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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”
—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
Mae made it aboard Air Force One before the sun was up. She stayed mostly in her assigned seat, reviewing her correspondences and T’s proposal for ending the economic crisis and restoring faith in the banking sector. It was known as the Amero Plan.
They’ll never go for it, Mae thought, the Fed, the banks, the defense contractors…no way. With the president’s approval, congressional leaders would be marshaled to sponsor the legislation written by Treasury. Congress can always be counted on to side with the executive during any national emergency. Under the auspice of national emergency, the federal government would effectively take control of the central bank. Ninety percent of the Federal Reserve’s assets, totaling over a quadrillion dollars, would be swapped for a newly-fashioned debt instrument called the “Amerobond.” These new IOUs would be marked at zero percent interest, with no maturity. In other words, almost all of the debt of the U.S. government would be written off as it would become interest-free and never due. It would simply sit on the books as a Treasury liability and a Federal Reserve asset until the end of time. The risk was that Federal Reserve Notes—aka dollars—which are bills of credit backed by the Federal Reserve’s assets, were being swapped for worthless Amerobonds, so their value would drop to zero. The accounting maneuver would be viewed as a hard default if perceptions were not properly managed. T’s proposal in this regard was to bolster the dollar by creating a new currency, issued by the Treasury instead of the Fed, and backed by a different book of government assets, namely public lands and drilling and mineral rights. Treasury would then peg the exchange rate value of the dollar to this new currency. There would be no issuance of paper notes of this new money. Other than governments and multi-national corporations, no private entities would do business with it. This parallel currency would exist only digital analogs on computer servers to be pushed and pulled in billion dollar increments between institutional ledgers by keystroke entry. The working name for the new currency was the “amero.”
The lynchpin of T’s plan was congress. It was one thing to wipe a quadrillion dollars of debt off the books, but it would matter naught if the government deficits weren’t reined in. Without a restoration of some semblance of fiscal discipline, the country would be right back in the same sinking boat within short order. Therefore, T demanded an array of massive budget cuts, a giant shit sandwich from which every federal department was going to have to take a bite. But deep cuts into entitlement programs were not politically feasible. Citizens had paid into programs like Social Security for their entire working lives. Slashing those payouts was only going to push more of the populace into sympathizing with the insurgents. The only other budget item big enough to make a difference through cuts was military spending. The budget could not be balanced without cuts in defense. It would have to be slashed by two-thirds. The overseas troops would be brought home. NATO, Korea, Japan, bases in a hundred other countries, would have to be sold off or abandoned. Entire fleets would be mothballed. Four aircraft carriers would be decommissioned. They were World War II relics, anyway, vulnerable to China’s anti-carrier missiles. Entire army divisions would be disbanded. Hundreds of thousands of servicemen would be discharged. America’s empire would end. The New American Century would be finished fewer than three decades in.
Neutralizing the domestic insurgency would become much more difficult with a drastically smaller military. Also to be considered was what to do with all the unemployed soldiers. How would they be prevented from joining the revolution? The final, essential piece of T’s plan, and perhaps the most controversial, was to negotiate a ceasefire with Doc. Any armistice was unachievable without granting the rebels some official autonomy. The truce would effectively take the “United” out of the United States, at least temporarily, until reconciliation could occur. It would be the complete opposite of what Lincoln had done.
Pointless, Mae thought. The president would be reversing his position on the insurgency. He’ll never go for it. The neocons and globalists would block it. The congressmen representing districts with military bases and defense contractors would revolt. The banks would threaten to pull campaign contributions. It’s politically unfeasible.
Mae recalled the working group sessions where the new currency was being developed. One smartass intern recommended calling it the “rentenmark” in reference to the new money Germany issued to halt their hyperinflation. No one got the joke except for T who wasn’t laughing. One had to have knowledge of the Weimar hyperinflation in 1920s Germany to get it, but the historical knowledge of almost everyone in Treasury and the Fed only extended back to the Great Depression. For them, history began with the big bang of the stock market crash of ’29. The painful lessons learned from the preceding crashes fomented by central bank credit expansions were lost down the memory hole. T fired the comedian the next day.
Mae spent a good portion of her morning watching the sunrise from the window of the C5 Galaxy as it sat on the tarmac. The sun rose red. The president’s motorcade of forty-six vehicles pulled onto the tarmac at 1100. Men in black suits took their positions. Five identical limos—bulletproof glass, tires, and radiators—parked just below Air Force One. Men in blue suits got out and made their way onto and up the gangway. They trickled upwards into the flying bunker and took their assigned seats. One of them was Forteson. He was consumed in his thoughts and didn’t acknowledge Mae when he passed her in the aisle.
A final vehicle pulled up. A nondescript SUV that certainly didn’t look presidential as it was forest green instead of black. It more resembled something a soccer mom would drive than a presidential chauffeur. The moment the SUV stopped, men in black suits surrounded it. One of them opened the door and the president stepped out. He stood, straightened his navy suit jacket, surveyed the tarmac, and was then escorted up the escalator gangway by secret service agents.
Within moments, the jet doors were sealed and Air Force One was rolling towards the runway. For all intents and purposes, the 747 was the White House. It was the only place where The Chief felt safe. All of his relevant advisors and their staff and staff’s staffers were aboard this flight. The others, the vice president and members of the cabinet, were scattered across the northeastern states. Continuity of government was ensured if something were to happen to “Big Bird,” as Air Force One was affectionately known.
As soon as the fasten seatbelt signs were off, the president’s situation meeting convened. Mae was invited by T and she was pleased to have that kind of access to top staff. Forteson was there as well, but he sat far away from her at the other end of the table.
The president came in. Chief of Staff Gabe Truth called the meeting to order.
“T, you’re first up,” the chief of staff said.
