“Mr. Secretary, we’re ready.”
The lieutenant snapped off a quick salute and waited while Secretary of the Treasury, Thomas Morgan loaded the last of his notes into the memory of his armored suit jacket. The Secretary struggled into his jacket and then grabbed his protective fedora from the hat rack.
“Ok, I’m ready, John.”
The lieutenant helped his boss enable the software connections and then they both waited until the suit jacket and fedora lights turned from red to active green. He then led the Secretary from his office to a waiting limo parked in the basement.
It was a short ride from the Treasury building to St. Paul’s rectory. Though the trip would be brief, there were dangers so the lieutenant sat across from the Secretary, silently watching the streets for dangers while the very tall and gangly silver haired old man struggled to get comfortable while reviewing his notes.
The principle danger that the lieutenant was concerned about was the implacable terrorist Omar Smith’s almost invisible army of the poor. They were everywhere; they owned the streets of Washington as well as those of most other major cities causing diplomats and executives to flee to secure walled and barred compounds. Traffic was no longer an issue in town because only GMC armored personnel carriers and Subaru Total Control ® limousines could guarantee arrival. No other vehicles ventured out to test terrorist tactics. New vehicle security technology was expensive and so it was reserved for the rich with the wherewithal to invest in travel. Cars not suitably tripped out were relegated by insurance companies to areas where the statistics said it was safer.
Smith’s minions were creating such havoc with trucking and rail that the Great Recession of the 2020’s had cratered into the abyss called the Great Depression of the 2030’s. The economy had long ceased to be some political football; it was too real and vexing. Jobs in the cities disappeared and soon enough their absence choked off jobs in the suburbs. In a blink, the exurbs and small town jobs followed into the economic black hole. But the panic didn’t start even then nor when the banks closed their doors to the pubic. The country finally went berserk when cable TV providers decided to no longer transmit to the masses and they took the Internet down with it. The violence that followed convinced every corporate Board of Directors to retain earnings as fast as they could while they developed a strategy to join the commercial exodus overseas.
Booms and busts were a way of life but by now everyone had been convinced that is how Capitalism works. The dread came when the bust cycles seemed to be getting worse and the recoveries too brief and far too exclusory. Without media to comfort them, Americans adapted badly. After the last downturn, far too many people were far too petrified of another one—and so soon.
This time would be different. This time there was reason to hope. This time, Republican President Andrew Crelli was in the Office and he flat out refused to allow his Government to backstop or bailout other people’s failures. “It isn’t fair,” He said. “It isn’t right, and it isn’t capitalism.” This President was different! He was deeply committed to a belief that he came by honestly. Free markets succeed or fail without assistance. That’s what free means. Anything else and it isn’t free. And losses are just a reminder to play the game smarter next time. There would be no moral hazard on his watch. We’re all adults here. So the President drew a hard line cajoling his followers into agreement with, “Only America is too big to fail. Let every other entity weep at some point, but never America. That’s how our Founding Fathers built it and that is how it will stay.”
There was a side effect to President Crelli’s staunch devotion to the freedom of markets. The rich had armed and were dangerous, the poor had armed and were dangerous, and together they pulled and ripped at the fabric of the middle class, stressing its weave and the warp until it was so frayed that the country shed it too easily and it vanished quietly from sight and memory.
This was the world and it should have kept Secretary of the Treasury Thomas Morgan busy enough, but surprisingly, he had far more pressing business.
Thomas Morgan was the highest ranking Liquidation Theory Conservative of his age and the most principled of his kind. His Darwinian faith in the American economy was all that he needed to leave it the hell alone unless he needed to milk it for profit. The economy was organic and nature must run its course. In bad times, miraculously all inefficiency would be squeezed out of the economy, cheapening assets until a price that could attract buyers was reached. From there it would be recovery and boom times that were always just around the corner for those of faith. The exhilarating rush of a boom was God’s great reward to a true capitalist. It is the Way. Underproductive assets must decline in value or be liquidated, people too. That is God’s will in this fair but cruel world we live in. The wondrous benefits from free market magic are only possible if the market is left alone to run wild and free, even as citizens cannot. After all, the true st freedoms require the greatest faith. God is good and always just so His economy will be good and just again, and hopefully soon. But when? All the economists know that God works in mysterious ways.
