What Lisa Simpson Can Teach Obama About Stopping a Default

Flattery, shaded language, and lies are key

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With four days to go before a possible U.S. default, and a debt ceiling compromise still stuck in the legislative Bermuda Triangle, these are undoubtedly trying times for President Obama. Does he invoke the 14th amendment and raise the debt limit on his own? Or should he take a deal--any deal--just to prevent an economic catastrophe?

Maybe it's time to check in with Lisa Simpson, the only president, real or fictional, that's held office during a U.S. default.

It happened in the show's eleventh season, in a flash-forward episode called "Bart To The Future," when a casino bouncer shows Bart a vision of his 2028 self, ostensibly to get him to stop sneaking around in carrying cases meant for ventriloquist dummies. While Bart's a shiftless beach bum, Lisa's just been sworn in as "the first straight female President of the United States." She has an ambitious agenda, including plans to build the world's largest bookmobile, which she can't pursue because, as an aide explains to her, the country "inherited quite the budget crunch from President Trump." America has already given creditor nations "the purple mountains majesty and the shores of Tripoli." Now they creditors are coming for the rest. (Tragically, the full episode isn't online, nor are there any high quality clips, which might have something to do with Entertainment Weekly once deeming it the worst episode in Simpsons history. Obviously, we disagree. In the meantime, here's a bootleg six-minute clip to give you a flavor.)

This isn't exactly what will happen to America if there's no debt deal by August 2--the real-life version will not involve a sub-plot where Homer destroys the White House searching for Lincoln's gold. But if Obama wanted some Lisa Simpson-driven lessons?

  • Don't call your "temporary refund adjustment" a "colossal salary grab" or "painful emergency tax" in a primetime speech to the nation.
  • Eliminate all education funding. "Remember when the previous administration said it wanted to invest in our nation's children?" an aide ominiously asks Lisa. "Big mistake."
  • Use these six simple words to appease America's bill collectors: "The check is in the mail." That's how Bart ultimately rescues Lisa and makes peace with Germany and France.
  • China is insecure. Play on this, because they own the bulk of our paper. Bart broke them just by asking, "What happened China? You used to be cool." Biden should probably deliver that line.

(Meanwhile, here's another clip of the episode. It's in Spanish, but it's easier to see.)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.