Images on this page are from a project I did years ago called “Have you finished destroying America yet?” Little did I know how possible it was.
America in 2025 is a war zone. The sudden brutal crash of the banks and the massive devaluation of the US dollar left a hole where there was a nation. The dystopian dreams of the past turned out to be way too optimistic.
In 2022, the ongoing pandemic had done its damage. Businesses closed in their millions, mainly bankrupt and were unable to even open their doors. The second, third and fourth waves of infection eventually killed millions.
The business sector effectively collapsed. Debt destroyed the banks and investment markets as defaults spiralled out of control. The Dow and NASDAQ filed for bankruptcy early. Money became so expensive the banks couldn’t operate at all. Bank lending rates rose to incredible figures. Nobody could afford to borrow or lend.
People found their cash had effectively ceased to exist even if their banks were still open. They had no money in real terms, and for a while, evictions and huge confrontations in big apartment blocks were the norm.
The US bond market vanished in tides of useless debt. China dumped bonds, and the crash reverberated throughout the US debt market, hideously. Derivatives, junk bonds, you name it; the entire debt mountain range fell into unmanageable bits and pieces. 2008 was barely a hint of this sudden demise of debt assets.
Property asset values also crashed and kept crashing. Nobody could afford to buy or borrow. Money was so expensive at 35% rates that it was unthinkable to borrow. A nation of renters sat nervously waiting for the usual monthly increase in rents. A modest $20,000 a week for a room is now considered a good deal.
Property rights evaporated, too. Nobody had the money to prosecute squatters or people who simply barged in. Local vigilante groups battled each other, some “conquering” neighboring counties.
(The only real brake on this “shooting solves everything” situation was that weapons and ammunition were hoarded, and sparingly used. Manufacturers went broke, so the stockpiles of the past became priceless assets.)
Food prices went out of control almost immediately. As growers and manufacturers went bust, the black market took over. A lettuce for $300 became a bargain. Armed guards patrolled the local vegetable gardens.
There was no work. Anywhere. Even if there was, a wage to make ends meet was simply impossible. No job could pay the tens of thousands of dollars it took to hire someone for a month. If nobody can do business, who needs employees? The private sector workforce basically disappeared. The public sector was as bad or worse. Law enforcement and local government collapsed.
Most people soon went back to a medieval subsistence economy. Barter replaced money because money was basically worthless. Food became the currency, and weapons the luxury market. It’s not uncommon to see stallholders with assault weapons, charging big money for groceries of all kinds.
(If you’ve seen that 2024 movie, “The Apple Growers”, the scene where the young couple bring their baskets of apples as symbols of a prosperous future is perhaps one of the most underrated scenes in history. It’s also true. Many people now flaunt food as proof of wealth.)
The Disunited States of America
States seceded, but it didn’t accomplish much if anything. What it did do was fragment the continental US and prevent any type of coordinated national response to the economic disasters. The problems were already there and simply got worse. California did better in terms of food, but a big population meant a big liability for services. Other states shut their borders, more cosmetically than in fact, but the go it alone mentality created endless internal squabbles and actual gunfights in some areas. “County Wars” are underreported, but common enough.
What was left of the Federal government, an executive with no real power and little if any real influence, sputtered out. Nobody cared what the White House had to say. The years of disinformation and digression made it irrelevant, in so many ways. The president became the nation’s janitor, trying to clean up a mess that was totally out of control.
The US military, faced with this imploding jigsaw of a nation, was stuck with a useless range of choices of actions. They couldn’t affect the economic meltdown, which was the real cause of the problems. They couldn’t maintain civil order, because there was no order any more. The most useful thing they could do was guard and maintain essential services.
The massive breakdowns in the antiquated infrastructure, however, eventually undercut even that. Most US bases went into “local defence” mode. Fortunately, they were able to maintain a level of coherence for national defence, although potentially hostile nations like China were by now also in meltdown mode, due to their own much-undiscussed problems.
