Saturday, August 17, 2013

12 - Setting the table . . .


April 2050

“Richard, go grab a bottle of “The Creek’s” bourbon, this is going to take a while.” Gramps nudged Brad out of his chair. “If you need to hit the head, go do it – Cathy, grab some glasses then come on back and we’ll tell these kids why we intend to build an army!”

Chairs slid across the floor, “duties were done”, Richard found the bourbon, glasses appeared . . . . as Gramps sat and organized this thoughts. He decided to break it into a couple parts. First, he needed to “set the table” as it were. You couldn’t just tell folks you were going to build an army and hope they didn’t haul you off to the funny farm. He’d explain how the country he had loved for nearly 80 years had turned into such a shit hole. They just didn’t teach history – at least “the truth” of his country’s history – anymore. The time for correction was long-since past. History had effectively been rewritten and the truth had long since been set aside in favor of political correctness. He knew what was coming . . . . bits and pieces were appearing daily around the country. From his frustration with growing power outages and brownouts to news stories of “wildlings” destroying large swaths of some of the country’s largest cities. His dad had called it “fraying of the fabric of society”. Looking at today’s situation, it felt like the fabric would be shredded . . . not frayed.

Taking a deep breath he looked at his family . . . . they were his purpose for existing. He would do everything within his power to insure their safety and their future. Everyone was waiting for Gramps . . . they knew he’d speak when he was ready. Richard and Cathy had both heard this before – as had Gram . . . over and over and over. Even Allison shook her head and smiled a bit, having heard parts of Gramps fears and concerns over the past few months. She was just finishing her engineering degree at U of I so her nose had been in books for the past four years – she’d paid little attention to the world around her. Now, with graduation looming in a few months – the real world seemed much more “real”!

Brad and E were still trying to wrap their minds around “I intend to build an army!” What the hell was her dad and Gramps up to? An army?? Really??? The small hairs at the base of E’s neck were sticking straight out . . . and she hadn’t felt that since her field time in Africa. “Not good!!” E thought. . . “Not good at all!!”

Gramps swirled his bourbon around in his glass – cooling in on the ice cube in its bottom. “Screw the critics” he’d say – “I like my bourbon chilled!” It also helped him think, helped him focus his thoughts.

“Richard, let me kick this off here. Let me “set the table” Gramps looked at E and Brad - “Kids, it’ll save you a call to the funny farm!” A little smirk crossed Gramp’s lips. “It’ll put some things in perspective and clear up the shit they teach as “history” today. The advantage you have hearing this from me is that I’ve lived most of it – at least the past 80 years or so. My dad was born almost exactly 100 years ago – April 1950 – before our government put into place the majority of the programs that allowed “the slide” to grow and accelerate. And his grandparents and parents were tempered in the depression of the 1930. That event, that single event set the wheels in motion for “the slide” as folks are starting to call it. And I’m here to tell ya those wheels are about to come off it a truly big way!”

He stared at the light brown liquid surrounding the couple ice cubes at the bottom of his glass – gathering his thoughts.

“The Depression was a combination of a bunch of things – shitty financial policy, shitty weather and a government policy of “work for everyone” that took capital from the private sector that could have been used to grow the economy. Instead it was used to “put people to work.” The reality was that the President at the time – Roosevelt, or FDR as he is typically called – extended the depression by years. As a side note - it was also one of the key components that allowed the world to slip back into a global war – World War II. Yet another slaughter of humanity pitting those that would enslave people against those who were determined to insure that people remained free of tyranny – as least as free as they were willing to be.

Anyway, getting a bit off track. As the depression began to subside, despite the actions of our government, our government decided that this should “never happen again”. In order to insure this, a high-sounding program called “Social Security” was formed. The idea was that people would pay a portion of their wages into a “secure” account – and then when they reached “advanced age” – 65, this would act as a bit of a cushion, so Americans would never again feel poverty. Of course, they were using data from 1935 when the vast majority of citizens never saw 65 so the money accumulated. There were 16 workers for every person collecting social security. The party in power at the time was the Democrat party and they relished in the praise they received for “saving the working man.” The die was cast . . . the government would save you, would protect you, would take care of you. Looking back on it, this desire accelerated with blinding speed. By ’63 the Democrats started their “war on poverty” and named their efforts the “Great Society”. If you didn’t have a job – the government would send you a check for a few months until you found a job. By the 20-teens, this had been extended to YEARS. Couldn’t afford food? In ’64 the Food Stamp Act came into existence. The government will simply give you “stamps” that you could spend like money for food. This to expanded by the 20-teens to plastic cards that the government could electronically transfer money too. Even if you were able bodied, and in some cases were actually employed, you could receive this “free money”.

