Art and commentary by Kimberly Harris

Posts tagged ‘unemployment’

The Man in the Pickle Barrel Suit

A man wearing only a pickle barrel is supporting the US Capitol

True to President Reagan’s vision of a shining city on the hill, this new Fabergé egg commissioned by Congress celebrates the symbiotic relationship between government and the citizenry, thanks to whose selfless sacrifices this glorious institution has flourished over so many years.

The Shining City on the Hill has never looked so bright
Resplendent in magnificence, brilliance and might
A tall proud city built on rocks stronger than the ocean
Symbolic of our leaders’ noble devotion
I’ve never seen so many tourists gawk in utter awe
At this hallowed monument to our nation’s law
I never saw that wooden suit that you’re wearing
I have been blind
Citizen in the Red

After the fanfare and celebratory atmosphere wound down in the wake of the country’s landmark second inauguration, Congress saw fit to commission a piece of commemorative art that would celebrate their accomplishments and their vision for the future of America.

Although no one conceded much admiration for the Romanovs, several prominent congressional leaders were mesmerized by the elegance and detail of the famed jeweled Fabergé Eggs that were produced for Czar Alexander III and later Czar Nicholas II, as symbols of the power and wealth of imperial Russia. They decided to commission an egg for the government of the United States.

Congressional staffers were instructed to contact the US Embassy in Switzerland to find Deepak Fabergé, one the few remaining descendants of Russian Imperial Jeweler Carl Fabergé who had been rumored to still be producing jeweled eggs in his attic workshop in Lausanne. As soon as he was located, an Air Force C-32 transport plane was dispatched to Geneva in short order to pick up Fabergé and spirit him off to Washington, DC.

After a few formalities and several bottles of scotch, a select Congressional subcommittee instructed Fabergé to produce an egg for display in the Capitol rotunda that would glorify the seat of power that has made so much progress possible and also convey the nation’s appreciation for all the support and sacrifice on the part of the citizenry. They told Fabergé that money was not a concern and to produce as elegant a piece as he could conceive.

It was a tradition in the Fabergé family of jewelers that each egg would contain a surprise inside, and not even the recipient, however prominent an individual, was to know the contents of the egg in advance of its delivery.

After Fabergé returned to his atelier in Lausanne to begin work, the committee members waited in anxious anticipation of the delivery of the egg. What surprise might this new egg contain? Jobs? Health Care? A balanced budget?

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Punxsutawney Phil Becomes a Consultant

Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog is holding a crystal ball

Come to me, for I can see the future

After his superiors callously riffed him during a recent reorganization at the National Weather Service, Phil succeeded in establishing himself as a respected independent meteorological consultant. (“getting riffed’ is governmentspeak for unlucky public servants who are the hapless objects of a Reduction In Force, or “RIF”)

Phil realized that in spite of his many years of dedicated government service and his innumerable awards and commendations, it was going to be difficult to simply go and hang out a shingle in front of his burrows at Gobbler’s Knob and attract paying customers off the street. Therefore, Phil decided to adopt a persona inspired by the gypsy fortune tellers of old. He bought a crystal ball at a second hand magic shop and proclaimed himself to be “Phil, Seer of Seers.”

Phil’s main line of business is predicting both short and long-term weather patterns, but when the weather is nice and business is slow, Phil is known to dabble in providing advice to the lovelorn and assessing a client’s potential for acquiring wealth or fame.

It is rumored that Phil has recently been retained by a trailing candidate in the current Republican presidential primary race to provide guidance as to how long he should tough it out before throwing in the towel.

Illustration by Kim Harris
Story by Don Rudisuhle

Ben Bernanke’s optimistic outlook for the economy

Picture of Ben Bernanke portayed as Pinocchio

Benocchio assures the public that inflation is under control

On Wednesday, April 27, 2011, for the very first time in history, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve held a press conference and took open questions from journalists representing prominent news organizations and prestigious financial publications.

During his opening statement, the Chairman denied that the liquidity being added through the quantitative easing program and the purchase of hundreds of billions in Treasury debt has contributed to inflation. He further asserted that the current rise in prices was a temporary phenomenon and that they would revert to historical norms in due time. The Chairman also reiterated the Federal Reserve’s commitment to maintaining a strong dollar. When Treasury Secretary Geithner made a similar statement in 2009 during an address to students at Beijing University, he elicited loud bursts of laughter from the audience.

