If you’re looking for something dull to read but have already completed the phone book, here’s a great choice: The Plum Book.
It’s got more than 8,000 characters in it, but there’s no storyline, no theme and no sexy passages. It’s like an infomercial in print.
The book’s formal name is United States Policy and Supporting Positions. Some people fall asleep just reading the title.
The book contains a list of all the government jobs that are up for grabs now that incoming president Barack Obama is soon to start taking measurements for new drapes. Personally, I’d take the drapes out and cover the windows in aluminum foil, saving the nation countless dollars in energy savings. (patcashmanforpresident2012.org)
It’s as if Mr. Obama has just been picked to manage a huge Fred Meyer store – except of course it’s not a Fred Meyer store, it’s government, so you’re more likely to hear an intercom voice say, “Clean up in Homeland Security, please.”
Some of the best jobs may already be gone as you read this: Secretaries of everything from Defense to the Treasury. There’s a position called Secretary of the Interior, but no Secretary of the Exterior. And happily, no Secretary of the Posterior.
Secretary of State was once called Secretary of War. But I guess somebody thought that sounded too hostile. On the other hand, Secretary of Peace is probably too optimistic.
But those handfuls of most coveted positions are only the tip of the big-government iceberg. There are thousands of lesser gigs, all listed in The Plum Book. It’s published every four years, just before the inauguration of a new president, but has yet to ever make the best-seller list (although Oprah is giving it some thought for her Book Club).
One of the “plum” government jobs that a new president gets to appoint at his discretion is that of Deputy Director of Intermodalism. One of the principal qualifications for that job is a working knowledge of what the word “intermodalism” means. So far, only six people in the entire United States have ever passed that part of the test – and four of them are deceased. But if someone could land it, it would sure be a great job. What mom wouldn’t love bragging about her son, the intermodalist?
Most of the jobs listed in The Plum Book are positions that the president can freely hand out to friends and campaign workers. It’s all perfectly legal, if also perfectly goofy.
For example, there are several jobs in the Office of Government Ethics. I wonder if the people in those jobs have even shown up for work
the last 30 years or so?
And then there’s the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. That sounds like a real fun group. So do the wacky folks on the Chemical Safety and Hazard Board. A laugh a minute.
The Secretary of Education has three senior advisors, nine special assistants and 11 confidential assistants. Quick, Mr. Secretary of Education! How much is 3 + 9 + 11? For that matter, what is a special assistant? Is it like the class pet of the Secretary of Education? “You’re special, Marvin. Why don’t you go take early recess?”
There are a number of positions in the U.S. Patent Office. They are all pending.
Here’s one for you: Architect of the Capitol. Excuse me, but wasn’t that place built over 200 years ago? What does the current Architect of the Capitol do all day? “Yep, the place still looks good to me. I’ll be on the golf course if you need me, Miss Smith.”
I like this one, too: Director of Speechwriting for the Agriculture Department. There’s nothing more exciting than listening to a speech from an agricultural spokesman: “It has been said in the past that the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye. But because of this year’s drought, it’s only as high as a Clydesdale.”
While some departments have scores of employees, the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization has just one person on staff. File that one under “ironic.”
Another select gig is the director of the Tobacco and Peanuts Division. That person’s implied goal is to keep kids from getting hooked on cigarettes and Jiffy.
Someone will be hired to be our next commissioner for the U.S./Canada International Boundary. Apparently they still haven’t quite decided where to put it.
Not only that, but President-elect Obama also needs to appoint the Railroad Retirement Board – presumably so the railroad can finally retire gracefully.
I’m not making any of these job titles up. They’re all in The Plum Book. Meanwhile, here’s a joke making the rounds in D.C.: “How many intermodalists does it take to screw in a light bulb? None. The president will appoint other people to do that.”
Pat Cashman is a writer, actor and public speaker. He can be reached at email@example.com