2050:THE YEAR AMERICA SOLD ITS SOUL

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
By the year 2050 America has steadily declined in economic and military strength. Because of public demand for more and more free benefits the government is force to take extreme measures to satisfy its citizens.

Submitted: June 25, 2014

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Submitted: June 25, 2014

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2050: The year America Sold Its Soul

Generation Z, born in the first decade of the 21st century, was typically in their forties by mid-century. Theirs had been a constant struggle to keep their heads above water in a steadily declining economy as the United States withdrew from its global responsibilities and focused almost exclusively on the welfare of its citizens. Although still relatively strong economically, the country had shrunk from the strongest economy in the world to fourth strongest, after China, India and the Common Market. This had happened because China had been allowed to continue manipulating its currency and stealing American patents and copyrights. When other countries realized that there was much to gain and nothing to lose from doing this they had also attacked American industry.  The manufacturing industries and its jobs then went to these countries. America’s military strength was also greatly reduced due to the diversion of funds from the military to the public sector. It was capable of self-defense but could not participate in foreign entanglements. Most of the once enormous arsenal of nuclear tipped missiles sat rotting in water in it silos, the victims of budget cut-backs. The few that remained operational were enough to deter small nuclear powers like Iran or North Korea, but not major countries like China or Russia. All of these factors had led to a general feeling among generation Z that they had to “live for today”. They were often referred to as the “now” generation, because it seemed that they wanted immediate gratification for almost everything.

In the year 2050 the United States government faced a sever crisis. The progressive administrations elected over the previous four decades had increased federal spending to more than 40% of the country’s GDP. This was largely due to the increase of welfare spending, which now consumed 25% of GDP. Interest payments took an additional 9%.  As the government had assumed control of and effectively socialized the energy, transportation and healthcare industries, these industries had become less efficient and unprofitable. Unemployment had risen to a steady 14% rate and wages had fallen to the point where 40% of the population worked for the minimum wage. The government had made promises to the people that it was unable to keep. There were too many people, not enough money and no way to get more money since tax rates were already more than 50 % for the average worker and up to 90% for the very wealthy. If government couldn’t raise more money the only solution was to reduce the amount of people receiving entitlements. The problem was how to do that without creating a political firestorm and riots. The people had to somehow be made to accept receiving fewer entitlements payments in the future.

The responsibility of achieving this goal was given to the Progressive Institute, a think tank that had been prominent in advocating more and more entitlements and larger government for the past half century. Some of the most brilliant progressive thinkers of the time worked for this institute and they eventually came up with a solution. It was called “Retire while you’re young.”  The idea was to make members of generation Z eligible for their retirement benefits starting at the age of 45, well before they reached the current retirement age of 75. In exchange, they would agree to possibly not living more than 60 years. They would continue to work until they died, but would have a much better life style because of their retirement benefits. It was a win-win solution for the government, because it would continue to receive their taxes while the people worked, but would not have to pay them anything after fifteen years or less. It would slow the projected growth of the ratio of future benefits to GDP considerably, giving the government more borrowing power. The only problem was how to sell and implement it. However, the institute also had brilliant scientists and advertising people that worked for it, and they figured out a solution to the problem.

The theme of the advertising programs was “take your retirement while you are young and can enjoy it”. It featured generation Z types skiing in Switzerland, vacationing on tropical beaches, partying, dancing, drinking cocktails and just enjoying “the good life” in general.  All they had to do to achieve this was to have a small chip implanted in their head that would kill them sometime after their sixtieth birthday. They were told that it would be a lottery, with the day of their death determined by a computer programmed to select people at random. Some might never be chosen, some might live into their eighties or longer and die of natural causes. For the people that were chosen death would be fast and painless when it happened.  The government expected moral outrage from the religious community, but since they compromised less than 25% of the population, they could be ignored.

The first people to enroll in the program were the unemployed “street” people. With no homes or regular income, they had little to live for and not much hope for the future. Ten or more years of the good life seemed like a fair exchange for giving up a life of misery. One of the first people to apply was David Starns. He was 45 years old and single, his wife having divorced him when he lost his job as a truck driver five years earlier. At that time new regulations restricting the use of the number of trucks allowed on the highways had been put into effect in order to limit the amount of gasoline being used. She had gotten their old decaying house and their children, he had left with a suitcase containing old clothes. He had not been angry at her, he had understood that she had to do what was best for herself and their children. She was still attractive and could probably find a new husband that could take care of them. He had been wandering around the country ever since, doing odd jobs where ever he could find them, sleeping on park benches and under bridges. He figured he had nothing to lose.

