The President appeared on morning television on every channel, even ESPN and HBO, among others, whose executives protested the hastily drafted executive programming order. “Show it or else…” was essentially the reply from the Whitehouse. The resistant networks meekly complied. ‘Tis best not to upset the man wielding the FCC kill switch.
At first glance, the President’s inescapable face appeared to beam. His eyes were assuring, squinting with an almost joyful glint. His blue suit and red tie shouted “I’m in charge! Everything is okay!” He spoke in a smooth, gentle current, smiling often…but his makeup was a little off. It seemed too thick or retouched too much or something…like a dead man’s makeup. His shave was not that close, either, and his shoulders sunk a little bit. He sat behind that familiar desk framed by an American flag to his right and a bureau of family photos and the Oval Office window draped in gold curtains behind. The window opened out into what looked like a quaint, forested, suburban backyard. Somehow, the sky in that window was blue that morning while the rest of Washington was curiously under a deluge of rain.
The Oval Office set— which might have actually been a blue screen on Air Force One for all anyone knew— was designed to conjure images of a fatherly chat in the study with Ward Cleaver within the minds of the middle class Americans awaiting instruction. But the choreographed invocation did not conjure personal memories of father so much as it conjured nostalgia implanted into American minds by the family television shows they absorbed over their lives. The Oval Office chats parroted stylized TV life which itself parroted stylized American life of the 50s. Nobody had studies in their homes anymore. And most Americans never had a real chat with their real dad while he was dressed in a suit and sitting behind a desk in a study in a quaint suburban enclave. Most Americans had no memory of chats with their dads at all other than superficial conversations every other weekend. And if they were so lucky as to have a real chat with a real dad, the view out the window behind him would probably be of some ghetto fire escape or the siding of the next door neighbor’s plywood McMansion.
Yet so many presidents had given addresses from this fabricated vantage because apparently it worked. The conjuring instilled calmness and trust and submissiveness. It made the infantilized and helpless population of dependant serfs feel at ease.
Vaughn poured himself a cup of coffee as he contemplated calling in sick. He was exhausted from running around all night but he decided he was indeed going in. This was not the time to inconvenience one’s employer, he thought; there was twenty percent unemployment out there by some accounts. The President started to speak as Vaughn took his first sip of designer coffee. Good thing he stocked on the stuff before they went under.
“My fellow Americans…” the President started, “…over the past night, while most of you slept, rogue elements operating in foreign markets and exchanges, elements unfriendly to America and acting with the support of unfriendly foreign regimes, launched a coordinated surprise attack upon the people of United States. This attack was not one waged by ships and planes or on a battlefield but it was an attack, nonetheless. This was an act of war waged by keyboards and the internet and on public trading exchanges. And these foreign agents and rogues, have sought to injure America…” the President paused for a moment, than he smirked faintly, “…but they will soon discover that they cannot possibly achieve their goals of hurting our great nation by mere acts of terror. America is a resilient nation. It’s a nation that will come together…unite. We have the most powerful economy in the world. America is the world’s engine of prosperity. Our industriousness and our diversity is the envy of all the nations of the world. And no matter what the forces of evil who seek to harm us may attempt, we shall endure it. And we will quickly recover. America will face adversity and come back stronger…it always has. Tested (pause for emphasis) but with greater resolve. Made wiser and stronger by her experiences…
Thank you. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.”
While the President spoke, corporate purchasing agents, who themselves had no time for imperial propaganda, were on the phone with their overseas suppliers. After hanging up on their contacts, they frantically updated their spreadsheet models with new raw materials costs.
Millions of “Effective Immediately” emails flew out to distribution centers and warehouses and convenience stores and retail outlet shops.
Out in the real world, while the big media talking idiots blathered on about the emperor’s new clothes, shopkeepers were doubling and tripling the numbers on their price tags, databases and marquees. On the street reporters, slightly more savvy then the vapid studio hosts, hit the streets seeking to expose the evil capitalist gougers who were using the economic emergency as pretext to line their piggledy pockets. The reporters shoved microphones and cameras into disgruntled customer faces and captured their lamentations.
Grocery store traffic was elevated, but the clerks noticed that the big movers were potato chips and soft drinks.
Local police departments had been notified overnight by agents of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to increase their presence and visibility. Vaughn noticed two patrol cars cruising through his neighborhood as he got ready for work. His 72 inch, high-definition flat screen made in China droned on.
“We have gone past the point of no return,” said the Chief European Economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland. “There is a complete loss of confidence. The bond markets are in disintegration and it is getting worse moment by moment.”
“What should the government do?” asked the reporter who couldn’t understand why the government had allowed it all to happen.
“The banks need more liquidity. The Central Banks need to create more money and lend it to the banks so they can buy up the sovereign debt and shore up the bond market. Close the markets now and let the Central Banks sort everything out.”
“So more bailouts? What do you say to those who argue that that isn’t capitalism?”
“Call it whatever you like. We have to destroy capitalism in order to save capitalism!”
U.S. Markets closed at 8:01 Eastern. To reopen? TBD.
It was quite a morning. India, Russia, the DAX in Germany, FTSE in London, et al. went limit down and suspended trading in the darkness of the American night. The contagion cruise that embarked from Asia while America snored the night away tucked into their California-king, thera-pedic, space-foam mattresses purchased on their Visa cards, continued its round-the-world tour past China and Australia, past India, the Oil Fiefs, Europe, across the Atlantic, right up into the East River, onto Manhattan, and right down Wall Street. Advisors tried to get the President to close the markets. “No can do.” The U.S. markets had to open. Refusing to open would be a sign of capitulation and surrender. “America never surrenders!”
