I have this recurring dream. It’s kind of like a Bizarro World mash-up of “Seinfeld” and “Groundhog Day.” George Costanza is president of the United States. Staying true to character, he is totally self-centered and petty. He lashes out impetuously at anyone who criticizes him. In my dream he is supposed to be honoring a group of Native Americans but insults them by using a racially insensitive slur in his remarks. Hysterical, right?
Elaine Benes is the president’s press secretary. She has a great knack for not answering any questions directly. When she is really stumped, she simply stuffs her mouth with Jujubes so she can’t talk.
Behind the scenes, the country is actually being run by Jerry and Kramer. Kramer has one of his harebrained schemes for rewriting the tax codes in the United States so they will only benefit the four of them, and it’s Jerry’s job to sell the idea to the voters. In typical “Seinfeld” fashion, every independent nonpartisan evaluator explains to them how bad the plan is. Kramer’s “Kut and Spend” bill will add over $1 trillion to the national deficit, even after projected economic growth is factored in. This scheme raises taxes on the poorest Americans and on the middle class. It will cause health care premiums to go up for everyone and will take away coverage for at least 13 million low-income Americans. According to Jerry, this will be offset by a complementary bag of airline peanuts to every qualifying taxpayer.
Now here’s where the dream gets weird. Costanza’s base of supporters, called the Festivus for the Rest of Us Coalition, actually support the Kramer plan even though they are the ones who will suffer the most. They cheer at the fact that billionaires get to keep even more of their money in hopes that some of it will trickle down to them. In Bizarro World, people actually believe in voodoo economics. This is the superstition that CEOs will magically return some profits to the workers through increased wages and benefits. Even though there is absolutely nothing in this bill that will prevent corporations from shipping jobs and earnings overseas, the FFRUC holds to its hope that a few crumbs will fall their way. And the exploding budget deficit? That’s for so-called fiscal conservatives to worry about. They’re on top of it. At least that’s what Jerry said in his monologue.
In the middle of the night, I wake up in a sweat because I know these crazy scenarios will just keep repeating like a broken record. The details may change, but I’m still caught in Bizarro-Seinfeld land. Sometimes George gets caught making underhanded deals with Russian operatives. While those all around him are arrested for lying and money laundering, George maintains his innocence. “Who knew?” he says. In another iteration of the dream George is bragging to Jerry and Kramer about how easy it is for him to sexually assault women, how he likes to grab their genitals against their will. “Was that wrong? I gotta plead ignorance on this.”
The dream that disturbs me the most is when these four characters ignore a mass shooting that takes place outside of Monk’s Cafe. There is nothing funny about their calculated inaction. We know they are afraid of powerful lobbyists and the loss of financial backing from wealthy donors. Yet they sit in their booth, distract each other from reality, and do nothing. “What are common sense gun laws, anyway?” Jerry says loudly. “Why don’t they enforce the laws they already have? That’s what I want to know,” quips George.
Elaine manages to get in a word, “Well, universal background checks would help. Outlawing bump stocks and high-capacity magazines would save lives. There is nothing in your precious Second Amendment that says we can’t limit the sale of assault weapons, like we did before.”
After a moment of stunned silence, the others brush off Elaine. Kramer finally says, “Mass shootings are the price we pay for living in a free society,” and the inane conversation continues.
“I think someone should write to the parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary and tell them that.”
“Better yet, I bet we can sell that line to the people who lost loved ones in Las Vegas.”
“Giddyap” replies Kramer. And please, let this all just be a bad dream.
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Tom Scanlan writes from Westminster.