Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Vol. II – Shutdowns, Help Wanted Signs, and Buffalo Chicken Soup

Political Satire:  Having trouble surviving these times?  You’re not alone.  Join us in columnist John F. Di Leo’s exploration of an alternate universe, where we imagine the impossible:

Joe Buckstop, an aging, corrupt old fool, somehow becomes president in his basement, and every night, an aide has to bring him his soup and discuss the events of the day as he prepares to receive his nightly meds…

Note: We continue from Volume Two, as Joe Buckstop’s soup aide, young Rhett Snapper, tries his best to explain the job market and its many challenges to the old man.

Shutdowns, Help Wanted Signs, and Buffalo Chicken Soup

Dateline, May 4. Begin Transcript:

“Good evening, sir! Hope you’re hungry!”

“I’m always hungry.”

“Well, sir, here it is. Buffalo Chicken Soup, sir.”

“Buffalo Chicken Soup? Never heard of it.”

“Neither had I, sir, but you know your cook, sir. She’s always looking for something new to cook for you.”


“So here’s your tray as usual, sir… soup, crackers, napkins, spoon….”


“I grabbed an extra bowl of crackers, sir, Buffalo Chicken is usually pretty hot, sir.”


“And here’s a carafe of ice water and a glass of ice, sir. Just in case.”

“The cook sent you down with all that?”

“No, sir, I thought of it. I don’t have much of a tolerance for spice, myself, sir, and like my dad always says, sir, ‘Better you have a pitcher of ice water and not need it, than need a pitcher of ice water and not have it,’ sir.”


“Wonder why she made something spicy today, sir. Did you ask her to make the soups spicier, sir?”

“Me? No. I don’t talk to her.”

“You don’t? Well, you thank her now and then, don’t you, sir?”

“What for?”

“For the soup, sir!”

“It’s her job. She’s doing her job. That’s all.”

“Sir, she’s a cook, and a very good one. She tries really hard to find something different, something interesting, every single day, sir. I’ve never known anybody to work so hard at a thing like this sir.”


“I hear her as I go by, as she’s muttering to her computer or going through a cookbook talking with your housekeeper, sir. ‘No, he wouldn’t like that’… ‘no, that’s too salty’… ‘yes, he might like this one’… ‘no, the pieces are too hard for him to cut in that one’…. it may not be a fancy job like cabinet secretary or attorney general, sir, but she does a darned good job, sir. You should appreciate it. Send her a card or something.”

“Come on, man. I’m busy.”

“Bosses all over the country are busy, and they find time to compliment their employees when they do a good job, sir.”


“It’s getting hard to get employees, you know. And even harder to keep them. You should appreciate the good ones you have, sir.”

“Come on man!”

“I’m serious, sir! I heard it on the radio, and my brother works at a mall and said the same thing: because of all these stimulus checks and welfare and handouts and unemployment and federal unemployment on top of it… all these things are discouraging people from working, sir. People are earning more staying home than giving up the freebies and getting a job, sir.”


“So? What do you mean, So? If people won’t take jobs, then companies can’t stay in business, sir! Retail places can’t handle their customers, sir. Manufacturers can’t fill orders. Restaurants lose customers who complain about bad service, and it’s not even the restaurants’ fault, sir, they just can’t get enough staff! It’s become a terrible problems, sir, all over the country!”

“Oh, don’t be silly. If people won’t take jobs, then those who do are appreciated even more, and they can get raises.”

“It’s not that simple, sir. A business needs a certain number of people to do what it does, sir. Imagine a restaurant, for example, sir. No matter how well you pay the staff, you can’t have waiters and waitresses running around the restaurant trying to serve twice as many tables; they’ll drop food and spill drinks. You can’t have half a kitchen staff making all the orders from scratch; you’ll take twice as long to cook the meals and the customers won’t return, sir! And it’s like that in every business, sir!”

“Well, they should advertise their jobs better.”

“They do, sir! There are ‘Help Wanted’ signs all over town, sir! nobody’s applying!”

“Well, they should pay better.”

“You’re raising their taxes, sir, they can’t afford to pay more and more! But why is the private sector forced to compete with welfare to win people over, sir? It’s crazy! An economy can’t work that way, sir!”

“Well, it’s just to get us through this crisis.”

“What crisis, sir? There’s no crisis! It’s only the government calling it a crisis and keeping everything shut down, sir! If the government said ‘that’s it, we’re done, the China Virus is down to a seasonal flu now, let’s get back to normal immediately’… we could, and we’d do just fine, sir!”

“Well, that’s optimistic, kid.”

“Rhett, sir.”


“It’s Rhett, sir. Not Kid.”

“Oh. well, you’re too optimistic.”

“Sir, a lot of my friends are talking about this thing, and looking at the states that are opening up, like Texas and Florida, and especially the places that never really closed down, like South Dakota and Sweden, and they’re asking me, is the government just continuing this thing because of the power, because of a chance to flex government’s muscles, sir? I can’t imagine it, myself, sir. I tell them of course not, who would do such a thing, you know, sir? But i have to admit, it’s hard to see any other reason, sir!”