The professorial Fed Chairman, his ever-whitening beard and ever-receding hairline making him look ever-gnomish, loosened his tie and poured himself a drink at the 7:30 opening bell. Perhaps the ship would not sink, he hoped. The Fed was keystroking billions throughout the night and had managed to finally prop up the futures markets a little. Their thought was that the animal spirits could be calmed at the NYSE open. But the system began to teeter from the bell.
Fools! Don’t they know they’re cutting their own throat? The gnomish chairman thought as he gulped his breakfast bourbon. Than a rumble thundered through the sovereign hull when word got out that the Chinese were not buying anything.
The floor traders started asking questions. “Who’s buying up the Treasuries? Chase? Citi? Deutsche? RBS? Goldman? Dubai? What did you say? It’s not them? You mean they all stopped trading Treasuries a week ago? Holy shit! Who, then? Direct dealers? Like who? Moriah LLC? You say they bought fifteen billion? Really? Some outfit called Crazyhorse bought ten? Who are they? I never heard of them. What’s going on? Where are the big banks? Wait a sec’…this ain’t right. Two hedge funds liquidated due to redemptions? Are you sure ‘bout that? Oh…My…God! This is it! This is it! Abandon ship! Abandon ship! Get out now! Sell it all! Sell it to those pension fund chumps! Sell! Sell! Sell! Sell! Sell!”
A full-fledged avalanche of panic ensued, cracking the hull of the multi-trillion dollar vessel. The unsinkable U.S.S. (United States Sovereign) Titanic sunk in a stupefyingly-spectacular, cascading selloff——with three times record volume.
The Gnome downed his drink and poured another…and another and watched the bond ticker on the FOMC’s closed circuit network. Prices down…5%…10%…25%…interest rates up…plus .6%…plus 1.2%…plus 3.5%!
The Fed tried to bail as much of the tsunami of debt as they could out of the market by keystroking the hundreds of billions of dollars necessary to clear all the offers. The Plunge Protection Team, the Fed’s monetary equivalent of ‘special forces’ went fully into action. They hijacked the bandwidth to make sure their own orders got through and stalled the sellers. They worked covertly through friendly foreign Central Banks— The Bank of England, The Bank of Australia, Banco de Panama…yeah, that’s right, Panama. They had private banks on the dole, too. Not the household Wall Street names but the regional outfits. The Gnome gave them huge guarantees and unlimited lines of credit and agreements to repurchase everything they bought. But the rumors of the Fed’s scheming had been leaked and circulating for weeks. As the Fed key-stroked more and more dollars and the names of the buyers got more and more obscure and the purchase amounts got more and more spectacular, the dollar wavered and crashed, eventually falling faster than the Treasuries they were supposed to buy.
The “unsinkable” Titanic of American profligacy and arrogance was sucked into a cosmological vortex of complete destruction. Over the course of one night the dollar price of a Japanese car, a barrel of Saudi oil and a container ship full of Chinese nick nacks DOUBLED. The U.S. Stock markets bigs tanked as their cost of capital exploded. The NYSE went limit down and suspended trading.
The Gnome had seen enough. He stepped in and pulled the plug. International currency exchange in dollars was suspended worldwide. Wire and ACH transfers were suspended. To prevent capital flight, transfers from checking and savings accounts to foreign accounts were suspended. Banks on the east coast opened for an hour so the patrician class from Martha’s Vinyard could withdraw some walking-around money. Then the banks went on a ‘holiday’. There was a flurry of internet activity as intrepid nerds tried to move their offshore money market dollars and PayPal accounts into other currencies and assets but that too was brought to a screeching halt.
At the silent, somber floor of the NYSE, the highlights of the President’s speech played upon yet another Chinese-made big screen above the ticker which read “U.S. Markets Closed…FOMC in emergency session…Yankees beat the Red Sox 4-2…”
Vaughn took a moment before leaving for work to look in on his young daughter. He quietly pushed her door open and snuck into her room. She was still asleep, lying sideways in her crib with one tiny foot dangling out, buried in an avalanche of plush blankets and her monkey. Her cherubic cheeks suckled away blissfully on a pacifier. Vaughn felt she was getting a little old for pacifiers.
A feeling swept over him as he watched her. It was like a breeze of fresh cool air in some stale, stagnant chamber. It was a righteous feeling, a sensation of clarity and purpose. How bad will things get? What will he have to do for his family? What was he capable of doing? The answer breathed into him as he looked down at upon her. With the Empire crumbling into talc under the weight of its hubris and corruption, with the Nero President blathering away his platitudes, with the trusting horde of sheeple taking their opiate in doses of mass media instruction; Vaughn realized then and there that there would be nothing, no one, no event that would come between him and his family. He would pay any price for them. He loved them more than his own life. Casting off the worry was like releasing a millstone chained to his ankle. The dying republic, the pointless bankrupting wars, the crashing economy, who was going to win American Idol…it was all utterly meaningless to him, now. Now it was time for survival.
He felt an arm slip under his and around his chest. It was Jessica. She pulled in tight against him and rested her check between his shoulder blades.
She whispered in his ear, “You were right.”
Her acknowledgement meant everything to him. He needed to be and do right by her and in the end her assessment was the only one that really mattered. He was vindicated for dragging his family out to the store in the middle of the night. He almost took pleasure in seeing things unravel the way that they had. He knew that was a selfish, foolish and a rotten way to think but he thought it anyway. He wondered if the karma would come back to haunt him somehow. Tough times were certainly ahead for everyone.
Chapter 8 Chapters 10 and 11 will be available next weekend
Indivisible can be purchased here from Amazon: