Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Episode 66: Racial Quotas, Bureaucracy, and Italian Meatball 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 to explain small business, set-asides, racial bigotry and bureaucratic disasters to the old man.

Racial Quotas, Bureaucracy, and Italian Meatball Soup

Dateline May 15. Begin Transcript:

“Any soup fans down here?”

“Just a minute, just a minute…”

“Good evening, sir!”

“I said ‘just a minute’… don’t you know that means ‘don’t come in?'”

“Well, sir, this tray is heavy, and there wasn’t another place to put it, sir… I’m sorry I caught you playing Super Smash Brothers again.”

“What you mean, ‘again’? I hardly ever practice this game. I’m a busy man.”

“Yes sir. Have some soup.”

“What is it?”

“The cook said this is Italian meatball soup, sir. meatballs in a beef broth, with various vegetables and ditalini, sir.”

“What was that last one?”

“Ditalini, sir.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Well, sir, maybe it’s never heard of you, either.”

“What is it?”

‘It’s a noodle, sir.”

“Never heard of it.”

“You know the ditali, sir?”


“Well, picture a big tube that’s cut into lengths about a third of an inch to a half an inch long, sir.”

“Is that what this is?”

“No, sir. That’s ditali. The smaller version of that is ditalini, sir.”


“Just call them noodles, sir, and you can’t go wrong.”

“Uh huh.”

“So try it, sir, and let me know what you think so I can tell the cook!”

‘”Oh all right.”

“Why so grumpy, sir? It’s a nice soup; she found it in a cookbook from a small business; a little cooking school and cookbook publisher. I tried it upstairs and loved it, sir.”

“It’s okay.”

“Just okay, sir? Is that the best you can do?”

“Okay, okay, it’s good. Happy now?”

“Glad you like it, sir. It’s a neat recipe. I like the source. Little small businesses like that. Just one employee at the startup, maybe the family… and then sometimes, over the years, they grow and grow! Lots of big businesses started out as entrepreneurs. Such a cool history, you know, sir?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I’ve had a few people in my family who were entrepreneurs. Just a few, you know? Not many, sir.”


“Most of us just have normal jobs working for other people, or big companies. My uncle’s an accountant with some big manufacturer, couple of my cousins are engineers… but my grandfather started businesses… a store, a restaurant, a consulting firm… couple of cousins did the same. Some worked, some didn’t.”

“Uh huh.”

“And they all took it in stride, you know? If a store didn’t catch on, they’d move to another location, or change their advertising, or close down and start something new, chalking it up to experience, sir. Entrepreneurs are amazing people, sir.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Umm, sir, you agree, don’t you?”


“You respect entrepreneurs, right, sir?”

“Oh, umm, look, kid, I’m just eating my soup. Let me eat my soup in peace, huh?”

“Oh, well, sure, sir. Just wondering, sir, why your administration is hammering small businesses, so hard, sir.”

“Come on, man!”

“You must know that conditions are awful for small business these days, don’t you, sir? My cousins are going out of their minds; they can’t hire employees, sir.”

“Well, are they posting help wanted ads?”

“Sure, sir, all the time, but with unemployment and welfare benefits so high, sir, they can’t get anybody who wants to work!”

“Well, they should pay more then.”

“Sir, you can only pay what you can afford based on money coming in, sir. Salaries are driven by sales. If you don’t have people walking in your store and placing orders, you can’t afford to pay employees. So they post a reasonable rate, sometimes half again as much as minimum age, or even double minimum wage, and they get no takers, sir. It’s killing them.”

“Well, are they applying for government help?”

“What’s that, sir?”

“Government help! We have lots of programs for small business.”

“The only program that small business needs is for the jackboot to get off their neck, sir.”

“What’s that?”

“The jack boot of government, sir. Unaffordable mandates, unnecessarily strict regulations, high minimum wage, things like that, sir.”

“Mmm. This is good soup.”

“Glad to hear it, sir. But also, the things the government does on the welfare side hurt them too. My cousin was telling me that with the state and federal unemployment pay increases, plus food stamps and housing assistance and stuff like that, the kind of people who should be looking for entry level jobs, you know, to get a start, just aren’t interested. There’s no way the small business community can match what the government offers them, sir.”

“Well, we have programs for the businesses too. have your cousins looked into those?”

“Oh yes, sir. They’re worst of all, sir.”

“Huh? We care! We care about people! We’re issuing grants to small businesses! I ordered the Small Business Administration to expedite applications!”

“Uh, sir, you realize they’re a shell game, don’t you, sir?”

“Hey, you lying dogfaced pony soldier!”

“Sorry, sir, but it’s true… if a small business wants a government contract, it has to comply with a Buy America clause that’s as restrictive as the 2010 ones or worse. Small businesses usually can’t afford the processes necessary to prove qualification for that origin clause, so they simply can’t become qualified bidders”

“Well, you want to buy American, don’t you?”

“Well, sure, sir, but we have to live in the realm of the possible, sir. When you write rules that no small business can comply with, you’re basically freezing out small businesses from the contract, sir. Sounds discriminatory, doesn’t it?”

“They can hire an expert.”

“Do you know what that kind of expert costs, sir? North of a thousand bucks an hour, sir.”

