You might have missed it last week, but President Bush's budget was unveiled. It was a mere $1.45 trillion. It didn't bother me, but when I told my friend, Gordon Manning, he expressed surprise. "Bush told us during the election campaign that it would be only $1.35 trillion."
"Presidents always fudge on budgets. They can never distinguish between a billion and a trillion."Manning asked, "How do they come up with the figure in the first place?"
"They have trained chimpanzees who work with slide rules. At the beginning of the financial year each chimp in the OMB is allowed a trillion dollars to shape into anything he wants. Once you crunch numbers, it's every budget director for himself."
Manning was fascinated with the process. "Has anyone ever seen a trillion dollars?"
"We've seen military weapons that cost a trillion dollars, and HUD obligations and S&L debts. But not even the president's dog has seen a trillion dollars piled up in front of the White House."
"How does the president know that the $1.45 trillion is all there?"
"One of Dan Quayle's jobs is to count it."
"The president is lucky to have a vice president who can count."
"That's why Bush took Quayle on as VP. Dan can do wonders with a golf score."
Manning said, "The president is asking for $1.45 trillion. Where is he going to get the money from?"
"Mostly from the boom times that should be with us at any moment," I told him.
"What boom times?"
"The ones that are just around the corner when the white clouds drive the dark clouds away. Some budget money will come from income tax, some from excise taxes and a lot from borrowing. When it comes to borrowing the United States is No. 1."
Manning said, "How much in new taxes is needed for the $1.45 trillion to make sense?"
I got mad. "Wash out your mouth with soap and water. You don't ask for new taxes when you have a budget of a little over a trillion dollars. Anyone who talks taxes in the Bush administration is nothing but a Scud missile. As Bush has stated many times, `My country right or wrong - but my country with no taxes.' "
"I would like to do something with the budget," Manning said.
"I'd like to cut it, so that it would be easier for the White House to count it."
"It really doesn't matter. Unfortunately, no one cares what the president's budget is any more. Once you break the trillion-dollar barrier it all becomes rather boring."
"If we agree to the president's budget, will our children have to pay for it?"
"No, their children will. But you don't have to worry about being stuck with the bill."
"You have already paid for the thousand points of light."