Fiction: After the debt ceiling


The following is purely fictional and speculation and to long to really read. It does not represent anything other than an attempt to use one pattern to identify a future pattern in a totally different set of situations. That means it is bull spit (BS). In reference, the collapse of the Soviet Union has many macro causal elements, and while those macro events have nothing to do with today. The micro causal effects and secondary or tertiary effects give an interesting view into what is an unlikely but “humorous” future.  Written from the point of narrative toss preconceived notions out the door, sit down with a tasty cool beverage, and hopefully enjoy dystopia coined.

August 3rd 2011 held breathless abandon as midnight passed and the previous days events passed into it’s hands. As the deadline for signing legislation for a growing debt ceiling passed the protesters sat outside the various capital regions landmarks. Not too surprisingly nothing happened. With the midnight hour a new day dawned and the United States of America formally abandoned it’s obligations to debt. Wednesday at 8AM the stock market would open to a brave new uncertainty. The days leading up to the historic date had already been filled with angst as the various indexes showed nearly a 15% drop between July 25th and August 2nd.

The various factions having reached an accord on the weekend of July 23rd began an austerity plan that had five components. Reduce military spending, cut foreign aid and assistance, decrease the federal work force, end subsidies to states and protectorates, and determine priorities for infrastructure investment based on critical need. The plan to drop defense spending by 40% over a three-year period was met with howls of concern from hawkish military types. The corporate sector lobbied hard. In a speech to congress a legislator remarked that the defense acquisition program methodology was broken and that he could buy bullets and beans cheaper from Wal Mart. The “boots beans and bullets not budget ear marks” refrain played well to certain groups. Unfortunately it missed the legal implications.

The overhead of the combatant command system and the principle of forward projection of national power comes at a huge cost. Nearly 40% of direct and indirect foreign aid and military budgets currently are supporting other countries. With a second budget crisis looming congress eviscerated the Nichols Act and with a Veto proof vote did away with the combatant command/joint operating concept. Thus moving the United States back to independent military organizations and a pre-1960s military structure. Holding sway in the rapidly evolving political landscape the current secretary of defense welcomed the congressional oversight and began an implementation plan to have foreign bases closed within the 90 days the law required.

The question was raised early on as what to do with the returning soldiers in an economy nearing 25% realized unemployment and underemployment. The newly enhanced BRAC renamed Acceptable Utilization Resource Applications Committee (AURAL) informed the State of Virginia and Maryland that the National Capital Region would become the District of Columbia and would now be expanded to 15 miles outside the colloquially known Beltway and that the municipal government of the District of Columbia would be shuttered as it faced bankruptcy.  The various state legislatures heralded the move as an excellent tactic for shrinking the budget as the federal government instantly “eminently domained” all current leased and rented land holdings in the national capital region.  The states were seeing a large chunk of revenue evaporate, but they also realized they would no longer be responsible for the maintenance of what had become an anchor around their necks. The real estate moguls in question might have had a significant chance if the newly expanded District of Columbia didn’t preclude their lawsuits in anything but federal court. With each of the services cashiering (releasing) nearly a quarter of their forces, the end of forward basing, and the expansion of the national capital region. The movement of troops and expansion of the military presence on American soil reached a new height not seen in 45 years. Bases in various western states long shuttered opened to much fanfare by communities seeing direct financial rewards.

Troops quickly left South Korea abandoning bases, but reportedly taking everything with them including the plumbing fixtures. The North Korean Army marched across the demilitarized zone and began pummeling Seoul with artillery. Already fighting an internal battle for control not seen since Korea Gate in the early 1970s South Korea looked north and didn’t look back. Utilizing four decades of experience and angst the South Korean military walked back across the demilitarized zone and eschewing the North Korean artillery tubes literally laid waste to what was left of desiccated corpse of a civilization.  Writing two year later the head of the newly unified Koreas said that the United States leaving was one of the best things to happen even if it resulted in the deaths of so many from North Korea.

Things were not to be so easily considered in Iraq as the United States pulled out of the shrinking green zone and decreased the presence of Americans within the country. Threatening to sue for violation of contracts pending and offered the head of a major multi-national corporation pilloried the United States in the press of Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. Unfortunately in events still unexplained he died in what has been described as a terrorist bombing in Abu Dhabi when the entire floor his company was located on vaporized one morning.

Much like Iraq the removal of the financial (direct and indirect) foreign support by the United States led to huge internal changes for European countries. The already tottering European Union suddenly found itself in deeper chaos as the NATO alliance (weakened by persistent conflict with various vassal states in North Africa) and shrinking budgets from the United States began to worm through the various countries. To add to the dismay the United Nations angered by shrinking support from the United States in a fit of pique moved completely out of New York City for Geneva. Already having a large presence in Geneva the smaller countries were surprised when China, Russia, and the United Kingdom were slow to send representatives. Each of the different members of the Security Council trying to protect their own patch of real estate began putting efforts into economic regional coalitions’ at the expense of International arbiters.

Looking at the rising unemployment rate and shrinking tax revenue streams the states began cost cutting measures at a rate far faster than the federal government. Public school years were shortened universally by one year evaporating years of educational movement toward yearlong school systems.  Without money to pay for the auxiliary systems of charter and magnet schools these were slashed into nothing with a budgetary scythe. In the period of two years the United States education system upon the demise of the federal Department of Education was set back to 1950s standards of practice.

Two years into the crisis a couple interesting trends began to emerge. Population growth long driven by the principle of immigration began to slow and finally stopped. Another trend was that after shuttering numerous facilities and asked to regulate trade and stop foreign investment in Cuba the United States Coast Guard refused to stop traffic between Key West and Cuba. Evening sailing ships filled the role of providing ferry service (Diesel exceeded $10 a gallon after the first six months of the crisis). The interesting trend that began to emerge was a flow of Cuban nationals back to the island nation. Various reasons were floated but seemed to revolve around opportunity and industry.

The incursion of Mexico into Texas and Arizona was dealt with swiftly.  Mexico leaders mistaking the budgetary crisis as weakness moved north into “historical” Mexican territory.  The United States punitively erased a large section of Northern Mexico and occupied Mexico City for six months before leaving. Most Americans and Mexicans welcomed the oil rights and mineral rights treaties along with various other concessions still to be determined. The consensus reported by both sides that a corrupt Mexican government taken over by drug cartels when the American war on drugs collapsed was the primary agent of the attack north. Samoa and Puerto Rico both expressed dismay from their new governments when Senators from Arizona and Texas both offered to take Mexico into the Union (an offer subtly declined by Mexico).  What may never be known was whether the surviving multi-national oil companies were involved on either side of the dispute.

When the stuttering debate over debt ceiling closed out with lackluster performance nobody could likely see the pending collapse. Unlike dystopian fiction the collapse happened quickly but began within only showing on the outside when basic services were cut. Nobody rioted but in a few select places and usually only when cameras were around. The few small defections of police to organized crime were not significantly larger than the normal trends of corruption seen in a large system.

Nearly a decade later the systems of erosion would point at the debt ceiling as a tipping point. Scholars and historians would point back nearly 12 years earlier at the “dot bomb” economy as the obvious “roaring otts” that led to the depression and radical changes in governance found in the “teens”.  What happens in the 2020s is anybody’s guess.

2 comments for “Fiction: After the debt ceiling

  1. Ryan
    July 22, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Grim but entertaining. I hope you are a long ways off in this fiction.

  2. Dan
    July 28, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Wow. Something tells me this is closer to reality than is comfortable to believe. Only I think that even this story puts too much faith in politicians and leaders to respond accordingly when faced with deep budget cuts lol.

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