wear a Teflon cloak and goes unchallenged. We are at a schwerpunkt, as the Germans call it; a crisis, and the president is sitting utterly idle within the White House with nothing at all on his schedule. Don’t you consider this tolerable strange?

The propaganda machine blames the Tea Party as if it was a mass movement of Luddite nihilists and yet when facing one of our greatest crises there is little balance, or even proper analysis of the root causes of the problems at hand. Such is a world of diminished expectations.

Promise them little and then underdeliver is the order of the day.

Obamacare, Death Panels and the end of life

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A friend of mine posted a very thoughtful article on end of life care written from a physician’s reflections upon his own demise. Doctors know the odds and some of them sometimes choose to forego further treatment and make their peace.

In the case of many diseases the probability of remission is poor. And as we approach the implementation of Obamacare, one of the key takeaways is that many of us will no longer receive the level of care that we had under our old policies.

We are seeing corporations limiting coverage and limiting working hours in a desperate drive to reduce exploding insurance costs. Already, the insurance companies battle every step of the way in approving many treatments. This is done in the name of cost management.

Now the government is stepping in adding another layer of cost and more roadblocks between patient and doctor. As a part of Obamacare, the Independent Payment Advisory Board is being formed to control costs. In the UK, the Liverpool Care Pathway has caused an uproar with the abuse of its principles by doctors and bureaucrats. Worse, the British bureaucracy has a direct function in approving and denying specific treatment.If a patient is determined to not deserve a certain treatment, it is not performed, resulting in death in many, many cases. It is not isolated and it a part of the system. There is extensive evidence.

And this is what is now being implemented here. Both Howard Dean and Paul Krugman have fessed up to this reality. Costs are out of control and growing exponentially. People are living longer. The technology to help resist disease and prolong life has grown immeasurably, along with costs.

And within all of these arguments and issues, the relationship between the patient, their doctor, and with the Great Beyond has become lost in the shuffle.

In the end the decisions must be between patient and doctor; not between patient and bureaucrat.

I had two friends who were told they had pancreatic cancer within a year or so of each other. Peter used every tool in the toolbox to fight back. He had radical surgery and highly aggressive treatment. He came back to work eventually, but 18 months later he was dead. He had bought himself two years and lived those years well knowing the eventual outcome.

Not too long thereafter I found out my friend Paul also had contracted pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed in August and by mid-October he was dead. He had made his peace with God and chose palliative care and the first his friends knew of his condition was when we received a call or an e mail inviting us to the funeral.

Each of them chose their path as they saw fit. each of them were faced with difficult and life threatening choices. They made these decisions without bureaucratic intervention.

These are the most personal and agonizing of choices. And sometimes the patient is unable to choose as when they are on life support and unconscious.

In “The Ends of Human Life” Ezekiel Emanuel examines medical ethics on a spreadsheet and posits communitarian examination of the issues and the just distribution of medical resources. He discusses the politics and the justice of medical care. But he does not discuss how to frame the discussion that matters the most in the end. The ethical discussion. The discussion of choices to be made. As with the NHS and Obamacare, the assumption is the rationing of resources by the state.

The governmental medical bureaucracy has grown from the implementation of Medicare in 1965 to a behemoth today. Include programs such as the military TriCare program and the Veteran’s Administration hospitals and state programs and one can readily agree that there is already a massive public sector bureaucracy in place. This will be layered over by more indirect costs from the new bureaucracy being built. And the patients will get even more lost in the system.

How is this beneficial to our society and to the individual?

Today’s health care system is driven by spreadsheets and first, second and third tier case management. How does this deliver the best care at the lowest unit cost?

End of life care is expensive. CBS News stated that care in the last 2 months of life in 2010 cost the nation $50 Billion. The total size of the Medicare budget alone for 2012 is estimated at $536 Billion. Medical spending was estimated by the UN at 17.9% of the GDP of the United States in 2011; $2.8 trillion. So why are we having this conversation in the first place?

