Swiftian Solutions

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It started out as a joke. But we’re not sure everyone in the GOP saw it that way.

Here’s what happened: Greg Mankiw, a professor at Harvard University and one of Mitt Romney’s top economic advisers, posted this week on his blog the first half of a joke that has slowly been making its way around the Internet. This is what he posted:

“The Immigration Department will start deporting seniors (instead of illegals) in order to lower Social Security and Medicare costs. Older people are easier to catch and less likely to remember how to get home.”

Mankiw posted this under the heading “Fiscal Solution.” (No comment on the alliterative evocation of Hitler’s “Final Solution.” We’re not going there, except, of course, we just did.) But, curiously, Mankiw left off the punchline to the joke, which goes like this:

“I started to cry when I thought of you. Then it dawned on me…oh, I’ll see you on the bus!”

SO: what started off as a quasi-poor-taste joke shared between persons of a certain age turned into a small firestorm when Mankiw posted that excerpt on his blog — the same day that Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget and conservative looney Paul Ryan released a budget proposal that Democrats quickly denounced a “Medicare killer.”

Mankiw was kidding… right? That’s what the Romney campaign says. But with Republicans these days, it can be awfully hard to tell. This all makes us think of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” published in 1729, in which Swift suggests that the poor solve their problems by simply feeding their children to the rich. Honestly, it doesn’t sound too far from something that Mitt “I don’t care about poor people” Romney might say in one of his increasingly common unguarded moments.

Kidding or not, we want to know what YOU think. What Swiftian Modest Proposal will some conservative offer next?

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