America may be on the verge of a catastrophic default on its national debt. There would be no real reason for this default -- it can easily be avoided, and is only being considered because our politicians, particularly Republicans in Washington, have gone insane. So what should you do, in the meantime, to prepare yourself?
It’s a good question! Right now, U.S. Treasury bonds are an important benchmark in the global economy. Trillions of dollars of transactions depend on the security of these bonds. The very definition of financial risk in much of the world is predicated on the notion that America will never, ever default on its debt. Experts expect major bank failures, a collapse of various normally safe mutual funds and general chaos if the U.S. defaults. At home, we would see an immediate government shutdown on steroids, as services go offline and the Treasury Department attempts to juggle the chainsaws as best it can to postpone the most dire effects of a default scenario.
President Barack Obama has a few weird options he can exercise as well. A slew of legal scholars believe Obama can unilaterally raise the debt ceiling based upon the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which states that "the validity of the public debt … shall not be questioned." Fans of quirky monetary tricks note that the president could also mint a trillion-dollar platinum coin, deposit it at the Federal Reserve, and keep the lights on indefinitely. Obama, has, in the past, rejected both of these ideas -- but if the debt ceiling calamity looks inevitable, he may have to revisit them.
Nevertheless, the hour of debt ceiling darkness is drawing nigh. On Oct. 17, the government runs out of extraordinary measures and the state will begin failing to make good on its obligations. Absent a congressional debt ceiling hike or Obama debt ceiling magic, the U.S. will be missing bond payments by the end of the month, plunging the world into turmoil and chaos. How will you survive this new world order? Well, you probably won’t. But here’s how to give yourself a fighting chance.
First, allow yourself to panic: Panic is inevitable, so just get on with it as quickly as possible. Let it wash over you. Cleanse yourself in its heat. Let the panic burn away all thoughts of the luxuries you once savored as a member of 21st century human civilization. Allow the fear to clarify things for you. Allow yourself to be reborn, as a person capable of things you wouldn’t have ordinarily thought yourself to be capable of. Bloody things. Once past your now outdated moral and ethical considerations, you are ready to begin.
You will probably want to heavily arm yourself: Those that already have done so will have a huge leg up in this department, so act fast and acquire sufficient armaments, and be prepared to use them. (Some suggestions can be found here.) Alternatively, you can seek out the toughest, most heavily armed person you know and pledge your servitude to that person. You will want to make a very simple, very cogent case about what you have to offer this person in exchange for protection. Bear in mind that if you are a “political blogger,” there is probably no place for you in this new society. You should ask for the end to come quickly and painlessly.
If you work at a Medieval Times restaurant, you already have a bit of an advantage in navigating what our new feudal society is going to be like. And sadly, those weird Crossfit people are probably going to rise in the ranks fairly quickly.
Acquire the means to start fires as quickly as possible: Mankind has been taking its ability to just start fires at will for granted. After the defaultpocalypse, it’s going to get very hard. You should probably spend a sizable amount of your time over the next few weeks learning how to set fires without our modern means of doing so. Barring that, stockpile as many fire-starting implements as you can.
Cigarettes are a better hedge against the dollar than gold: Have you been buying gold? Wow, that was a big mistake! You are not really going to be able to buy anything with a commodity devoid of practical utility. It’s possible you might be able to trade gold for your life, if you are up against a particularly stupid warlord distracted by shiny objects. The new medium of exchange in the defaultocalypse will probably look a lot like the one currently used in prisons, so consider cigarette default swaps.
Carve a hole in the bottom of your mattress: Staying rested is essential and sleeping on the pile of cigarettes you horde before the crash can be rough. Smokes aren't as comfy as a tempurpedic pillow, but they're easy to hide from roving bandits when stuffed with care into a dug-out crater under your mattress.
Find a sturdy, non-rusty garbage can: You will probably need this to start fires in. Also, you can roll your junk around inside it.
Train and befriend a wolf: They will prove to be helpful companions and able watchdogs when society turns on itself. And chances are, an enormous amount of societal status will accrue to someone who can command the wolves at will.
Train and befriend a carrier pigeon: This is how you will “GChat” after the default crisis.
Befriend Liam Neeson if you can: Speaking of wolves, did you know that 80 percent of the movie “Into The Grey,” starring Liam Neeson, is actually just found footage from his real life, spent surviving arctic conditions and killing wolves with his bare hands? It’s true. Pledging your servitude to Neeson would be a really good move right now, especially if you find yourself having to face down the Wolf Lord clan for survival.
Get as many canned goods as possible: Food supplies won't be immediately depleted. But they can't be trusted. With food inspectors already furloughed and international trade likely to slow, expect a disruption in your normal diet. And prepare for the inevitable hunger pains. You’ll want to avoid tunafish, because no one is coming to treat you for the mercury poisoning you develop after you’ve eaten a bunch of not-checked-by-food-inspectors tins of tuna. Also, while beans are hearty, you probably don’t want to stumble into your life in this new society with a reputation for flatulence.
Do you know how to farm anything? See, this is one of those skills with which you can bargain for protection. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to know how to hunt, either. Or to field dress a wild animal. Fishing is also a worthwhile skill to have. Basically, you’ll be spending your life growing and gathering food for your clan, so it would help if you actually enjoyed doing this stuff, too.
Buy survival seeds: As the Survival Seed Bank website notes, you can plant a "full acre crisis garden!" But you’d better do this within the protective barriers that your post-default liege erects to protect his holdings.
Buy fake survival seeds: You can give these to the guy who will try and steal your survivor seeds.
What to do about books? This is a judgment call. You probably won’t have much time to read that new Dave Eggers book, and carrying around a bunch of non-essential stuff is a no-go. Still it would be useful to help keep Western Civilization alive in some fashion. And everyone knows that Liam Neeson likes a good night read while being tucked into bed. Perhaps you can convince your liege to erect his fortifications around a library? You can argue that the library contains useful guides to basic latrine engineering and animal husbandry. Plus, in a pinch, you can burn the Twilight series -- and any other “tween paranormal romance” novels -- for warmth.
Duct tape is helpful: Seriously, duct tape is one of mankind's most amazing creations, with more uses than you can even fathom. Stock up right this minute, if only to wrap around your hands for use as an alternative to the gloves that will be stolen from you.
Make sure you have a good pair of shoes: You'll be moving around a lot, so make sure your shoes are sturdy and comfortable and solid in all sorts of extreme conditions. Think in terms of a good pair of Carhartt work boots -- kick those Kenneth Coles to the curb. This is the post-default hellscape, not a fashion show.
Finally, leave that acoustic guitar at home: No one wants to hear your singer-songwriter bullshit right now.
Enjoy the defaultocalypse!