There are many problems to discuss about health care management. But government intervention in end of life care is not one of them. The issues are bureaucratic and administrative and there are many, many fingers in the pie. The other issue is control. Holding Grandma hostage is a powerful weapon. Statists like control. Single payer health care has been the stated goal of the left-wing of the Democratic Party for the past 50 years.

The conversation is really about control. And when doctors start talking in spreadsheets and when bureaucrats in both the public and private sector have financial stakes in the game and the decisions are made by corrupt and venal politicians who do not live by the same rules, it is wise and prudent to be very, very skeptical.

 

 

 

The Death of Old Media?

There have been some major headlines in the past week that have largely been ignored for their meaning by the same denizens of the world they live in. Newsweek has been killed off. The Boston Globe, which was purchased for $1.1 Billion, was sold off for $70 Million by the New York Times, a staggering 93% loss. And just a short while ago it was announced that Jeff Bezos is buying the Washington Post’s primary newspaper operations for $250 Million in cash.

It is deeply ironic that the Times chose to run a crocodile tears article about Newsweek this morning. But then, the problems and cluelessness at the Times have been evident for many years.

In visual media, CBS and Time Warner Cable are at daggers points over programming fees, the ones that continue to inflate your cable bill as viewers seek refuge with Netflix, Roku and other alternatives.

Tina Brown, the publisher of Daily Beast/Newsweek said “It doesn’t matter how talented you are right now. You used to be judged by your performance, but now it doesn’t matter what you do,” she said. “It is quite a business.”

Except that in each case these media empires have run themselves into the ground. The first step was in alienating huge swathes of the demographic base. A merchant, whether of news or other products, must appeal to the most profitable audience it can in order to survive. In the case of the newspapers the alienation was political in nature.

The newspapers and magazines simply stopped caring about presenting objective news. Their political views seeped from the editorial pages to the hard news sections. It is hard to recover when almost 50% of your potential audience will not purchase your product.

The networks face the problem of poor content and poor return on investment. There are a very few winners but with hundreds of channels, most of those networks are scraping by. And with each of them adding a surcharge onto the customer’s bill, the wheat must eventually be separated from the chaff.

Hollywood is crying the blues as well. Spielberg, Lucas and Clooney decry what Hollywood has become and yet their entire careers have been made on big money productions including some very expensive vanity projects. Salaries for the top talent are still in the $20 Million per picture range but somehow it is the financiers fault.

In a way, the same trends in defining downward we see in industry and commerce we are now seeing in the media. Inferior product is driven by inferior thinking and especially in today’s groupthink bubble, there is a crisis not only of content, but of rational thought.

In the case of each of these media meltdowns the old adage has been reversed. Failure has many fathers and mothers.

California’s invisible 35% tax increase

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Last October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1234, the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program. This has been hailed by progressives as a solution for those workers in the state without retirement savings or programs to provide for their income as they grow older. It forces them to contribute 3% of their income into a state managed retirement program.

With Social Security on the brink of failure by 2030 and incomes increasingly challenged by the part-time job phenomenon it is challenge enough for California’s workers to plan for retirement. With exorbitant energy taxes, a carbon tax and recent tax hikes falling most heavily on the poor, the state has grown ever less competitive as it has grown ever more expensive to live in.

But with the Democrats holding a supermajority in both houses of the legislature they can do anything they please.

The state has arrogated a power unto itself that didn’t exist without consultation or input from the public. And all of this has occurred largely under the radar screen. The newspapers and media have been silent.

The devil is in the details and the details of SB 1234 are vague. How the program is managed, safeguards, etc are all to be worked out later on. But California already has a history of mismanaged pension plans to reflect upon. How will this huge pool of money be different?

The state has been pilfering its existing pension plans to plug the gaps. It has raided gasoline taxes and highway funds. What makes it different this time?

California has the highest gas tax in the country at $0.72/gallon, which just went up 3.5 cents on July 1.With a 9.3% income tax rate that kicks in at $48,029 and a base sales tax of 7.5% rising as high as 10% in some cities and counties. The middle class has become an illusion.

