Tough decisions on government work

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, January 20, 2010

“You’ve got to help me. If I don’t find a job soon, the wife is going to brain me.”

“Relax, the government is here to help. We’ve been disbursing funds from the $787 billion stimulus bill for nearly a year now. We’ve created or saved almost 2 million jobs.”

“But isn’t unemployment stalled at 10 percent? Didn’t the president say his stimulus bill would keep it from going above 8 percent?”

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“It’s not our fault we inherited such a mess. Why, things were so bad, we had to spend months overhauling the health care system.”

“But won’t your health plan raise health insurance premiums, health care costs and income taxes? Won’t that hurt the economy and make it even harder for me to get a job?”

“Look, we have smart people running the country now — many from our leading universities. They’re making difficult decisions to do what is best for you.”

“Best for me? How will capping greenhouse gases help me find a job when such a move will drive up costs on everything and further hurt the economy?”

“You have to understand we’re investing billions in government programs and grants that will ultimately stimulate the economy.”

“But our deficit is terrifyingly high. Our debt is growing by leaps and bounds. Everyone knows if we keep spending like madmen that will hurt the economy more and make it harder to get work.”

“I’d be as concerned as you, were I not learned in the science of economics. The first $168 billion stimulus under President Bush was so effective, President Obama gave us a second for $787 billion. Now there’s talk about a third!”

“Look, all I want is a job, but many companies say there is too much uncertainty for them to hire. Their taxes are surely going to go up. They don’t know what government mandates they’ll be forced to fund.”

“Thanks to government spending there are lots of new opportunities. You can see them at and through news reports. You just need the right skills.”

“The right skills?”

“Have you ever done research involving the study of sexual arousal in anesthetized female rats?”

“No, but –”

“Well, what do you know about video games for senior citizens? We gave out a $427,824 research grant to study Grandpa’s game-play needs.”

“But my grandpa can’t even work an ATM.”

“How are you with machine-generated humor? We gave a $712,883 research grant to Northwestern University to design artificially intelligent ‘comedic performance agents.’ This will support the ‘enjoyment and illumination of everyday citizens.’”

“I know how to use a computer, but –”

“How about Census work? We set aside an additional $1 billion for the 2010 Census, which already has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion.”

“I’d be happy to take any work, but could use a little more pay than what Census workers –”

“How are your upholstery skills? We set aside $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C.”

“Well, that sounds like a possibility, but –”

“But what? For an unemployed fellow you’re awful picky. How about this then: We provided a $389,537 grant for an academic study that compares the ‘outcomes of the concurrent and separate use of malt liquor and marijuana.’”

“You really think spending almost $400,000 to fund a study in which participants get bombed and high will somehow stimulate the economy and produce jobs?”

“Absolutely, though in this case I’m not sure if participants will be paid.”

“Sign me up. At this point, I’ll be happy to do that one free.”

Tom Purcell is a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Visit Tom on the web at or e-mail him at