Paved with Good Intentions

Submitted into Contest #170 in response to: Start your story with the line “I’ve got a plan”. ... view prompt

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Fiction Historical Fiction Drama

“I’ve got a plan,” said Mr. Robinson.

All eyes were on him as the candlelight fixtures - spaced regularly along the walls - flickered with an artificial glow. Those that stood around the room seemed to share nervous energy. The only ones who looked calm were the four who sat in leather-bound chairs arranged in a semi-circle and facing a beautifully-carved, oak desk. Despite the massive amount of individual power accumulated within the room, no one bid Mr. Robinson to continue. Only one could give such a command and he stood by the window, the afternoon sun filtering in and detailing his tall, stanch features.

“Why do they always hate what I do?” he mumbled.

“I’m sorry, Mr. President,” said Mr. Robinson, “I didn’t catch that.”

President Sherman turned. Before he took office he had been an optimistic man, full of life, and purpose, and possessed a contagious smile that brightened the room. Now, his black hair was peppered beyond its years, wrinkles scared his face, and without a conscious effort, his smile seemed forced.

“Why must they always gather on the east lawn?” President Sherman asked. “Have they no appreciation for the landscaping?”

“Sir,” Mr. Robinson said, more assertive this time, “I have a plan.”

He stared at the man who used to be his secretary during the early parts of his presidency but was later recruited by the intelligence agency as their chief liaison.

“Well, out with it, Robinson.”

“Most of the protesters are small business owners that feel like the new bill you just signed unfairly favors big corporations -”

“That’s absurd,” Bill interrupted, “We worked directly with many different senators to make sure that wasn’t so.”

Sherman stared at the fat man sitting in one of the leather chairs. Mr. Robinson flashed a look at Bill, silencing whatever he was going to say next. Everyone else did the same. They knew better than to interrupt Mr. Robinson, even if Bill did own the largest retail chain in the country.

“As I was saying,” Mr. Robinson continued, “We can set up a special account for loans and grants made available only to small business owners. It’s a simple solution but it could make a big impact.”

Sherman looked at the slender woman sitting next to Bill. Though her posture was relaxed with her legs crossed and arms resting on each armrest, she had an air about her that put him on edge.

“Ms. Kelley?” the President asked, “Are we able to afford that?”

A thin smile appeared on her face, a reaction every central banker seemed to have when asked if the government could afford something.

“Possibly,” she said, “but it would involve printing more money and the creation of new taxes.”

“No new taxes,” Senator Johnson, a career politician, said. “The bill will take too long to shove through congress if it contains new taxes. If you want fast approval, you’ll have to include the tax increase in another bill.”

“We are drafting a couple of new bills that will be ready in the coming months,” Mrs. Stacy said. “We can pepper the new taxes into each one so they will fly under the radar.”

Sherman eyed her, suspiciously. He never did get used to groups outside the government drafting legislation for select officials to ram through Congress. Though he trusted Mrs. Stacy had good intentions, he knew the organization she represented, The Council for Global Equality and Peace (CGEP), had its own agenda and commanded a considerable amount of private wealth that they could easily shuffle around the world. However, if not for them and their media connections, Sherman doubted he could have been elected on his own.

“So then, passing an Executive Order to print more money should be the route to go,” said Mr. Robinson.

“That would be the fastest way,” said Ms. Kelley.

The President looked out the window his cabinet talked amongst themselves about the nuances of how the Executive Order should be phrased. The large crowd on the east lawn had been bursting with energy for hours, shaking their colorful signs and chanting their slogans. Something in Sherman’s gut told him that throwing money at them was not a sustainable solution but what did he know? The people in the room were his trusted cabinet and were experts in their fields with pages of prestigious credentials. He gave a silent sigh, turned, and then said, “Alright, let’s do it.”

* * * 4 Months Later * * *

Sherman stared at the large crowd gathered on the east lawn, his eyes narrowing at their feet.

“The grass was greener when I first took office,” he mumbled.

“What was that, sir?” asked Mr. Robinson.

President Sherman turned away from the window, his arms crossed.

“Oh, nothing. What did you guys come up with?”

