Oct 6, 2012
Mr. Jeffrey Zients is the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in Washington, D.C. He was recently allowed ten minutes to brief President Obama on the catastrophic rise in U.S. federal debt, which has grown by approximately $4 trillion under the Obama administration.
The following is a transcript of the conversation as recorded in the Oval Office on October 4th, 2012. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was also present.
Zients: I have the numbers you asked for, Mr. President.
Obama: Great, let’s hear them!
Zients: Yes, sir, well, we looked at all the numbers involved in federal spending, and this year’s annual deficit, and the interest in existing debt, and it all comes out to the fact that the United States government is now $16 trillion in debt.
Obama: (Pauses) Did you say $16 trillion in debt?
Zients: $16 trillion, yes sir.
Obama: Mr. Zients?
Zients: Yes, Mr. President?
Obama: You’ve got to stop being so negative.
Zients: (Pauses) Umm, in what way, sir?
Obama: Well, for example, your numbers.
Zients: The $16 trillion?
Obama: Yes, the $16 trillion. Now, I’m not saying you’re doing a bad job or anything, but to a lot of people, $16 trillion sounds really negative.
Carney: I agree, it just has a very negative tone to it. On top of what happened in the recent debate, we need more positive numbers.
Zients: But, Mr. President, this is the calculation. The debt comes to $16 trillion.
Obama: Well, that’s your opinion. Why are you so negative, Mr. Zients?
Zients: It’s actually a robust accounting algorithm that…
Obama: (Interrupting) Ah now, Mr. Zients. Let me ask you HOW you came to this $16 trillion.
Zients: Well, our team began by recording all the government revenues, which is all the money coming in.
Obama: Yes, wonderful. That sounds good so far. We need more of that.
Zients: And then I subtracted all the money we’re spending…
Obama: Well there’s your problem!
Zients: Where’s the problem?
Obama: Subtracting things. That’s very negative.
Zients: It’s the way we do math when accounting, sir…
Obama: Yes, but what mathematical symbol do you use when subtracting things, Mr. Zients?
Zients: Um, we use the minus sign.
Obama: Exactly! That’s a NEGATIVE mathematical symbol! And what did we tell you about negativity?
Zients: Uh, you told me to stop being so negative, sir.
Obama: Exactly! And it’s not just me. America needs us all to be more POSITIVE, wouldn’t you agree Jay?
Carney: The people need to hear more positive news, yes. Don’t forget to recalculate the unemployment figures, too.
Obama: Those were my thoughts exactly, Jay. Now, Mr. Zients, do you think you could find a way to be more POSITIVE when you report these numbers?
Zients: I’m not sure, sir. The math behind these numbers is…
Obama: (Interrupting) Let me just SHOW you. Here, you see that negative sign in front of the $16 trillion you have there? Now what if we just take a happy pencil here, and we draw another line, a vertical line, right through that negative sign. What do we get?
Zients: A plus sign? (Looking skeptical)
Obama: Ha! You got it!
Carney: He really gets it!
Zients: (Confused) I’m not sure I do get it, actually…
Obama: Well you see, this used to be a negative number, but we don’t allow negativity in Washington anymore. We’re the party of Hope and Change, right? Well how can people believe in hope and change if you’re being NEGATIVE all the time? You’ve got to GET POSITIVE, and it all starts right here, with these numbers!
Zients: So you want me to change all the negative numbers to positive numbers?
Obama: That’s right, brother! You really do get it now!
Carney: I love this guy!
Obama: Can you do that for us, Mr. Zients?
Zients: Um, it may require… some reprogramming at the OMB data center…
Obama: Well, whatever! We’ve got government grant money out the wazoo! You need more money to be more positive, you just let us know! Can you do that?
Zients: Um, yes, I guess so sir. I can try.
Obama: Outstanding! There may be a place for you right here in the White House once I’m re-elected! But first, lemme test you. Here’s the test, you ready?
Zients: Ready, sir.
Obama: How big is the federal debt? Be sure to STAY POSITIVE.
Carney: (Cheering) Stay positive, man!
Obama: (Jumping up and down) Are you staying positive?
Zients: (Thinking hard) Yes sir, I’m staying really, really positive.
Obama: (Pointing to the sky with eyes closed) Okay, then what’s the answer?
Zients: (With gleeful surprise) Well, it turns out there is no national debt, Mr. President. We’ve actually discovered a $16 trillion surplus!
Obama: (Jumping for joy) Hallelujah! He gets it!
Carney: (Smiling ear to ear) Now I LOVE this guy!
Obama: Now get on back to the OMB offices and get those numbers announced. Besides, we’ve got another job for you, Mr. Zients.
Zients: Another job?
Obama: Oh yes! Next we need you to work on the unemployment figures!
This article was posted: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 3:25 am