At a peachy-pink palace that remained from a bygone era beside the sea in a land of decaying swamps, the king of Deep State gathered with the richest of his rich subjects to celebrate his former accomplishments and greatness.
As with all kingdoms, only the old-money crowd gathered in the palace to dine with the king. They came to the palace grounds where they had paid great sums to become members of the court and play games with the king, chasing little ghost-white balls around the king’s lawns and gliding over the land in funny little white buggies.
In the evenings, those who were now long past their sell-by-date gathered to attend fabulous feasts where their fondest pastime was listening to the king’s age-old jokes about the peasants as he reminisced with the rich about how he had made them all richer still — such tales of olden days as always warmed their decaying hearts.
Indeed, he had.
Those who gathered at the palace on one particular evening were the golden brush strokes of egg and butter that lay upon the upper crust of society to make it shine. They had just finished a dinner of roast peasant and were now awaiting their just desserts together, and the king was awaiting his two, for he always made sure he got twice as much as the rest to remind them of how great he was.
They sat around tables shrouded with shimmering golden cloths, as the king loved gold more than anything else. As they were awaiting the best chocolate cake in all the land, their king served them his own wonderful tray of humorous delights.
“I made you all rich,” announced the king for the forty-fifth time, but it was a beginning the crowd always loved to hear, and they smiled broadly now as they awaited his familiar punch line. “And you were already rich!” exclaimed the king.
The women in their expensive feathers and men in their white polo shirts smiled faintly at the familiar refrain that warmed their spirits with the sun at their backs lighting the king and sea at their fronts, content in the knowledge that they had, indeed, become richer than ever. This they knew was in no small part due to the king of this peninsula of swampland that stretched between sea and shining sea, ringed with golden beaches.
“First, I know that many of you, my friends, are — how do I say this delicately?” Gesturing toward the sea, upon which the sun’s lingering light still sparkled on wave tops, he said, “… in your golden twilight years, as am I. You have fleeced the world long and hard, as I have fleeced you on all my lavish properties.”
The gathered sheep were not bothered by this, for they were glad to pay their dues in exchange for the greater gains the king had bestowed upon all of them in the form of fine peasantries.
“And, so, now we rightfully settle here this evening,” the king continued, “to enjoy the plunder we have all taken with us from the land. And I have made the taste of this plunder something that shall linger on your palates far longer than the fine dessert we are about to enjoy.
“Do you remember how we used to gather in some of my former palaces and you told me you worried about how the wealth we had so ingeniously smuggled from the working class all our lives would have to be turned over to them upon your deaths, making it all for not worthwhile, depriving our heirs who still remain of the vast inheritances we laid in for them? All so futile. Such vanity!”
The smiles faded as the sun set, and the crowd shuddered, as if the king were now telling them a ghost story. The ladies pulled up light winter wraps around themselves against the cooler phantom breeze of the subtropical evening that had just blown through the plaza.
“Fear not!” exclaimed the king. “I secured this matter for you. I deeply cut the tax that formerly stripped your ill-gotten wealth away from your heirs.”
The assemblage at the palace gasped with relief. No one ever minded the king’s candor about their wealth when he used words like “ill-gotten” because this was not mixed company. All who gathered here knew how they got their wealth. That normally unspoken truth was the mechanism upon which the king’s humor amused them when he would blurt things out like that, for he had always been a man of unrestrained tongue.
“I saved every one of your families,” said the king in a gilt-edged boast, “a billion dollars upon your passing so that your vast estates pass on whole to your useless children.”
“Cheers!” said a man so old he seemed to be decomposing in place, as he struggled to rise to his bony feet and lift a tottering glass of wine toward king and sky. “Cheers, I say.”
Ladies in decline removed their lap dogs; the older men rose and helped them pull back their chairs. All faltered to their own retired feet and repeated, “Cheers to the king.”
“Thank you,” said the king. “Now, please rest yourselves before you tumble over, for you’ve all had plenty to drink and we are … well, all a bit … golden!”
The crowd laughed gently and settled their creaky bones gingerly back into their seats to resume their ease.
“Actually, I wanted you to take a seat because I don’t want you to fall over backward while laughing at the punchline.”
