Politics & Policy

Cowboys vs. Aliens in D.C.

In Fantasyland, no number is ever too big for us to imagine, or for you to pay.

As is well known, we creative types in Hollywoodland deal in the imaginary. Like the White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass, we can conjure up six impossible things before breakfast, believe in all of them, and make a hit movie out of at least one of them. Which is why, I suppose, we’re all liberals out here. Because who else but someone well versed in fantasy could believe what’s going on in Washington these days? To us progressives, fantasy is far more potent, far more real, than reality ever could be, and that includes Jersey Shore.

Millions of dollars have turned into billions have turned into trillions, and still we envision more — a trillion here and a trillion there and pretty soon you’re talking about Obama’s 2016 budget, after the health-care bill really kicks in and “fundamental transformation” heads for the wow finale of January 2017, which will make Götterdämmerung look like Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

Why, if the president didn’t get to borrow another $3 trillion or so to get him safely past the cowboy/Rethuglican-infested shoals of the next election, our sacred inter-generational compact, sanctified by the hallowed martyr’s blood of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson, could be threatened. There’s nothing like the dead hand of the past to keep America on the straight and narrow, even if it bankrupts us in the process.

But what do we care? We lefties hate to be tied down by tradition, unless it’s our own. We simply must do the right thing, which is to promise the moon and then print and borrow money in order to deliver it in perpetuity so you’ll keep voting for us. It’s all funny money at this point anyway, a dizzying succession of zeroes that nobody can really understand.

Thanks to the miracle of studio accounting, we Hollywood insiders are used to magic tricks that make vast sums vanish into thin air. When you spend nearly $200 million to make a movie like Cowboys & Aliens and it brings in less than $40 million on its opening weekend — and gets roughed up by a bunch of Smurfs in the process — well, it’s good to know that 3,000 miles away, there’s somebody in even worse shape than the suits who greenlighted the fusion space-oater.

I have to admit that I, like millions of my generation, have been blindsided by the realization that a bunch of selfish geezers who call themselves “baby boomers” have all suddenly decided to grow old, retire, and get deathly ill simultaneously, and will now be demanding their piece of the FDR/LBJ pie. Who knew? Their number would include my father — the sainted “Che” Kahane — and my Uncle Joe, both gathering moss and hacking up phlegm down there in Hallandale, Fla., which they like to call Lanskyland on account of their respect for the Democrats’ illustrious past and glorious future as a criminal organization masquerading as a political party.

Now these “boomers” are swarming all over us, like invaders from Mars or those critters in the most reactionary movie ever made, Independence Day — you know, the things that move from planet to planet, sucking it dry and then moving on to the next target-rich environment.

Aliens, that’s what they are — but they’re our aliens, we’ll be damned if we’re going to let you wingnut cowpokes toss them out into the street because you don’t want to pay your fair share. Just because “Che” and Uncle Joe were improvident and spent all their welfare and KGB money on Pete Seeger records and books about the Rosenbergs’ innocence doesn’t mean you don’t have to support them, since I’m sure as shootin’ not about to. Living the high life here in my palatial pad in Echo Park, where my hot tub looks like the waiting room for a Victoria’s Secret photo shoot, I have better things to spend my money on, like box seats at Dodgers games, dinners at Taix, and contributing to the Obama campaign early and often.

What does it matter if our “national debt” eventually surpasses 120 percent of GDP, whatever that means? Are the Chinese going to foreclose on us? Are they going to make us all move to Beijing and wear those funny little Mao suits like the ones at the back of my dad’s closet, and bicycle around with brooms in one hand and iPad knockoffs in the other? If they get too darn uppity we can always mint a trillion-dollar coin or two or twenty, pay them off, and tell them to shove it. Or we can turn our legions of showbiz lawyers on them and before you know it the debt will disappear faster than an Upper West Sider at a surprise sneak preview of that Sarah Palin propaganda movie.

But no, you cowboys can’t leave well enough; you have to go and try to break up our cozy little let’s-pretend racket by talking about fiscal “reform.” I got news for you: Like Chicago, Washington ain’t ready for reform. You’re trying to make us feel guilty about our moral preening, even though we’re perfectly willing to stiff the piper the way we stiff the help at a Bel Air cocktail party. You want to grab your six-shooters and get all Wild West on those you deem aliens, and you know who I mean: the elderly, the infirm, the poor, African-Americans, Native Americans, women, everybody’s children but your own, and, of course, actual illegal aliens. You’ve got Indiana Jones and James Bond on your side, fighting the misunderstood aliens, whereas all we have are the underdogs you like to kick the way that one-eyed fat man kicked those Indian kids off the porch in True Grit.

Yeah, we’ve got your number all right, and just because it has twelve zeroes after it, it doesn’t scare us a whit, jot, or tittle. If 9 percent unemployment is the new normal, if an anemic quarterly growth rate is the new status quo, if we’re well into Recovery Summer II: This Time, It’s Personal, and nobody has a job, well, what of it? For those of us dwelling in the proudly alien environment of Fantasyland, unemployment is the default mode, so quit your whining, suck it up, and learn to love the bread line and the soup kitchen, like we do, even if we do call it the studio commissary.

Margaret Thatcher, whoever she was, used to say that the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money. What did she know? Out here, we’re only limited by our imagination, and if you don’t think that soon enough we’ll be able to imagine a number with fifteen zeroes after it and demand that you cough it up, then, buddy, just try us.

— David Kahane is sore that he was not one of the hundreds of writers who worked on Cowboys & Aliens, because otherwise he would be dining out right now instead of ordering in. He is, however, sure, he will snag the sequel: Cowboys & Aliens & Smurfs Meet Geithner & Bernanke & Obama: This Time, It’s Personal. Feel free to write to him at kahanenro@gmail.com with casting suggestions.

Since February 2007, Michael Walsh has written for National Review both under his own name and the name of David Kahane, a fictional persona described as “a Hollywood liberal who ...