The new retirement program will cost an additional 35% to the income withheld from low wage worker’s wages and will be managed by the same people who have gotten the state into a mess in the first place.

The money grab by government in California has been done by stealth and subterfuge. The state has unsustainable pension obligations for its public worker’s. The unspoken agenda is that the unions and their cronies come first and the rest of us be damned.

 

Obama’s Middle Finger to America

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Obama FingerSince when has an Administration given the finger to virtually the entire American People?  And since when has there been an almost complete silence on the issue by the media?

The President badly misjudged  the effects of Sequestration on the American political landscape. The first few weeks had been a non-event despite the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth by everyone from the President himself to the Cabinet to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

So now the President has ratcheted the game up, Chicago-style.

The Sequester represents a 2% cost reduction from the increased budget for this year and the next 10 years. This year’s portion is approximately $85 Billion (2%) from a budget of $3.8 trillion, 40% of which is being borrowed. In most families and companies, this would mean a few less nights out for pizza or movies. To the Federal government under President Obama, it means war.

Consider the following:

White House tours cancelled. White House parties continue.

Aircraft carrier deployment cancelled. Military exercise with Morocco cancelled. Air shows cancelled. Worthless programs continue.

Government threatens the most vulnerable; education, HIV patients, Meals on Wheels; HeadStart

. Government threatens closure of  national parks.

Government orchestrates air traffic control slowdown.

In other words, the leadership in government wants you to feel the pain while they continue to spend beyond all reason.

When he was selling Obamacare to the American people, the President said that he had identified $65 Billion in waste and fraud in the Medicare program that would offset higher costs for wider coverage. Not a thing has been done about that fraud since. Even some reform would have mitigated the cuts.

The Federal government has added hundreds of thousands of additional jobs, year after year until it has become a bureaucracy more bloated that any in the world. Federal unions have some of the most generous pension plans and benefits in the country as well. Taking care of your special interests is vital to crony capitalists. Think of the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on green energy projects.In a time of lean, one must consider anything that is peripheral to the common good, but not this government. Not now.

And when one tries to discuss greater efficiency or common sense solutions, the reply is crickets. They don’t want the problems solved.

Our government has never set out to oppress its own people until now. Now, we are all pawns in the President’s battle to assert his will. Never before has a President been so arrogant as to do so. He is directly confronting us with his power and daring us to respond.

And to date no one has directly responded.

This is clearly the president’s crisis. He was the one who recommended and campaigned for sequestration in the first place and now he is reaping what he has sown. And in his vindictiveness he is giving the finger to all of us.

 

The President’s New Policy – A Fable of the Modern Age

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Gather round, children, and I will tell you the story of the President’s New Policy.

Once upon a time, there was a vain president in far off Washington whose only worry in life was to make grand pronouncements and dress in elegant clothes and have parties. He began by making grab bag policy speeches and then holding weekly soiree’s, and then twice per week, and then three times per week. And at each event he loved to show off his new clothes and played with the presidential Teleprompter telling ever more outrageous stories.

His consort, Princess Shopping Cart, would also dress up in the most expensive and outrageous outfits, which disturbed the common folk to no end while the sycophants and hangers-on all cried with joy at her inventiveness. The plebes, however, began to call her Princess Gaga.

The President and his Princess had the most wonderful times eating cake and spending the plebe’s money with their rich liberal friends, who all professed their solidarity with the plebes as they ate cake.

One day, two clever economists from far off Italy named Dolci and Gabbano heard of the vain president and decided to take advantage of him.

They went to the President’s gate dressed in the finest clothes and said to the guards “We are two very fine economists who also happen to moonlight as tailors, and can not only fix your economy, but also weave a policy of whole cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible. We’ll even throw in an extra pair of pants for free.”