With wages and food covered, ’65 saw the introduction of “Medicare and Medicaid” – programs at the federal level and state level to provide “free healthcare” to those who “couldn’t afford it”. By 1965 the die was cast for the collapse of the entire social safety net. By 2013 half of the workers didn’t pay any federal income taxes. A quarter were local, state or federal government employees – all paid by the remaining tax payers. The remaining quarter of the workforce paid for everything . . . and their “nut” for the next 30 years for all of these unfunded mandates was roughly $5 MILLION dollars per person. Think of that - $5 MILLION dollars . . . an impossible task and the first nail in our financial coffin.

By the early 2000s, Medicare expanded even more, increasing this burden. In 2010 something called the “Affordable Care Act” moved our country from a free market healthcare system to a socialist system. It would take another 20 years but by 2030 the only source of healthcare in the US was the government. Hospitals, doctor’s practices, care facilities had all been nationalized “for the good of the people”. Costs skyrocketed, care plummeted – hell, look around today? You can’t pay a kid to go to med school, we’re damn lucky to have Ted and Sandy in our little community!

Another part of our financial problems were – and still are - the Unions that came into being in the 1930s. My grandfather was actually in one of the earliest wildcat strikes. While there were valid reasons for their existence early on, by the early 2000s they had forged so many ridiculous contracts with manufacturers, individual cities and states that their pensions and their healthcare costs were simply unsustainable. In the first decade of 2000s two of the largest auto firms, GM and Chryslers, declared bankruptcy. Had the law been followed – contracts would have been renegotiated, pension plans reworked – and the companies would have been reorganized. The politics of the time put a quick halt to that and the actual result was that the investors were set aside and tax dollars were used to “save” the company. Within 20 years the tax dollars and the companies were gone – and investors became much more leery of investing in anything.

Private companies weren’t the only thing affected – public worker unions brought the same problems to the negotiating table that had been felt in the private sectors. By 2013 the world’s capital of the auto industry – Detroit – was bankrupt. It was like a damn had burst. They were quickly followed by the Illinois state pension fund in 2016, California pensions in 2019, the state of New York’s pension plan in 2021. And the ball was just beginning to roll.

January 2022 saw California become the first state to declare bankruptcy followed by New York the next year with Illinois right behind them. By the beginning of summer, 2023 America was teetering on the edge of a complete financial collapse. I watched the speeches on the floor of the House and Senate . . . hands waved, fists pounded – by God, ‘SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE!!” was the resounding cry. And so it was . . .

There had been a growing pot of money that remained out of the reach of the government – trillions upon trillions of dollars . . . all contained in devices with names like “Individual Retirement Accounts – IRAs” and “401K” investment accounts. It was just too much to resist. After all, only the rich had such things – and they simply didn’t need all that money. Long story short, in late summer 2023 – the government simply took the money. Individuals that had saved throughout their entire lives saw their accounts emptied with a promise of an annual return of 3% of whatever their account balance was at the time of the “theft” for the remainder of their lives. And people began to notice they no longer lived in a country they even knew . . . the “wheels” started to get wobbly.

Governments being who they are, performed as expected. The money was used to bail out as many states and pensions plans as it could – within 10 years, in fact just a few years after you two were born – the money, and the bonds that was used to back them up were gone and in default. Our creditors – worldwide - lost confidence in us – and they trust us even less today! Anyway, when their bonds would come due – they asked for gold in payment. Our government told them to go pound sand – and simply inflated the dollar to cover the bonds. Funny money rather than gold. Few were amused. The result? Interest rates that you see today – 35% or higher. No one can afford a loan – if folks don’t have cash then they don’t buy the things that fuel an economy – homes, businesses, cars – of course, with the price of gas no one can afford a car anyway. And, new companies aren’t started, established companies have to exist strictly on cash flow so their ability to grow is severely restricted – and many times, when the cash flow falters, they simply close their doors.

Simply put, we are dead in the water – and getting “deader” by the day! Of course, the world hasn’t stood still – the Mideast has come completely unglued. Hell, you two have seen that up close and personal. The C.O.P. rules the habitable parts, east of Egypt and west of Iran. The Mideast that I knew growing up is simply a glowing ember of what used to be. Europe remains under threat of attack by the C.O.P. Since the 9/11/2029 attacks, the clashes between a very, very aggressive Muslim immigrant population and an increasingly cowed indigenous populous have continued. The EU is beginning to realize that “Islam” means “submit”, and not “hey, let’s just get along”.

