In January of the New Year, Republicans controlling the House of Representatives refused to pass a continuing resolution to keep open large swathes of the Federal government. They declared a moral objection to "fancy finagling with our tax dollars."
"The only way to get a handle on out-of-control government spending is to return to zero-based budgeting," a spokesman stated. "Each agency will need to come before the House Appropriations Committee and fully justify its budget, starting with Dollar One. Nothing is off the table."
A limited continuing resolution did cover "national security" functions including DOD, Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and a few other organizations including Treasury, NSA and the CIA. Otherwise, only a few "essential" personnel remained on board, obliged to keep working, without pay. Thousands of civilian federal workers were sent home.
So far, it seemed half-familiar. After all, Newt Gingrich and the Contract on America pulled off something very similar for several weeks in the winter of 1995. But this time they went a little farther.
For example, no exceptions were made this time for Social Security recipients. Because the Department of Health and Human Services was unfunded, there was no one to process payments even if the program was solvent. Democrats, wtill with a Senate majority, agonized over this, buit just diodn't have the votes.
Payments to Federal pensioners, Medicare and Medicaid payments, black lung benefits, many non-military contract payments, and so on went unpaid because -- even if the funds were still avaiable -- there was no staff to process them.
Then the debt limit came up. The Republican House refused to raise it. It would be "irresponsible and just encourage more government bloat." The country was theatened with default. Although the "budget justification" hearings dragged on, a broad government shutdown became essentially permanent.
Federal workers had applied for unemployment benefits, but the states themselves were going bankrupt and furloughing their own workers. No dollars were coming from federal revenue-sharing. Eventually, most federal, state and local government workers were laid off for so long that they lost their re-employment rights. Proudly, the Republicans announced that they had successfully shrunk government to Civil-War era size. Newt Gingrich was awarded the Medal of Freedom.
The poorest and most dependent on Federal aid were desperate. Retirees and disabled persons, however, like those without transportation funds, had little recourse. A few attempted to march on Washington. Their plans were thoroughly known thanks to warrantless wiretaps. It came to nothing.
Most popular recipes on the Net: beans, pigeon, squirrel. So many people are shopping at Salvation Army and Goodwill, the prices rose and even so they were often sold out because few were donating. "Use it up, wear it out make it do" was the mantra. Right along with "shared sacrifice."
Mwanwhile, Vice President Biden resigned after being caught in a raid on a medical-marijuana facility.
Desperation brought increased crime including food riots and looting. DOD was called in to help keep order. Xe contractors, SWAT teams and sound cannons were on tap everywhere. Websites discussing civil disobedience ("terrorism") were seized and their owners arrested.
In a mysterious accident, Senator Reid's car went off a bridge.
The Department of Labor and EPA were dissolved. Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Energy, the Nuclear Regulator Commission and SEC were combined into one, with much smaller missions and enormous cost savings. Since the State Department remained unfunded, "other agencies" took over its role.
Federal non-military assets were sold off to the highest bidder, including land, highways, buildings, vehicles, hardware. Amtrak was sold to Haliburton and dismantled for scrap. Never would it be possible to build up the Federal colossus again, the representative bragged.
An actual defense appropriation was passed, raising Defense spending 31% to combat terrorism. in March 2012, the U.S. invaded Iran. Iraq and Afghanistan remained under occupation.
Speaker Pelosi resigned from Congress for "personal reasons."
A major TV network was charged with espionage and went off the air. Fox continued to dominate, as government officials would no longer appear on any other channel or speak to any media outlet not properly credentialed by the Department of Commerce. Glenn Beck was appointed a special assistant to the DOD assistant secretary for public affairs.
On July 4, 2012, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning were executed on Sarah Palin's reality show. Xe got a contract from HSA for voting machines that would be required in all precincts nationwide under the "Vote Security Act of 2011." Before casting a ballot, voters also were required to strip naked.
Meanwhile, some people tried to move abroad. Strip searches now also being required to travel on any common carrier, a lot of contraband was seized including currency and subversive writings, which had begun to be printed in letterpress similar to the old Samizdat of the Soviet Union. A number of writers were arrested as terrorists. Rumors began to spread that ICE camps were being repurposed...OK, I won't go there. That's crazy, can't happen, tin foil alert, etc. Sorry.
Capital continued to exit the U.S rapidly...much more easily than people.
The Capitol was renamed the Bank of America National Capitol Building. Due to lack of space, Arlington National Cemetary was extended to the National Mall. A statue of Robert E. Lee was placed on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial for "balance." The statue of FDR on Roosevelt Island in the Potomac was drenched by rising high-tide levels and eventually undermined it until it tipped over and sank in the mud.
People began to notice that things on the Net changed from day to day. This week, unemployment was 12.5% according to Commerce. Next week, when you went back, unemployment was down to 13% -- last week, it now said, was 14.5%. You knew it was happening, but you couldn't prove it.
A Constitutional Convention was called. Under discussion: restricting the vote to owners of real property worth at least $250,000. Prohibiting abortion. Changing the First Amendment to allow recognition that this is a Christian nation. Prohibition of flag burning. Severe limits on Federal power over the states, similar to the Articles of Confederation.
A new winter set in with severe misery not only to the poor but the former middle class, as the economy crashed through floor after floor. As in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, Ph.D.'s were living in cardboard boxes.
Where was President Obama? He and/or Bill Clinton appeared from time to time to explain that, given we didn't have the votes, this was the best deal we could get. Someone, however, blogged about catching a glimpse of the President sitting in a chair in the Lincoln bedroom, studying a tattered paperback containing Herman Melville's classic short story "Benito Cereno."
Then, the House began impeachment proceedings.
Shortly after, a presidential physician determined that the President's mental health did not allow him to continue to serve. As the officials who would normally have served in his place were unavailable or else declined the task, a retired general was brought in to lead the country temporarily. Sarah Palin was invited into the White House as official hostess. She held a state dinner featuring moose soup, chopped turkey and whale meat, with candied kittens for dessert.
People began to sign contracts with major corporations to work for the corporation indefinitely in exchange for food, clothing and housing in company barracks, with access to a nurse practioner in case of illness. Federal courts decided this did not violate the minimum wage law as no wages were actually involved. Actually this was not true but the judge realized a lot of people would literally starve to death if she did not go along with these new arrangements.
A number of new businesses opened on this basis, e.g., reprocessing various types of spoiled food into breakfast cereal or marketing rock stars' used condoms, but wageless work brought in no tax revenues to speak of. Tax revenues dropped to the point they could not even fund the military machine. The country defaulted.
The Bin Laden family and four major corporations stepped in to bail out the U.S., subject to their approval of our new Constitution.
The new Constitution provided for a goverment headed by a committee of three: one representing the military, one representing homeland security and one representing the economy (corporations). They would be appointed by the House of Representatives and installed for life. But every four years, property owners could vote on which of the three would have to spend one day having tennis balls thrown at him as he sat on a plank over a duck-tank. This was always the best viewed reality show every Groundhog Day.