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The mice without a cat

© ERIC FERGUSON
5348 48th Av. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55417
phone: (612)726-6364
eric@celticfringe.net
http://www.celticfringe.net



CHARACTERS:
Alan Greenspan
Unknown woman
Federal Reserve Board Members 1-4, all male


(The scene is the boardroom of the Federal Reserve. Chairman Alan Greenspan is meeting with the other board members.)

GREENSPAN

(Greenspan speaks in a slow and boring manner.) Gentlemen, come to order please. We have some matters to discuss regarding prime and actual rates, particularly as these involve M-1 and M-2 money supplies in particular and general.

(As Greenspan drones on, the board members have to fight to stay awake. The following exchange takes place while Greenspan talks.)

MEMBER 1

(to board member 2) Here, I brought one for you today.

MEMBER 2

One what?

MEMBER 1

A thumbtack. Sit on it. It'll keep you awake while the chairman speaks.

MEMBER 2

It'll also be pretty painful.

MEMBER 1

That's why it works. I must have stayed awake for five minutes yesterday listening to the chairman.

MEMBER 2

Seriously? Here, give me one. (He sits on a tack and yelps in pain.)

GREENSPAN

Is something wrong?

MEMBER 2

(restraining a groan) No Mr.Chairman. (Greenspan goes back to what he was saying.)

MEMBER 3

Quickly, give me one of those.

MEMBER 1

I don't have any more.

MEMBER 3

Don't tell me that, I have to have one! Please, I've tried everything. I've tried napping, coffee, every brand of amphetamine I can get my hands on and nothing works. Give me a tack, I'll never last otherwise.

MEMBER 1

I don't have any more.

MEMBER 3

(He tries to take member 2's tack.) Give me yours then.

MEMBER 2

Hey, I'm set, you can just take care of yourself.

(Member 4 comes rushing in.)

MEMBER 4

Gentlemen, wake up, wake up! (He sees Greenspan) Sorry, I mean listen up, listen up! We've just received some terrible news. Brace yourselves, this is disastrous, we're going to need the nets under the skyscrapers on Wall Street when this gets out.

GREENSPAN

Calm yourself, I'm sure it can't be that bad. There's no need to put everyone into a panic.

MEMBER 4

With all due respect Mr.Chairman, you haven't heard this news yet.

GREENSPAN

I will when you've told me.

MEMBER 4

I wish I didn't have to tell you, because this is really bad.

MEMBER 3

Will you just tell us already!

MEMBER 4

All right. Here it is. But don't say I didn't warn you.

MEMBER 3

Fine, you warned us, now what is it?

MEMBER 4

Keep in mind I'm just relaying the news, it's not my fault.

MEMBERS 1,2,3
What?!

MEMBER 4

It's...you did brace yourselves, right?

Members 1,2,3
Arrrgh!

MEMBER 4

OK, OK. According to the newest statistics... (summoning the last bits of courage) employment is up. (gasps all around) What's worse is home sales are way up also. And personal income seems to be on the rise.

GREENSPAN

Gentlemen, the meaning of all this is clear. This terrible news portends an increase in inflation. There is bound to be fear in the stock exchanges and confusion in the bond markets. Hang me for a socialist if I can find the silver lining in this news.

(Members 1-4 cry, blubber, and engage in great audible consternation. Greenspan keeps his droning tone.)

GREENSPAN

Gentlemen, stop this wailing and gnashing of teeth, it accomplishes nothing, and somebody spit a filling at me. Oh hey, it's gold. Well, good luck getting that back.

MEMBER 1

Mr.Chairman, how can you not panic under these circumstances?

GREENSPAN

I am panicking. It's just hard to tell. Let me get a hold of myself. (with no detectable motion) There, I'm fine. Now, let's try to calmly resolve our problem. We can't allow an unfortunate circumstance like a bunch of people getting jobs to throw the whole economy out of whack. We face the serious potential of the economy growing faster than speculators can take advantage of it. We must act before more people start working and overheat the economy. Would everyone wake up please. (They have fallen asleep.) Six-month T-bills just collapsed.

MEMBER 1-4
What?!

GREENSPAN

Not really, I just had to get your attention. May I propose that an immediate increase in interest rates should slow the economy and reassure the markets that we've put a stop to inflation.

MEMBER 2

I think the banks will like that, they can increase consumer loan and mortgage rates.

MEMBER 3

And the currency market, futures market...

MEMBER 4

Let's put it into effect immediately. You know, I suddenly feel very good about my job and the contribution I'm making to society.

MEMBER 1

And by increasing rates a quarter or half a percent every couple weeks we can become genuine heroes.

(Lights come down and come back up. Same scene, some days later.)

GREENSPAN

Gentlemen, please wake up. (They don't.) The dollar just fell below the Mexican peso.

MEMBER 1-4
You're kidding!

GREENSPAN

Yes I am, I need your attention. At least this time the news is good. Bank interest rates are up and home sales have fallen. Growth in employment seems to have stopped and growth in personal income is leveling off. Bank profits have rarely if ever been this high. I think the nation will be quite happy with us.

MEMBER 2

(Entering, trying to keep someone else out.) No, you can't come in. Hey lady, this is a private boardroom!

(A woman barges here way past member 2 and into the room.)

WOMAN

What do you mean private, have you people forgotten who you work for?

MEMBER 3

Look lady, this club is for men only.

MEMBER 4

(whispers to member 3) This isn't the club.

MEMBER 3

What? Oh yeah. Well, we're doing something important here, so go away.

WOMAN

Are you Alan Greenspan?