There have been significant political changes here as well. The People’s Libertarian Party has been growing significantly since it was formed in ’35. Still, the newly renamed Democrat Socialist Party is continuing its nearly 100 year old refrain of “the rich have so much more than they need” and it’s even more effective today than it was 50 years ago. What used to be called the Republican Party is simply a shadow of what it was in the past. In their effort to go-along to get-along, they have been consumed by the DSP to such an extent, you’d be hard pressed to point out any major differences between the two parties.

Jobs are nonexistent – with unemployment exceeding 50% in most major cities . . . the “pot is beginning to simmer”. I want you to begin to pay attention to the intel you can gain on the news – I see it every day. What I call “wildling attacks” – people attacking people just because they’re pissed. Murder rates have soared in the major metropolitan areas – hell, you couldn’t pay me to go to Chicago or Minneapolis or St. Louis. These attacks are beginning to “congeal” – for lack of a better word. One frustrated group meets another - that meets another - that meets another – they’re angry, frustrated and that quickly turns to rage. Where these groups were a couple handfuls of people 10 years ago, today they’re in the hundreds or thousands. That’s what happened in D.C. this past September.

E and Brad looked at each other. Even in Africa, in the middle of operation Ramrod, they’d heard of the “D.C. Swarm”. It was estimated that 25 to 30 thousand angry, pissed off and enraged people “swarmed” out of SE D.C, across the river’s bridges and simply engaged in an orgy of violence and destruction. The snowball effect stunned and overwhelmed D.C. police and emergency response staff. After a full two days of rampaging – the 2nd Marine Regiment, part of the 2nd Marine Division headquartered at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina was brought into the city to stop the violence. The fighting lasted another three days. When the “swarm” was finally expelled – 25% of the metropolitan area of D.C. lay smoldering, nearly 2,000 were dead and thousands more were wounded. And while Capitol Hill was spared major damage – scars of the battles, both physical and emotional will take decades to heal . . . if they ever do.

Sadly, the emotions and economic conditions that lead to the “swarm” last fall in D.C. are growing across the country. My business contacts in virtually every major city – New York City, Chicago, LA, Boston, D.C. (still), Atlanta, Trenton, Minneapolis, St. Louis – everywhere I have presence anyway, are scared as hell. Unemployment is high, costs are climbing, they’re all experiencing the same shit we are – electricity and services dropping out for hours at a time, public services are being withdrawn – from medical services to police and firefighters. People are pissed. They feel hopeless. And the politicos are pointing the finger everywhere but at themselves. The level of anger that is growing simply has to find release – and soon. I pray we make it through the summer . . . . but I’m not betting on it. And when it “blows” – the countryside will explode! I fear that D.C. will look like a walk in the park. Never mind the state of our finances as a country – we will be looking at the second coming of a civil war. But it won’t be the north against the south – it’ll be the 60% that are fully dependent on the government for their daily survival . . . against everyone else.

His glass empty, he looked into its depths one last time. He slowly looked at his family – and wondered how many would survive. “Tell ya what kids – I lost my “cherry” in a shithole called Fallujah. It was our second crack at the fuckin’ place. The operation had a cute little name - Operation Al-Fajr, it meant “the dawn”. Beginning to end it lasted nearly a month – cost us over 50 Marines. Picked up a bit of metal myself.” He just paused a bit – lost in memory, smells, sounds. “Damn, not a road I ever wanted to walk down again!” he thought. Looking at E and Brad . . .

“You two know what I mean. Not an experience I ever wanted to repeat.” Eyes boring in on E and Brad – “That’s what’s headed our way, in every major city. A “shit storm” so far beyond expectation that it’s going to take years to resolve. And I sure the hell intend to be ready . . . . we ARE going to build an army. Right here, in our county to start with and pray this passes. It won’t, but a little prayer never hurts. By this time next year I want the equivalent of 32 fire teams – two for each for 16 areas of operation. If my memory serves, that shakes out to be about 128 Marines? My math OK?” Gramps had bit of a smirk on his face while he watched his granddaughter and Brad.

“Yes sir, you’re math’s just fine.” Brad said, watching the old man. “How the hell do you intend to find this army of yours?”

“Well son, what’s why we hired you and E . . . . you’re our recruiting force! Only 126 more to go!” Gramp’s smirk remained as Brad and E tried to grasp the task just laid before them.

“You’re serious!” E replied, as she realized this was simply not casual conversation.

“Dead serious.” Gramps assured her – looking all the Marine he had been back in 2004. “Dead serious!”


  1. That's an Ah Ha moment! Good one! :-)

  2. I'm a pretty voracious reader, across many diverse genres,and IMHO, you sir, can write!

  3. Jim - the plot's "emerging" . . . :)

    Brighid - very kind compliment - thank you!

  4. Its all startin' to come together now!