He found his way to a local social security office where he signed some papers and was enrolled in the program. The procedure was almost painless. All he felt was a sharp pinch at the back of his neck. It only took a minute. They took a digital picture of him and then gave him a credit card with a $4,000 per month limit and no expiration date. He could use it to buy anything that he desired, anywhere in the world that American money was accepted. He could also get cash at ATM machines with it.

The first thing he did was find a nice motel, nothing fancy, just a nice place where he could clean up and rest. He then bought some clothes and toilet articles, went to the motel to shower, and slept for the next fifteen hours. In the morning he sat at a table in his room with a pen and paper he found in one of the dresser draws. He intended to make a rough plan of what he was going to do before he died. At the top of the list was the notation “give $1000 a month to the children”. Next was “buy life insurance policy for the children if possible”.  He tried to think of other things, but nothing came to mind. He walked to the door to get some fresh air and a blast of cold winter air welcomed him. He closed the door and went back to the table and wrote “go someplace warm”.

Diane Page was a history major that had graduated from college with honors. She had spent the previous five years of her life flipping hamburgers in a fast food restaurant. Before that she had worked as a “rent a maid”. All the jobs she had ever held were minimum wage jobs. After graduation she had looked for work that befitted her education for more than five years. Unable to find any she had taken a job as a secretary, telling herself that it would just be temporary.  Seven years later she had been laid off due to lack of business where she worked. Tired, depressed and overweight from eating too much fast food, she went home and cried herself to sleep most nights. Then her boyfriend left her, saying she didn’t “take care of herself’.  She knew that he meant that she was too fat for his tastes. She didn’t care. Nothing mattered to her anymore. She wished that she could start her life all over again. One day, after a grueling time at work, she got off the bus and started walking to the small apartment that she shared with two other girls. She noticed a new billboard that had been placed near the bus stop. It showed happy people about her own age, laughing and having fun in some tropical paradise. A caption stated” If you are over the age of 45, this could be you. Visit your local social security office now and find out how you can get $4000 a month for the rest of your life. EVERYONE QUILIFIES! The next morning she had a chip implanted in her.

Leroy Brown was an angry man. He had been angry most of his life, half of which had been spent behind bars. The reason he was so angry was that he had seen his mother and sister murdered one hot night when the three of them had been sitting on the stairs in front of their apartment. A car had driven slowly by them with its window rolled down. An arm was outside the window holding a gun. He had recognized the driver as a member of a rival gang. He had instinctively ducked behind a nearby metal trash can just before the shots rang out. Afterwards he had hunted down the driver and had almost beaten him to death with his bare hands before the police arrive and pulled him off of him. That had led to his first term in prison. After that he became known as “mad dog” in reference to the song about his namesake, a man who was “meaner than a junk yard dog”. He was nearing the life expectancy age for black men, and had nothing to show for his life. This was the day he was being released from prison and he had no idea what he was going to do. His gang would want him back, and that would lead to more fighting, stealing, doping, and then back to jail again. He might as well be dead already. Outside of the prison was a large billboard showing black people having a good time. The words “get $4000 for the rest of your life” got his immediate attention. That’s for me, he thought. He had a few hundred dollars pay for his prison work in his pocket. He hailed a cab and went to the nearest social security office. Less than an hour later he walked out with his new credit card.

Things seldom workout the way the government plans them, and the early retirement program was no exception. The large majority of people applying for it were from the lower income part of society, and most of them did not continue to work after receiving their credit cards. However, they applied in great numbers, so the government deemed the program a success. The government accountability office’s projections showed the outlays for government payments declining rapidly after the year 2065, when the first enrollees would be terminated.

In that year David Starns, Diane Page and Leroy Brown were among the first to be eligible for the death lottery. They each faced the possibility of their eminent death with different attitudes. David was at peace with himself. He had provided for his children, kept in touch with them, and was satisfied with the outcome. In Florida he had met a woman who was also in the program, and they had decided to share what remained of their lives.

