The Fiscal Cliffs of Insanity: A Play in One Entertaining Act
Posted November 28, 2012on:
(THE SCENE: The set of a game show. There’s a live audience in cushy seats, waiting for the show to start. A sign in lights above the stage reads: “The Fiscal Cliffs of Insanity!”, the name of the show in question. The setup is much like “Jeopardy,” with a podium for the host across the stage from three podiums for the contestants. There is someone at each podium, but we can’t see who they are because that part of the stage is in darkness. Tinny music starts as the host sweeps in to wild audience applause. It’s – PAUL KRUGMAN.)
KRUGMAN: Thank you, thank you very much! We’ve got a really great show for you today. Well, I know I say that every week, but this time it’s REALLY special. Let’s see who’s going to go over the Fiscal Cliffs of Insanity today! Will it be PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA?
(OBAMA is revealed as a spotlight comes up on Podium 1. )
OBAMA (smiling): I’m thrilled to be here, Paul.
KRUGMAN: Orrrrrrr….SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER?
(BOEHNER is revealed as a spotlight comes up on Podium 2. The Speaker’s lower lip trembles.)
BOEHNER: (surreptitiously dabbing his eyes with a handkerchief) I’m just sooooo happy to be here!
KRUGMAN: And finally, we present to you…KIM KARDASHIAN!
(KIM KARDASHIAN, in all her tightly-clad glory, is revealed as a spotlight comes up on Podium 3. BOEHNER and OBAMA look at each other and smirk.)
KK (smiling a dazzling smile): Hi, everyone! This is like sooooo coool! I hope I don’t go over the Cliffs!
(Canned laughter from the audience.)
KRUGRMAN: Well, KIM, someone has to….so let’s start the show!
(Underneath the lighted sign, a huge flat screen rises up.)
KRUGMAN: We all know how this works. We ask the contestants questions about the fiscal cliff, and whoever gives the most wrong answers has to go….
KRUGMAN, AUDIENCE AND CONTESTANTS (enthusiastically): OVER THE CLIFFS!
BOEHNER (to OBAMA, under cover of applause): This is gonna be a cakewalk. You’re toast, Mr. President.
OBAMA (to BOEHNER): Dream on, Orange Boy. This isn’t a debate – it’s a battle of wits. And from where I stand, two of my opponents are unarmed.
(A drum provides the obligatory “ba dump-bump.” KIM, oblivious, is texting on her smartphone.)
KRUGMAN (rubbing his hands): Oh ho ho – looks like our contestants are in a feisty mood today! Let’s look at the screen for our first question.
(The first question appears on the screen.)
KRUGMAN (portentously): What is the proven economic method for improving the economy during a depression? Is it A) Cut government spending to decrease deficits, B) Cut taxes to give people more spending money, or C) Increase government spending and create jobs? Contestants, please write your answers into your podiums. You have 10 seconds.
(A clock appears on the screen and begins the countdown. Instead of music, the roar of a waterfall is heard.)
KK (disbelievingly): Write? OMG, so old-school. Whatevs.
(Canned laughter from the audience; then a thud, as though a body has hit rock from a great height, signals the end of the countdown.)
KRUGMAN: Annnnnd, time is up! Mr. President, how’d we do?
OBAMA (proudly): I picked “B,” Paul. (The letter appears on his podium screen.)
(KK rolls her eyes. He’s obviously wrong.)
KRUGMAN: Ohhhh, sorry about that!
OBAMA (astonished): What?! (recovering his bravado) Please. What do you know? You’re just a newspaper columnist!
KRUGMAN: Uh, hello? Nobel Prize-Winning economist ring a bell, Mr. President?
OBAMA (contemptuously): Hmph. Even I’ve got one of those Nobel thingies. It’s no big deal.
BOEHNER (eagerly): Hey….do you guys think I could get one? Gold is my favorite color.
KRUGMAN, OBAMA AND KIM TOGETHER: Obviously.
(Canned laughter from the audience.)
KRUGMAN: All righty then. Mr. Boner – er, Bay-ner – what was your response?