These rosy predictions fly in the face of what ordinary consumers are experiencing on a daily basis when they shop for basic necessities. Just as the US Department of Agriculture predicted in October of last year, retail prices for fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, dairy products and meat have gone up dramatically, some of these registering annualized increases of as much as 14%.

The Consumer Price Index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics concedes a 3.6% inflation rate over the last 12 months for food purchased for consumption at home, and this is likely to be understated. Even McDonald’s Corporation announced last week that it expects inflation in food costs this year, and everybody knows that when the clown speaks, people listen.

Also, people need to get to the store and to their place of employment, assuming they are lucky enough to have a steady job. Over the last six months, gasoline has increased at a rate of more than 6% per month from $2.82 to $3.87 per gallon and there is no relief in sight from the destructive impact wrought upon budgets of families already stressed by the long recession the country has been experiencing.

Maybe the government really does have inflation under control as we’re being told, but more likely, the wooden man with the nicely trimmed beard and the prominent nose hasn’t filled up his car or been to the grocery store lately.

President Obama Appoints a Cheese Czar

President Obama Appoints a Czar to manage the Federal Cheese Reserves

Dr. Al Gorgonzola, the newly appointed Cheese Czar

After reading alarming accounts in the news regarding the possibility of widespread food shortages in the near future, President Obama met with key officials in his cabinet to be briefed about possible measures he might propose in order to mitigate the impact on the citizenry.

The President had just seen the World Bank’s recently released Food Price Watch report which announced the disturbing news that the Bank’s Food Price Index had gone up by 15% in the three months between October 2010 and January 2011 and is a full 29% above its level a year ago. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization further stated that a 30% increase in food prices would be likely next year as well. The President’s advisors explained that a number of factors were at work, and that these were largely beyond anyone’s control, with global warming as the primary culprit. Among causes cited were devastating floods in Brazil, Pakistan and Australia, unprecedented droughts in Russia, Argentina and China and below average harvests in the United States and other countries. Increased demand and domestic inflation resulted in higher rice prices in some Asian and African countries and the diversion of corn for the production of ethanol was also considered to be a cause for increased prices in basic foodstuffs, including beef and poultry. In the United States, it is predicted that this year 40% of domestic corn production will be destined for processing into biofuels.

The officials were at a loss as to how to shield the US against this dangerous global phenomenon until Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack reminded the President of the existence of the nation’s Strategic Cheese Reserves, which are stockpiled deep underground in caves in Missouri. This hoard is the result of a longstanding federal program dating back to the Depression Era whereby the government purchased much of the excess cheese that was produced by the dairy industry. Only officials with high security clearances know for sure, but there is said to be well in excess of a million tons stored there with a current market value approaching $9 billion. Secretary Vilsack proposed that this cheese be mobilized and made available to needy people, much in the fashion as food stamps are today.

The President’s new Press Secretary, Jay Carney, even went as far as to suggest that Mr. Obama could garner favor among low-income voters by pitching bricks of cheddar from a White House balcony into a crowd of hungry, chronically unemployed, although the group unanimously discounted this idea.

The first lady was horrified at releasing the estimated 23 trillion calories stored in the cheese caves to an already overweight public, fearing that this would undermine her “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign. However, Mrs. Obama agreed to listen to all of the arguments put forth at the meeting.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar cautioned the President that for some time, the United States Geological Survey had been concerned that increasing underground geothermal activity caused by climate change could heat the cheese to the point where it would melt and violently erupt out through fissures in the rock, and potentially smother entire communities with a scalding yellow ooze. Secretary Salazar suggested that this would be an opportune time to release the stockpiles and clear out the caves, because FEMA would likely be incapable of dealing with a catastrophe of this nature, as their rescue launches would not be able to navigate in a medium as dense as molten cheese, which would quickly clog the heat exchangers on their engines.

