Originally published on The Agonist
Hey, John! John Bull! How you doing? It’s been a while – I don’t get many visitors these days you know. You’re looking great! I gotta say – I loved that wedding. Loved it! I saw all of it from the very beginning to that balcony scene at the end. I saw it live too – at 3:00 a.m. – right here in the hospital room. I was up anyway; I don’t sleep too well these days. I have to say, you guys really do that pageantry stuff better than anybody. The Pope could take some lessons from you, and those guys at the Vatican have a few millennia of practice at that sort of thing. And that Kate and William! What a lovely couple. Do you know they came to visit me right after the honeymoon? Very thoughtful, they were.
Hey, you wouldn’t mind putting on one of those white face masks, would you? These hospitals are just full of germs and you shouldn’t take any chances.
You heard about my illness, didn’t you? Something to do with my debt ceiling. My blood count was too high – reaching the limit – I couldn’t follow it all. They had all these specialists in Washington running around shouting at each other. It was all over the television channels. A real embarrassment, I tell you! Half of them were saying I needed even more blood transfusions, and the other half were saying maybe I should slow down a bit or even reduce my intake. I’m all in favor of that; I’d like to get back to where I was ten years ago, when I wasn’t stuck in a hospital bed.
And the worst of it was, they had these guys from the Tea Party Clinic who were insisting – demanding! – that I go cold turkey. No blood transfusions at all! Can you believe it? I tell you, John, these guys were like Jehovah’s Witnesses, running up and down the halls, screaming “Blood transfusions are evil! Blood transfusions are immoral!” They would have killed me! I finally got rid of them by promising to read their publication. Here it is on the table – two pages on the wit and wisdom of Ayn Rand. I haven’t read it yet. Do you want it? No, I didn’t think so.
I have to tell you, John, I’m not getting outta here any time soon. Besides all my other problems, now they say I have the Cancer. That’s right – CANCER. I’ve got tumors all over, feeding off the old Body Politic. There is the banking industry tumor, the pharmaceutical industry tumor, the health insurance industry tumor, the real estate industry tumor, the student loan industry tumor, the agricultural industry tumor, the retired workers tumor, and of course the granddaddy of them all – the military-industrial-complex tumor. That one is like carrying around a five pound football in your stomach.
You know what I think? I think those specialists in Washington don’t want to cure me of these tumors. I think they just sit back giving their opinions, feeding me blood transfusions, and collecting their fees – and they don’t care if I live or die! You think I’m exaggerating? A few months ago I got a letter from Argentina. She’s doing just fine after her default and surgery a few years ago. You know, she almost died back then?
Anyway, Argentina said that the thing that saved her life was a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and the secret ingredient the doctors used was tax increases. So, I said to my doctors in Washington – let’s try some tax increases! It’ll help shrink these tumors and maybe give me a better chance of beating this cancer. Do you know what they said? “No, no, no! Tax increases will stunt your growth. We can’t have that.” Then those fools from the Tea Party Clinic started up again. “Tax increases are evil! Tax increases are immoral!”
So there we are. No chemotherapy. No radiation therapy. All they can come up with is larger and larger doses of blood transfusions. Do you know what level I’m at? $1 trillion a year in new blood transfusions! That’s right – that’s the increase – the increment. Lord knows how much I’ve got in me total – the doctors say it’s at least $14 trillion.
Do you know what it’s like taking in so much blood? It’s like adding an entire Department of Homeland Security to the Body Politic every month. You know those people – the guys who like to look down your underwear at the airport? We’ve got 200,000 people working in that department. I wouldn’t mind so much if we were creating 200,000 new jobs each month – then I would feel like the transfusions were worth it. But we’re not. Lately I’ve been feeling so weak that we’re lucky to get 50,000 new jobs added to the Body Politic.
Honestly, John, I don’t know where all that blood goes. I know some of it goes to paying out interest, but it feels to me like the rest is just getting sucked up by these tumors. I just get weaker and weaker over time. What’s that you say? Am I in pain? Well, I have good days and bad days, but this hospital is great at keeping it under control. Do you see this red button here? That’s my morphine drip. Any time I feel like the pain is too much to deal with, I just press this button, and the television comes on instantly!
I’ve got over 500 channels! Anything you could possibly want to watch. You know, when that whole debt ceiling thing was getting to be unbearable, I just turned on Entertainment Weekly! It really took my mind off things. The only thing I had to decide was whether to find out where Casey Anthony was, or whether Rupert Murdoch was going to jail.
But I’ll admit – my spirits get down now and then. It’s been happening more and more. I’ve been in this bed now for three years, ever since my heart attack in 2008. And like I said, everybody wants to milk me for something, and none of these doctors want to cure me. You’d think after a heart attack the doctors would do some tests, or give me one of those stents or balloons. Nooo! Not this crowd. They just give me some aspirin every day. I swear, it’s like they’re afraid of finding out what really happened if they opened me up!