Mr. Robinson passed over a thick stack of papers. Sherman took one look at it and shook his head.

“Just tell me what it says,” he said.

“The billions of dollars we printed for small businesses have caused an inflationary spike. Those outside are from low-income communities that have been most affected,” Robinson said and then pointed to the papers. “This bill crafted by Senator Johnson, Ms. Kelley, and Mrs. Stacy will alleviate their troubles with targeted stimulus.”

“More money printing?”

“Yes.”

“Won’t that cause more inflation?”

“Yes but it will be transitory,” said Ms. Kelley, “Poor people are always shortsighted. They never understand the multitude of nuances that go into running a global economy. The money we print will float them past the transitory period.”

Sherman stared at her for a long moment. He didn’t like how quick she was to suggest turning on the money printer.

“Are you sure of this?”

“The data gathered from our advanced computer models prove that this inflationary period will only last a few months.”

* * * 3 months later * * *

“You said inflation was transitory!” President Sherman screamed.

Ms. Kelley tapped nervously with her foot as she shifted in the leather chair.

“There were . . .unaccounted-for variables in our computer models.”

Sherman crossed his arms and glared at the banker.

“You’re damned right there were unaccounted-for variables. Consumer price inflation is up 8.4 percent since last month!”

He stormed over to the window and threw open the curtain. A large crowd stood on the east lawn, violently shouting and shaking their signs. Someone among them shouted on a bull horn but their words were muffled by the bulletproof glass of the window.

“I trusted you and what do I get? An angry crowd of farmers protesting high prices. It’s a slippery slope when the government starts to F with farmers!”

The room was silent as President Sherman made eye contact with each of them. The only ones who didn’t avert his gaze were those sitting in the chairs: Mr. Robinson, Ms. Kelley, Mrs. Stacy, and Bill.

“Election season is about to begin and my rating is sliding downhill faster than you all can write speeches.”

Mr. Robinson cleared his throat and took out a stack of papers. He offered it to the president but Sherman just glared at him.

“Just tell me what it says,” he barked.

“We drafted up this plan to fix this issue,” said Mr. Robinson.

“Oh really? A new plan . . .that quick? How convenient.”

Mr. Robinson nodded and then said, “The farmers are frustrated that the cost of living is too high and say they’re having a hard time turning a profit with their crops. We suggest subsidizing the amount they spend on water and diesel, at least until the end of the harvest.”

“What about the existing small business account I approved earlier this year?”

“That account has already dried up, sir.”

President Sherman crossed his arms and stared at Bill and the other prominent C.E.Os standing in the back of the room.

“You guys wouldn’t have anything to do with that, would you?”

“No,” Bill replied, all too quickly. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed the sweat beading on his forehead.

“Just seems odd that a multi-billion dollar account would dry up so quickly,” said Sherman.

Ms. Kelley stepped in and curved the conversation by saying, “This bill has a very affordable price tag.”

“Let me guess,” Sherman growled, “we have to print more money.”

“Yes.”

“Won’t that cause more inflation?”

“No and actually, this will be good for our annual gross domestic product numbers. All of our models say so.”

“Your models were wrong before.”

“We just had a think tank on this topic last month,” said Mrs. Stacy, “Subsidizing farmers can actually promote a more equitable and inclusive economy and thus promote better productivity.”

Sherman looked out the window at the east lawn. The group of protesters seemed to grow with every decision they made.

“You guys better be right.”

* * * 1 month later * * *

“Mr. Robinson,” President Sherman called as he stared out toward the east lawn. Mr. Robinson casually walked over to his side.

“Yes, Mr. President?”

“Would you mind explaining to me why there are protesters on the east lawn when it’s below freezing outside?”

“Those would be the truckers, sir.”

“And what do they want?”

“When we subsidized diesel for the farmers, the truckers felt cheated that they weren’t subsidized too.”

Sherman pointed to the large group of protesters.

“You mean to tell me that all of those people are truckers wanting subsidies?”

Mr. Robinson shook his head and then explained that the farmers and poor people were in the crowd too.

“What the hell could they possibly want now?”

“They want more subsidies.”

President Sherman rolled his eyes.

“Of course they do. You start passing out candy and all the kids come running.”

