Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Santa and the Fiscal Cliff
It’s been a terrible year for Santa Claus. As we know from the record-breaking heat this summer, global warming is proceeding at a pace that even the most pessimistic climatologists didn’t predict. The danger for Santa is that the North Pole’s ice cap is rapidly being depleted, threatening his very existence. Because of the warmer weather, nearly 230 billion tons of polar ice have been melting into the ocean each year. Santa’s workshops haven’t been washed away yet, but the reindeer are getting sick and he has to assign an increasing number of his elves to daily bucket brigades to bail out the water from his buildings. It’s reached the point where Santa may have to leave the North Pole altogether. Seeking a huge uninhabited space, Santa has been looking into the Gobi Desert or the interior of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Global warming, though, is only a drop in the bucket compared to the catastrophic consequences of the Fiscal Cliff. As everyone knows, congress established a law that said if they and the president don’t reach a deal on deficit reduction by year’s end, big tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect, basically wrecking the economy. Santa, of course, leads the world’s largest nonprofit corporation, distributing over 700 million Xmas gifts a year. Since he receives no income for his good works, we don’t usually think of him in connection with high finance. However, because Santa gets no money from his beneficiaries, his production facilities are entirely subsidized by the U.S. government. While there’s lots of ongoing discussion in Congress about possible cuts to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, Santa’s North Pole factories are the biggest entitlement program of them all.
House Republicans are committed to accomplishing debt reduction through massive spending cuts. Some congresspersons have suggested eliminating funding for Santa’s Xmas gift-giving altogether. Others favor privatizing support for Santa, mostly by enlisting the nation’s churches. Some Republicans from places like Arizona have argued that Santa’s gift-giving should simply be cut back, proposing, for example, that Santa stop visiting the homes of illegal immigrants, gay couples with children, and single mothers (most of whom voted for Obama anyway). But it’s not only spending cuts that may harm Santa. Because his merry band of elves is limited in size, he has been outsourcing toy production for years to countries like Bangladesh and Denmark. If Obama gets his way, Santa will soon lose tax breaks for creating jobs overseas. In addition, even though Santa’s elves are magical beings and never get sick, federal law requires that Santa has to pay for Obamacare coverage for them. All in all, Santa is in dire straits.
Santa recently flew on his sleigh to Washington D.C. to lobby for his cause. President Obama arranged a luncheon for Santa with himself and Mitt Romney to brainstorm solutions. Mitt Romney was uncharacteristically candid. He started off by saying that children make up a large part of the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income taxes, don’t take personal responsibility for their financial well-being, naively think they are entitled to presents on Xmas morning, and are basically leeches who live off of their parents, the federal government, and Santa Claus. Santa protested, saying children weren’t even allowed to work for pay because of child labor laws. Mitt Romney would have none of it though, saying that if Santa stopped bringing presents, children could simply borrow money from their parents and pay for their Xmas presents themselves.
Barack Obama was more sensitive to Santa’s situation. He thought that the government should continue to help Santa to bring presents to most children. He was concerned, though, about the huge inequalities in the gifts that Santa gives out. Santa brings children in rich families Xmas presents like ponies or jet skis or spring break trips to Cozumel. For the super-rich, it’s things like building a new basketball court or a bowling alley in the north wing of the family mansion. Poor kids, though, get things like a new toothbrush or a pair of socks. If it’s a good year, they might get a yo-yo or a rag doll. Obama thought that, out of simple fairness, Santa could cut back some on what he delivers to the top two percent. Noting that he and Michelle were themselves in the top two percent, Obama said they had been planning to ask Santa for another expensive Portugese Water Dog for Malia and Sasha, but now, because of the fiscal cliff, they were going to ask Santa to simply pick up and bring a dog from the pound. Romney was unimpressed. Even though he knew in his heart that Jesus and Joseph Smith Jr. would have agreed with more equality, Romney thought Obama’s ideas smacked of “redistribution of wealth.”
Santa Claus decided that Mitt Romney was just bitter about losing the election, so he made an appointment with House Speaker John Boehner. Santa told John Boehner what President Obama had said about cutting back on gifts to the top two percent. Boehner raised his eyebrows and said he was flabbergasted. He explained to Santa that, in our society, rich people are the Makers and children are the Takers. If you have to give gifts to children, it only made sense to give the best, most expensive gifts to the children of rich parents because those children would be Makers themselves one day. But to give nicer gifts to poor children at the expense of rich children is an affront to the very core of the American Way. Boehner did suggest to Santa that one way of reducing costs was to stop delivering gifts to foreign countries, most of whom weren’t sufficiently Christian anyway. He also revealed that, in order to help reduce Santa’s costs, he had convened a commission led by the governors of Wisconsin and Ohio whose aim would be to destroy the public employees’ union that Santa’s elves belong to.
As it turned out, the Republicans and Democrats amazingly managed to negotiate a successful compromise at the very last moment. They preserved Medicare and Social Security and the Defense budget and the Post Office, etc., by completely eliminating all subsidies for Santa (at a savings of $500 billion for the upcoming year). While that sounds like a tragedy for the world’s children, surprisingly, it wasn’t the end of Santa after all. Casting off his former identity as an altruist gift-giver, Santa became a venture capitalist, stepping up his toy production tenfold and selling his output wholesale to Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, and Toys “R” Us. His ingenious idea was that parents would buy the toys at the stores, sneak them into the house, put them under the tree at midnight on Xmas Eve, and pretend in the morning that Santa had left the gifts for the children. It certainly wasn’t the same as when Santa actually came down the chimney, but, given our dysfunctional Congress, it was the best that could be done.
-Linda K-C (12-5): This is really fantastic, send to nyt!
-JML (12-4): That's great dad, well done!