WASHINGTON, DC—Plagued by late fees, high interest rates, and harassing creditors, the U.S. took out a debt-consolidation loan Monday, combining the nation's $6.1 trillion debt into a single, easy monthly payment.
"My fellow Americans, we have just taken the first step toward regaining control of our finances," said President Bush at a press conference. "Thanks to a joint arrangement between the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, and E-Z Debt Services of Baltimore, we are finally on our way to freedom from debt."
As of press time, the national debt stands at $6,144,393,982,061.52.
Under the terms of the consolidation, E-Z Debt Services will repay the nation's estimated 45,000 creditors, a majority of whom are foreign investors, insurance companies, banks, and other privately held entities. In return, the U.S will make a single monthly payment of $9.26 billion, adjusted for inflation, to E-Z Debt every month for the next 70 years.
"We are proud to enter into this arrangement with the federal government," E-Z Debt spokesman Phil Rizzo told reporters. "We know how hard it is when you're buried under a mountain of bills with seemingly no way to get out. When you don't know where else to turn, E-Z Debt is there to help get you back on your feet."
The government first became aware of E-Z Debt Services on July 10, when Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) happened to see a commercial for the company while watching late-night television. Two days later, President Bush saw the same ad during a 3 a.m. M*A*S*H rerun.
According to White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, Bush was sitting at his desk clutching a fistful of past-due notices when he saw the ad.
"He was holding all these unpaid bills, and tons more were piled high on his desk, including a three-month-old bill from Lockheed-Martin for $5.3 billion worth of jet fighters," said Fleischer, who was in the Oval Office working late at the time. "He raised the handfuls of bills above his head and shouted, 'I can't take it anymore!' That's when the ad came on."
After extensive meetings between E-Z Debt officials and the Treasury Department, an arrangement was reached which provided a manageable payment plan—with no threatening phone calls or military invasions from creditor nations.
Though the House Of Representatives swiftly and decisively approved the consolidation plan by a vote of 285 to 103, the Senate took longer to rally the necessary support, debating the issue for weeks.
"I was definitely skeptical about E-Z Debt, as were many of my colleagues," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said. "I'd heard horror stories about those debt services. England used one to get out of a recession in the late '80s, and they're still paying for it."
"But E-Z Debt is different," Daschle continued. "Jim [Smoller], our E-Z Debt representative, sat down with me and the other senators and really convinced us that debt consolidation was the way to go. He was extremely helpful, taking the time to patiently answer all our questions. He even gave us a free quote."
Opponents of the plan charge that it unnecessarily endangers the numerous national assets offered as collateral. Among the valuable properties being put up are Yellowstone National Park, NASA, and the state of Alaska.
"Holding the nation hostage to a single creditor is hardly preferable to the original situation," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) during a lengthy Senate debate on the consolidation. "Besides, I am confident that if we just trim a few unnecessary expenses from the budget and somehow get a little bigger GNP, we can climb out of this hole without help. We just need a little more time."
"Okay, so we mismanaged our money a little bit—who doesn't every now and then?" Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) said. "But that's no reason to resort to using one of those get-out-of-debt-now services."
Despite such opposition, ultimately, the Senate's pro-consolidation voices won out.
"In the end, everybody came to see that E-Z Debt isn't just another loan. It's a way to get out of debt without declaring bankruptcy," Daschle said. "Thanks, E-Z Debt. We couldn't have done it without you."