“Come on, Man!”

“Remember how, during the campaign, sir, you attacked President Trump for having his name on those stimulus checks last year, sir?”

“Oh yeah. That was terrible. Shameful.”

“But then you just sent out a letter last week, sir, to people who got stimulus checks… a ‘personal’ letter from you, sir, talking about how we’re all in it together and all that, sir. That one had your name on it, sir.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Why, sir?”

“Why what?”

“Why, sir? Why did you do exactly the same thing he did, as if it was perfectly normal, as if it wasn’t hypocritical at all, sir?”

“Hypocritical? What’s that?”

“It’s when you preach against something that you shamelessly do yourself, sir, but that’s not important right now…”


“I’m just asking, sir, so I can reassure my friends, what is it about your letter politicizing the China virus that shouldn’t be viewed as being a complete political about-face on the issue, sir?”

“Well, uh, see, here’s the deal.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Well, see, when Trump did it, that was Trump doing it. And now that I’m doing it, see, it’s me doing it.”

“I beg your pardon, sir?”

“Well, he’s a bad guy, and I’m a good guy. That makes all the difference in the world, you know, kid.”

“It’s Rhett, sir.”

“Oh, right. Rhett.”

“At least, his check just had his name on the envelope, as the president. That’s all. Your letter talks about your spending bills, really getting into issue advocacy, sir.”


“And it’s sent on White House stationary with your signature, but is obviously arranged by the IRS, sir.”


“And when President Trump’s name was on the same mailing, at least it didn’t cost any more, but this is a separate letter, sent to millions and millions of people, at government expense, so it’s being attacked as just an outrageous waste of tax dollars, sir.”

“Come on, man!”

“My dad says that you should never sing your own praises, because then people will think it must be a lie, or they’d already know. It’s like my dad says, ‘if you have to remind everybody what a good job you’re doing, maybe you’re not really doing that good a job after all.'”

“Well, your dad obviously isn’t in politics.”

“That’s true, sir.”

“If we don’t tell people what we’re doing, they won’t know!”

“Umm, sir, you have a press secretary talking to the press every day, sir.”

“Uh huh…”

“And you talk to the press sometimes, too, sir.”

“Uh huh…”

“And you just gave a speech at the Capitol that was broadcast all over the world, sir.”

“Uh huh…”

“Your office has been known as the bully pulpit for over a hundred years, sir.”

“Uh huh…”

“And the mainstream media is basically the official propaganda arm of you and your whole party, sir…”

“Come on, man! It is not!”

“Of course it is, sir. They admit it.”

“Oh, they do? Okay then.”

“So I think your message is getting out, sir.”

“But then why aren’t we more popular?”

“Well, the polls they release always make you look popular…”

“That’s because we have to split up the results, kid.”

“How’s that, sir?”

“Well, what we do is, when the poll numbers are lousy, you look at the section you like, and then you find a way to puff it up.”

“How do you do that, sir?”

“Well, here’s the deal. I’m not a math whiz, so this isn’t my specialty…”

“What is, sir?”


“Never mind, sir. Go on, sir.”

“Well, let’s say the only people who are happy are the triple-Ds… that is, the people who have voted Democrat three elections in a row, the solid base, okay?”

“Yes sir?”

“So let’s say they’re about 25% of the response to a poll, and they love me, okay?”

“Yes sir?”

“And let’s say my numbers are 85% strong approval among that group.”

“But that doesn’t mean anything, sir! I mean, we’d expect the party base to say they like you, right?”

“Well, yeah. Of course. So that enables us to say that my approval rate is skyrocketing with 85% approval among people who care about Democratic party issues, see?”

“So even if the poll shows that 75% of the people are angry, you just act like the 25% is all that matters, sir?”

“Sure! Why not?”

“But that’s not the whole poll, sir! That’s deceptive, sir!”

“What do you think polls are for, kid? A science class research paper?”

“Well, no, but… well, I guess I never really thought about what polls were for, before, sir.”

“Heh heh. Polls are there to take unappealing or unsuccessful PR, and give it a coat of paint, a nice new covering of something that looks like science so that the PR sells better. That’s what polls are for.”

“And sending out campaign literature disguised as a formal information letter from the IRS is just another such technique to help out the PR, sir?”

“Bingo. That’s how the game is played in the big time, kid.”

“I see sir.”

“Hey, by the way, you were right, this soup was hot. Thanks for the pitcher of water.”

“Uhh, it’s nothing, sir. It was the least I could do, sir.”

“There you go, kid! That’s always my goal.”

“What’s that, sir?”

“To do the least I can do.”

“Yes sir. I see sir. If only, sir.”

Copyright 2021-2024 John F Di Leo

Excerpted with permission from Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volume Two, from Free State West Publishing, available in paperback or eBook exclusively on Amazon.

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based international transportation and trade compliance professional and consultant.  A onetime Milwaukee County Republican Party chairman, he has been writing a regular column for Illinois Review since 2009.  His book on vote fraud (The Tales of Little Pavel) and his political satires on the current administration (Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes III, and III), are available in either eBook or paperback, only on Amazon.

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