Once a great Recession was the scourge of the land. Millions of workers lost their jobs. Those still-employed looked out their office windows and saw the jobless in wrinkled suits, stumbling around outside, bumping into one another, moaning in desperation. Some held resumé folders under their arms. It was truly a frightening sight, and those looking on from the office windows were terrified.
When all the great CEOs saw that their employees were terrified, they grew terrified, too.
Terrified employees aren’t efficient employees, they fretted.
So the great CEOs banded as one, and on hand and knee crawled into their respective corporate jets to make pilgrimage to Capitol Hill. They crawled out of their jets and crawled into their respective black limousines, and out again they crawled all the way up the steps of the Capitol to the meeting of the Senate. There they prostrated themselves before the otherworldly wisdom and power of the great sages of Ways and Means: all were supine, with arms outstretched and faces to the dust.
O you great men, the CEOs intoned, come to our aid, for a Recession stalks the land, necessitating the unfortunate downsizing of underperforming companies, and many are unemployed, and many more are afeard of unemployment, which is just as harsh a kick to the pants, efficiency-wise.
What, the chorus of sages boomed, would you have us do, you besuited CEOs?
You sages, who are closer to the almighty Fed, must ask it to slay this Recession, they wailed. Or at least palliate its effects by affording us an infusion of capital.
Thereby it came that the sages conferred amongst themselves for many days in a closed-door session of Congress, and throughout this time called upon the Fed, and its ruler, Bernanke.
O Bernanke, the sages cried, what sacrifices must we and the great CEOs make unto you, so that you will champion our cause and smite this Recession?
Bernanke thundered from his throne atop the Fed building:
Three are the sacrifices I demand, and three shall I receive!
First, thou must convince the CEOs to curb executive pay. Second, thou must invite my apostles to more Capitol Hill parties, consenting not to snub them because they are humorless economists by vocation. Finally, you must slaughter for me a hundred oxen of pure white hide.
Thus spake Bernanke.
And so the sages did as Bernanke said. The oxen were slaughtered, and economists were invited to Capitol Hill parties. And lo, they had a conference call with the great CEOs and asked them to cool it with the multi-million dollar bonus pay, and salaries hundreds of times larger than the lowliest employee under them, and profligate executive retreats paid for on the company’s dime. And the CEOs rubbed their noses and scratched their chins and looked elsewhere before finally murmuring a promise that they would look into it.
The three sacrifices thus made, Bernanke set loose 999 economists, each of whom met with 999 government officials, each of whom drafted 999 new policy initiatives, each new initiative being but one component in a tremendous spell, one thread woven with all the others to make a maddeningly complex hex, one that slowly, very slowly transformed Bernanke from mere mortal to a ten-thousand-foot colossus. It was then that the Speaker of the House armed him with the Capitol Hill dome as a shield, and the Secretary of the Treasury armed him with the Empire State Building as a sword.
Bernanke roared in celebration of his might, and his roar was heard all around the world, sending both anarcho-capitalists and neo-utopian-socialists trembling together, as if brothers.
So it happened that Bernanke then stalked the Rust Belt, the favorite and long-time haunt of Recession, before spying in the distance a much greater foe than expected: not Recession − but Depression ascendant. The Scourge of Markets sat glumly, sipping coffee from a nuclear cooling tower just outside of Lansing, Michigan. He was listening to the wails of the unemployed, which to him sounded as pleasing and melancholy as any Coldplay album. Knowing the strength of his enemy was too great to confront on the level field of battle, Bernanke, being a wise and crafty man, disguised himself.
Hey there, greeted Bernanke.
Oh, hey, said Depression with disinterest. He started absently clipping his toenails with the hinged trunk of an unsold 2009 Chevy Impala.
I’m just a stupid Natural Resources Boom, said Bernanke, and so I’m a bit lost. Is this the way to the Alberta Oil Sands?
Depression coughed. He wiped his nose, then lit a cigarette made from an automotive factory smokestack and ten thousand pounds of grade-C soy byproduct. He jabbed behind him, over his shoulder. Yeah, it’s over there, he said. You should probably go through Ontario.
Bernanke asked if Depression wouldn’t mind showing him the way. Depression sighed.
Fine, he said with eye-rolling exasperation. But watch your step. I took a dump somewhere just outside Windsor.
So Depression led the way.
And lo, it was then, just as Depression was about to step over the Detroit River, that Bernanke hit him across the head with the Empire State Building.
Son of a gun! cried Depression, clutching his ear.
Before Depression knew what was happening Bernanke tackled him into Lake Erie, where the two thrashed about for days and days, with the tenacity of two drunks in a gutter fight. Finally, Bernanke won the upper hand. He smashed Depression’s head five times against Toledo, and dunked his head five times under the Ohio River. Depression cried uncle.
Okay, I give up. What do you want?
By my steel wool beard, boomed Bernanke, I command you to leave this land at once!
Ah man, I was just getting comfortable here, Depression whined.
Eager to have Depression vacate the premises without a further, prolonged fight, Bernanke used $999 billion in bailout money to pay back Depression’s safety deposit. Depression tucked the check into his shirt pocket. That’s when Bernanke chucked Depression far, far away − all the way to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where Depression sank, pouting, waiting morosely for the next business cycle that would carry him ashore.
The whole nation exploded in celebration. The unemployed became employed. The employed regained their efficiency. The CEOs lavished the sages of Capitol Hill with gifts of gold and fine linens and campaign contributions. And Bernanke returned home to the Fed a hero to all. But in short time he grew smaller as the policies grew more and more outmoded, until he shrank to human size, retired from office, and joined the lecture circuit − soon to be forgotten by everyone save for his loyal disciples, the economists, who bided time just as morosely as Depression.
Time they had, these economists − and in excess − until, of course, 2012.