GREENSPAN

Yes.

WOMAN

Answer me then, do you remember who you work for?

GREENSPAN

Um... the New York stock exchange I suppose, and maybe the American stock exchange.

MEMBER 4

The bond markets too.

MEMBER 1

The major banks.

MEMBER 2

And the currency traders, and the commodities markets.

WOMAN

That's what I thought. You idiots forget you work for the whole country.

MEMBER 2

Be careful Mr.Chairman, I think she's a populist.

GREENSPAN

I thought we had them all shot.

MEMBER 2

Our lawyers said we could be subject to legal action.

GREENSPAN

What a damn lawsuit-happy country we live in.

WOMAN

I think you people have completely forgotten about the rest of the country outside Wall Street.

MEMBER 3

About the what?

GREENSPAN

What's she talking about, outside Wall Street?

MEMBER 1

Actually, there's a whole bunch of streets going past Wall Street, though I can't remember if there's anything on them or not.

MEMBER 2

You simpleton, we're outside Wall Street. We're in Washington, remember? There's us and...some other things too.

WOMAN

Just what I thought, you people have probably never even been outside this office.

GREENSPAN

Of course we have. We've worked in the top financial firms in the country. And we intend to go back there, no lifetime in the bureaucracy for us.

WOMAN

There are a lot of people outside that big casino in lower Manhattan. There's also me for instance. I was right on the point of buying a house when you raised the interest rates for no reason any sane person can fathom. You pushed me out of the market. You're supposed to be working for everybody, not just a few greedy speculators.

GREENSPAN

Please lady, you're going to give greedy speculators a bad name.

WOMAN

Maybe they can trade it in for an honest job.

MEMBER 3

On behalf of the financial community I take offense.

WOMAN

On behalf of the other 99.9% of America I take offense that you ignore us. We're affected by your actions here just as much as the few people you represent.

MEMBER 4

I'll have you know we represent a great cross-section of America. Rick over here came from a major brokerage firm. Richard was a stock market analyst. Dick was an economics correspondent for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and we used to have Rich who was a commodities trader, though the poor man died of jealousy when he found out how well Hillary Clinton did. I don't know why he couldn't just make up vicious rumors about her like everyone else.

WOMAN

You have no idea what it's like to be searching for a job or a home with a bunch like you trying to put a stop to it all.

MEMBER 4

And you've never been stuck on a golf course with a nervous securities broker. They can hardly keep their scores straight sometimes. And when you get a group of them together the balls start flying in all directions, it's truly frightening.

MEMBER 1

Just so we're straight, that's golf balls he's talking about, not... (they look at him peculiarly) um... sorry, never mind.

GREENSPAN

We've had enough diversion for one day. (He tries to hustle the woman out the door.) It's called the free market, it works real nice, please don't get in the way, now leave before I call security, good-bye.

WOMAN

Now wait a minute, after I came all the way here you can give me a straight answer to one question. Why are you raising the interest rates, why?

GREENSPAN

Then you'll go? All right, see if you can follow this.

MEMBER 2

(He whispers to the woman) I think you'll be wanting this thumbtack. (He backs away) Sorry Mr.Chairman.

GREENSPAN

If the economy grows too fast that will lead to inflation with consequent instability in the various financial markets. We raise interest rates on money we lend to banks so they'll raise interest rates to customers thereby discouraging borrowing. This slows the economy and keeps inflation under control. The resulting decrease in economic activity ultimately will drive down prices and encourage borrowing and spending which will restore economic growth.

WOMAN

So you're slowing economic growth so you can restore it later.

GREENSPAN

Right.

WOMAN

So if it speeds up again don't you have the same inflation potential as now? You're logic is circular. You're going to keep doing the same thing and slowing it down.

GREENSPAN

It's your logic that's faulty lady. The proof of the efficacy of our policy is that the stock and bond markets have been growing steadily ever since the depression, except for that one glitch in October 1987 when I let my kids play with the computers at Merrill Lynch, otherwise it's been fine.

WOMAN

Fine? You're favoring the big-wig speculators over the rest of us with our own hair.

GREENSPAN

I answered your one question, now get out.

WOMAN

You haven't heard the last of this. I'm writing my congressman, both senators, and the president! What do you think of that?

GREENSPAN

Why should I think anything? I run things around here, not the president or congress, and I will not brook any political interference in the operations of the Federal Reserve. Will someone get her out of here?

WOMAN

(As two members are forcing her out of the room.) You will have to care one of these days. If I have my way you're going to have to start operating out in the open. We need a cat to start watching over you mice. Maybe you should be elected, then you'd have to care what people think.

(Everyone stops for a moment.)

MEMBER 2

Do you think she's serious? Could that really happen?

MEMBER 3

We can't really be made accountable, can we?

MEMBER 1

Isn't that against the constitution or securities laws or something?

GREENSPAN

Gentlemen, have no fear, leave it to me. As I recall once long ago, something about comparing and contrasting the relative benefits and uncertainties of junk bonds versus municipal bonds...

(The woman and members try and fail to fight off sleep as Greenspan talks.)

MEMBER 2

Slap me, I'm dropping off.

MEMBER 1

I'm trying, but I don't think I can stay awake myself.

MEMBER 3

I'm reaching for my tack but it's out of reach. I can see it but I...

GREENSPAN

...furthermore the figures released in January compared to the preceding month and a year before, the second and third quarters of succeeding years and preceding labor department predictions for those periods. (He notices everyone is snoring away.) And of course there is the most important lesson of all; when you bore people enough they let you do anything you want.

(End of Play)

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Go back to plays.