Invisible Hand – Chapter Eight: Power of the President

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In which the President reveals a source of power and Buddy has a change of heart.

“Grandmothers! They let a bunch of stinking grandmothers buffalo them.”

“Yeah, well it’s done now. That damn bill is on my desk and it won’t go away just because we have contempt for Congress. Now what are we going to do about it?”

“Mr. President, I think you can safely veto it in a month
or so. That’ll give people time to forget about that debacle and realize that pipe dreams won’t pay the bills.”

There was a general round of confirmatory grunts from most of the dozen or so men seated around the large table.

“Mr. President, if I may make a few points?” the Secretary of Labor said lifting his hand.

“Make away, Sam. Remind me of how much trouble we have.”

“Well, sir, we’ve had over 100,000 people die this
winter from lack of heat and most of them were elderly. Our unemployment is over 15% and climbing. Inflation is about 20% since the first of the year. Our imports of oil are down to just 15% of our total used from over 50%. If I’m not mistaken, we haven’t been able to borrow from the World Bank or anywhere else for over a month. If we let things ride without some indication that we have a solution for these problems, you and the party can kiss any chances of re-election goodbye. I say we have no choice but to sign this bill if only to give people hope.”

By the time the Secretary had finished he was sweating even though the room was rather too cool to be comfortable. As part of the White House plan to show the people that the President was sharing their problems, the thermostat was set at only 60 degrees. The grim and even angry faces of some of the other officials around the table reflected their bitterness that Labor had mentioned the elephant in the living room.

“What good does it do to give them hope with this fairy tale ‘Ten Points’ thing when it won’t work and if we sign they’ll forget that we opposed it and blame us for the failure?” The Secretary of the Treasury was not one to suffer fools gladly.

“Wait, Sam, maybe he has a point here,” the Attorney
General said. “This money thing can’t take effect until
they’ve trained a bunch of people to run it, right? So that’s going to take at least a couple of years. By then we’ll be reelected as the champions of hope.

Whenever someone complains about a bill or some expedient we take to get the economy going again, we can say it’s just a stopgap measure to get us through
until the transition to the new money. Then when the new money fails, as it is sure to do, the crisis will be over and we can go back to real money again with some chance to succeed.”

“There’s some merit to that,” the Secretary of State put in. “Look what this ‘Ten Points’ thing does to the international situation. It won’t make OPEC sell us
oil but it pretty much cancels the debts we’ve run up. If
the Government doesn’t have money, then it can’t pay

“Why would anybody loan us money if they know we can’t pay them back?” Treasury barked.

“Are they loaning us anything now?” State shot back.

“Gentlemen calm down,” the President admonished. “Sam, I know the German economy almost ceased to exist back after World War I when the government printed more and more money to pay the bills. But couldn’t we do something like that in a more subtle
way to pay the bills without the inflation eating us alive?”

Labor snorted and said, “It’s already eating us alive.
Our economy is about to crash, gentlemen, unless we do something about it and soon.”

“What about fixing prices?” asked the Secretary of

“We’ll have the black market siphoning off all the
goods people have to have and the inflation will still be there,” Treasury said contemptuously.

“We’ll have to go to rationing like they did back during World War II. There’ll be a black market and theft
and so on but at least we may be able to keep enough of the necessities under control to prevent chaos,” Labor said.

“You can’t control necessities unless you nationalize
almost all the major industries and that’s Socialism at best. How are you going to keep the lid on?” Treasury asked.

“Actually, we can control the major industries relatively easily,” put in the Secretary of Homeland Security. “We have some tools in place that let us watch them pretty closely. I took the initiative to prepare for just such a situation as we have here. I think I can guarantee that there won’t be any
problems with nationalizing that we can’t handle.”

“What do you mean, ‘We have some tools in place’?” Labor said.

“It’s simple. We now have the computer capacity to
monitor all the airports, bus stations and such so we know who is going where as soon as they book their flights and we watch them board and deplane. We know what they have in their luggage and we know where they sleep and with whom in the hotels. That
part was easy.

The harder part was to extend this surveillance to their offices. They’re more security conscious there. But as you all know, every computer bought in the last two years has some extra features that their owners probably don’t know about. We have almost total penetration of every significant office in the US and much of the rest of the world.

I can let you know what’s being planned in every major company and most minor companies in the U.S. What you don’t know,” Homeland looked briefly at the President and received a small nod in return, “is that we now have the computer resources to actually use all the data that comes in. We can actually follow individuals with the computer, flagging suspicious behavior for human review. If anybody tries to get out of line, we’ll know about it and can take steps to squash them. They won’t know how we do it but it’ll
get done.”

Homeland leaned back in his chair with a satisfied expression on his face as he watched the various
Secretaries realize that they had computers in their offices which had been bought within the last two
years. Some of their faces were quite revealing. “That’ll
bring them around,” he thought. “What I didn’t tell them was that within six months every television, car, and major appliance will also have those features
and the television will be watching you more than you watch it.”

There were even a few things the President didn’t know about that Homeland thought were better kept from him for the time being.

After a few minutes of general consternation and red faces, the meeting came to order.

“Given that we can ration the necessities, I say we can
keep things going for at least the two years until the new money kicks in,” Labor said. “Then give it no more than six months to fail and we go back to real money. People will have to accept the stringent measures we’ll have to take to get out of the chaos of the new money. By then the international situation may have calmed down. With the way the world’s economies are staggering I think OPEC will want us as a market again by then. What do you think?”

“I say we have little choice. People would never accept
the belt tightening we’ll have to endure without the promise of something better soon. This ‘Ten Points’ thing is really a godsend in disguise,” the Attorney General said calmly.

Discussion continued for over an hour thereafter but in the absence of any better suggestions it was decided to wait a couple of weeks to see if support for the Ten Points died down and, if it did not, then the President would sign the bill.

———————- Same day —————-

“Clark, you must be feeling pretty smug. Mr. Frobisher was very complimentary about your part in getting the Ten Points Bill passed.”

“I am happy that it passed but it seems like I did hardly
anything at all. I mean, you did all the hard work and suffered a broken arm and all to get Congress to pass the bill. And I have no idea why the President signed it when we all knew he was opposed to it from the beginning. All I did was play with the computer a little.”

“Well, as your mother, I say I am very proud of all you
did to make it work.”

“We still have to set up a payer organization and train
people for that. We have to get the computer programs to keep track of the money and – well, there are just a million things left to do. But what are you going to do now that the bill has passed?”

“I’m going to go help your father get his business back on track. He says he needs me. Can you believe that, Clark? He wants me to help him in his business.” Lozelle still couldn’t get over how Buddy’s attitude toward her had changed. Before he had seemed to take her for granted but now, well she didn’t quite know how he felt about her. He even seemed to be a little afraid of her sometimes, but very appreciative. Well, it was going to be another challenge but then her mother had warned her that life with Buddy would be challenging.

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