“Thank you.” T scrolled through his notes to orient himself. “Mr. President, did you get a chance to review my latest assessment of congressional leadership?”
“I did. So Senator Thurman is on board?”
“Grudgingly, but yes. I think that it ultimately boils down to the Federal Reserve’s cooperation.”
“Where are they at?”
“I’m close to getting the Chairman’s commitment.”
“You must know that the Fed Board of Governors isn’t going to go for Treasury issued currency without their oversight,” the president remarked.
“I’m working on them, Mr. President. I need a little more time.”
“Well don’t work on them too hard. I don’t want them burrowing in. We’ve got a ways to go to get this through. It’s not the end or even the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning.”
“Is that Churchill, sir?” asked the chief of staff.
The president scowled at him; he’d hoped the quip would be attributed to his personal genius.
“I hate the name ‘amero’,” the president continued. “Can’t we call it ‘the eagle’, or something?”
“You’re right,” agreed the chief of staff, attempting to win the president back. “Amero has a stigma.”
“Keep massaging them fed bankers. Give me an update next week?”
“Sounds good,” T replied. “So I wanted to brief everyone here on the plan. Most people here are unaware.”
“That won’t be necessary today, T,” said the president. “Domestic security, you’re up. Give me the sit-rep.”
T stood for a moment looking confused. Then he took his seat.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff rose. “Mr. President, we are pleased to report that DSF expects to meet its region three and region four security objectives as planned.”
“How are the metrics on Billings, Bozeman, and Casper? Are they back in the fold?”
“Affirmative on Billings. Casper and Bozeman are expected to be cleared within fourteen days.”
“Terrific. How about Operation Uncompaghre?”
“Uncompaghre III, sir?”
“Yes. Have we exceeded the performance indicators there?”
“U III is in wrap-up mode. As mentioned before, we believe we found the body of their leader, Captain Rick, several months ago. Activity has dropped to near zero since.”
“Why didn’t we do a press conference on this? Wasn’t he on the top ten list?”
“We weren’t completely certain, Mr. President.”
“The DNA test was not conclusive, sir.”
“Remind me then, how did you know it was him?”
The chairman scanned his notes. “He was found with identification on him, sir.”
“Did they do a DNA test?”
“It was not conclusive.”
“But Doc activity has dropped to zero since you found him?”
“Then he sounds dead to me. Let’s have a press conference. I’ll announce that we took out the highest ranking member of the domestic insurgency.”
The room filled with applause and cheers and the slapping of high fives, a celebration of the reality the president had just created.
“Okay, okay…” The president hushed the group. “What else? What about the tag-and-release program? How do the KPIs look?”
“Sir, I believe Mr. Forteson can provide a better briefing on that operation. It is his baby. Forte, you okay with that? I don’t mean to put you on the spot.”
“David?” asked the president.
Mae watched Forteson as he rose. He didn’t hold any notes, not even an electronic device. His face bore the hint of a smirk. She admired his confidence.
“Mr. President,” Forteson started, “I am glad to report that we have eleven candidates with implanted homing beacons, and they are ready for release back into the red zone. These are real bona fides—practically a Doc all-star team. We expect them to migrate back to their units and leadership. We just need your word and we’ll turn them loose.”
“Absolutely. Of course. Green light,” replied the president. “Will the beacons work?”
“They’ve tested flawlessly, sir, better than expected. If you’d like, we could set up an app on your phone and you can track their location yourself.”
“Oh, I would like that. Please do.”
“Do you have your phone on you? I could set it up right now.”
“Excellent.” The president dug his cell out of his breast pocket and handed it to Forteson. Everyone in the meeting room watched in silence as he installed the app. He returned the president’s phone in less than a minute.
“We’ll chat more about it this afternoon,” the president said. “Nice work, Forte.” He turned back to the chairman of the JCS. “How about the KPIs on Project Block and Tackle?”
“Sir,” began the chairman, “I’ve prepared a brief for you on those operations. We’ve made some progress on expanding zone-of-control along the I80 and I90 corridors. West to Laramie is secure as is north to Sheridan. We expect to have I25 secure to Billings by month’s end.”
“What were our quantitative goals this month?”
“Less than seven material IED losses on I25 between Billings and Cheyenne.”
“Did we meet our goal for the month?”
“Not quite, sir,” answered the Chairman. “But I need to add some color to that.”
“What was the number?” interrupted the president.
“It was fifteen, sir.”
“As I was saying, sir, twelve of those losses took place on the Bighorn Run. That’s been a really active sector, lately. But we’re confident that we can—”
“That’s a disaster. How else did we do?”
The chairman relayed the next KPI: “Fewer than four material IED losses on Grand Junction to Delta.”
“Ahh, the so-called Trail of Tears,” the president remarked. “How’d we do there?”
“We had seven, sir,” answered the chief, averting his eyes and rubbing his chin.
“I thought you said activity outside the Uncompaghre sector dropped to zero.”
“Technically, the Grand Junction to Delta is outside that sector.”
“Since when? What else?” snapped the president.
“Fewer than forty fatalities, theater-wide.”
“What was the total?” asked the president.
“Thirty-nine, sir, not counting the sixteen killed in the helicopter crash, the four killed in traffic accidents and the four suicides.”
“Well, congratulations,” replied the president sarcastically. “Now that’s enough bad news for today. Leave me the brief. I’ll review it later. Who’s next?”
“Department of Education…”
Before taking his seat, the chairman handed his brief to the president’s assistant who passed it to Gabe Truth who then handed it to the president.
The meeting went on for another thirty minutes. As they were dismissed and filtering out of the room, Mae felt a gentle squeeze on her elbow. She turned to find Forteson standing behind her.
“Can we talk?” he asked.