The occasional burst of automatic weapon fire barely distracted the Secretary’s attention from his thoughts. He was meeting with the leading clergymen in the American Catholic Church and the National Baptist Convention. The economy would take care of itself and security was in the able hands of Homeland Security. God’s kingdom on earth needed government intervention.
The limo turned a corner and there was the Cathedral. As far as he could see, there was a great mass of people screaming and pressing against the tall gates that denied them access. The gates were imposing and yet the supplicants stormed them to find a weakness in God’s perimeter while on the sanctuary side of the gates, clusters of horrified and confused priests stared back in holy helplessness.
“The Archbishop should stop promoting salvation.” Tom snickered.
The lieutenant turned from the window and smiled. “I wouldn’t open with that, sir.”
Tom nodded. “But I just may close with it.”
The driver steered the limo through the crowds. Some of the people moved aside but a few bursts of automatic weapon fire caused the priests to startle and opened a path to the gate.
They passed through and soon they were underground at a barred entrance. An armed cleric opened the limo door allowing the lieutenant to jumped out, pistol ready, to reconnoiter the surroundings.
When the lieutenant determined it was safe, he motioned for the Secretary to exit the limo and he quickly escorted his boss through a series of old oaken doors that looked recently battered. Inside, four young, nervous looking teens dressed like altar boys and packing heat escorted them to the Rectory.
At the Rectory door, the tallest altar boy used the butt end of his weapon to knock and then led his team away when a tired old priest welcomed Tom and the lieutenant inside. The old priest led them into a gorilla glass enclosed conference room. Waiting inside were the two men Secretary Morgan had come to see.
He walked up to the Archbishop and shook his hand. When he tried to hug him, the Archbishop backed away, avoiding him. “Sonny, Sonny, you old son of a…, hey, it’s good to see you after all these years. What, no love to show your Treasury Secretary?”
The Archbishop looked over to his guest and then back to Tom. “Mr. Secretary, I would prefer it if you called me Pastor.”
“Pastor? Is that how it is, Sonny? Okay, it’s Pastor Roark…for now. I guess all those good times don’t count for much anymore. That’s a shame.”
“It’s best.” Pastor Roark said, simply.
“Pastor Roark, thank you for hosting this discussion.” Tom paused to see if the Pastor had more to say. His silence confirmed his position. “So I’m being expunged, annulled, is that it? Okay then, Pastor, let’s get it on. Introduce me to your guest.”
As if bored, the Pastor complied. “Thomas Morgan, Secretary of the Treasury, this is Reverend Laurence Leads, CEO of the National Baptist Convention.”
Leads’ smile was so broad and wide that it showed every tooth and most of his gums. It was a smile so close to warm that if it wasn’t for the coldness in his eyes, a signal some less observant businessman would miss or misinterpret; he wouldn’t have known that he was being mocked. “Mr. Secretary, thanks for inviting me.” It was a slow drawl, much slower than the Reverend preached. “I read your article in the Columbia Law Journal and I found your grasp of economics almost…theological. Meeting you is an honor, sir.”
“As it is for me, Reverend. I read your article in the Economist and I found your grasp of theology…almost economical.” Tom continued as the smile on Reverend Leads face never wavered.
“Gentlemen, the rabble outside seem to be under some misconception. They act as if this Cathedral is some type of sanctuary. I would have expected by now that the law and you had dissuaded them of that notion.” When he saw the lieutenant’s smile, he forced himself not to smile.
The Reverend shrugged at that and Pastor Roark stepped closer to Tom. It was apparent that the two clerics had discussed their roles in this meeting.
“Mr. Secretary, stop this, stop it immediately.” The Archbishop pleaded. “Since the Entrepreneur Party won the midterms, rumors have reached me that the poor out there are disappearing from the streets.”
“Mr. Secretary, Tom, when members of our flock disappear, we hear about it from a great many sources, sources we trust, sources who entrust us with their every secret. This is not rumor. Your President is exterminating the poor. Do you deny it?”
