I LOVE Hollywood sets of perfect streets that turn out to be nothing but fronts. It's so clever.
Alas, I think that's what we're going to find when we open the doors of the White House in 2009. See, I've been wondering where all the money is coming from for everything the president thinks is important, and I think I've figured it out. They sent everybody home a long time ago, set timers to make the lights go on, and locked the doors. Government is so much more cost efficient if nobody actually does anything.
Take the Food and Drug Administration. Look in your medicine cabinet and count how many bottles say "this product has not been evaluated by the FDA." Think of how many bad side effects "surprised" everyone when people died from taking new drugs. See? The FDA shut down years ago and does nothing but send out a newsletter on new food pyramids every six months.
The Federal Aviation Administration is my favorite. First, they don't do their own job of making sure that planes are getting inspected. Then they fine an airline for not doing the inspections. They managed to cut costs and raise more money at the same time. Whoever is still pretending to work there must have made Employee of the Month.
So we're now living in a Libertarian country, where the government doesn't actually provide any services except defense. The problem? We're paying taxes as if we live in a social democracy where the government provides all services except defense. They don't need defense because they have found that if you stop teaching history in schools, people forget that you actually need it sometimes.
How can you tell that we are Libertarians now? Because business is not complaining all the time. When the government is actually showing up for work, business groups say that they are being Crushed By Overregulation. Choked by Bureaucracy. I haven't heard a word of that in a long time, but it used to be the anthem of American business. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was on the news every night - truly, every night. When was the last time you heard of OSHA showing up for a surprise inspection? The Federal Communications Commission has not done its job in so long that the airways are an impossible sewer. Seriously, it's a sewer, and not a very good one. MSHA? The Mine Safety and Health Administration? Haven't worked a day since 2001. I picture them scrambling to the office when miners die, brushing up on their geology so they can prove that an earthquake in Samoa caused a cave-in here. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency? Well, now you know.
Where is the entire Labor Department? On spring break. How else could so many companies get away with hiring immigrants and paying them illegal wages? They have cleverly put up mirrors to make us blame the immigrants, but immigrants don't go where there are no jobs, and companies only hire immigrants because they can pay them dirt. These are not those employers who end up on those "Best Companies For Mommies" lists, you know.
I think the government is staffed entirely by press officers. That's all you really need, someone to nonanswer some nonquestions for two days before a crisis blows over. Outside of the actual armed services - the real people, not the Washington people - have you heard anybody but a press secretary type lately? Anybody who seems to have authority or responsibility?
So Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain, if I were you, I'd hire a really good house inspector before you move into the White House. I think you're going to find termites in the walls and toxic waste in the Rose Garden soil. "Don't worry," you'll be told, "The EPA took care of it."
Monique Doyle Spencer is author of "The Courage Muscle: A Chicken's Guide to Living With Breast Cancer."