A spokesperson for world renown toymaker and philanthropist Santa Claus told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that after 6,892 consecutive quarters in the red, Claus is finally – reluctantly – calling it quits. Inside sources at Claus Industries International (CII) this morning confirmed widespread speculation that the company had fallen prey to a hostile takeover initiated by Claus’s nephew, the reclusive health insurance tycoon known to investors only as “X. ‘Grubby’ Claus.”
“I just hope each and every one of my loyal helpers manages to land on his or her financial feet,” offered the distraught and visibly shaken elder Claus, CEO and – until recently – managing stockholder of the firm. “I know this was as much a shock to them as it was to me.” Some three hundred elves are expected to lose their jobs as a result of the acquisition, which could send the unemployment rate in the sparsely-populated North Pole region soaring as high as 93%.
According to company executives, the future of CII’s charitable wing – The Claus Foundation – remains uncertain. When contacted by reporters following Tuesday’s announcement, X. Claus declined to specify what plans, if any, he had for the philanthropic enterprise. He was, however, willing to share a few tantalizing details in an exclusive interview granted to the Wall Street Journal’s Pamela Pabulum:
WSJ: Mr. Claus, thank you for agreeing to talk to us.
X. Claus: My pleasure.
WSJ: First of all, I’m sure our readers would love to hear your expert assessment regarding any fatal flaws in your uncle’s business model which may have led to the kind of long term stock devaluation the company has undergone in recent centuries. What can you tell us about that?
X. Claus: Well, it’s not really a mystery, is it? I mean, you run a giveaway program that rewards every kid in the world for simply being “good”, and what do you expect? I don’t even know how to quantify “good”, do you? It’s too vague a term to be of any use in business, and it’s certainly no basis for a corporate strategy. In my opinion it’s SOCIALISM writ large, pure and simple, and it has no place in a free country like ours.
WSJ: So it’s safe to say you’re not planning to continue producing toys?
X. Claus: Look, here’s the bottom line. We’ve issued urgent instructions to all middle management at Claus Industries to redirect the company’s resources away from the non-profit manufacture of toys and into the highly lucrative and growth-oriented health insurance and pharmaceutical sector of the economy. Accordingly, we’ve changed our name to “ClausCare Inc.”
WSJ: Sounds ambitious.
X. Claus: Pamela, we’re all about the future here at ClausCare.
WSJ: So I guess the children of the world won’t be getting any free goodies in their stockings this year.
X. Claus: Regrettably, no. But I am proud to announce that as an introductory promotion this coming Holiday Season, our marketing department plans to provide enough free lumps of coal to fill every child’s stocking up to the brim. Clean Coal. From the Cheney Family Strip mines in Hell Hole, Wyoming.
WSJ: I’m sure the children will be thrilled.
X. Claus: I hope so. We’re all really tickled about it here at ClausCare, I can tell you. And since it looks like Congress is going to pass a Health Care Reform Bill that requires some 40 million new customers to buy health insurance from private industry without recourse to some blood-thirsty totalitarian government plan involving Nazi “Death Canneries” that grind up old people and turn them into dog food, you can be sure we’ll be coming around to every house on Christmas Eve to sign up all 40 million of you new customers to vastly improved health care contracts. And don’t worry; You’ll be entitled to the sort of comprehensive coverage and up-to-date medical care envisioned by Our Founding Fathers back in 1776. That means free mercury-oxide for all, and no deductibles on leeches.
WSJ: Sounds great. By the way, what does the initial “X” in your name stand for?
X. Claus: It’s a nom de guerre, really. A nickname I picked up at Harvard Business School. It’s short for “Exclusionary.” You see, the guys in my fraternity just started calling me “Exclusionary Claus”, since my major in business school was insurance underwriting, and it just sort of stuck. In fact, my grad school professors got together and presented me with a special award for “Most Creative Writer of Exclusionary Clauses.”
WSJ: Can you give us some examples of your work in that department?
