11.28.2008 9:05 pm
Horrigan column: Santa comes to Congress for Relief Claus
By: Kevin Horrigan
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
In perhaps the most shocking sign yet of the dire condition of the nation’s economy, Santa Claus today appeared before the House Financial Services Committee pleading for a $25 billion bailout of his North Pole-based toy manufacturing industry.
Lawmakers were shocked at the sudden appearance of the right jolly old elf, who reportedly evaded Capitol Police by entering the hearing room through a chimney boarded up during the Nixon administration. “I guess he had a case of the flue,” joked committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.
Appearing without counsel, Claus, dressed in his traditional red suit, told the committee that without the cash infusion, “Christmas will be very bleak.”
He said layoffs would be inevitable among his 300,000-elf work force and that “bankruptcy is not out of the picture.”
“I hate to be the one to break the news to you, ladies and gentlemen,” Claus said. “But Santa Claus is not Santa Claus, if you get my drift. For a thousand years, we’ve been hung out to dry with no federal or local tax support. Our labor costs are through the roof. Competition from China is very fierce. Environmental regulations are a huge added cost. And now we find that because of global climate change, we’ve had to retro-fit the entire North Pole manufacturing center on floats and pylons. We need help.”
Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, the committee’s ranking Republican, was sympathetic to Claus’ complaints about the high cost of environmental compliance. “How many of your people have you lost to marauding polar bears?” Bachus asked.
“That’s the good news,” Claus said. “Technically, elves aren’t ‘people,’ so the Bush administration recently reclassified them as a food source for the bears. If there’s one bright spot to the layoffs, it’s that the bears will be eating better, even though it takes two or three elves per bear to make a meal.”
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., objected, “Mr. Chairman, I find it reprehensible that Mr. Claus is threatening to feed his elves to polar bears unless we bail him out with $25 billion in taxpayer money.”
Claus replied, “Madam, it’s not like feeding elves to polar bears will save us any money. Over the years, the United Toyworkers Union has negotiated generous labor contracts with us. Even when they’re laid off — or God forbid, even when they’re eaten by polar bears — we’re still stuck with the legacy costs of pension and retirement benefits to their families.”
“If I could say a word in the witness’s defense,” said Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., “it would be that my children have long enjoyed the benefits of Mr. Claus’ work. And it would be a shame — no, an outrage — if this Congress can provide help for the tycoons and bankers on Wall Street and not for the small children of America.”
Clay, noted throughout Congress for his softball questioning of celebrity witnesses such as baseball stars Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens, then presented Claus with a copy of his Christmas wish list — “just in case,” Clay said.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., demanded to know “why the American taxpayer should bear the burden of bailing out Santa Claus” when Christmas is an “international celebration.”
“Is it not true, sir, that you work in many nations under a variety of aliases: Weihnachtsmann, Kris Kringle, Pere Noel, Papa Noel, Sinter Claus, Julemanden among them?” King said. “Are you planning to hit up the governments of Denmark and France, too?”
Claus replied, “First of all, let me say that I object to the use of the term ‘bailout.’ In fact, all we’re asking for is a loan so we can retool our operations to compete with foreign manufacturers. Secondly, our costs are high because of regulations imposed by this Congress.
“And finally, it was you Americans who started this whole Santa Claus cult with your ‘Night Before Christmas’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’ Before that, I could get by with a few oranges and some candy canes. Now I have to run a full-tilt, 24-7 sweatshop. And everything’s supposed to be free? What kind of business plan is that?”
The hearing had adjourned amid chaos and without a vote when news broke that ABC News had reported that Santa Claus had traveled to Washington by private aircraft.
“I’m outraged,” Chairman Frank said. “How can you ask the suffering taxpayers to bail you out the to tune of $25 billion when you’re flying down here on a private plane?”
“I wish,” Claus replied. “It’s the same raggedy sleigh and eight flying reindeer I’ve been using for centuries. In fact, if you guys ever come up with some bucks, I’m buying a used Gulfstream-IV from a guy in Detroit.”