When David Stockman, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, was a little boy, his father gave him an ax. The next morning, the father went out in the backyard and saw his favorite tree chopped down.

He called his son and said, "David, did you chop down this cherry tree?"

David replied, "Yes, Father, I did it, and it's only the beginning."

"You can't go around chopping every cherry tree just because I gave you an ax," David's father said.

"Yes, I can. Uncle Ronnie says any time I see a cherry tree I should chop it down."

"But there are good cherry trees and bad cherry trees. You have to use some discrimination in the ones you ax."

"That isn't what Uncle Ronnie told me. He said he wants the trees cleared out, across the board."

"David, you have to understand something about cherry trees. Some cherry trees give off beautiful blossoms, but don't bear any fruit. If you chop them down, you lose nothing. But other trees produce cherries, and we need them or we won't have anything to eat."

"I don't have time to figure out which are the good cherry trees and which are the bad ones. Uncle Ronnie says he promised to cut all the cherry trees in Washington, except for those around the Pentagon. He said under no conditions could I touch them. Well, back to work."

"Wait, David. Are you sure you know what you're doing?

"Look, Father, I'm not chopping down the entire cherry tree. I'm just lopping off the branches and part of the trunk."

"That's good for some trees, but it's very bad for others. Once you sink your ax into the trunk, the cherry tree will die."

"Well, we've got to get rid of the cherry trees, and this is the only way I know how to do it."

"Do you realize that every tree in Washington is a favorite of somebody? They don't mind your cutting down the other fellow's cherry tree, but they're going to get awfully mad when they find out you're going to knock down theirs."

"Uncle Ronnie knows that, and he's willing to back me up if anyone gets mad when I cut his tree. He says we can't afford all these trees, and the only way he can get our yard in order is to knock down as many as we can, even if it means people are going to have to go without cherries."

David started swinging his ax and singing "With a chop-chop here and a chop-chop there, ee yi ee yi oh."

A neighbor stopped by and said to David's father, "That son of yours swings a mean ax. What's he doing?"

"I'm not quite sure," the father said. "I gave him this ax, and his Uncle Ronnie told him to chop down every cherry tree in Washington, except the ones around the Pentagon."

"He's not going to chop down my cherry trees, is he?" the neighbor asked.

"He chopped down mine, and I'm his father."

"That's some kid you've got there. I wonder what he's going to do when he grows up."

David's father said, "Your guess is as good as mine."