Future gridlock

That guy from the future dropped in again. On the way out of town I stopped for coffee, and found him waiting back at the car.

“Hey, how’s it going?” I asked, and we went back in so he could get something. As we pulled onto the highway I said, “So; you were saying the federal government is shutdown?”

“Yes. The had a series of brief shutdowns starting in the nineties, and then in 2024 they shut down hard, and they’ve been trying to re-start it since then, so 14 years. The last budget was for fiscal 2010, and Congress hasn’t even passed a continuing resolution since 2021. The debt ceiling is stuck around 10^18 dollars. Only essential personnel are legally working; mostly it’s temps with waivers.”

“What party is in charge?”

“It’s divided. The Republicrats control the house, the Paulites have the senate, and the acting president is a Rhino.”

“A Republican in name only?”

“Oh, that’s where that comes from? No, the Rhinos are basically the same as the Republicrats, but they’re against dynamic group marriage. Technically they support legal incorporation for large heterogeneous couplings, but that’s not going to happen.”

“Uh…”

“Question?”

“No; please go on.”

“So Washington is thoroughly gridlocked. A few years ago someone tried to get things going with a parliamentary maneuver, and it went wrong. Now the mummified corpse of Joe Biden is President of the Senate in perpetuity and they need 103 votes to end Max Baucus’ filibuster.”

“Max Baucus? He must be a hundred years old!”

“Could be. Baucus retired years ago, but the parliamentarian ruled he was still speaking. Nobody knows what happens when he finally dies. Negotiations with Puerto Rico for statehood have been unsuccessful, so the latest plan is to get the Supremes to rule that 51 is legally 103. No luck so far.”

Suddenly he reached in his pocket, said “pardon me a second,” then disappeared, and reappeared in a red sweater vest. “Sorry, where were we?”

“‘The mummified corpse of Joe Biden’?”

“Right. Gridlock. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Basically the states and cities have taken over most of what the feds used to do. It’s not perfect – the governor of Illinois is actually in prison – but it’s worked out surprisingly well most places. The feds… well, each party keeps promising to fix things as soon as the other guys get out of the way. But people remember the catastrophe last time they fixed things.”

“So, 2038, you have an election coming up.”

“Right, midterms. If the Paulites take the House they might be able to pass a CR. Nothing can get through the Senate, but the Paulites seem to have the most power right now, so most people will vote against them to avoid upsetting the gridlock. Basically the federal government has itself pinned. Some people think it’s the result of the Singularity: hyper-intelligent computers saving us from ourselves. Others think the political geniuses in Washington finally outsmarted themselves. Anyway, most people don’t want to mess with it.”

“It seems like the judges would step in and rule by court order.”

“They probably would if they could, but they have been tied up the same way, ever since the Supremes certified the UCA.”

“Which is?”

“Universal Class Action. Every human, corporation, and legal entity is a party; everything is at issue; everyone is recused. Any law suits about UCA get folded into the UCA itself. Basically the legal/judicial profession turned on itself. About five years ago the whole effort was taken over by the Wikipedia project. The only judicial institutions still working at all are local criminal prosecutions and some state courts.”

“Maybe there’s something to that theory about the singularity.”

“Yeah, this is where it makes the most sense. Still…”

Suddenly he held up a hand, listened a second, then excused himself and disappeared again.

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