One old man in the back slowly spun his crystal glass of cognac against the palm of his hand to warm it to a fine bloom and whiffed it in with a smile as he anticipated the good humor about to come.
“The best part is … ” said the king, pausing for effect, “I told all the peasants it was for their own good!”
The monetary mighty — the bankers and financial wizards of the land — spewed wine back into their wine glasses as if they were spittoons. One woman with skin like a raisin told her companion how delightfully droll it would be to retell this tale to their estate planner.
“I was afraid they would come to the doors of my great white house and press under the colonnade with pitchforks in hand, as they have been want to do of late, so I gave them all a faint promise to hold onto. I told them, ‘I do this so that, when you get rich someday –‘”
“Oh, it’s better than that!” said the king as he finished off his own glass of ice tea to wet his throat before relishing the flourish to his story.
One old woman snorted into her wine glass, spraying the French poodle in her lap with fine red droplets as if she had sneezed with tuberculosis. Had she been wearing the masks that had come to dominate the disease-filled swampland outside he palace, her poodle would have been spared the unnecessary assault; but the people who gathered at the palace never gave thought to their effect on others.
“… When you get rich someday … ” the king repeated as he winked toward her, long one of his favorite guests, “no one will ever be able to strip the wealth you have worked so hard for.”
This time the crowd held their wine glasses safely away from their mouths and laughed.
“When you get rich someday …” the king continued, now laughing, himself. “No one will be able to strip the inheritance away from your offspring.”
The king paused to let the laughter settle over the ridiculous thought that such a dream could ever happen, but they all knew that is what motivated the peasants to cheer on such tax cuts — the hope that someday they, too, would benefit.
“But wait,” said the king. “I haven’t even gotten to the punch line. The best part is I told them their grandchildren will be paying for it in taxes forever!”
The crowd roared, and one lizard-skinned woman who had spent far too much time dazzling in the Florida sun, shimmied and even stamped her feet to avoid wetting herself.
“Oh, but it gets better,” howled the king. “I held a grand gathering. I call these peasant gatherings ‘rallies,’ and I told all my collected peasants — I love my peasants because they love me–“
The members of the palace court smiled in adoration at their deserving king.
“You see, rather than staging peasant revolts, they don special red caps and gather in crowds that kings of old would have feared, but then they cheer me for increasing the tax burden on their children forever as far as the eye can see as I tell them that, because of this great debt, my princes and princess will be able retain the wealth I’ve won from them … forever! And my peasants LOVE me for this! I have raised the debt they own so that it continues expanding forever at the rate of a quarter-trillion dollars per month so that your own children can stay rich forever!”
The crowd roared. Tables jiggled and glasses tinkled, and the lights came on automatically as the sun set deeper on an unseen horizon, and a disco ball began to spin. What a wonderful world!
When the howling finally settled down, the king continued his story.
“And that is, of course, just the dessert coarse of the full meal I have brought to your tables. Let us speak of the greater parts of the tax feast I laid for you as we remember fondly the gilded years of my reign, my legacy.
“You benefited long over the peasants by paying the lowest taxes in the land as we promised them that lowering the taxes on the gains you make from the sales of your many properties and of your art works and your sports teams and your shares in numerous other enterprises below the rates the peasants pay … all of that would create more jobs for the peasants to do for us. Over many years, we stripped them of health and retirement benefits they once had and deprived them of the ability to assemble in organized manner against us, so your positions have never been more secure than they are today.”
The king knew his crowd would not miss the irony of his final words as beyond the palace walls peasants had begun to revolt with pitchforks and baseball bats; but they were revolting in order to defend the king from other peasants who sought to depose him. They were battling each other to protect the king who had given more benefits to the rich than any king before him, and why? Because he had thrown them lots of candy.
The eyes of this wealthy conclave all twinkled, albeit through the dim fog of an aged wateriness that now clouded their vision. They twinkled at the unspoken knowledge that the wages they paid their own peasants had not, in pure point of fact, risen more than just the cost of living for many years while most of the rich here had seen their wealth increase by an order of magnitude over that same time — some by two orders of magnitude — a full twenty-fold!