“I should note that he is your President, too.”
Pastor Roark nodded “So you do approve of this horror, Tom. You and I have history, but I… I…you give us no choice. If you and YOUR President persist even another hour, we will stand against you, Crelli, and this abomination of a public policy and for our God. The folks who are disappearing, they’re people, poor people, and a great many are our congregation. You can’t just kill people because they are poor. You must stop this or we will take you down. Tom, please, stop it right now before… just stop it. Your President hires thugs to execute his ghastly plan and you’re not a thug. Tom, I fear for you, I really do. But as God is my witness, you will make this stop.”
Tom turned from the Pastor. The Reverend’s smile had only faded slightly but his eyes were still penetrating and cold. “Do you agree with our Archbishop, Reverend Leads?”
“Mr. Secretary, I do. Crelli surprised us. We never expected that he could generate the funds to defeat our candidate but he did so, and he did so within the rules, and we respect that. But one thing of which I am certain is that Libertarian and Christian Conservative principles along with faith in the Lord would have been all that was required to fund a more politically expedient way to address our economy.”
“Reverend, I don’t believe you can get more expeditious than the President’s solution.”
“You dare to joke about this. People are being executed! You are executing them. The President is flailing away with a pagan’s crudeness trying to resolve something he can’t truly grasp. If you had come to us with this, asked our advice, or petitioned to join our coalition, I’m certain we could have come to some accommodation that would have prevented these atrocities and your President’s apparent political suicide. God plays the long game and as his children, so must we.
“Pastor Roark and I are guided by God’s true and holy light and we could have shown the President the error of his ways. He is young, too young, and he is cocky. He jumps too fast to the Gordian Knot solution, way to fast. He doesn’t think through the politics. What he has done will destroy the Republican Party and damage those loyal to it. For that reason, alone, he can’t be allowed to continue. Tell him that. Tell him that he must stop this now. We demand it. And when he does, we will limit his penance to an impeachment conviction, not imprisonment or death and he can take his wealth and go to a place where he likes the people better. If he listens, we can do that. We are that powerful and he knows it. Crelli is gone and so is his slut Vice-President. We will have our religious White House back. The country needs us now more than ever.”
The Archbishop draped his arm over Tom’s shoulder but when Tom stared into his light blue eyes, the Archbishop looked away. “Tommy, Tommy, Tommy, you and I, kid, we go back a long way. We have history, the streets of Chicago, remember? Look, sometimes you bet on the wrong horse. It happens. The President is too rash and far too inexperienced—it’s a bad combination. He should have been advised not to do this. That wasn’t entirely your fault, but it’s done and there’s no going back.
“Back before you left U.S. Angs to join him, you told me that you weren’t sure if he had it in him to make the decisions to turn America around. The proof is in the pudding. America’s problems are too big for him. But instead of working with Reverend Leads here, and me, Crelli decided to go maverick, tackle the problems himself, and that’s where he made his fatal error. The Reverend and I, we have great power and influence, you know that. That’s why you’re here today. We have access to the deepest pockets and we have the tools to hold voters and politicians in line. There will be casualties—the President, surely, and some of his key advisors—but we must make this disappear before the Democrats make an issue of it. What do you say, Tom? You see the wisdom in my words.”
Tom pulled back and stared at each of the powerful clergymen. The intensity in their eyes proved that they meant business. Good, these were truly men of power, men of means, and men of God. “Sonny, Larry, you misunderstand me. I’m very proud of my President and the job that he’s doing for America. He has never wavered, never compromised, and he never will. Why should he? He has right on his side AND, far more important, he has God on his side.”
The intensity in the two men’s stares faltered briefly. They looked at each other, but waited for Tom to continue.
“America is in a perilous place and if we don’t do something radical, all that we stand for will perish and American Capitalism will become just another footnote in history. Think of it. A thousand years from now, they will talk about what we tried to build here like they discuss the failed states of Stalinist Russia and Maoist China. We can’t and we won’t allow that to happen! America is too important for that! We are God’s Chosen people, well, Capitalists and Entrepreneurs are.”
