Oh, Wholly Blight (with apologies to St. Luke)

And it came to pass, that The Recovery would come upon the land, but still Joe and Marie did not have jobs.

By Joyce McGreevy
Published December 15, 2003 8:30PM (EST)

In those days, it was as if there had been a decree that people should take leave of their senses throughout the entire American world.

So everyone went to his or her own town for the holidays, moving placidly amid the noise and waste, from the festive tramplings in the Temples of Wal-Mart, to the airports, where the innocents must be criminalized for the failures of the powerful, for in such places it was the custom that even the wizened elders and the tiniest firstborns be offered up to invasive scrutiny. And it was called Freedom.

And so Joe also went up from the town of Lansing, where an 11-year high in Michigan's unemployment rate had forced the ax to hit all cities for the third time in a year. And so it was that another $920 million was cut from schools, libraries, fire departments and other essential services.

And Joe went up to the District of Columbia, and he rode on a borrowed ass, because his ass and the asses of his unborn grandchildren belonged to George, who was the one they call "as empty of stuffing as a fake turkey centerpiece," and who was of the house and the lineage of Bush.

For Joe had little else to do, having lost his manufacturing job in what some were calling The Recovery. So it was written, in accordance with the offshore profits. But he knew that, as Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute suggested, the 2.5 million unemployed had only to shift to knowledge-based jobs, and then corporations would line up to pay him an even better salary for his brainpower. Even though these corporations were already scooping up all the genius they wanted for $5,000 a year by hiring in India, Russia and China.

Word had come to Joe, formerly a hardworking carpenter, that Cheney, Vice Priest of the House of Bush, had appeared in Oklahoma on the fifth day of December. There did he stump for Republican Congressman John Sullivan and preach that the Bush tax cuts had led the American people out of the wilderness of the recession, so as to dwell in the Compromised Land, and that the tax cuts were "helping bring down unemployment, and set the economy on a path to long-term economic growth."

And this was a wonderment to Joe, for he knew that in every single state the unemployment rate was still higher than it was when the recession started.

But then, for those like Joe, it is easier to pass unseen through the eye of the needless than to enter the kingdom of equal consideration. And after all, the Cheney spoke in parabolas, the logic of which passed over all understanding.

For on that same day the Cheney did utter with a straight visage, "We must make the United States less dependent on foreign sources of energy."

And so it was that according to the appropriations bill signed by the Son of a Bush in November, taxpayers would be obliged to subsidize all costs of importing gas to Iraq, beginning in the Year of Our Warlord, 2004. And the House of Halliburton called it blessed, and went on charging the U.S. $2.64 per gallon, more than double what others pay. And it was in keeping with the wisdom of freezing out bids from countries that did not support the war, such as France, Germany and Canada, for they might have charged the U.S. fair prices, which is a clear threat to American security.

Meanwhile, Joe and his fiancée, Marie, who was expecting a child, went together to the City of Bet-the-Farm, in the District of Columbia. But there was nothing for them -- no jobs, no affordable rentals, and, without insurance, no prenatal care. And the Pharisees of the Congress let slip away the emergency unemployment benefits, despite the dire need of 80,000 long-term jobless people per week and the fact that there was already $20 billion of workers' own money set aside for such an emergency in the federal unemployment fund.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and Marie called the baby Jeekers, which means "one who is aghast." She wrapped him in old clothes from the Goodwill and placed him in the back of an abandoned car, because the people at the nearest motel, being morally upright, did not want a single teenage mother, her unemployed boyfriend, and God-only-knows-what loitering on the premises.

And there were disabled vets living out in the streets nearby, keeping watch over their knapsacks by night. An agent of the Warlord appeared to them, and the gory trauma they'd known flashed back all around them, and they were sore afraid. And the agent said to them, "As well you should be. Veterans' benefits will be further cut by $25 billion over the next 10 years."

And two other agents began circulating, the one singing sweetly that there were no plans to bring back the draft at this time, and the other whispering in a soft voice that the Selective Service had 8,000 draft board slots to fill by spring 2005, that is, once the next election had been squared away. And the people who might vote on such things were told to pay no attention to the man behind the Diebold touch screens. But that is another story.

Then a great company of congressional hosts descended, proclaiming, "Omnibus glorious, praised be the $820 billion spending bill, for it will work great wonders upon the land. And these shall be as signs to you: You will see a $20 million monorail in Las Vegas, a $2 million program to encourage more young people to play golf, and enhanced potato storage in Madison, Wisconsin. But other things will disappear, such as overtime pay for 8 million workers, and the records of all gun purchases after 24 hours. And the strike of the 70,000 grocery workers in California will strike a deep chord across the nation. But the keepers of the Temples of the Triumvirate -- Ralph's, Von's, and Albertsons -- will argue that they have the right to treat workers shabbily in order to compete with the Even Worse Guys who plan to move in nonunion grocery supercenters. And thus is it written, that the first shall be crass, and the last shall be worse."

When the agents had left them, and gone to tax havens, the people said to one another, "Let's get the heck out of here, and look closely at this thing that has happened, which the Warlord never told us about."

So they hurried off, and they found Marie and Joe, and the baby Jeekers, who was lying in the back seat. And he looked a little apprehensive.

When they had seen him, and realized that he and every child for several generations to come had been born into a vandalized democracy, and would be devoting the bulk of their energy to paying off a soaring deficit (and that was if they were lucky), they spread the word via roadside and Internet, and urged everybody to register to vote. And prayed the vote would matter.

But Marie kept all these things in her heart, not being sufficiently camera-worthy to be invited to talk about it on "Oprah," or questioned about it by a reporter, or polled about it by a political candidate. And the baby Jeekers looked all around and thought unto himself, "How much worse can it get?"

Joyce McGreevy

Joyce McGreevy is a writer in Portland, Ore.

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Business Great Recession Unemployment