So yeah – I get depressed every so often. I just wish I knew whether there was any hope. Do you know after this debt ceiling crisis what these bozos finally decided to do? They decided to decrease the increase in my blood transfusions! How’s that for medical excellence? Oh – and they set up a commission of specialist doctors to decide what to do about my cancer. I know exactly what they’re going to say – cut, cut, cut. Some of these doctors just love to cut; it’s all they know to do, and of course they get big fees for major surgery.
And now – get this! My insurance company isn’t happy with any more blood transfusions. They’ve threatened not to pay for further treatments, and they are certain to start messing around with my premiums. I’ve had very low premiums for years and years, but these guys at Moody’s act all suspicious every time they come and visit. I make sure to dose up on extra morphine when they come by, and I get out of bed and try to be active, but I think they are beginning to see through me. And the truth is, even I don’t think I’m AAA material any more.
To be frank, my Body Politic is in bad shape, John – bad shape. I’ve got over 40 million people on food stamps. I’ve never had a problem like that before, except maybe years ago when I was much younger and could handle it a lot better. Some days it feels like nearly a quarter of the Body Politic is out of work, sloughing off. I know that’s not really the case – most of them want to work. We just can’t get the system recharged somehow. It’s like the transfusions have reached the point of negative utility. They’re doing more harm than good now, but if I stop them too quickly, I’ll die. I’ll have 80 million people on food stamps, and 40% of workers unemployed, and people dying from starvation, and I just couldn’t survive that, John. I know it as sure as we’re sitting here.
Of course the doctors don’t see it that way. One wants to cut this tumor, and another wants to cut that one – they all have their favorites and they can’t agree which of the tumors are the more serious ones. They think I am a lot healthier than I really am, and can handle any sort of surgery. They don’t know what it’s like to lay here for three years and feel yourself slowly wasting away. They’re not really worried about the Body Politic. They’re only worried about their specialty, and their reputation, and their fees. Not one of them is good at thinking about the whole picture, and imagining what things could be like if I got really sick again.
In fact, they all act like it is 2000 and I’m going to bounce back just like that! But I’m not going to bounce back. I’m never going to be as healthy as I was ten years ago. That’s just a fact of life these doctors don’t recognize. I’m getting old, John. I can’t support the Body Politic the way I used to, and people are going to have to get used to being poorer.
And that’s the best I can hope for. That’s if I get lucky. I saw the other day on Dr. Oz that people who rely on blood transfusions are especially susceptible to what are called opportunistic infections. Did you see what happened recently to Greece? Greece came down with a fever of 30% for one month money! Can you believe that? They rushed him immediately to intensive care, and he’s still there. Some countries in Europe tell me Greece may not survive.
Now I hear this virus is spreading. Italy called the other day and complained about a fever of 6%. She was just fine two weeks ago. I heard on the news that Spain has been in bed for several days too. Now you can see why I asked you to wear a mask. I have no idea who you’ve been hanging out with lately.
That’s what really gives me nightmares. Right now we control our own interest rates, and we keep them close to zero. It’s the only way we can continue to pay interest on our debt, which as I’ve said is $14 trillion and climbing. But if I caught one of those fevers and lost control of our interest rates, I’d be in serious trouble, John. At 4%, given I’ve got so much debt, the interest bill alone would eat up all the revenue I take in through taxes. At 6%, or 8% - I’d be finished. The Body Politic couldn’t take it. Almost every thing we do in government would have to shut down. I wouldn’t last a week.
So yeah – I have nightmares. That’s why I’m trying to get these doctors to hurry up and decide on what surgery to do. And I’ve got to get these knuckleheads at the Tea Party Clinic off the case altogether. It’s all got to happen fast before this virus reaches me. It’s my only hope.
Oh look! It’s the nurse. It must be dinner time. Can I get you something from the cafeteria, John? They have terrific cheeseburgers and fries here, and you’ve got to try their chocolate shakes. You wouldn’t happen to have a smoke on you, would you? I know I’m not suppose to have them, but I sneak them into the bathroom when I can. The nurses always find out and they always give me hell, but I don’t have a whole lot of pleasures left in life.
You have to be getting back to the hotel? Oh, that’s too bad. I hope I’ll see you again tomorrow. I know I monopolized the conversation a bit – we’ll talk about you tomorrow for sure. I’ll be fine right here, with my cheeseburger and my morphine drip. In fact, I think House is on right about now. That's who I could use – Dr. Gregory House! He’d run all sorts of tests and figure out at the end what was really wrong with me. Then Chase would do his miracle surgery and cut out all the tumors without nicking any adjacent organs or arteries. Cutty could come into my room during my recovery and argue with House, but she’d smile at me from time to time. That Dr. Cuddy is hot! I’d recover a lot faster with someone like her around.
In fact, why don’t they have someone like Dr. Cuddy down in Washington? Why do I have to put up with so many of these clowns? Sometimes I just want to forget about the doctors and diseases and treatments, and even the Body Politic. I just want to lay here with my red button. Yes sir, that would be the life. Just me and the red button. Me and the red button.
I wonder what’s coming on after House?