BROOKLYN — It came to Ozzie Nelson like a bolt from the blue. Here he was, the most Republican guy in his whole suburb. But he was not living by the creed of conservative heroes like Ayn Rand, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan. He believed, like every Republican, that the federal budget should follow the example of a well-managed household. But the Nelson budget was hip-deep in deficit spending!
So, one day Oz came home and said, “Harriet, we have to cut, cut, CUT! I’m slashing waste. I’ve cancelled every credit card and killed every charge account. From now on, no car! We take the bus. I’m firing the cleaning lady and the gardener. I’m turning off the sprinklers, water heater, washer, dryer, dishwasher, garbage disposal, TV, satellite dish, computers, Internet, telephones, air conditioner — it’s all gotta go!”
Harriet said, “ But, Ozzie, why?”
Ozzie replied, “Because we’re BROKE! The only way out of this hole — that’s true to our conservative beliefs — is to re-balance the budget entirely on the spending side.”
“Oh, Ozzie! Can’t we at least keep the car, and a phone. Your salary — ”
“Salary?” cried Ozzie. “There you go, demanding revenue! We cannot solve our problems by minting more money and triggering an inflationary death-spiral, Harriet.”
“Ozzie, what the hell are you talking about?”
“Harriet, I quit my job! We have been holding hostage and draining the lifeblood of America’s overregulated mega-corporations for too long!” said Ozzie. “And this goes for you, too. Stop selling those Amway products you have stacked in the rumpus room! And I’m ordering David to quit his after-school minimum-wage job bagging groceries at the Walmart Supercenter. He can bag groceries voluntarily if he wants, but dammit, Harriet, we are sucking the Walton family dry. And this has got to stop!”
“What about Ricky?” asked Harriet, trembling with fiscal anxiety.
“Ricky? He’s fine,” said Ozzie. “He gets it. He’s the most laissez-faire kid on the block. All he ever does is sit around the garage chording his guitar.”
So, it came to pass that the Nelsons ceased, literally, to spend — anything. Almost all the money from Ozzie’s last paycheck, Harriet’s last Amway commission, and their savings account was dedicated to paying down huge balances with Amex, MasterCard, Visa, Discover, Sears, GMAC, Blue Cross and Americans for Tax Reform.
On Harriet’s insistence, the Nelsons continued to buy a few staples — flour, lard, hardtack, calico — in stores. But otherwise, Ozzie led the family’s reincarnation as hunter-gatherers in the true American pioneer tradition. Nuts, roots, berries, fruit, edible weeds, tree-bark, grubworms, mushrooms, bullheads from a nearby irrigation ditch, dumpster-diving, and the occasional roadkill protein-splurge provided ample nourishment. They got used to wearing the same clothes every day and mending them by candlelight. Their entertainment was mostly Ricky, sitting by the fire, chording his guitar. The Nelsons grew leaner, stronger; the neighbors envied them their fitness, their independence, their ideological purity.
But one day, Harriet — against Ozzie’s objections — opened a letter that had been delivered by a federal employee. Their home, she discovered, was in foreclosure.
“Ozzie, we have to pay the mortgage. But we have no income!” said Harriet.
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“Look on the bright side, Harriet,” said Ozzie. “We’ve cut spending to the bone.”
“Yes, but if we don’t spend something NOW, Citigroup’s gonna take our house!”
“And you blame Citigroup?” replied Ozzie. “Shame on you, Harriet! You should blame the SEC and the CFTC and that bitch Elizabeth Warren, who just want to regulate feisty little businesses like Citigroup right into the toilet. Believe you me, Harriet, if the government allowed Citigroup a free hand to make its fortune on credit default swaps, hedge funds, derivatives, commodities speculation and the sixth race at Belmont, well, Citigroup wouldn’t even be thinking about hitting us up for a lousy mortgage payment?”
“NINE lousy mortgage payments, Ozzie.”
“Whatever!” snapped Ozzie. “If America’s too-big-to-fail banks were set loose in a truly free market, they wouldn’t bother with small fry like us. Heck, they’d be giving away houses and farms and office buildings like toaster-ovens!”
Harriet told Ozzie that she still didn’t understand how a household, or a government, or anything, could survive by cutting all its spending, without revenue, even while creditors — who still seemed to believe in revenue — kept mailing bills, and meanwhile, David and Ricky were on the kitchen floor, fighting over a turnip.
“That’s because you don’t understand the theory of expansionary austerity, honey,” said Ozzie. “If you did, you’d realize that our spending cuts will create such terrific growth in the broader economy that prosperity will flow to us naturally.”
“Flow, Ozzie?” said Harriet, a little irritably. “FLOW? From where?”
“Rich people, mainly” said Ozzie. “Our sacrifices — and those of millions of bourgeois shnooks just like us — have swollen the income of the rich so much that, eventually, the billionaires won’t be able to hold onto all that money. It’s just going to start gushing like a cloudburst, spilling out and pouring down onto us — restoring all the things that we gave up for the sake of right-wing dogma, supply-side orthodoxy and the yacht captains of Monte Carlo.”
“Wait a minute, Oz” said Harriet. “You’re talking about pennies from Heaven?”
“No!” Ozzie enthused. “Nickels, dimes, quarters even.”
“Dear God,” said Harriet, clutching the foreclosure and realizing, for the first time, that the dominant conservative economic school of the 21st century was Tin Pan Alley.
Just then, in walked Ricky — who announced that he had sung a whitebread impersonation of Fats Domino and signed a million-dollar recording contract. He handed each of his parents a bag full of hundred-dollar bills.
“There!” said Ozzie, smirking and handing Harriet an umbrella. “I told you so.”