Half-baked Sale: Groupon to the rescue

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As I waded through the onslaught of daily-deal offerings from Amazon and Google and Facebook and Rue La La and whoever else had joined the fray overnight, it occurred to me that all of this crazy couponing could help unlock the door to our economic dungeon.

Think about it. Americans can’t resist a bargain. And we will eagerly live beyond our means in pursuit of daily deals because we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re actually saving money as we spend ourselves into oblivion in support of merchants who aren’t likely to see us again.

So why not have the government indulge us by offering irresistible trinkets, tchotchkes and trifles at half price? All proceeds would go toward debt reduction. The idea is simple enough for Michele Bachmann to grasp and impractical enough for Barack Obama to champion. It’s the perfect solution, especially since it could be administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce, meaning the Secretary of Commerce would finally have something to do while waiting for an ambassador’s job to open up.

I don’t have a catchy name like Groupon or Living Social just yet. Right now it’s simply the Government Enterprise To Support Consumer Rewards Even While Eliminating Debt. Granted, it needs some fine tuning by the acronym experts. But that’s what the new congressional “super committee” is for, right? Patty Murray won’t let us down.

So consider these half-price deals that may soon be coming to an inbox near you.

Postage stamps. Just like that coupon for the Palm Springs spa weekend that never got used, this deal allows us to buy an unlimited supply of Forever stamps for half price and not feel so guilty when we actually need to use a stamp and can’t remember where we put them. (We have brainy interns figuring out exactly what 50 percent of forever costs, so no U.S. Postal Service employee will be overtaxed in the execution of this promotion.)

Passports. Renewed your passport lately? Then you know how expensive it is to cram a microchip inside a little blue booklet. If the State Department had any marketing sense, it would offer a discount coupon for the basic-chip passport, then upsell to a higher-end passport that features more sophisticated chip technology. What self-respecting American would carry a 3G passport when a more expensive 4G passport (with hologram) was available? Heck, we’d pay extra for a chocolate-chip passport.

Politicians. BOGO deals are all the rage right now. So why not buy one congressman, get one free? This is an excellent way for big companies to reduce the national debt by compromising the ethics of two elected officials for the price of one. Bonus: Each purchase includes a jar of John Boehner Tanning Cream. Choose an SPF (smugness personified factor) of “beach hottie” or “bitch haughty.”

Synonyms. Through special arrangement with the publishers of The American Heritage Dictionary, the Government Printing Office is making available The Presidential Dictionary, Debt Ceiling Enhancement Edition. Where else can you discover that leadership means knowing when to compromise and that compromise means the same as capitulation? Act fast. Like its author, this classic is likely to sell out.

Aircraft. Who needs piñatas? Imagine your neighbor’s envy when you deliver—via Predator drone—a boatload of candy to your child’s backyard birthday party. As the war in Afghanistan winds down, Predators will soon be able to drop cupcakes (at wedding receptions), cut ribbons (at shopping center openings) and zap dogs back to the Stone Age (if they poop on your lawn). True, Predators are exorbitantly expensive. But, according to Pentagon pricing schedules, 50 percent of exorbitant is merely ridiculous. Just think what the government could do with that kind of money.

John Levesque is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine.

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