Power to the people

In a gutsy move, the president proposes to privatize the federal deficit by creating a debt ownership society, one "that will allow the have-nots to fully have naught."

Published February 3, 2005 1:31PM (EST)

In what fawning conservatives are calling his "most inspired proposal yet" (and they're not just saying that for the $20K), President Bush used his State of the Union message to announce an ambitious plan to privatize the national debt.

The president addressed a GOP majority that applauded more than 167 times, including when Wrecketarian of State Condoleezza Rice gave the stink eye to Sen. Barbara Boxer, and when Vice President Dick Cheney flossed his teeth with Sen. Harry Reid.

"I owe the American people a great debt," the president said. "So let us begin the work of giving that debt back to them." The president proudly displayed a finger that had been dipped in red ink, and then handed the finger back to Alberto Gonzales, his nominee for Atrocity Central.

The personal deficit proposal instantly quashed fears that Bush's Social Security reform was about as bad as things were likely to get. As one observer said, "It was suddenly so quiet in there you could have heard Tom DeLay's indictment drop."

"I -- I guess that's good news," said a visibly elated average American who was being hustled away by Secret Service agents for walking within a mile of Washington. "Everything's fine, right? You guys'll have me home in time for 'American Idol,' right?"

Under the new Social Austerity reform, the majority of Americans will be given their own personal debt account. Each American's account will become active at the time of birth, with an opening balance of minus $25,767. Upon a person's death, whether from shock or exhaustion, his or her compounded debt will be passed on to succeeding generations with an added "interest incentive."

Is privatized debt likely to match the obvious benefits of destroying a mass poverty-prevention program like Social Security? "The appeal of debt personalization is plain to see, at least from my office on Wall Street," said financial services giant and Ways and Means to an End Committee member Chip Snaub. Snaub, who spoke on condition of free publicity, had a hand in shaping the proposal and is keeping the other hand ready. "Clearly, Americans want choice, and our job as faithful grifters of the common good is to sell them the only choice we want them to have -- the power to decide how best to eliminate their share of the national total."

Asked how he planned to manage his own debt account, Snaub explained that he is "among the few Americans who will be -- how shall I put this? -- 'left out' of the debt experience. To be honest, I don't feel I'm entitled to any debt, as I was born heavily wealth-conditioned. This is why I've given so freely and billed so generously in my efforts to direct a fully loaded debt share to the average American. To do otherwise just wouldn't feel good."

Others ineligible for personal debt accounts include corporations -- which find it more businesslike to use taxpayer-funded services than to pay for them "like some common customer" -- and anyone whose net worth is deemed so high as to be obscene. "That's where the moral values kick in," Snaub explained.

The creation of a debt ownership society  "one that will allow the have-nots to fully have naught," as Bush said in his address -- would mark the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for the president, whose experience with debt harks back to his earliest business ventures in what is now the Sovereign Nation of Texas. Until now, the president's time has been taken up by such everyday matters as restructuring Iraq, declaring sanctions on education, clear-cutting factories, outsourcing the environment, making the vote cuts permanent and reading "Torture for Dummies."

Now he can really do something.

As a second-term president, Bush recognizes his 51 percent share of the vote as a powerful mandate, if only because it is several points higher than some of his test scores at Harvard Business School.

"And when you think about it, having the lowest approval rating of any second-term president since Richard Nixon just serves to underscore that he, too, is not a crook," said Todd Toadly, the president's undersecretary of yes-men. "That's the kind of character you can take to the bank."

Some critics fear, however, that the sudden inheritance of personal debt could prove too much for most Americans, who might give in to the wild temptation to pay off their entire share of the national deficit at once.

Not true, says Lyle Foolem, founder of Citizens for a Fear Economy. "We simply need to give people the tools -- OK, sell them the tools -- to maintain a balanced portfolio of job loss, pay cuts, benefit gouging and rising prices. Throw in the $800 billion that can't be accounted for in Iraq and other miscellaneous expenses, and that should keep them too freaked out to do much of anything."

One of the most exciting parts of the privatized-debt proposal is surely the distribution of up to 4.5 trillion negative dollars, the estimated cost of killing off Social Security over the next 20 years. As the president explained Wednesday night, "Look, whenever you destroy something that allows people to escape poverty there's going to be some cost involved. But surely trillions of dollars will seem like a small price to pay once every man, woman and child starts counting up the debt they've accrued in their personal accounts."

Once the transition from Social Security to personal debt accounts is complete, the president will move on to other proposals. These include simplifying the tax code by adding 10,000 pages to it, improving healthcare by making it a capital offense to call in sick and making college affordable by closing down every class but the one where that guy teaches oil painting on TV.

By Joyce McGreevy

Joyce McGreevy is a writer in Portland, Ore.

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