The Economic Hangover

"In order for us to have the security we all want, America must get rid of the hangover that we now have as a result of the binge, the economic binge, we just went through."
- President Bush, in a speech at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, July 15, 2002.

President Bush’s peculiar metaphor on our economic state went largely unnoted. An early draft of the Birmingham speech, however, stretched the metaphor quite a bit further. I have obtained a copy of the original, written before Karl Rove’s edits. A full transcript is posted below.

In order for us to have the security we all want, America must get rid of the hangover that we now have as a result of the binge, the economic binge, we just went through. As a recovering CEO, I have, shall we say, a lot of experience in this area.

Sometimes America may wake up with a throbbing head, a pasty mouth and a foreign currency slumbering next to it. America must first ask itself two critical questions. One is: How did America get into this situation? Two is: How does America get herself out of this situation?

First things first. America must try to recall the previous night’s events. America may have begun the festivities innocently enough, sipping a small glass of debt while listening to Steely Dan and getting ready to go out with friends. No real danger there.

And then America pours herself a quick second glass before heading out the door.

Feeling good, America "accidentally" arrives early at the bar where she’s supposed be meeting a few friends. So she imbibes more debt. Then the friends arrive just in time to save her from a chatty, angry bartender named Yugoslavia.

Let’s take a close look at those friends. This will help us determine whether America is hanging out with the right or wrong crowd.

Mexico: Really trying to get his stuff together. And America wants to support him, but doesn’t want to give up her own good time, either. Good intentions, bad influence.

Canada: About as stable a friend as you could find. One of those guys that, when he gets drunk or high, looks and acts perfectly sober. He’s the one that goes jogging at seven in the morning even when he’s been up drinking until three. The type you turn to when you are on a really bad business cycle.

Russia: Moody as hell. Bitter about not being as pretty as she used to be. Becomes more incoherent as the night goes on.

South Korea: Nice, but a bit too eager to please. When everyone is doing shots, is always the first one on the floor.

Argentina: Dangerous. Your friends have wanted to set you up with this guy for a long time. A party animal. Has a loose fiscal policy. The kind of guy you would definitely not bring home to the Fed.

Back at the bar, pitchers of debt give way to shots of deficit spending, which evolve into a game of G8, where everyone at the table links arms and knocks back whatever their neighbor has ordered.

Against what’s left of America’s better judgment, she agrees to go to another bar. There, Russia runs into an ex-boyfriend. (You don’t remember his name. Sounded something like Kroohkistan.) The ex invites everyone back to his place. He’s got a surprise.

The surprise is a bag of primo Colombian inflation. The mere sight of the luscious powder opens America’s tear ducts and dries her mouth. Whatever good sense she may have had has long since been drowned by the pints and pints of debt.

Doing the first line is like getting back together with her favorite boyfriend. Why did you ever part? At the first hint of deflation, America does another fat line. And another. And another.

The rest of the night is just a collection of random, blurry images. Bank reserves spilled on the floor. Regulations in the kitchen. Monetarists coming and going. Supply-side weirdness in the bedroom. Socialism in the damp, dark basement. Massive deficit spending. Being face down in the bathroom in a pool of your own Gross National Product.

And then America wakes up. Argentina -- at least she thinks it’s Argentina -- is half-naked and drooling beside her. America is filled with guilt and regret. She swears that this is it. This is the last time this will happen.

And the economic cycle begins anew.

Thank you and God Bless America.

David Turnley ( writes humor for AlterNet.

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