Prior efforts to mitigate threats to the public and avoid a catastrophic caseous meltdown, numerous federal initiatives have been in place for some years. In 1995, the Department of Agriculture created a non-profit organization called Dairy Management, Inc. It is funded through assessments charged to the dairy producers and the taxpayer dollars and has a mandate to increase demand for U.S. dairy products.

Unfortunately, attempts to reduce the vast stores of cheese have only been met with moderate success. According to the New York Times, the best promotional efforts put forth by Dairy Management Inc. and the Department of Agriculture in their 2002 partnership with Pizza Hut in their celebrated 2002 “Summer of Cheese” only resulted in a meager incremental consumption of 102 million pounds cheese, which scarcely put a dent in the 1.3 million tons that are believed to exist in the nation’s underground repository.

Recognizing a unique opportunity to solve two worrisome problems at the same time, President Obama and his advisors moved swiftly to put a plan into action. Due to the magnitude and complexity of the undertaking, the President soon realized that it would be necessary to appoint a Cheese Czar to oversee the operation. After consulting his most trusted advisers, Mr. Obama soon settled on his leading candidate, a distinguished industry expert named Al Gorgonzola. Dr. Aloysius Gorgonzola earned his PhD in Food Science from the University of Wisconsin and later spent some time as an Assistant Professor at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research. As an articulate speaker and an authority on cheese production and long-term storage, Dr. Gorgonzola fit the bill perfectly for steering America’s cheese policy and running what would soon become a high-profile operation with considerable public and media visibility. Within days of his nomination, the White House held a formal ceremony in the Rose Garden and invited many of Washington’s luminaries to participate in Mr. Obama’s historic conveyance of the prestigious title of Cheese Czar to a beaming Dr. Gorgonzola.

When Fox News television host Greta Van Susteren read the White House release, she immediately recognized Dr. Gorgonzola as a fellow Wisconsin cheesehead, and quickly contacted his office to arrange for him to appear on her show, “On the Record” and defend his suggestion that the state’s iconic football team be renamed “The Green Cheese Packers” because they always shoot for the moon.

Illustration by Kim Harris
Story by Don Rudisuhle

Angelo, the Cupid Love Psychic

A retired Cupid is giving advice to the lovelorn over the telephone

Financial pressures from the recession force Cupid out of retirement and into a second career

The tough economy forces yet another senior citizen out of retirement and back into the work force.

Having finally retired after years of service in the matchmaking industry, Cupid hung up his quiver and was looking forward to having time to relax and pursue his favorite hobbies, bowling and hang gliding. However, the recent stock market collapse decimated his savings and left his 401K worth less than a bag of last year’s stale candy hearts. After reading an inspiring article in the AARP monthly magazine about seniors who successfully pursued second careers after retirement, Cupid decided to draw on his extensive experience in matchmaking and set himself up as a telephone love psychic. Now, as Angelo, the Cupid Love Psychic, he is supplementing his meager Social Security income with revenue from giving advice to the lovelorn

Punxsutawney Phil Predicts Weather for Seeds and Nuts

A groundhog sits outside his burrows holding a sign

Poor Punxsutawney Phil is out of work

Virtually everyone knows the story of Punxsutawney Phil, the celebrated groundhog who lives on a hill called Gobbler’s Knob in a small town in rural west central Pennsylvania. Every year on Groundhog Day, amidst much merrymaking and circumstance, Phil emerges from his burrows to check his shadow and address the assembled multitude for the purpose of announcing his weather prediction to the formally attired members of his inner circle, all of whom are proficient in Groundhogese and can translate on his behalf.

If on February 2nd Phil fails see his shadow it can mean that spring is not far away. On the other hand, in the event he does see it, the prediction is that six more weeks of winter are in store. For the last three years, Phil has predicted a long cold winter. We hope that this year will be different. That is, if Phil is allowed to perform his duties, as he faithfully has for the last 120 years.

You see, last year PETA successfully argued that Groundhog Day ceremonies were exploitative and that the event should be officiated by a more humane robotic surrogate. Suddenly, and without warning, Punxsutawney Phil found himself out of work and facing foreclosure. Insolvent and with few prospects for gainful employment in a declining economy, Phil has no alternative than to appeal to the charity of his followers and raise money in whatever way he can.

Illustration by Kim Harris
Story by Don Rudisuhle

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