Life almost getting too bizarre to make fun of

January 09, 2013|By TIM ROWLAND |

The great fear of humorists everywhere (everywhere being defined as within the confines of my cubicle) is that the world will one day turn so bizarre that humor and reality collide at speeds normally associated with Hadron Colliders and obliterate all that was previously funny into a spray of decaying bosons.

Like what if someone said to you: “I know how to solve the debt-ceiling crisis; the government just needs to mint a $1 trillion coin and deposit it in the treasury.”

Or if someone else said: “Remember AIG, the grossly irresponsible insurance company that required a taxpayer bailout of $182 billion in order to survive? Its former brass now wants to sue the federal government for keeping it in business.”

One or maybe both of these are true, which, as you can see, makes it terribly difficult to write jokes, since nothing is ludicrous anymore.

For example, the joke ...


Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?

A. To see a man lay bricks

... works partially because of the wordplay, but also at the implied sight gag involving an absurd proposition involving the unlikely curiosity of a domesticated fowl.

If it were the case that a chicken did indeed overhear a conversation about men laying bricks and reasonably wondered about the likelihood, not to mention pain, involved in such a process, the joke wouldn’t be a joke at all.

Such was the case with the trillion-dollar coin, which began as a joke, but then became less funny when people started waking up to the fact that it was no more or less of a joke than Congress itself.

Under an obscure law that was designed with coin collectors in mind, the Treasury Department can mint a platinum coin in any denomination it sees fit. It could then be deposited in the United States’ checking account, without any need for action on the part of Congress.

The thought of this terrifies Congress for reasons unknown, since Congress has specialized in taking no action for the past four years. You might think they would applaud anything so in touch with their comfort zone.

But no, and a Republican representative has already introduced legislation that would ban the government from issuing a trillion-dollar coin.

Well? Law doesn’t say anything about a $2 trillion coin. Check and mate.

But the real chutzpah award goes to the people who ran AIG, the insurance behemoth that blithely insured home mortgages that America’s leading banks had issued to sea turtles. The company took the world to the brink of economic Armageddon and had to be rescued from ruin by you and me, DBA the federal government.

Now, after AIG has repaid the federal bailout, the former AIG CEO Maurice Greenberg, who led Wall Street and the world to doom’s doorstep, is now suing the federal government for $25 billion.

Why? Search me. Seems as if this would have been a great time to keep quiet, unless your goal is to take the mantel of World’s Greatest Rodent away from Donald Trump.

Greenberg et. al. say the government deprived them of a chance to make money on a business that was worse than broke. So it’s like AIG was a sleeping driver headed straight toward a cliff, and when the government grabbed the wheel and averted disaster, the driver sued on the basis that the car might have sprouted wings and flown.

Whatever. It just goes to show that even on those rare occasions when the government does something right it gets no thanks.

But there’s an obvious solution: The government could agree to pay the $25 billion to Greenberg — with a specially minted coin made not out of platinum, but out of pus.

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