“We have a plan though,” said Ms. Stacy and pointed to a stack of papers in her hand.

“Does it include more money printing?”

There was a brief silence and then she nodded. Sherman’s eyes narrowed and he shook his head.

“Absolutely not. We’re not doing this again.”

“But Sher . . .Mr. President, it’s a solid plan, equitable and fair. The people will love it.”

“I said no!” Sherman boomed. “All year we have promised these hard-working people that the decisions we made would help. Instead, we have failed them.”

With that, he stormed over to the door. A few of his secret service agents followed.

“Mr. President?” asked Mr. Robinson, “Where are you going?”

“To the east lawn! I’m going to apologize for the mess we have created and explain to them that the only way out of this is to rip off the band-aid, revoke my previous Executive Orders, and allow the free market to resolve the issue.”

Then with a forceful motion, he ripped open the door and disappeared down the hall. When he was gone, Mr. Robinson shook his head.

“He should know better,” he said, “Even the most junior politician knows never to apologize. Once there’s blood in the water, the sharks come swimming.”

“Probably his old optimism coming back to him,” said Ms. Kelley.

“Don’t worry,” said Mrs. Stacy, “ we got a plan for that.”

Mr. Robinson stared at her until he figured out what she was getting at.

“You got guys out there in the protest?” Mr. Robinson asked.

“Always have.”

Just like Mr. Robinson predicted, the speech was a complete disaster and the media raked him over the coals for it. His approval rating plummeted as every talk show in the nation blasted him for his poor leadership. In the year leading up to the election, he tried to boost his standing by leading a coalition to pass more bills that promoted free-market capitalism, but every effort was blocked by CGEP-backed senators, representatives, and lawyers.

Come election day, he lost in a landslide to Senator Johnson who somehow managed to raise five times the amount of funds he was able to put together, most of it coming from subsidiaries of the CGEP. On the day Johnson assumed office, he walked up the marble steps of the capital building, head held high with a twinkle of hope in his eye. Sherman knew the look. It was the same one he had on his first day as president. As was the custom, he walked down to meet his replacement.

“You had a good run and put up a hell of a fight,” Johnson said as the two shook hands.

Cameras flashed and reporters shuffled behind them, keeping their distance to preserve the authenticity of the moment. Sherman pulled him in close and warned him to be careful who he decided to fill his cabinet with.

“They will screw you the first chance they get.”

“Thanks for the advice,” Johnson said with a smile.

With that, Johnson walked the rest of the steps up to the walkway that led into the capitol building. Sherman watched him ascend, a nervous feeling swelling in his gut as the new president was quickly greeted by Mr. Robinson, Ms. Kelley, and Mrs. Stacy. All three of them were eager to shake Johnson’s hand and, after they took some photos with the press, led him to his new office. 

November 03, 2022 18:11

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7 comments

John K Adams
16:51 Nov 10, 2022

You changed the names to protect the guilty! Though I'm a bit of a political wonk, I fear most people yawn when policy discussions get too far into the weeds. Which is why printing money is so popular with the recipients (as you already know). You captured the history of the last two years very succinctly. I hope we survive to elect a replacement.

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Kevin Alphatooni
17:21 Nov 10, 2022

We will survive, but like the immolation of the Phoenix, we must go through a period of destruction to be born anew, pure and good.

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John K Adams
23:41 Nov 10, 2022

I like that. well done.

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John K Adams
16:51 Nov 10, 2022

You changed the names to protect the guilty! Though I'm a bit of a political wonk, I fear most people yawn when policy discussions get too far into the weeds. Which is why printing money is so popular with the recipients (as you already know). You captured the history of the last two years very succinctly. I hope we survive to elect a replacement.

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Jeannette Miller
01:20 Nov 07, 2022

As a Libertarian, this should be labeled political horror, lol. "Print more money." EEKS! I think you captured the slippery slope of politics and subsidies. Well done.

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Kevin Alphatooni
16:04 Nov 07, 2022

Your comment made me laugh. Gotta love the good ol' Modern Monetary Theory.

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Jeannette Miller
20:51 Nov 07, 2022

Better to laugh then cry I suppose. :)

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