“Well, uhh, then they can do something else. They can sell domestically or export to make up the gap there.”

“Their states and cities are making them wear masks at the plant all day… they can’t find truckers to deliver their products because there’s such a terrible driver shortage thanks to the insane Hours of Service Regulations…. and taxes and health insurance premiums just keep going up and up… all because of government policies. It’s killing them, sir.”

“Well, that’s why we have grants.”

“What grants, sir?”

“The SBA grants. My Small Business Administration is targeting needy businesses and shooting out that money as fast as they can!”

“Uhh, sir, do you have any idea of how restrictive that program is, sir?”

“Come on, Man!”

“Sir, the SBA is being racist in their evaluations of those grant applications.”


“Oh yes, sir. By your order, sir.”


“Oh yes, sir. Minority and women-owned small businesses are at the front of the line, sir. The SBA won’t even listen to you – they won’t even look at your application – unless you first prove you’re a member of a minority, sir.”

“Well we need our minority and women-owned businesses!”

“I didn’t say you didn’t, sir. I just said that it’s patently unfair to say we have a program and then limit it racially, by limiting access to the program to only everyone except white males, sir.”

“No we didn’t!”

“Oh didn’t you.”

“We wouldn’t do that!”

“Yes you did, sir. Your policy is that the SBA is now to give ‘priority’ to minority and women owned businesses, sir.”

“Sure! Priority! It’s not exclusive!”

“Sir, do you know how the federal government is working right now, sir? It’s largely remote, completely short staffed, and they’re able to set their own pace, sir.”


“So, sir, what this means, is that the SBA administrators will never get through the minority and women owned applications, sir. It’s a great time to be a handicapped transgender height-challenged hispanic owned business, sir, but a regular white guy’s startup will never, ever even make it to the top of the stack even to be looked at, sir.”

“Oh, it’s not that bad. I haven’t heard any complaints.”

“Oh, so you haven’t heard what happened on Capitol Hill today, huh, sir?”

“Huh? What happened?”

“A group – what was it called… I think America First Legal – filed a lawsuit, sir.”


“Oh yes, sir.”

“Against who?”

“Whom, sir.”


“Against whom, sir. Anyway, it’s against the administration, sir. You know, your team, sir.”

“Hey, that’s not fair! What are they suing me for?”

“Well, sir, because intentionally racist prioritizing of the SBA’s loans and grants is bigotry, and doesn’t belong in the US government, sir!”

“Come on, man!”

“Sir, it’s undeniable. You admitted yourself that your office ordered the SBA to give grants to minorities and biased organizations… based on skin color, sir. I don’t know what that is if not bigotry, sir.”

“Well, uhh, it’s not bigotry because we’re doing it! If you did it, that would be wrong. But we know what we’re doing, so it can’t be racist!”

“Is that so, sir?”

“Well, yeah! Of course! We CARE! We CAN’T be racist!”

“You can’t, sir?”

“No, of course not!”

“How do you manage that, sir?”

“Well, we have people’s best interests at heart!”

“Obviously not the majority’s, sir.”


“Well, sir, look at it this way. You’ve got ten people lined up to apply for some grant. All ten have small businesses, all then apply on the same day. If you told your staff to only accept the ones from white guys, would that be discriminatory?”

“Well, sure! Of course! Can’t do that!”

“Okay, sir, and now reverse it. What if you told your staff to only accept the ones that aren’t from white guys. Wouldn’t that be just as discriminatory?”


“Same situation, sir. Just different, sir.”


“I don’t think there’s a judge alive who can get this one wrong, sir.”

“But that’s not fair!”

“What’s not fair, sir?”

“Using racism against us! We invented it!”

“You invented racism, sir?”

“Huh? No, of course not. Um, we invented minority set-asides!”

“No you didn’t, sir. The Nixon Administration did, sir. Over 50 years ago, sir.”


“Wasn’t a good idea, but in any case, it was started in a Republican administration, sir. Lousy idea then, lousy idea now, sir.”

“But my American Rescue Package will save small businesses!”

“Maybe it’ll save a few that don’t speak English, sir… but it’s about as divisive a policy as you could get, sir.”

“Hey now! Look, here’s the deal. I’m gonna help small businesses, my way.”

“Sir, your way is going to be in court soon, trying to prove you’re not racist, and you’ll have a pretty darned weak argument to base it on, sir.”

“But we just gave priority! We didn’t forbid whites from applying, we just said they wouldn’t be first!”

“Sir, your American Rescue Package provided a 21 day priority window for women owned and minority owned businesses to apply before white guys could.”


“So, sir, if all the money in that subset of the program is granted during that window, you’ll have never even accepted the application of the non-minority businesses.”


“Well, sir, in short, sir, your administration set it up in literally the most racist way possible, sir. They couldn’t have done a better job setting you up for a court loss if they’d tried, sir.”

“Not everyone will see it that way…”

“Good luck with that, sir. Have some soup. If you want more, we’ll get you a refill, sir.”

“I can’t decide. It was good, but, uhh, I’m not sure if I’m that hungry…”

“Oh, it’s an easy call, sir. You can always flip a coin, sir. The answer is black and white.”

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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