"You know, it's really decent of you to ask me to your house for Thanksgiving dinner," the cabbie said.
"Oh, not at all," I said, modestly deflecting the compliment. "That's what America is all about. Besides, I owe it to you. You've helped me a lot in my column-writing business, you know. Come on in and have a seat.
"By the way, are you feeling better about the president's economic program these days? As I recall, you were having some trouble understanding it the last time we talked. First, though, let me get you something to drink."
I handed him a can of apple cider, then poured myself a Chivas Regal. "Nice stuff," I said. "Twenty-five years old, you know."
"Yeah, and the cider's not bad, either, though I would have preferred . . ."
"About the president's economic program," I cut in. "What do you think now?"
"Well, I thought David Stockman pretty well summed it up in that article everybody's been talking about," he said. "It seems that the supply-side business you tried to sell me on is nothing but a hoax. Just a fancy name for trickle- down."
"And what's wrong with trickle-down?" I demanded. "In fact, we've got a good example right here. A good friend of mine, a big developer, gave me this bottle of Chivas. Wrote it off as a business expense, I imagine. And since I didn't have to put out my own money for liquor, I was able to buy that can of cider you are enjoying right now. See how it works?"
"You sound just like Reagan," the cabbie said. "He and his fat-cat friends are living in fat city, while the rest of us are struggling to make ends meet. Just last week, I read where he and Miz Nancy spent over $700,000 to redo their quarters at the White House. That's enough to buy seven or eight houses, even in this expensive town. Does that seem right to you?"
"You want your president living in run-down quarters?" I asked him. "What kind of impression would that make?" Besides, I explained, the money for the White House redecoration was from private contributions, not the federal government, so he really had no reason to complain.
"Well, I didn't get the impression that the White House was exactly rundown," he said. "As far as impressions are concerned, the redecoration money went to fix up the Reagans' private quarters which the public doesn't see in the first place. Also, I'm not too impressed with the fact that the money came from private contributors. They'll write it off their taxes, which means that it's coming out of the Treasury anyway."
I was explaining to him how the White House redecoration translated into business for interior decorators, furniture manufacturers and workmen when my wife called us in to dinner. I asked the blessing, carved the turkey for my wife and kids, then passed him a whole can of tuna fish.
"Chunk style," I said. "Nice, isn't it?"
"To tell the truth," he said, "it's a little dry. Could I please have some vegetables?"
I passed him the ketchup, a dish of relish and six plump french fries. "On second thought," I said, "take 12. After all, it's Thanksgiving."
"That stuffing really looks good," he said. "What do those little black things taste like?"
"They're truffles," I explained. "French, and really quite good. Here, have a slice of bread and a half-glass of milk."
The cabbie didn't talk much for the remainder of the meal, but afterward, while I poured myself a snifter of V.S.O.P. and opened another can of apple cider for him, he returned to the national economy.
"Looks like the recession isn't hitting too hard at your house," he said.
"After all, it's only a slight recession," I said. "Well, average, anyway. Besides, the administration says we should expect a strong recovery the second half of next year, when the Reagan program really kicks in."
"Yeah, I read that," the cabbie said. "As I recall it, that prediction came from the same people who told us in January that the 1981-1982 economic growth rate would be 4.2 percent, then told us in July that it would be only 3.4 percent. By October they were predicting a 2 percent growth rate, and now they are saying 1 percent. I don't think I want to read next month's forecast."
I told him he was concentrating too much on the bad news. "The good news is that the president is winning his battle to get the government off our backs. He's encouraging people with money to invest in productivity, which means that pretty soon you will see an increase in employment and the whole economy will take off. That's what supply-side is all about."
"You mean trickle-down," he said. "I'd like to discuss it with you, but right now, I'm afraid I've got to leave. If I don't get my cab on the street for a few hours, I'm going to have trouble getting my rent paid again."
"I'm sorry you have to leave so soon," I told him. "Would you like a doggie bag to take something home to the family?"
"What I'd really like is the rest of that bottle of Chivas."
"It would help me explain Reaganomics to them."