The head guard heard the strange story, but did not know what to make of the two outrageously dressed strangers. He summoned the Chamberlain of the Economic Policy Council. The Chamberlain notified the Chief of Staff, who ran to the President and disclosed the incredible news.

The President’s curiosity got the better of him, and he immediately summoned the two economists to his throne room.

“We have done many years of research, and can not only fix your economy, but we have also invented an extraordinary method to weave a policy so light and fine that it looks invisible. As a matter of fact, the policy is so fine and incredible that it is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality.” And we will throw in the pants for free.”

The President gave the two scoundrels a large sack of TARP funds, and said “Just tell me what you need and I shall give it to you”.

They asked for a loom, silk, an Apple MacBook Pro and 100 kilograms of the finest gold thread, and began to pretend to work. They promptly converted the TARP funds into RMB Yuan and transferred them to an untraceable bank account in Austria, which everyone knows is much more secure than Switzerland these days. The gold thread was melted down into bar and hidden in a safe place in case of hyperinflation.

The President thought he had spent his money quite well. He would fix his economy, get a new policy, and find out which of his plebes were ignorant and incompetent, along with an extra pair of pants.

He promptly held another soirée, where the clothing was the most outrageous yet and the cake was made of the finest ingredients. He invited Princess Oprah and Lord Harry and Nancy of Marin and Princess Shopping Cart outdid herself in a dress made of environmentally sustainable materials including dixie cups and duct tape and lawn clippings and tinfoil.

Once the door closed behind them, the two economists chortled with glee. “Whadda Maroon” said Dolci. “whattan embezzle!” said Gabanno. For days they pretended to work deep into the night at the loom, but in fact were listening to iTunes on their Bluetooth headsets.

Several days later when he had heard nothing from the economists, the President said “I would really like to know how they are coming along with my policy and my extra pair of pants.” But he was a bit uneasy when he recalled that anyone who was unfit for his position would not be able to see the policy or the material. Of course he himself had nothing to fear, but still he decided to send someone else in order to follow White House protocol.

“I’ll send my honest old Treasury Secretary to the economists” thought the President. He’s the best one to see how the policy is coming along and knows good clothing. He is very sensible and no one is more worthy of his position than he. So the honest old Treasury Secretary went into the hall where the two economists sat busily working their empty looms and typing on the computer. They had printed out 1,000 pages of incomprehensible gobbledegook, but the loom seemed empty.

“Goodness, thought the Treasury Secretary, I cannot understand a single phase of this policy and I cannot see a thing.” But he did not say so.

The two swindlers invited him to step closer, asking him if wasn’t the most beautifully elegant policy and if the colors of the pants were not the most magnificent he had seen. They pointed to the empty loom and the thousand pages of gobbledygook and the poor old Treasury Secretary opened his eyes wider and wider. He still could see nothing for nothing was tthere. “Gracious, he thought. Is it possible that I am stupid? I have never thought so. Am I unfit for my position? No one must know this.  No, it would never do for me to say that I am unable to understand the policy or see the extra pair of pants. ”

“You aren’t saying anything!” said one of the economists.

“Oh! The policy is magnificent! It will solve all of our problems and will only penalize those with incomes over $250,000 dollars, depending upon how we define it. Peering through his glasses, the Treasury Secretary said ” The patterns and colors of the extra pair of pants are magnificent! Yes, I will tell the president that it is beyond our greatest expectations!”

“That makes us very happy!” said the two economists, and they called the policy and the colors and the pattern by name. The old Treasury Secretary listened very closely so that he would know exactly which words to say when he reported back to the President, and that is exactly what he did.

The swindlers now asked for more money and silk and gold and shares in Exchange Traded Funds, all of which were immediately granted and all of which were immediately laundered. They then continued to weave on empty looms as before and download Latvian folk poetry translated through babelfish and parsed through Lexis/Nexis.

