Let Paul Make The Call

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“Oh what joy for every girl and boy

Knowing they’re happy and they’re safe.”

–    Ringo Starr


Paul the Octopus is in great demand these days. Following his uncanny star turn picking the winner of soccer’s World Cup, it seems that everyone wants a piece of the eight-tentacled sea creature.

This week, a Russian “bookmaking company” offered the Sea Life Center in Oberhausen, Germany – Paul’s current home – 100,000 euros to assume ownership of Paul and his clairvoyant powers. Oleg Zhuravsky, co-owner of Liga Stavok (“Bet League” in Russian), said the offer was only an opening bid and he is willing to up the ante, if necessary.

“We are bookmakers, after all,” Oleg said, adding that his outfit already has reserved a tank for Paul at the Moscow Aquarium.

Paul presumably is amenable to a quick change of venue, especially since he correctly predicted Germany would lose its World Cup semi-final (and Spain would win the tournament). Immediately after Germany’s exit from the World Cup competition, Angela Merkel reportedly put seafood salad at the top of the menu for state dinners.

For those who have not been following the exploits of Paul the Octopus (what, you’ve been transfixed by boring footage of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico?), here’s a brief synopsis of his modus operandi:

Paul’s handlers fill two glass boxes with his favorite lunch of raw mussels. The boxes are identified with labels indicating competing choices (during the World Cup, they were affixed with flags of national teams squaring off against each other in matches). Paul scampers down his tank and makes his “prediction” by prying the lid off one of the boxes.

Then again, perhaps “scampers” is not the right word. More like oozes, in a that creepy, undulating way preferred by multi-legged creatures of the deep in some of our favorite science-fiction B-movies.

We assume it’s only a matter of time before the boys in Vegas make Paul an offer he can’t refuse (“you wanna keep all of them legs, Paulie?) and he goes into witness protection as a temporary employee at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena – a.k.a. Hockeytown U.S.A. – where the locals like to celebrate goals by throwing octopi on the ice. Before that happens, we thought we’d weigh in with a better idea.

President Obama recently appointed a blue-ribbon panel to recommend humongous federal budget cuts to slash the long-term U.S. debt, which at last count was exceeding $10 trillion and heading for the outer reaches of Pluto. This panel of wizened heads and retired politicians is going to have to make some very tough choices, like whether to set the retirement age at 96 to keep Social Security solvent for the next 20 years.

Enter Paul. We imagine it would go something like this:

Every week, a program called “Paul’s Picks” will air on national television. Two glass boxes will be filled with Paul’s favorite munchies. Labels will be affixed to the boxes identifying the week’s budget-adjusting decision.

In week one, Paul will choose between:

A – Eliminating the U.S. Departments of Education, Housing and Human Services, Interior, Commerce, and the Coast Guard


B – Eliminating payroll taxes and replacing the U.S. income tax with a “FAT VAT” tax that doubles the price of french fries at all fast food restaurants in the nation.

In week two, Paul will choose between:

A – Inviting casinos on Indian Reservations, Mike Bloomberg and Bill Gates to form the 51st state.


B – Letting the Russians buy back Alaska and backing the U.S. dollar with coal deposits from West Virginia.

You get the picture. Fifty percent of the revenue from TV commercials airing on Paul’s Picks, sold at Super Bowl rates, will be earmarked for debt reduction. That alone should halve the deficit.

And Paul will reveal his last name, which is probably Volcker.

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