Once upon a time in Unrealityland, there were two senators named Olympia and Susan. They were good senators, always looking out for the Unrealists’ (for that’s what the natives were called) best interests. They fought against a tax on Unrealistic expectations. They sponsored legislation to increase the amount of pie in the sky. They didn’t kiss any frogs and turn them into princes, but they did kiss off political opponents and turn them into nonentities.

Unfortunately, even in Unrealityland, problems can arise. An evil troll put a hex on the economy. The stock market lost its magic. The spell banks were suddenly spellbound. Tooth fairies couldn’t borrow cash to leave under pillows.

To combat the troll’s incantation, the country’s new king proposed a stimulus package to improve the supernatural infrastructure, create work for wizards, and exorcize the demons of distress. The king’s opponents dismissed it as mumbo jumbo and vowed to block his black magic in the Unrealityland Senate.

The king’s allies turned to Olympia and Susan for help in conjuring up a compromise. But the two senators looked upon the stimulus bill and were not pleased.

“A Christmas tree” of unnecessary items that won’t aid the economy, Susan told reporters. (Capitol News Service, Jan. 29.) It’s “bloated” with unnecessary spending provisions. (Portland Press Herald, Feb. 8.) “We don’t have any money to waste.” (Lewiston Sun Journal, Feb. 6.)

Olympia was equally firm. “[W]e really need to ensure that we develop a process that adheres to strong principles and maintains the integrity of the programs for which it has been designed,” she said. “We can’t put everything but the kitchen sink in it.” (Boston University Washington News Service, Jan. 30.) “[W]e cannot afford to insert programs and expand programs [that] otherwise should go through the appropriate budget process.” (Sun Journal, Feb. 6.)

To accommodate Olympia and Susan, the king and his friends agreed to remove the voodoo economics from the bill. Still, Susan had concerns. “The temptation is going to be for everyone to add their favorite program to the stimulus,” she said. (Capitol News, Jan. 29.) “I’m very leery of having an enormous package that would not be necessary and would just boost the federal deficit.” (Sun Journal, Feb. 6.)

Olympia, too, had doubts. “When you’re going to spend to the tune of $800 billion, you better get it right,” she said. (BU Washington News Service, Feb. 6.)

Eventually, though, both Olympia and Susan voted for the king’s modified plan, and it became the reality of Unrealityland. Soon thereafter, cash started to flow to “wand-ready” projects.

Construction began on gingerbread houses. Employees returned to work at the pumpkin-coach factory. And fairy godmothers had their retirement accounts restored.

But there was more to be done. The Senate still needed to pass a $410 billion budget bill to keep most of the government functioning. And those evil senators who’d been thwarted by good Susan and faithful Olympia were intent on using that measure to advance their personal projects, by employing a form of necromancy known as “earmarks.”

Into a giant cauldron, they cast ear of newt and mark of trail. The mixture bubbled up and spewed forth 8,000 earmarks that would cost more than $5.5 billion.

The Unrealists cried out for Olympia and Susan to save their meager resources. But Susan and Olympia were not to be found. The Unrealists searched in the realm of the righteous, the state of the steadfast and the vacation spot of the virtuous, all without success. It wasn’t until they noticed something crouching behind the evil senators’ cauldron that they discovered their missing champions.

It was Olympia and Susan, their arms greasy all the way to the elbows from pulling slimy earmarks out of the pot. Money for potato blight research had been stuffed in the budget bill, along with cash to restore historic lighthouses. In all, their excesses totaled $21 million.

Noticing they’d drawn the crowd’s attention, Olympia and Susan attempted to bluster their way out of this embarrassing situation.

Earmarks, they said (in a joint statement issued March 4), are “an appropriate exercise of congressional budget authority … Rather than unelected government bureaucrats deciding how to allocate taxpayer dollars, we believe that decision should be made by elected officials who, operating under an entirely open process, are held directly accountable by their constituencies.”

But how, cried the Unrealists, can you support earmarks after all your rhetoric about wasteful spending?

“The test is if it can survive the light of day,” said Olympia, “rather than be tucked in during the dark of night.” (Sun Journal, March 6.)

“People have to justify them,” said Susan, “and they must have community support.” (Sun Journal, March 6.)

We get it, said the Unrealists. The moral of this tale is:

Wasteful spending is spending done by other people.

Reach me like magic by e-mailing [email protected]


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