I love chocolate milkshakes. Like spending is to the national government, chocolate milkshakes are to me: my reason for being. The thicker the better, throw in some malt or fudge and I'm in heaven. I consumed them wherever and whenever possible. And since a good thing can only be made better by having more and more of it, my selfish pleasure demanded I consume more and more milkshakes. Problem was, it was hard to justify my milkshake consumption to my domestic constituents, my wife and children who are always whining about things like the cost of the shakes and the effect on my version of the national debt, my weight.
So to be fair to all and to pretend I gave a care about my family's concerns, I adopted a policy I call the milkshake baseline. I got the idea from a place called Citizens Against Government Waste because I was worried a bit about my waist and just got the spelling wrong. I agreed to budget only one milkshake per week, but in exchange for giving up the fights about my additional milkshakes, we agreed I could increase my weekly milkshake consumption by a modest 7% per year. That was way back in 1974 and I must say since then my milkshake baseline has served me well. Sure it was awkward in the second year when I'd stroll into Steak-n-Shake (R) and order 7% of a milkshake, but we got through it. Six years later, in 1980 I was only up to 1½ milkshakes per week so everyone agreed my baseline plan was working well. By 1998, however, I was up to 5 milkshakes per week and some grumbling broke out about my spending and gluttony, since I'd gotten to one milkshake per weekday. I had quintupled my milkshake intake in 24 years and the effect on my weight was showing, as was the ever increasing cost. I heard grumbles about my health but I wasn't complaining. I had milkshakes!
By 2009 my milkshake intake had doubled since my 1998 level and I was entitled to have 10 milkshakes a week! By now the shakes were so good I was exploring ways of stimulating my shake consumption. My wife and kids, the ingrates, were complaining I'd have to dress in a TARP if I got any more bloated from the shakes. I countered that times were bad and if I cut back on my milkshake consumption the restaurant would have to lay off employees. How cruel would that be?
Now it's 2011 and things are totally out of hand with my family. They are demanding I give up my 12 milkshakes a week and drink tea instead. They even had an intervention, like on that show on TV, and all my friends jumped me about how bad my "milkshake habit" had become blah, blah, blah. The tricked me into coming by saying it was a tea party. Obviously my family are rubes and hicks and don't know how I operate. My weight has skyrocketed, however, and I have developed type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. My doctor keeps preaching doom about the end being near. He keeps threatening to "downgrade my rating" whatever that means. But come on, we're talkin' milkshakes here. More has to be better.
I need to appease my family and doctor. Ten years from now, in 2021, I am already budgeted to be at 24 milkshakes a week, in increase of 12 milkshake from today's level. I have promised the family and my doctor if they get off my back I will cut 3 of those out-year milkshakes out of my budget! That's a whopping 25% reduction in my current level of 12 milkshakes. That means in 2021 I will only be consuming 21 milkshakes. How can they complain about a 25% cut in spending!?
Do you think they will fall for it?
Randall Mead is a simple, country lawyer, scratching out a living in the belly of the beast, the capital of Madiganistan.