This is the second part of my prediction on what the future will look like if the kingly-rich on the ultra-right are successful at manipulating American politics and policies entirely to their liking. I have in mind the multi-billionaires David and Charles Koch for the bottomless-pocket control they have exerted over politicians eager to lick such wealthy boots, but of course they're not the only ones.
Last week, we met my projected grandson Billy and his wife on the very day he loses his job.
"What'll we do now?"
It isn't the first time Billy and his wife have faced an uncertain future. His first job was probably his most stable. They started him out at $3.10 an hour--(to stay competitive with the burgeoning Bangladeshi labor market, the legal minimum wage had been lowered to zero)--so he was doing as well as a 19-year-old could expect. Social Security had been privatized by then, and Billy was given a choice of having $1 (an hour) deducted from his check (to be invested in whatever manner his employer's investment broker saw fit), or to forget the whole savings thing entirely and put his retirement hopes in the lottery--which is now owned and operated by the Sam Walton family. Not yet out of his teens, Billy was almost certain he would sooner or later win the big Wal-Ball pot.
"And even if I don't," he said, "I'll probably find an old famous painting or something like that at a yard sale and make a million bucks on it."
Billy was very optimistic in those days. And besides, since $3.10 an hour doesn't stretch as far as one might imagine, the money he saved by not getting involved in the DSS (Desocialized Security System) came in awfully handy, especially after he got married.
Then he got hurt. It was a work-related accident that would have never happened before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was cut from the national budget in order to pay for another round of subsidies to the oil industry. But happen it did, and Billy counted himself fortunate it only took one hand and an eye, leaving him with one of each for future use.
His wife filled out the forms for disability relief (the hand he lost was the one he wrote with), but as luck would have it, they submitted those forms one day after disability provisions were dropped permanently from Idaho's budget, thereby diverting the money saved into an incentive package to keep a high tech company from relocating entirely to Singapore. (It didn't work; Micron's marketing division, the only facility still left on U.S. soil, slipped off to Singapore and took the incentive package with them.)
Unemployment benefits were out of the question, as that program had gone the way of the polar bear, and even proper care for his injuries was impossible, seeing as how his wife's insurance didn't cover blown-off body parts.
Throughout this hard time, Billy and his wife subsisted on macaroni and cheese they found in a dollar store--if they got there early enough to beat the crowd, that is. Billy was out every day, a makeshift patch over his empty eye socket and an empty glove over his stump, pounding the pavement for work.
It seemed hopeless. Anymore it takes a bachelor's degree even to be considered for any job that doesn't require rubber boots to perform, let alone the fastest-growing career option in the nation--which is helping industrial plants pack up everything in preparation for their relocation to one Asian country or another. Billy's only higher education amounted to a semester in one of those for-profit, online colleges. He'd dropped out when a Canadian study proved that a degree from a for-profit, online college and a roll of single-ply toilet paper carry approximately the same worth.
Billy thought his ship had come in when he was sub-subcontracted to help install solar panels on the roofs of government buildings. But within a month, somebody in Congress pulled all funding for any project that even hinted of being green (to provide cover for tax breaks to hedge-fund managers), and hundreds of the country's government buildings were sold to Halliburton (which stripped them of the copper wiring, usable plumbing and light fixtures, then leased the space to military families for housing).
Billy drifted through many jobs in the following years: cutting access roads through the ex-Frank Church Wilderness Area (which had been sold to Japanese timber interests); pouring used motor oil and out-dated pesticides into the Boise River (once the privatized Environmental Protection Agency had approved it as a disposal conduit); collecting a bounty from the Chamber of Commerce on every union organizer he could bring in. Before the string of salmonella poisonings laid him low, he was the official dog walker for a gated community of retired lobbyists.
"What'll we do now?" he asks his wife, who has her own problems. Her insurance policy has been revoked on the grounds that a proclivity to get fat is, by definition, a "pre-existing condition."
"So I may lose my job, too," she cries. "Not only that, but Target just bought all the dollar stores in the country, and turned them into $3 stores!"
I will leave Billy for now. Perhaps periodically, we might check in and see how he's doing in this post-Koch world. For now, ponder this: Is there even one speculative detail in the scenario I have presented that seems impossible?