BOEHNER (smugly): “A,” of course. (The letter appears on his podium screen.)
KRUGMAN: Of course! But that, too, is incorrect. Sooo sorry! We’re 0 for 2 now. Ms. Kardashian, what about you?
KK (looks up from her smartphone): Oh. Uh, “C.” Duh. (The letter appears on her podium screen.)
(OBAMA and BOEHNER look at each other, disgusted.)
KRUGMAN (shocked): That is, um….correct. The only method that has been proven to improve faltering economies is government spending and job creation. Do you mind my asking, how did you reach that conclusion?
KK: Oh, when George W. was President, he said that shopping was good for the economy. So I figured, if spending is good when I do it, it’s extra good when the government does it. Am I right, people? Woohoo! Yeah!
(Wild applause from the audience.)
KRUGMAN: Well-done, Ms. Kardashian!
KK (flirtatiously): Call me Kim, hot stuff.
KRUGMAN: Since you are currently in the lead, I’ll be happy to! Our score is now: Kim, 1: The President and Speaker Boehner, 0. Better step it up, boys, or you’re both going…(with audience) OVER THE CLIFFS! Now, on to our next question!
(The flat screen displays the next question.)
KRUGMAN: Cutting spending on programs like Medicaid and Medicare will have what effect on the deficit? Will it A) Increase the deficit; B) Decrease the deficit, or C) Peanut butter? You have ten seconds. (The countdown sounds begin.)
OBAMA: “Peanut butter?” What kind of idiot would pick that? (writes on his podium with a flourish and great confidence)
BOEHNER: This one is so easy, even that smiling big-eared bastard will get it right. Oh, who knows – maybe he’ll pick “Peanut Butter!” (writes on his podium, giving OBAMA the evil eye)
KK (looking up from her smartphone): Oh, this one is hard. Let me see, um…(writes in her podium quickly)
(The sound of the body hitting the rocks signals the end of the countdown.)
KRUGMAN: And…time IS UP! So, let’s start with our current leader, Ms. Kardashian – uh, Kim. What was your answer?
KK (confidently): Paul, I picked “C”, peanut butter.
(Canned laughter from the audience, guffaws from BOEHNER and OBAMA.)
KRUGMAN (gently): I’m sorry, Kim, that’s incorrect.
KK (crushed): Oh. The last answer was “C,” so I thought this one would be too. I’m so bummed – I’ve gotta tweet! (picks up her smartphone)
KRUGMAN: Tweet away! Well, on to Speaker BOEHNER. What response did you choose?
BOEHNER (smarmily): Well, clearly not “C”! (No one laughs.) Ahem. I chose “B,” Decrease the Deficit. (His response appears on his podium.)
KRUGMAN (cheerfully): Oooooooh, sorry, Mr. Speaker, but that is wrong again!
OBAMA (slams his hands on the podium): Dammit!
KRUGMAN: I deduce from your response, Mr. President, that you also chose “B”?
(OBAMA regards him in stony silence as the letter “B” appears on his podium.)
KK: Hah! Who’s the idiot now, boys? You know what you can kiss!
(She wiggles her famous butt at OBAMA AND BOEHNER. The audience hoots and hollers.)
KRUGMAN (gleefully): Well, I’m sorry to say that no one picked the correct answer, “A” – Increase the Deficit. You see, when you cut the budget for the social safety net, you decrease the spending power of those who depend on it for health care. Less spending means less income to the government, therefore increasing the deficit.
(The audience applauds politely.)
OBAMA (to BOEHNER): What a pompous ass. All I hear is “Blah blah blah, I’m not the President so I’m bitter.”
BOEHNER (pointing at KK): Speaking of asses…I’d like to take her up on that offer! Am I right, Barry baby? (The two high-five.)
KRUGMAN: Back to the game! The score remains: Kim 1, the President and the House Speaker 0. There’s only one question left before we know who goes…(with the audience) OVER THE CLIFFS! And that question is:
(The flat screen displays the next question.)
KRUGMAN: Is there a deficit crisis? Your choices are: A) Yes, the deficit is too big; B) Yes, the deficit is too small; C) No, the deficit is just right. You have…TEN SECONDS! Make this one count, everyone!
