The Republican Party’s great success of recent years has been its production of “The Grand Old Pretense,” the theatrical parody showing in the nation’s capital and starring Benito Bush and Franco Cheney.
From its opening night the production has been praised in the corporate media. Several scenes are especially acclaimed, including “The War in Iraq,” which the audience is assured is not America’s biggest debt machine or a pretense of security. Another scene, “Tax Breaks for the Rich,” extols the new science of Empire Economics.
A later scene, titled “Benito to the Rescue,” shows market fundamentalists giving evangelicals biblical justifications for Benito’s $145 billion economic stimulus package. In this scene, though, everyone wonders where the $145 billion is coming from. Benito sneaks into Ben Bernanke’s office at the Fed and cracks open his office safe. To Benito’s astonishment, it’s empty. But he finds the money by gallantly producing his own hundred dollar bill and reflecting it in the Fed’s hall of magic mirrors.
Theatergoers wonder if this can be called real money. They’re relieved by the assurances of financial experts who insist that debt is money, though in earlier scenes this was also said about the now disgraced collaterized debt obligations.
Gordon Gekko, the greed-is-good guy from the 1980s movie “Wall Street,” makes an appearance as a federal judge in Act II. He delivers a soliloquy about the fine art of stealing from each other. Like greed, debt is also good, Gekko rules, because it takes from the unborn to enrich the undead.
Grateful Americans are seen rushing to the bank with the $800 checks they get from Benito. However, their withdrawal pains and ungrateful wailing are soon heard in the wings after the money is quickly spent on their expensive oil-addiction treatments.
A radical journalist in the play, Mickey Moore, suggests Bush and his cohorts don’t care about helping the people. They only want to prevent a recession because, at this juncture in American history, the economic system is gravely threatened. Moore submits this far-fetched story, and his newspaper is reluctant to print it because its publisher, who’s chair of the Society of Publishers of Irrevelent Trivia (SPIT), is Franco Cheney’s hunting partner.
According to Moore’s report, too much bad debt is already in the system. With a serious recession, more homeowners would default on mortgages, consumers on credit cards, and companies on business and corporate debt, threatening the financial system. The story lacks credibility, SPIT decides, because it implies the financial system will default unless rescued by tyrants in the Middle East and communists in China.
In a later scene, Benito walks across the stage as bullets drop from his brow, so worried is he about the cost of the Iraq War. The Congressional Budget Office has just estimated that cost at $100 trillion, and Benito will have to sell his golden freedom medals from world tyrants to pay his share. He’s equally worried that photographs of him begging Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez for cheaper oil and beseeching China’s Wen Jiabao to peg the U.S. dollar higher will show up in his presidential library.
In Act V, an adviser on economic stimulus recommends that Benito consider forgiving the people their mortgages and other debt, the way the Lord forgives trespasses. “Don’t charge the economic stimulus package to future generations,” the adviser says. “Charge it to the rich of this generation. Are we all in this together or not?” Benito then recalls how in Saddam Hussein’s time advisers like this one were shot in a backroom.
Alone on the stage, Benito delivers his final soliloquy. “If an economic collapse happens,” he muses, “couldn’t the people just live on corn? Corn’s cheap, and farmers’ silos are full of it. Let them eat corn. We’ll give them free molasses too, which isn’t too bad with corn pretzels. To be a regular guy I’ll throw in a pound a week of gubermint Cheese Whiz.”
The president also speaks of his vision for America: “We’ll privatize America even more, sell it off to the richest Arabs. I’ll bet old Abdullah will pay a billion bucks for his face on Mt. Rushmore. Arabs keep their people in line better than Demkrats. We mustn’t lose control over the people. The American way of life is an ownership society where the people are consumer-programmed profit centers, all privatized and taxed t’ raise them profits that pays us t’ keep privatizin’. Should I appoint Freddie Thompson for prez cuz o’ a national emergency? Then the people will see how good I bin compared to him.”
He scowls as he fondles his What-Are-Pals-For medal from Saudi king Abdullah. “Dang Demkrats keep poisonin’ the air and sayin’ it’s m’ fault. We’ll blame it all on them somehow, and on furiners like Chavez and what’s his name in Eran.”
As a warning to those who get uptight about the decay of democracy, Mickey Moore is banished to Cuba. The scoundrel gets off an unsolicited rant before he’s rushed off the stage: “People of America, where is your common sense? Can’t you see the unholy alliance of government and business that’s destroying us? Let’s unite as an American family. The oligarchy has already destroyed the quality of our jobs. We don’t need or want their propaganda and debt. We can live through our own wits, enterprise, and joy of freedom. Bring down the curtain now on this grand pretense so that democracy can be reborn in the land of the brave.”