The two now seemed even more troubled.
Tom went on. “What is it? God only talks to you both? Or through you both? Is that it? Well, you’re wrong, my brethren. For years, for decades, for centuries, God has watched his Churches and he is displeased. You have squandered all of the resources he has bequeathed to you by railing on and on about rubbers and pharmaceutical abortions, preaching the disciplines of abstinence and nonsensical Rhythm and for what purpose? Why? Is that really that important? There is profit to be made there and God does not consider that lightly when he values right and wrong.
Each of the clergymen looked horrified by that comment.
“You prattle on about possible fetuses while America today is 75th in the world in Infant Mortality Rates; our live babies are dying at a faster rate than in countries like Iran. Iran, for Christ’s sake! You are men of God. How is that real babies dying just isn’t as important as all those other holy concepts that you waste resources on?
“What about America’s poor? The poor have the worst Infant Mortality Rate, higher even than that of North Korea and Yemen but it’s not a problem for the Church because you know that America’s rich lead the world with the lowest Infant Morality Rate and that’s where your budget comes from. Under your watch, innocent rich babies have become far more valuable than innocent poor babies. How can you revere God’s free markets if you ignore the potential that exists in all babies? There is great joy in turning a liability into an asset but you have become failed capitalists because you cannot see that. God is displeased. You have been warned.”
Sonny wanted to say something but Leads grabbed his arm. When Reverend Leads sputtered out a response, Tom learned how the man dealt with reality.
“How dare you. You fucking asshole. Who do you think you’re talking to? I control a nation of Baptists and enough votes to recall that horse’s ass of a President and I can do it in a heartbeat, in a heartbeat. Along with Archbishop Roark’s congregations, we will run you and your boss out of town and be heroes for doing it. Pastor Roark said you could be trusted but obviously you can’t. We have no choice but to squash your administration like a bug, you ignorant son of a bitch! Now get out of here.”
“Why so angry, Larry boy? Is it because you don’t like being accused of liking rich babies more than poor ones? Well live with it. God defines you by what you do when it counts. The Blessed Jesus Christ gave you a great mission here on earth. He expected you to show him that you believe heaven is worth striving for but alas, you have been screwed by your own actions.
“I understand. I do. You flew too close to the flame. You tasted a power that wasn’t the Lord’s and you…liked it. But that is a sin. In the Bible, Christ told the world that poverty would always be with us but he said it as a challenge. Obviously the church didn’t get it. Poverty is the reason why most innocent babies die before we can identify their economic potential.”
“But… we help the poor,” Sonny sputtered. “And that thinking makes you a socialist.”
“That’s helpful. It proves my point and it’s not cool, Sonny. I’m Secretary of the Treasury, a pretty fucking good accountant, and a great financial advisor on the side. How does that make me a socialist? My point is that poverty existed when there was ample wealth in the country—and hell, the world—to eradicate it for all time. Larry, with all of your power and influence, why didn’t your Church do that? It would have broadened and deepened the economy and increased our growth rate. God wants that. All that it would have taken was a few religious leaders with balls who truly had faith in Jesus as Lord. For over two thousand years, tax exempt Churches have grown rich, fat, lazy, and far too confident ministering minimally to their flock and maintaining the poor as long as there is positive cash flow. But you never cared seriously about eliminating poverty from this world as Jesus wanted.”
Larry and Sonny were both livid now. Larry clutched at one of the Pastor’s crucifixes while the Pastor traced the outline of Mother Mary intricately needle worked into his comfy chair. Sonny spoke in a barely controlled rage.
“Tom, you blaspheme, but I will pray for your soul. What has caused you to forsake God? It is obvious that Satan controls you now. Fight him and I will help you.”
“Fuck that,” the Reverend shouted. “This meeting is distasteful and I’m leaving. You are evil and if it costs me my life, I will do God’s work and take you and your master down.”
“I’m certain that you will try, Reverend. And I’m certain that it will cost you your life. But you haven’t heard everything yet and I insist that you remain here until I’m done.”
“Not fucking likely,” the Reverend and stood to walk out.