X. Claus: Sure. I was the driving creative force behind several industry favorites, including “Whereas the party of the first part, having failed to disclose his or her previously unforeseen medical condition…” And then of course there’s “In the event the insured fails to meet any of the extrinsic financial obligations imposed after the fact by the insurer in a timely manner…” And my personal favorite, “Under no circumstances shall a condition or complaint resulting from, or perceived as having resulted from, a nuclear conflict not directly attributable to the actions of the insurer result in…etc., etc.” That last one got me an honorable mention at the Health Care Expo in Las Vegas last year.
WSJ: Your Uncle Santa traditionally used helpers in his work, by which of course I mean his elves. I gather they’ll be considered redundant at ClausCare?
X. Claus: Unfortunately, yes.
WSJ: Will you be retraining any of those elves to perform jobs at ClausCare?
X. Claus: Well, there’s a bit of a problem there. You see, because Uncle Santa insisted on paying his employees a living wage for the past 1700 years or so, he had the luxury of skimming off the top of the elf gene pool. But because we here at ClausCare believe strongly that Freedom means “working for free”, we put a lot of advertising dollars into convincing working-class people to undermine their own best interests without expecting any compensation in return. This philosophy requires us, for obvious reasons, to dredge the bottom of that same gene pool as it were, to get at the deep sedimentary layer often referred to as “the salt of the earth.” What we recover by this process is a different class of helper: less mercurial and more leaden of mind; less cerebral, more visceral in nature. But suffice it to say these workers serve our purpose quite well. Because of their near total absence of annoying brain wave interference, the predigested talking points we provide them to recite at public meetings are retained in their pristine state, you know, right off the printed page, as it were…
WSJ: Are these creatures even elves?
X. Claus: Well, genetically speaking, we’re not exactly sure. We refer to them as “Oaves.”
WSJ: If I’m not mistaken, the Urban Dictionary defines “oaves” as the plural of “oaf.”
X. Claus: Hmmm…Interesting. That may be true, but for us it’s a useful acronym. It stands for “obtuse, agitated, vituperative, and educationally stunted.” But for all that, these oaves are worth their considerable weight in gold, and frankly, we couldn’t operate without them!
WSJ: Yeah, I’ve seen them on TV; they can suck the intellectual oxygen right out of a room.
X. Claus: Damn straight.
WSJ: So, everybody knows Santa used a magic sleigh pulled by flying reindeer to make his appointed rounds. How do you get your “oaves” from town hall to town hall?
X. Claus: Well, Pamela, now that, thankfully, we’re out of the toy business, we decided to scrap that old wreck of a sleigh and replace it with a fleet of brand new, state-of-the-art coal-burning buses.
WSJ: Your buses are powered by coal?
X. Claus: Not powered by coal, heated by coal. They’re actually pulled by invisible unicorns.
WSJ: Forgive me, but aren’t unicorns imaginary?
X. Claus: Of course, but our oaves don’t know that! One should never underestimate the power of credulity to change the world, let alone pull buses. Actually, we’ve told the oaves they can help the invisible unicorns by pushing with their feet, and we’ve cut holes in the floorboards to facilitate this. It’s sort of …ponderous I suppose, but trust me, if the buses moved any faster, the oaves would be confused by all the blurred scenery. This way they can all stick their heads out of the window, relax, and enjoy the ride.
WSJ: One last question, Mr. Claus. Will ClausCare’s corporate headquarters remain at their current location at the North Pole?
X. Claus: Well, the North Pole is, in some respects, an admirable location. It’s extremely remote and inaccessible by phone or even internet, which makes it ideal from the standpoint of avoiding inconvenient medical claims by our customers. But I’m afraid my doctor (and by my doctor I mean, of course, the entire Health Insurance Lobby) has expressed some concerns about the climate. He points out that the average daily high temperature there is a relatively balmy minus 30 degrees F. and growing warmer (not due to any man-made climate change, I should point out). His recommendation is that in order to avoid fatal cardiac thaw, I should move to the South Pole, where it is a full 20 degrees cooler on average.
And as retired Texas congressman Dick Armey likes to say, “The only heart-warming stories we in the insurance business enjoy telling involve hungry cannibals around a campfire.”
WSJ: Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Claus.
X. Claus: Not at all.