They twinkled because their ingenious king managed to set the peasants who were increasingly angered over the great gap between the rich and the rest against each other. As a result, the rich could now watch gladiator matches among the great columns of state from the comfort of mansions above bunkers they would never need so long as the masses remained set against themselves.
This was delightfully reassuring even in their retired state. A natural pause in the conversation settled upon them as one might take a moment of silence to worship silently before one’s god.
“To the king,” said one fossilized woman in refined voice, as she broke the silence. One finger lightly holding her glass by its stem held a stone heavier than the glass she raised. “To the king,” she said like an amen.
The rest of the crowd finished off their glasses of wine, down to the sugary dregs, as a from of communion in order to ready themselves for the tiny glasses of port that were now gleaming on golden trays being delivered around the marbled plaza. “Long live the king,” they said in unison, as if from prayer books, glancing at each other and smiling as if there were some irony in that statement. “Long live the king.“
“Now, where was I?” mused the king. “Ah, yes, I was about to gently boast of how I raised your riches by hugely stripping back the taxes on your businesses while leaving onerous taxes on all the small businesses of the … shall I say, proletariate.” The king grinned crookedly at his admirers.
“Yes, I cut the taxes on your mega-corporations more than they were ever cut before, and the peasants praised me for it because I told them, again, it would create new jobs and new factories.”
The knowing throng chortled at the insane notion that they would ever go to all the trouble of building new factories and hiring more tawdry, rowdy peasants when they could just spend all the savings on each other’s existing factories and buy the values of their cohorts’ stocks up, who would return the favor to them. How easily beguiled the peasant class was, having fallen for this lie since days of yore.
“Of course …” said the king, drawing out the punch line. “I did have to promise them some of the savings. I said each one would get a free peanut in his tax stocking and a one-time lollypop bonus at the end of the year. They love lollipops. I’m sorry that I couldn’t give it all to you, but that is the art of the deal, you know. You have to give them something they think they want in the grand bargain.
“The best part is, I had them all begging me to do it again! So, even as our great nation’s great debt rises like spirits of the dead into heavenly realms for others who come after us to pay, I promised them that next year I will give them more tax breaks.
By now, the desserts had arrived, and waiters clad in liquid-gold suits provided by their host to cover their holey underwear, laid down, not the chocolate cake the guests had come to expect, but surprise goblets peaked with whipped sherry cream over crumbled trifles of let-them-eat cake, cooked up by the king’s bookkeepers, who now had to do double-duty in the king’s kitchen to support their families. They had a talent for that, having long cooked double books on the king’s many enterprises.
Delightful were the desserts, though, all top-heavy with peaks of cream like the glacial peaks around the winter mansions many who were gathered here kept at various ski resorts in Austria, Colorado, and Switzerland. The mounds even had little sprinkles coming down like ski trails and a little sugar-candy skier at the top. It made for fond memories of Christmases past and Christmas presents galore.
“Were you able,” whispered one unmasked guest to another, “with so much swamp sickness covering the world, to gather with your family at your chalet this winter?”
“Oh, yes,” said the other with a slight cough over the toppling whipped sherry cream.
As they slid their golden spoons beneath the sugar-frosted dessert, a glass could be heard tinkling toward the sea. The guests looked up to see their king holding two glasses of sherry trifle. “Look,” said he, “Two for me, one for thee.”
“Again, where was I?
“I remember. I was going to say the obvious — that we all knew the tax cuts would simply enable us to buy more stocks back from each other, raising the tide on everyone’s values; but we also put new systems in place to allow the average peasant to buy stocks, too, as day traders with low fees so there would be someone to sell to when it came time liquidate at the market’s great summit and capture our profits without causing our own values to drop. The peasants, who believe they are, at last, participating in the grand circle of wealth take the fall, as well as their retirement pensions so those like you can buy back in later when the values become bargains and do it all over again.”
This caused quite a stir of conversation among the tables about this scheme, so the king strategically reclined on the largest chair in the room to enjoy the rest of his unjust desserts in order to give his enthusiastic royal caste time to digest the idiosyncrasies of the trades he had just spoken of.
“Your Highness, King Trump,” said a divinely clad supplicant, “Does this mean the rich shall have to share their wealth for the time being?”
