"Dead? What do you mean, you're dead?"
"You heard me. My physical life has long been over. Some of us are able to show ourselves to the living, and that is why I'm here now."
"What do you want?"
"Respect, my friend -- and money."
"Ah, yes, you speak of recent reports about long-dead people receiving stimulus payments from the Social Security Administration. Upward of 10,000 dead people were paid -- and some of them died very long ago."
"We deserve that money."
"But you're dead."
"Look, remember when Bill Clinton became president? He passed a retroactive tax -- one that raised taxes of some people AFTER they had died."
"You have to give Clinton points for creativity."
"Well, we dead weren't going to take that lying down. We formed our own lobbying group, the AADP."
"The American Association of Dead People?"
"That's right. As we see it, we deserve our own slice of the government-waste pie. Many of the politicians running this country certainly owe us."
"Take the electoral process. Do you know how many candidates dead voters get elected every election cycle? You never would have heard of JFK, if our coalition of the dead in Chicago hadn't been so active."
"And what about health care? By croaking, we save Medicare and private insurers billions -- freeing up needed resources for the living."
"Another fair point."
"And think of how much revenue we generate. We pay inheritance taxes when we die. We generate revenue for undertakers, graveyard caretakers, hearse manufacturers and the linen industry."
"The linen industry?"
"Handkerchiefs. The point is, we contribute more to the living than many of the living do. We deserve our fair share of the government-waste pie."
"Look, you make some fair points, but I still think it's wrong for the government to send money to the dead."
"But you already are. The government has spent billions propping up dead industries and companies. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on GM -- money taxpayers won't get back."
"A fair point."
"Look at your state governments. During boom times, they overextended themselves on wasteful programs, generous benefits for state employees and all kinds of wrongheaded ideas. Now they want to soak taxpayers even more -- some propose billions in life support from the federal government."
"Another fair point."
"What about the myriad of old, dead ideas that the Obama administration is pushing? Massive government spending and trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see."
"Such ideas may drive some of us to an early grave."
"What about the government's massive intervention into health care, the auto industry, the energy industry? The folks running the government are trying to force desired outcomes in how the living receive care, the kind of cars they drive, the way energy is produced. And here's the deadest idea of all: There will be massive tax increases to pay for it all!"
"OK, your points are well-taken. Still, it wouldn't make sense for any government to purposely send checks to the dead. That would be so wasteful."
"But don't you see? Of all the wasteful government programs, paying the dead will produce the biggest benefit. Our heirs will forge our signatures on our checks and use the money to go out to dinner, buy new televisions, maybe buy a new car."
"That would be illegal, but I see your point."
"As our heirs spend our money, it will stimulate the economy. As the economy grows, jobs will be produced and government revenues will go back up. Investing in the dead is a bargain. Besides, by formally establishing a new government program to pay the dead, you will help us attain eternity."
"Government programs never die."
Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.