“Lieutenant,” Tom said, calmly. The Lieutenant unholstered his pistol and motioned for the Reverend to sit. Unsure, he continued on.
“Lieutenant,” Tom repeated.
At the sound of the pistol firing, a wet spot appeared on the Reverend’s suit pants and he quickly retreated to his chair. “Are you mad? Roark, call the police, now. Have these two arrested.”
Sonny shrugged and picked up the phone. “Lieutenant,” was all Tom had to say for Sonny to put the phone down.
Tom sat across from them, crossed his legs and continued. “Gentlemen, thank you for your undivided attention. So that you know, I too commune with God.”
The clergymen seemed to squirm at that.
“God is, well, as I said, he’s pissed. He has given his Church twenty one hundred years to get this world ready for paradise. When the churches were failing, he warned them. He sent men infused with Holy Spirit to enlighten and sometimes lead. I am His latest prophet. The Lord is dissatisfied with the return he is getting on his investment and frankly, it isn’t wise to disappoint the Lord, if you know what I mean.”
Sonny leaned forward, put his hands straight out on his desk and then spoke quietly. “Tom, you need rest. You’ve always been too intense. Times are tough and maybe this job at Treasury is too much for you.”
Tom shook his head. “Nope, not crazy. I speak with the Lord and for the Lord. He has shown his trust in me by blessing me and aiding me in this great economic crisis. You can see his brilliance in my monetary policy. The Lord truly has a gift for economics, but I guess that goes without saying. Anyway, you both would be better served if you took me seriously because I am quite sane. What accountant isn’t?
“Here’s the deal. The Christian Churches had millennia to make the world right. They failed. All you do is perform maintenance on it, triage mostly, but you waste the inspired hot and holy breath that the Lord God has infused in each of you. Hell, if all God wanted was maintenance, he would have hired some damn engineers. He wanted souls saved, not soothed or managed Over the millennia, his churches have blown through billions and billions of dollars and billions and billions of souls while doing little more than concentrating and conserving power, power the good Lord entrusted in you and your churches. You’ve become rich and powerful by taking advantage. That behavior ends now and for all time.” Tom paused until the silence seemed to press against everyone in the room. “There will be a great flood.”
“What!” Larry and Sonny said in unison.
“In the future, when the holy book for our times is written, they will call it a flood because a great many people will die in order for us to unleverage and then recapitalize America.”
“Tom?” Sonny said soothingly, “Tom, we were good friends once. You can still count on me. Let me help you. I want to help you.”
“So what is this great flood to be?” Reverend Leads asked mockingly.
“Allow me to explain. I met Andy Crelli when he was a young man. Ever since that meeting, I knew he was the one to turn America around. Sonny, you have the man all wrong. He’s brilliant. But what he needed to truly work his miracle was another miracle and he received that when I was chosen by God to reengineer our economy. Americans are fortunate. Capitalists and entrepreneurs are the best of America and truly God’s Chosen People. We are smart, industrious, and forthright. We plan and work the plan with a holiness that God respects. We believe in our mission with such fervor that the Lord chose me, found me, and asked me to help Him further. He wants to the Christian Church to evolve to a pure form of Capitalism, with Capitalists as Priests, of course. To do that, a great cleansing is required and I intend to follow the Lord’s instruction explicitly to accomplish that.”
“A cleansing?” The Reverend asked.
“Indeed, Larry. Today’s Clergy have denied God. In the millennia since Jesus walked the earth, they have fallen away from God’s Capitalist ideals most markedly by failing to resolve the one great issue of humankind, poverty. Today, it is too late. The poor have propagated far in excess of any approachable resolution but the Heavenly Father knows all and it is his will that America begin again to become the country He has always wanted us to be. Oddly, the Mormons got it mostly right. Jesus was here for a while trying to convert savages to capitalism but they were too much into barter and it didn’t take. Now we will do it the hard way. The poor and all who support them must be eradicated.”
Stupefied, Archbishop Roark and Reverend Leads were too alarmed to respond.
“There will be a flood and I am to be Noah. For you and your churches to survive, I need a certain commitment from you.”
