Shadowrun: Throw Back
Fall of the United States
We cannot fully understand where we are until we know how we got here. So to understand the UCAS, we have to examine the toppled giant from which it sprang.
The last decade of the 20th century was a Rind of false dawn, for it seemed to be the beginning of an era of global peace. Though it definitely produced such major changes as the superpowers reducing their strategic nuclear arsenals by 90 percent, it was only the calm before the storm.
The candidates in the presidential campaign of 1992 played on the American people’s desire for peace, security, and prosperity. The winner, Jeffrey Lynch, was swept into office on a huge majority, which he referred to in his inaugural address “as a mandate to cure the ills of the nation and bring a new vitality to America.” Seeing how easily the voters bought this line, Congress quickly fell into step behind President Lynch’s programs.
By the end of Lynch’s second term in 2000, the U. S. power structure had undergone some fundamental changes. A wave of deregulation had begun in 1996, touted by the slogan “Invest in America, Inc.” The U.S. Postal Service was the first to go, broken up and sold to private messenger companies. Following in quick succession were the U. S. Weather Service, Forest Service, Amtrak, and a half-dozen other public services. This altered relationship between the U. S. and big business ended the necessity for the various regulatory agencies. The high (or low) point of this trend came when President Philip Bester approved the dissolution of NASA and the sale of its facilities to private interests. Except for a pair of shuttles retained for intelligence and military missions, the U.S. had abandoned space exploration.
By 1998, the defense establishment had been cut by almost 40 percent, with even bigger cuts in procurement and R&D for new weapon systems. Many companies saw their defense contracts dry up, while predicted increases in peacetime markets failed to materialize. Congress was concentrating on reducing a huge deficit, which also meant trimming or eliminating many social service programs as well.
As international tensions decreased, domestic unrest increased dramatically. The unemployment rate climbed to 50 percent in some regions as overloaded welfare services began to break down all over the country. The last years of the century brought widespread strikes, culminating in 1998 and 1999 in the teamster strikes that led to food riots in many cities.
THE ORDELL COURT
Three of the Supreme Court justices appointed during the Burger court died or retired between 1993 and 1998. Justices who supported the policies of the current administration were appointed to replace them, neatly stacking the deck.
Chief Justice Burger retired for health reasons in 1994 and was succeeded by Terence Ordell, an outspoken conservative law professor from the East Coast. Ordell’s court handed down decisions based on a narrow interpretation of the Constitution and his abrasive opinion on laws that ”.. .gave criminals a ‘Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free’ card.”
In the next decade, many of the Ordell Court’s decisions overturned or significantly eroded earlier rulings on the laws of evidence and probable cause. The Court also reduced government controls of corporate practices. Other Ordell court decisions increased the executive branch’s decision-making power, relative to that of the legislative and judicial branches. All that now stood between the whims of the government and the rights of the citizens was the government’s promise of good faith. The citizens didn’t have a chance.
With the Supreme Court’s landmark Seretech vs. The United States (1999) and Shiawase Corporation vs. the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2001) decisions, multinational corporations gained virtual autonomy on American soil. The age of the megacorp had arrived.
The first decade of the 21st century saw the decline of the U. S. military presence worldwide. Troop strength in Europe was drastically reduced. The burgeoning military strength of Japan, which was growing to match the country’s economic power, led to a phase-out of U. S. bases in both Japan and Okinawa. By 2010, no significant American military presence existed west of the Philippines.
ROAD TO DENVER
Martin Hunt served as U. S. President from 2001-2004, and was the last president who could have averted the collapse of his nation. Blocked by a stubborn Congress and a hostile Supreme Court, Hunt failed in his attempts to wrest economic and political control of America from the megacorporations. After only one term in office, Hunt was succeeded by Philip Bester in 2004, following a bitterly fought campaign. Bester, the former governor of Colorado, was for all practical purposes a puppet of the corporations.
Hunt had managed to block the megacorps’ politically motivated efforts to open federally protected lands to exploitation during his administration. Once Bester was in the White House, however, the government almost tripped over its own feet giving industry access to federal resource reserves. Bester’s successor, Jesse Garrety, who served from 2008-2016, followed by William Jarman, elected in 2016, treated opposition to exploitation of government resources as virtual sedition.
Garrety’s “cowboy” attitude was not, however, the worst part of his administration. What made him infamous was the so-called Re-Education And Relocation Act of 2009, which herded the Native American population and their supporters into camps. This act also made possible pits of brutality like the maximum-security enclosure in Abilene. William Jarman, who had supported Garrety’s policies for four years as vice president, won the 2016 presidential election by campaigning stridently against his predecessor’s “inhumane” actions in dealing with the Sovereign American Indian Movement.
This about-face did not last long, however. Once in office, Jarman began to exterminate members of NAN. The Ghost Dance and its bloody results, which led to the shattering of North America, can be blamed directly on these two men.
It says something about the desperate mentality of thecountry that Jarman was returned to office in 2020, despite a disastrous first term. Then came the 29th Amendment to the Constitution, which allowed a president to serve an unlimited number of terms in office. This radical development could have come about through the powerful control that the corporations exerted over government and the people’s confusion in the midst of chaos. Jarman won the election in 2024, becoming the first three-term president since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Jarman’s administration would have had its hands full even if the only challenge it had faced was restructuring the country. The year 2021, as everyone knows, was the year of Goblinization. Perhaps the experience with Howling Coyote and his Ghost Dancers made Jarman loathe to try his usual solution to whatever he perceived as a threat— annihilation. In any event, his administration did not start rounding up the Awakened and slapping them into concentration camps. Indeed, government research teams from the Center for Disease Control and elsewhere were instrumental in proving to a terrified public that the change was not a contagious condition, and that there was no medical justification for isolating the victims of goblinization. This response was one of the U.S. government’s few enlightened actions in these years.
THE FINAL BLOW
From 2001 to 2029, the U. S. lost almost a third of its population to VITAS and more than a third of its territory to NAN. Meanwhile, the national debt continued to skyrocket, resulting in even more drastic cuts in social programs.
The Computer Crash of ‘29 shattered what remained of the economy, along with telecommunications and transport systems. On April 9, 2029, for example, the virus infected the national air traffic-control network. As a result of in accurate signals and scrambled communications, 27 major air accidents occurred within two hours, with a death toll in the thousands. Non-essential air traffic remained grounded for almost a week following the disaster, until a new control network could be cobbled together.
North America’s cities were cut off from one another and from outlying regions. Riots erupted everywhere. For food. For fear. For the hell of it. Everyone lived in a terrorized bunker mentality. Straying onto the wrong street could get you shot, or at least detained by private security forces or the neighborhood militia. Government and corporate centers became fortresses.
For a time, it looked like the final collapse of state based culture in North America, setting the stage for the emergence of neo-anarchy. But the big boys had a rabbit in their hat, and chose this moment to produce it.
Next Section: Birth of the UCAS