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Viral Implosion - chapter seven
One of the nice things about having a loose confederation is that when a rogue reporter tries to point a finger at the person or persons responsible, it’s well-nigh impossible. No single name arises to blame for any occurrence; no committee is responsible for reprehensible actions. The best one can do is spot and expose patterns. Even then, one needs to find an avenue to publish the observation. Meanwhile, large corporations observe other corporations getting larger and mimic their behavior.
With more space between sources, corporations started issuing passes to their fleets and independent truckers to exempt them from tolls on the highways. These same fleets and truckers received special credit cards which allowed them to purchase the now-totally-domestic gasoline fuel at five dollars a gallon less than listed to the public. Teamsters were finding it more expensive to transport goods independently and many union shops had to close.
To make up for this drop in income, home heating prices for oil and gas increased proportionately. The increased overhead caused more charitable organizations to close their doors. Child adoption agencies became nationalized. This gave the federal government a pool of future citizens to place appropriately. The cost of adoption was minimally $50,000, and even higher for non-Caucasian babies. Those not adopted by the age of five were thrown into private orphanages, which were dependent on contributions to support the children.
Employee protection was virtually gone. The NLRB was disbanded, as was OSHA. The ACLU, dependent on contributions, was finding it hard to get funding. Legislation to protect workers was quietly repealed. To keep the unemployment insurance costs down, corporations fired employees on trumped-up charges. Appeals to the courts were delayed for two years, as the dockets grew. Courts began triaging cases, handling those where corporations were the plaintiffs first. The average Joe could not afford legal help on its usual basis, and contingency cases were not being taken by attorneys, since the probable outcome was grim. Corporations filed nuisance suits just to keep the courts’ dockets loaded.
The Federal Supreme Court, as well as state supreme courts, was idle, since most people could not afford the attorneys to appeal. Class action suits were the only way to amass enough retainer to allow law offices to pursue justice, and they were dwindling since individuals could not even afford the $100 contribution involved. Civil lawyers began moving over to corporate law, where the income was still hefty.
The middle class disappeared entirely, and the size of the lower class was becoming immense. With low-income citizens being the vast majority, low-income retailers boomed – Walmart, Taco Bell, Savers and McDonalds abounded. Thrift shops also grew, as high-income consumers decided to sell their castoffs rather than donate them. Gambling became a hobby for the majority of citizens, clinging to the hope that a jackpot was ready to come their way. If the press could be believed, the jackpots were there and were being won. No one knew any of the jackpot winners, but some hope is better than none.
Professional sports were subsidized federally in an effort to give the masses an outlet. Seat prices had to be lowered, and salaries for players became more modest, but the major leagues continued. Minor leagues became popular lower-cost venues as well as an avenue for work for the growing number of unemployed.
Rioting and looting became standard and constant in the larger cities. Small stores were abandoned, as looters were not being stopped; police were overloaded trying to protect the larger stores such as Macys and Saks Fifth Avenue. General Mason Kahler, after serving his country through three wars and earning the reputation for intolerance, had been placed as Secretary of Defense. In his new position, he rallied the National Guard to the larger cities, not to quell unrest, just to protect corporate interests. Since gun shops had been raided by the unhappy masses, Kahler gave the Guard a lot of leeway in enforcement.
Smaller cities, towns and villages were falling apart. Hungry people emptied the shelves of small grocery stores, technology distributors and gun shops. Banks locked their doors, having run out of money for their local clients. Their headquarters were still secure, protected by the Guard.
Trans World Communications was a typical example of this insidious growth. TWC was started in 1946 by a couple of ambitious engineers who could see the future in communication. They ‘borrowed’ the TW part of the name in the hopes that prospective investors would assume that Howard Hughes was behind the enterprise. They started with a network radio station, bringing the talents and imaginations of war veterans in to expand the material and concepts of the medium. This expansion of radio into the homes of American citizens went over so well that within ten years TWC also owned a VHF television station called Home. By 1960 two UHF stations were added and the company started a telephone service. Each new company had a name completely unrelated to the sister companies, and appeared to offer something different to viewers and listeners. By 1970 TWC also owned three cable TV companies. As the world entered the twenty-first century, TWC cell phone service and music services were in full swing as well. The vertical tower had been created. After 2000, monopoly laws were amended if not repealed altogether, and TWC moved into print and news. On the way, less-robust competing companies were swallowed up until TWC owned almost half of all cable channels, radio stations, news services and newspapers. The popularity of wireless devices only fed this voracious animal. Since apps for ‘smart’ phones, pads and notebooks all had hidden information being sent to the sources, communications giants began to amass huge databases on users, with details of what they bought, who they called, what Internet sites they frequented, and even the content of text messages, emails, and voice calls. TWC purchased Credit Karma. This gave them unprecedented access to financial information. The purchase of Ancestry.com added the final feather to their headdress, as they amassed DNA information on 80% of the population. Other than products, all advertising on TWC media was strictly for other TWC companies and their content. Trans World Communications knew more about American citizens than the citizens themselves knew, and this information was shared with other corporations, industries and agencies freely as long as there was a mutual benefit.
By 2025 there were six very wide columns of influence:
Health and insurance
Virtually non-existent were fairs, festivals, expos, welfare and sports. On a survival basis, there was a huge insurgence of victory gardens, garage sales and swap meets.