For a while, Roark and Leads remained silent. Finally, Sonny spoke. “You’re mad, you know. We are the most powerful men in the country. I know that you work for the President, but what you’re saying is almost laughable it’s so insane. Leave now before you make things worse.”
“Not yet, Sonny, I have a mission to complete. I have other options but you are my best alternative so hear me out.”
Sonny sighed and motioned for him to continue. “God knows that you are powerful, financially connected men and you command the votes of a significant portion of the population on critical issues. You are associated with a great many high end donors as well. We admire that and it is why we want you in on this ground floor…new and holy opportunity. Lieutenant…” Tom nodded to the officer who proceeded to produce two glossy documents. He handed one to each of the men.
“You will have time after I leave to read through this prospectus. If you have more questions, you can access our new website, Holy Enterprise dot com. There’s an extensive FAQ section that will help. But let me progress to the critical issues. To expedite this discussion, I’ll leave God’s role out of it for now.
“President Crelli’s administration will continue to eliminate the poor until our economy reaches a stasis whereby government overhead, taxes, and other non-productive expenses have been reduced to a minimum. This…downsizing will be perfectly legal once the Circle of Life legislation recently passed by Congress has been recognized by the Supreme Court. That should take another week but it is…a fait accompli.
“There will be a great many misguided American heroes once the mission of the Circle of Life legislation comes to light. That’s a shame; people who could have fought poverty when the American economy was able to do something about it will fall on their swords in shame. Fighting for it now is their way to find solace and heaven. Rest assured neither is waiting for these rebels.
“Under the umbrella of Homeland Security, the President’s administration has consolidated most of the private subcontractor armies that the U.S. has been using to support our economy overseas. We call the organization HomeSec now. It is through their budget that we will process the uneconomical and anyone who protests. Once that is accomplished, the waste in the American economy will have been squeezed out. We expect that to be accomplished within five to seven years.
“Now as to the Churches, once the poor, the almost poor, and the middle class that can’t be saved are gone, our economy will blossom—truly thrive. Our projections call for an extended Golden Age, a boom of unprecedented proportions. During that time, we project that old church priests and ministers throughout America will see their congregations reduced significantly, some locales by 100%.
“But that isn’t your only dilemma. We have begun to fund a vast new biotech issue and we will increase its funding by billions once the economy turns around. For Capitalists and Entrepreneurs to truly be one with God, they must be allowed to progress unfettered by life limiting conditions. This they will do in America where they will live forever. Our best projections show that within fifty years, given unbridled scientific freedom and vast sums of capital, our researchers will expand longevity by up to fifty percent. This lifespan extension will provide a platform for our scientists and technologist to develop further advancements that will put forever well within our grasp. Obviously, the only limit to never dying will be ones ability to fund the future.
“Of course,” the Reverend replied.
At the same time, the Reverend shouted. “You blaspheme!” The lieutenant tapped his pistol and Sonny quieted.
“So now we face the issue that Churches have feared since their beginning. How much incentive is heaven if you don’t have to go there? Heaven on earth and all that… We’ve done the math. A Church that continues in the old ways will lose all of its economic viability and quickly enough, all of its human support with the crusty old hanging on for dear life, if you get my pun. In truth, with nothing to offer its supplicants, all of earth’s heaven-based religions will die.”
At that, Sonny stared wide-eyed, Reverend Leads just simply stared.
“The prospectus will explain the extremely profitable alternative. Basically, what we are building is a new Holy Enterprise, a Capitalist Christian Church that is a merger between the facilities, resources and administrative capabilities of the old religions—that’s you gentlemen—and the science and technology and the ruling power of our bright future all molded into the Morgan Church of the Almighty Dollar. That’s what we’re calling it. So that you know, this project has the blessing of God, the Supreme Father of us all, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. To my mind, those three are a majority.
“Gentlemen, you have one week to agree to our Holy Enterprise or the offer in the prospectus is off the table. Think economically, pray to the Lord for guidance, and sign the contracts in the back of the prospectus. One week. Good Day.”
The lieutenant held the door and Tom left without looking back to see the shaken looks on his prospective new partners’ faces.