 Diane had traveled the world seeing all of the things she had dreamed of seeing while she was in college. She had slimmed down to the weight that she had while in school, and had attracted interesting men during her travels. She had no desire to get married, and had moved on whenever a situation seemed to be getting serious. She did not want to die. Life was finally good for her. It didn’t seem fair.

 Leroy had move to a small town in Mexico. He learned to love their culture and speak their language. He was drawn to the Catholic Church and found forgiveness for his past life. He devoted most of his money to helping the poor people of his community. He prayed every day, and when his 60th birthday arrived he had no regrets.

The chip that had been implanted in their heads was programmable from government computers. No matter where in the world the recipient went they could be tracked by their social security number which was stored on their chip. It could be accessed as easily as making a cell phone call. Once accessed it could receive and transmit data. The data transmitted told the computer where they were and when they were sleeping. The data it received caused a shock to their nervous system, killing them instantly. The same shock would occur if any attempt was made to remove the chip surgically.

Because of the shortfall of income to the government due to most of the program’s recipients not working, it was decided that some changes had to be made to the way it was implemented. Instead of a compute randomly choosing which people would die, it was programed to select an amount of people that it would be necessary to kill in order to keep the economy in line with the economic projections. This would require almost all of the early recipients to die when they were in their early 60’s. However, if the public became aware of this they would not be able to attract enough new enrollees, therefore this change had to be disguised. Most enrollees would die before they were 62, but some would be kept alive for a few more years. Some would even be allowed to live into their seventies if they didn’t die of natural causes.

A death squad was sent to the location of those that died in the United States. They arrived in an unmarked ambulance, without sirens. Their job was to take the deceased away and dispose of the body. If the family or friends of the dead person objected, they were shown a signed copy of a contract that allowed them to do this. The body was cremated and the ashes buried in a land fill. The sight of these ambulances suddenly appearing in every part of the country became a symbol of death for those that saw them.

It soon became apparent to the surviving enrollees that the government had changed the rules of its agreement. A web site named death watch began tracking the names and demographic data of the people dying. The government did its best to suppress public disclosure of this information, but it was submitted by relatives and friends of those killed. The facts that it revealed were that the overwhelming majority of those being killed were poor unskilled laborers between the ages of 60 and 62.  Enrollees in that category soon organized themselves into a protest group that marched on Washington.

“No more deaths, no more death squads” they chanted as they picketed in front of the white house. Television cameras were everywhere. So were government cameras. The news commentary ranged from sympathetic to the outraged. The sympathy came from the religious establishment, which was appalled by the immorality of the killings. The outrage came from the progressive establishment, which believed that the protesters were just suffering buyer’s remorse. The law was not changed. The government’s pictures of the marchers were sent to its computers, where facial recognition programs identified them. They were then selected for early termination, and that information was leaked to the public. There were no more demonstrations after that.

All of this was possible because the United States had become a totalitarian country. The movement in that direction had started 57 years earlier, with the first imperial progressive president. He was a man who believed himself to be above the law, who believed that he could make the laws mean whatever he wanted them to mean. His progressive successors, seeing how he had been allowed to get away with his actions, grabbed even more and more power. They promised the citizens ever increasing amounts of “entitlements”, which they came to believe was their due. Many of them either lost interest in working or couldn’t find work. They were overwhelmingly secular, so the thought of selling their lives was not morally offensive to them. In order to provide the constantly increasing entitlements, the government had been allowed to grow and gain steadily increasing power over the corporations and citizens. Freedom was traded for economic security. The country gradually went from being a republic to a democracy and then a progressive totalitarianism.  Totalitarians have no concern for the individual. The death squads were an evolutionary outcome of this sequence of events. Totalitarian governments seize what they want, take their share, and then redistribute what’s left to the masses. Those in power know that this system can’t last very long, but as long as it lasts while they are in power they aren’t concerned. After that it will be somebody else’s problem.

It is a pattern that has existed throughout history. A country rises to greatness, its citizens demand that its government provided more and more free benefits to them, and the government complies. For a brief time those people enjoy the good life, at the expense of generations to come. Then the system collapses under its own weight and the high living generation’s children and grandchildren pay the price.  Eventually the system crumbles under its own weight and the people revolt and start a new system. That was the future that awaited America at the end of the twenty first century.

 


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