Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Marx Brothers Deficit Deal

You have to bring back Groucho to explain this one. In a classic scene, he and Chico negotiate a contract by tearing off items from long sheets of paper until they are down to a sliver each.

“If any of the parties to this agreement,” Groucho reads, “have been shown not to be in their right mind, this contract is automatically nullified. That’s in every contract—-it’s called a sanity clause.

“You can’t fool me,” Chico answers, tearing it up. “There is no sanity clause.”

As the President announces a deficit deal, and Congressional leaders try to sell it to their factions, all concerned are well past sanity into a cuckooland of compromises and contingencies that will leave almost everyone unhappy, with the possible exception of the financial markets and credit raters.

The Marx Brothers routine is from a 1935 movie, “A Night at the Opera,” which has another scene that foreshadowed the weekend leading to what President Obama announced tonight.

In a small cabin, the brothers keep ordering up all kinds of deliveries and services until the space is a writhing mass of bodies that finally explodes when someone opens the door.

In this Washington remake of the chaos, however, nobody is laughing and tomorrow promises to be a day of bitter recriminations on all sides, unhappy with the agreement they will have vote into law, combined with face-saving posturing by their leaders claiming dubious victories and self-serving criticism by 2012 presidential hopefuls.

In another context, Groucho may have made the most trenchant of commentaries about the members of Congress: “I don’t want to belong to any club that takes people like me as members.”

If only this bunch had a fraction of his wit.


Anonymous said...

Hmm. I thought that the joke in Chico's statement was meant to be a pun ... that there was no "Santy Claus".

Mose Busby said...

I also don't think the much-quoted line at the end is correct either. (TOO much quoted, I would say, but apparently not so much quoted that people get it right!).