WASHINGTON—Members of Congress assured Americans that they have a definitive plan for reviving the slumping economy when they unveiled on Monday a bold new fiscal stimulus package that calls for the purchase of a pair of alpacas.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the proposal, which is expected to solve the sub-prime mortgage crisis, boost consumer confidence, and pump much-needed liquid capital into the market, will be put into motion as soon as the first issue of Alpaca World magazine arrives and Congress has a chance to go through the catalog and select the perfect mating pair.
"We're confident that breeding alpacas will jump-start the economy and lift this nation out of debt once we get the start-up money," said McConnell, who insists the exotic livestock require very little maintenance and are of a gentler temperament than their cousin the llama. "All you need is a fertile male and a female in heat, and nature takes it course. Before you know it, the money is rolling in and there's alpacas everywhere."
After weeks of debate, a bipartisan commission finally chose the alpaca initiative over a number of other proposals, including handcrafting turquoise jewelry, an extensive job-training program in the nation's most impoverished regions, and opening a U.S. Congress seller's account on Ebay. McConnell said the group was swayed toward the idea of mating alpacas and also shearing them for their valuable fleece because it required the fewest resources and was a "super-easy" way to rake in cash.
"It is time to stop bickering and take real steps to revive the U.S. dollar—which is why we're sending a fact-finding delegation out to the alpaca farm in Hagerstown [MD] next weekend," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said. "Senator Chuck Hagel's brother-in-law said we could borrow his truck to pick up the alpacas from the National Zoological Society on Saturday."
"I can't believe we ever wasted our time with tariffs, raising interest rates, and tax hikes," Pelosi added. "This is such a no-brainer."
Under the new proposal, a Senate subcommittee will be formed to attend to the day-to-day care of the alpacas, providing food and water, cleaning up their communal dung pile, and securing the animals in their pen inside the Senate chamber at night. In addition, Congressman Robert Andrews (D-NJ) made his office available for storing buckets and shovels, saying the space is usually empty anyway since he prefers to work from home.
A Senate majority has already voted to name the alpacas Jefferson and Bongo.
Advocates also claimed that using the alpacas' fleece for knitted and woven items would energize the textile industry and eliminate the nation's dependence on foreign- produced ponchos.
"If we are truly committed and learn to spin our own fibers, we can cut out the middleman and sell socks, hats, and gloves directly to the American public," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said. "People don't realize how much softer alpaca wool is because they've never had a chance to try it. Once they do, though—let's just say this war could be paid for in no time."
While initial reaction has been positive, critics of the plan have pointed out that Congress has still not paid back the money it borrowed from the American public to start that silk-screen T-shirt business it was so excited about in 2004, and many were concerned that this will just be a repeat of the Bedazzling the Economy Act of 2000.
The bill's sponsors, however, claimed that they had thought it all through, and that this economic stimulus package "can't miss."
"If for some reason it doesn't work out—which it will—we can always allocate some additional spending for a goat and convert the venture into an executive petting zoo," Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) said. "Those other projects required too much overhead. With alpacas, it's just grass, and we already have the whole National Mall right across the street."
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), a well-known fiscal conservative, remained one of the sole voices against the proposal.
"This harebrained scheme is shortsighted, ill conceived, and an absolute waste of time and effort," Martinez said. "Which is why from the beginning I said, let's raise emus. Not only do you have meat and eggs, but you can probably get some money for those feathers too."
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Monday called the new plan "intriguing," but stressed that the nation's economic policy should continue to center around Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-WV) practice of selling soda and candy bars out of his office, which accounted for almost 30 percent of last year's gross domestic product.