The king rose. “It will only be for a short time. The market will fall. When it does, the rich remains will be picking gemstones off the floor. Such fun. For right now, it has the peasants convinced they have never been richer, thanks to me; but it’s mere paper wealth, while your riches remain banked in my favorite of commodities — gold — which I love most of all because it never decays or rusts. It just always IS.
“When this cycle has completed, your estates will grow another order of magnitude wealthier, and the peasants won’t know what hit them. They will feel like fools for having bought into an inverted pyramid at the top.”
The king demonstrated with hand gestures what he meant by an inverted pyramid balancing on its point.
“I have named this device a Ponzi scheme, after my most infamous bookkeeper who invented it. The idea is you keep paying out new investors with the gains of one round, drawing in wider and wider rounds as you move up, then you let the last round — the massive peasant class — take the full loss and the pyramid topples! It’s a great idea, really great, and so easy you won’t believe it. So easy.
“That brings me to my final story. Do you remember how you, the capitalists all benefited tremendously a decade or so ago as we socialized the risk of all your losses onto the peasant class? Well, I did even better for you just recently! Your Majesty’s government created programs intended to pay the wages of those who became unemployed due to this plague thing going around, taking out people your age and mine, and we did actually hand them some money so they wouldn’t revolt…”
Some in the crowd almost choked on their just desserts, but the king continued without pause.
“BUT … I had the government administer all the funds through your banks, and we made the process hugely complicated so little businesses without teams of lawyers could not even figure it out. So, are you ready for the punch line?”
The king paused.
“None of the little businesses got much of it! The funds ran out before they could figure out how to get their grubby hands on it. Brilliantly, I might say, almost all of the bailouts went to your own massive corporations. Meanwhile, your banks made terrific money on fees, some of the best money ever off of big fees — really big fees, the biggest ever, they were the best fees — for helping to set all of this up because the keeper of the Gold Sachs in my treasury, my little munchkin, promised he would design all assistance to run through the banks. So, the banks, once again, made more money than anyone off the bailouts!”
“Can you believe it?” the king shouted like he was at one of his peasant rallies. “We did it allll over again and got away with all of it!”
Applause spread across the plaza like a rising tide. Soon people began to push themselves arduously up from their chairs to give a standing ovation to the king. “Long live the king!” they chanted, much as the peasants had once chanted “Lock her up!” about an unpopular queen. It was like the echo of chants long past and almost forgotten. “Long live the king!”
The king smiled broadly over his most splendid subjects, basking in the praise.
“Never before …” the king said, slowly bringing the volume of applause down and getting people to recline back into their padded chairs.
“Never before … has the gap between the rich and the rest reached the heights that I attained for you by the powers of my own great brain — one of the greatest brains to have ever lived, a truly great brain. And the peasants are happy! So, happy many are begging — yes, they’re begging — for four more years of increasing disparity and despair and divisiveness. Why? Because it makes them happy to see the rich doing so well because they can, then, dream that someday they will sit here among you when they retire.”
With that, the crowd absolutely roared to the point where two people even fell over backward in their chairs as if they had just collapsed into dust. For the king, it had been another banner evening.
“Tomorrow …” he yelled over the din, “Tomorrow, we shall all dine again on roast peasant!” Then he sat down to eat his second dessert because the king always made sure he got twice as much as everyone else so they would know he was king.
When he was done, the king let out a kingly belch and rose to walk through the room where everyone was on their way out now, offering his ring finger to be kissed.
“Such fine, small hands you have, Sire,” said a woman as she kissed the hand that had grabbed many others like her. “Such fine bones,” she said feeling along his fingers. So delightful to grab with.”
“Yes,” said the king,” pulling his hand away. “They’ve served me well over the many years past. Would you like to retire together and enjoy them some more? Come away with me to the William Jefferson Bedroom on Epstein Island.”
As the skies grew dark over the kingdom of Deep State, children in lesser homes faraway were tucked into their beds with fairy tales of princes and princesses, true and pure in heart, living in bright lands where things always ended happily ever after, where hard work always pays off, and even billionaires can become king.
They knew nothing of the nightmarish land where the defeated skeleton king and his mummified subjects’ bones clattered and rattled beneath their dried skin as they laughed themselves to death again beside the sea.
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