Through a Crystal Ball, Murkily

A capsule history of politics in the United States, from 1999 to 2021:

1999–Bill Clinton resigns, hoping that he will receive a Nixonesque pardon from President Al Gore. President Gore, now the target of his very own independent counsel, decides to let Clinton dangle in the wind with Hillary Clinton, Bruce Lindsey, Vernon Jordan, Webster Hubbell, Susan McDougal, and their many co-conspirators.

2000–Gore declines to run for re-election, citing the “vicious political climate of Washington.” (Meaning: unlike Clinton, he won’t be able to stiff the taxpayers for a big chunk of his legal bills, so why stick around?) The Democrats and Republicans rush to the center and jointly nominate Edward Dogooder for the presidency. Dogooder manages to squeak through in a tight, three-way race with Oprah Winfrey and Geraldo Rivera.

2001–Dogooder asks Congress to replace the Social Security Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, and Veterans Affairs with a Commissariat for Public Welfare. Republicans go along with the gag on the assumption that it will be easier to abolish one agency than six of them (hah!). To ensure the success of their plan, Republicans also support the nomination of Ralph Nader as Commissioner of Public Welfare.

2004–Commissioner Nader receives the results of a three-year study of the causes of death from the Center for Cerebral Calculations, a new Washington think-tank whose board of directors includes former Senator Strom Thurmond and former President Gerald Ford. The study reveals that almost everyone who was ever born had died. The authors of the study recommend the banning of births to put a stop to deaths. Commissioner Nader, armed with powers inherited from the Food and Drug Administration, bans births in the United States and urges the United Nations to pass a resolution in support of a world-wide ban on births.

2009–A further five-year study by the Center for Cerebral Calculations reveals that deaths continue (though Strom Thurmond and Gerald Ford still seem to be breathing). A full-scale investigation shows that all deaths recorded since 2004 were among persons born before the ban on births. The Commissioner orders all persons still living to report to government health and oil-change clinics for genetic treatment to suspend the aging process. He also institutes a five-year plan for the perfection of all citizens: by 2014, every American over the age of two must be a full-time student in a government-approved educational institution run by the American Education Association.

2013–Nearly everyone in the U.S. is enrolled in AEA nursery schools, grade schools, colleges, and graduate schools. Most factories and stores are closed, trucks idled, trains on sidings, and airplanes grounded. Heat is supplied by wood stoves; the only air-conditioning is an occasional breeze. (Environmentalists hail the “return to nature.”) The most active citizens are gangs marauding through streets while police are earning advanced degrees in criminal psychology. (Police have no weapons, anyway, because Commissioner Nader had banned them in 2010. Gang members, unable to read, hadn’t bothered to surrender their weapons.)

2014–Organized crime takes over the street gangs. Mob leader and womens’ libber Bubbles Berlitz, noting that “crime wouldn’t pay if da government ran it,” announces sweeping reforms to make crime more efficient. She adds that “stolen money ain’t woith much any more because dere’s hardly anyt’ing to buy wid it.”

2019–The mob’s five-year plan to make crime pay by restoring the economy is successful. Mob-run hospitals do a booming business in baby delivery, and mob-run enterprises employ most of the nation’s clandestine school dropouts. Former President Dogooder — having appointed himself to the more powerful position of Commissioner of Public Welfare — orders the mob to cease and desist from its unlawful activities. He is found in the Potomac River, wearing concrete swimming trunks.

2020–The mob decides it could make more money if it were to allow its enterprises to compete with one another, on the strange assumption that the bosses of those operations which satisfy consumers’ wants efficiently will reap greater profits. The other bosses must shape up or, in the words of Bubbles Berlitz, “get a free, one-way ride into da countryside.” Having found success without any more violence or coercion than had prevailed in the days of John D. Rockefeller, the mob focuses on random crimes perpetrated by independent operators and resuscitates the criminal justice system to deal with them. Bubbles Berlitz basks in her newly found legitimacy and runs for President.

2021–President Berlitz asks Congress to abolish the Commissariat for Public Welfare, and not to replace it with anything because the nation has become so prosperous under the rejuvenated free-market system. Congress is swayed by Ms. Berlitz’s persuasive charm — and by the photos she has stashed in her safe. Life in Washington, D.C., returns to normal.