The President then sent other officials as well to observe the economists progress. They too were startled when they saw nothing and they too reported back to the president how wonderful the policy was and how beautiful the extra pair of pants were, advising him to carry the policy and wear the pants in a grand procession. The entire city was alive with praise of the policy and of the pants. “Magnifique!!,  Prima!!!,  Nysseligt!!, Incredible!!” they said in all languages. The President awarded the economists with medals of Nobel, bestowing on each of them the title of Senior Policy Advisor and Master Weaver.

The swindlers stayed up the entire night before the procession was to take place, burning more than 16 compact fluorescent lamps. Everyone could see they were in a great rush to finish the policy and the extra pair of pants. They pretended to take the material from the looms and ordered 3 extra printers and a collating machine in order to print the new policy. They cut the air with large scissors, and bound the policy with the most exquisite bindings of fine Corinthian leather. They sewed the air with needles without any thread. Finally, they said “Behold!

The President’s policy is completed! And while we ran 3,000% over budget, behold the extra pair of pants, along with a frock coat and vest, are finished!”

The President came to them with his most trusted advisors, Congressmen, Senators, and Princess Shopping Cart. The two economists handed the President the exquisitely bound new policy, which he promptly passed to a page as he strode forward to see the new clothes. The two swindlers raised their arms as if they were holding something and said ” Just look at this extra set of pants! Here is the jacket! This is the vest!!” and so forth. “They are light as spider webs! You might think you didn’t have a thing on, but that is the good thing about them!”

“Yes!” said the advisers and Congressmen and Senators and Princess Shopping Cart, but they couldn’t see a thing because nothing was there.

“Would your Presidentness, if it pleases, kindly remove your clothes so that we may dress you?” asked the swindlers. “We will then fit you perfectly with the new ones, in front of this mirror.”

The president took off all of his clothes, and the economists pretended to dress him, piece by piece with the new ones that were to be fitted. They took hold of his waist and pretended to tie something around it. They pretended to tie his tie in an exquisitely formed knot just so. Then the president turned and faced the mirror.

“Goodness! Don’t the clothes fit you well! What a wonderful fit!” everyone said. “What a pattern! What colors! Such luxurious clothes!”

“The canopy to be carried above Your Presidentness awaits outside” said the Director of Protocol.

“Yes! I am ready!” said the President. “Don’t they fit well?” Princess Shopping Cart could only smoulder at all of the attention he was getting.

The chamberlains who were to carry the train held their hands just above the floor as if they were picking up the train. As they walked, they pretended to carry the train high. For they could not let anyone notice they could see nothing.

The President walked beneath the beautiful canopy in the procession, the new policy symbolically carried by two carefully chosen members of special interest groups, and all of the people on the street and in their windows said ” Goodness!! The new policy will save us all (except those with incomes over $250,000), and the President’s new clothes are incomparable. What a beautiful jacket! What an exquisite pair of spare pants!” Scribes Krugman and Sullivan and Friedman and Robinson all praised the policy as they were told to do by Journo List. No one wanted to admit that they had not read the policy nor that they could see the President’s new clothes, for then it would be said they were unfit for their position or that they were stupid. None of the President’s clothes or policies had ever received such praise.

“But he doesn’t have anything on,” said a small child in a wondering voice.

“Good Lord! Let us hear the voice of an innocent child!” said the father, and whispered to a reporter what the child had said.

” A small child has said the President doesn’t have anything on!” said the reporter. “And having seen a copy of the policy it seems to be nothing but Latvian folk poetry!” he continued.

Finally, everyone was saying “He doesn’t have anything on! The policy is gobbledygook!”

The President shuddered, for he knew that they were right, but he thought “The procession must go on!” He carried himself even more proudly as the pages of the policy began to come loose from their bindings and dance in the breeze, and the chamberlains carried the train that wasn’t there.

The two Italian economists, Dolci and Gabbano, crept softly into the night onto a G5 bound for the Cayman Islands, where they could not be extradited, and were warmly greeted by Angelo Mozillo, Lloyd Blankfein, Jack Lew, Jon Corzine and George Soros.

The End

All due respect to Hans Christian Andersen.