(All contestants furiously write on their podiums, even KK. The audience begins to count down when the clock reaches 5.)
AUDIENCE: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1! OVER THE CLIFFS!
KRUGMAN: Yes, indeed! It’s anyone’s game at this point, so let’s see….(almost whispering a la Alex Trebek) The final results. (Drum roll and cymbal clash.) Mr. President. Your answer?
OBAMA: Uh, I picked, uh, “C,” the deficit is just right. (His podium displays the letter “C.”) We shouldn’t do anything too extreme in this difficult economy.
(The audience applauds half-heartedly as OBAMA beams.)
KK (rolling her eyes): Wrong again, you socialist.
BOEHNER (interrupting, at the end of his rope): Wait a minute! You came up with your own deficit reduction plan AND you created Bowles-Simpson! You damn hypocrite. (Turning to KRUGMAN) Obviously, the answer is “A”, The deficit is too big. Everyone knows that! (His eyes begin to water and he takes out his hanky to dab once again. His podium displays the letter “A.”)
KRUGMAN (shaking his head): You guys just don’t get it. You’ll never get it! I can’t believe this! (sighing) Well, Kim, which did you pick – A or C?
KK (pulling a pair of sexy horn-rimmed glasses out of her cleavage and putting them on): Well, Paul, I picked “B”, the deficit is too small. (Sure enough, her podium displays the letter “B.”)
KRUGMAN (with a giant smile): Kim, you have restored my faith in humanity! You are CORRECT!!
(The audience applauds wildly, hooting and hollering. KK takes a demure bow while OBAMA fumes, and BOEHNER begins to cry in earnest.)
KRUGMAN: But Kim, how did you know the right answer?
KK: Simple, Paul. I figured if we spend more, the deficit will increase. But George W. told us to spend more, so the increase must be good. We need more spending and bigger deficits! And besides, bigger is always better, if you know what I mean!
(The audience goes nuts.)
KRUGMAN: Kim, that is, um, somewhat right! (Looks at OBAMA and BOEHNER.) Well, Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, I’m sorry to say that you are the losers of “The Fiscal Cliffs of Insanity” today. And while the trumped up claims of free-market utopians aren’t real, the Cliffs are! Behold!
(A small waterslide, made to vaguely look like a cliff, descends from the ceiling. Steps go to the top of the slide; at the bottom is a large cushiony mattress.)
BOEHNER (moaning): Oh, man, don’t make me go on that thing! I just spray-tanned!
OBAMA (horrified): This is a five thousand dollar suit, Krugman!
KRUGMAN: My apologies, but maybe if you had a clue about real-world economics, you could have beaten Kim. (he starts giggling uncontrollably) I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Ahem. Over the cliffs you go!
(Disconsolately, the losers trudge to the waterslide and schlump down it, arguing about who’s going first all the way. They land in a tumble of arms and legs. OBAMA’s suit is ruined and dripping; BOEHNER’s orange face is now streaked messily with white. KK and KRUGMAN watch happily as OBAMA and BOEHNER exit, stage left.)
KRUGMAN: Kim, that makes you today’s winner! Congratulations! Your prize is $500,000. Would you like cash or a check?
KK (giggling): Seriously? That’s, like, my daily allowance. You can keep your prize money. Better yet, give it to the audience! Woo hoo!
(The audience gives KK a standing ovation.)
KRUGMAN: What a great idea! Let’s start improving the economy here on the show! Audience, stop by the office in 15 minutes to pick up your share!
(The audience gives KRUGMAN a standing ovation, then they stampede out of the theatre. KK giggles helplessly.)
KRUGMAN: Or, heh-heh, go pick it up now! (crossing to KK) But Kim, this leaves us with a problem. What do you want for a prize?
KK: How about dinner with you, hot stuff? You can tell more about how spending is good and how I’m helping the economy by buying all my yachts and whatnot!
KRUGMAN (slightly puzzled, but game): Well, as long as I can bring my wife.
KK (putting her arm through his, and exiting with him, stage right): Kinky!
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