Though Larry leaned to the left and Carl to the right, they started talking once alcohol loosened their tongues and the jukebox played, why can’t we be friends?
The federal government was a wreck, they agreed, the stalemate in Washington a travesty. Carl said, “I can’t believe that the liberals want 10 years to balance the budget. That means another $6 or $7 trillion of debt, on top of the $16 trillion we already owe. They should balance the budget now.”
Larry protested sarcastically: “What, you want to hurl the economy into another great depression? That makes a lot of sense. But,” he continued, “for the sake of argument, let’s split the difference and balance the budget in five years.”
“Okay,” Carl agreed, “but now comes the really hard part.” And they paused to fortify themselves.
“So,” Larry asked, “how in the world do we balance the budget in five years?” “Well,” Carl said, “from our current deficit of $1 trillion we could close the gap by $200 billion each year for five years. Next year, we accept an $800 billion deficit, the following year, $600 billion, and so on. By the end of the fifth year, we’d have a balanced budget. All we need to do is slash government spending.”
“Slash where?” Larry asked defensively.
“Entitlements!” Carl snapped. “Too many well-off people are draining Social Security and Medicare, which they don’t need.”
“Yeah, that’ll be popular,” Larry sneered.
“Well,” Carl challenged him, “what do you propose?”
“Raise taxes!” Larry practically shouted. “The wealthy and well-off haven’t paid their fair share for decades.”
Carl frowned. “Don’t you mean ‘business owners and job creators?’ ” he asked. “You know,” he said, “you’re sounding more and more like Robin Hood; steal from the rich and give to the poor.”
“And you’re sounding more and more like Scrooge,” Larry answered; “let the poor sink or swim.”
Just then an oldie chimed from the jukebox, something about heroes and villains, and both men smirked. “Bartender,” Larry called; “another round.”
“Okay,” Carl offered, “you compromised on a deficit-reduction timetable, so I’ll give ground here. Let’s close tax loopholes and raise taxes by $100 billion each of the next five years and reform entitlements to cut government spending by the same amount each year.”
“Well,” Larry shrugged, “I guess it’s a deal. You know,” he conceded, “you’re not such a bad guy, after all.”
“Nor you,” Carl said.
They shook hands then grew pensive as they sipped their drinks, realizing that their grand bargain would adversely affect virtually every American. And a slow song from the jukebox filled the tavern with undeniable truth: everybody hurts, sometimes.