Adventures in Irony is a weekly dry verbal romp of the absurd.
So, we’ve got a three-week reprieve until Trump’s next government shutdown. Let’s take these next few of weeks to consider the president’s suggestion as to how federal employees forced to work without pay can get by. It is brilliant. He says: Remind your local grocer you’ve been their customer for years. They’ll gladly give you food for IOUs. You’re good for it, you have a federal job, they know that. They know they’ll get their money eventually.
Just pass your predicament on to your grocer and, presumably, everyone else from whom you buy goods or services.
Your landlord knows you. Let he or she be without money coming in just like you. But that’s OK because they’ll have your golden IOU, which they’ll be able to cash in as soon as Trump ends the shutdown and the government gets around to giving you all the back pay you are accruing. This could be up to a year or two, based on past shutdowns.
The government is running on borrowed labor. So now it tells its laborers, if not getting paid is a bother, pass the borrowing on. Write IOUs like checks. That’s what the government is doing to them taking their labor without paying. That’s cool, right? Since it’s OK to not pay the workers, it should be OK for their workers to not pay their grocers, their landlords, their medical clinics, their auto and home insurers, their dentists, their department stores, their drug stores.
All those people depending on income from you will be fine not getting it for months. And, hey, if they aren’t fine, they can do the same thing. They, too, can start writing IOUs for all their goods and services. We can have an entire ghost economy based on the promise that the next shutdown will end some day.
In Trump’s universe, everything runs on credit. You don’t need money if everyone “knows you’re good for it.” I think he’s just revealed the true extent of his wealth: zero to negative.
Besides, what federal worker doesn’t have at least two credit cards? Here’s what you do: Borrow cash on your remaining balance right now, and you’ll be able to get through the next few months of shutdown, maybe, depending on how much debt you were already in. Then, when the bank tells you interest is due or you’ll be charged penalties, just tell the bank what you told your grocer. They will happily absorb the burden of your sacrifice to run the government on zero money.
Banks are really cool like that. They’re very socially conscious. “Oh, you’re poor and working for free for a slave master? Why didn’t you say so before? Here’s some more of other people’s money for you to live on! What do we care? It’s just money other customers trusted us with! Haha! You can be sure we won’t give away our profits!”
Then, when the bank has nothing else to give away but the bankers’ money, they will close the bank and keep their profits. Or, maybe, they’ll keep the bank open, but when a customer comes to withdraw funds from their savings, they’ll hand them a bunch of federal employees’ IOUs.
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am it would work. Basically, Trump is suggesting that the government be the apex of a pyramid scheme. That’s a sound capitalist strategy.
We all know, mathematically, that pyramid schemes always work, because the total number of suckers grows exponentially.
I do think, though, there’s a better way to organize the scheme. The government should arrange for promissory notes to be printed up in amounts of say, $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100, and they should give the promissory notes to their workers in amounts according to what they will eventually be paid. (They should put a picture of a pyramid on every note.)
That way, the workers could “spend” their promissory notes at their grocery store, medical clinic, etc. with the understanding that, in doing so, the future pay will be available not to the employee but to the holder of the notes.
Or, hey! Here’s an even better idea. They don’t have to print that many promissory notes. They can set up companies that would keep account of who’s promised what, like, electronically, and only give out the physical notes when someone has to pay some small-time business that isn’t caught up with the 21st century and doesn’t even have a smartphone with the right app.
We could call it the Trump Federal Reserve of Unfunded Promises.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since.
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