Capitalism in ruins
Capitalism in the US effectively destroyed itself. Ridiculous prices for decades created a black hole of debt and debt defaults. Huge prices also instantly devalued wealth. If a billion dollars can’t buy you a meal, what use is a billion dollars?
Asset values became a bad, expensive, joke. All that massive overvaluation and exclusionist price policies trashed private wealth very effectively. Prices were already high in 2020. By 2023, they’d soared beyond reach. Money wasn’t even worth stealing.
“Ruins” is no metaphor. Maintenance failed due to lack of people who were trying to survive. Cities had been virtually abandoned, so they naturally deteriorated. When the hordes returned to the cities, having found much less accommodation in the regional areas, the repairs required were almost impossible to even begin.
To add insult to disaster, the snow melt produced about 20% of normal. Starved dams and water storage fell drastically, adding more fun. Bore wells were dug, but again, supply shortfalls meant it wasn’t a real solution in terms of just drinking water, let alone anything else.
Power systems, which are high-maintenance at any time, suffered most. The antiquated grid system broke down. Even with cheap oil and fossil fuel generators, nobody could afford to buy the major reboots required to update and upgrade it. The summer of 2023 was horrific. Heat waves killed and hospitalized more people than the pandemic of 2020. Winter is looking worse.
Sanitation, similarly, is in collapse mode due to costs and the sheer lack of money to manage operation and maintenance. The cities and counties went broke and these systems deteriorated fast. The result is a mix of unreliable systems and constant plumbing issues.
Losing the basics
Water supplies, compromised and utterly neglected long before 2020, were now too dangerous. Contamination from old systems, leaky mains, and of course the ever-popular megatonnage of pollutants did the rest.
America, following its instincts, then ran out of bottled water. Nobody could afford to manufacture it. Old methods of purifying water came back, but the volume of water available for bottling was down, drastically.
Food turned into a massive, and extremely brutal, black market. South America in particular was the source for food at incredible prices. The battered US dollar remains static at about 1-5% of its previous value, pre-pandemic. Billionaires became millionaires overnight, and everyone else went broke. Even junk food became too expensive to make, let alone sell.
Housing has become a raffle. A decent place, with working systems, power and water, is a rarity. Most housing is now substandard. Crowding to share costs has created a never-ending cycle of negatives, from routine murders to 50 people living in a 3 bedroom house. These places make the old “crack houses” look like mansions.
Even the ubiquitous cell phone has disappeared. Too expensive to use, and way to expensive to replace, it simply died. Apple moved to Ireland. Google moved to Germany. Most working phones are now hybrids, made from older phones, and they’re incredibly costly to run.
Health is no longer a topic for discussion. The death rate from diseases skyrocketed as the big crashes happened. Vaccination stopped, almost entirely. Diseases like TB, typhus, and cholera returned to their medieval roles as mass killers.
The World Health Organization now describes America as the most dangerous place on Earth for communicable diseases. Nobody in America is arguing.
The American refugees
Not everybody stuck around in the US when the impending crash became visible. Millions of Americans departed, early in the process. It was like Ireland during the Famine. Nobody knows exactly how many people left the US, but they took with them anything of value.
Most of these expat Americans also managed to become lifelines for stranded friends and relatives. They send useful things like food in the same way people used to send money. Not everyone, however, was quite so generous. Other expats did an excellent trade in food and water. The famous episode of someone acquiring the land and properties of the Guggenheim for half a ton of canned corn beef is an obvious example.
Canada and Mexico, despite serious ethical and practical misgivings, had to close their borders. The hordes of Americans trying to cross over made the Latin American illegals look like a local family picnic. To this day, since the peak in 2024, at least a million Americans are on the move trying to get out of the country every month. Younger people in particular are leaving in huge numbers, legally or otherwise. As someone said, America has become a nursing home for the old, the sick and those who simply can’t move.
America and the world
The world, meanwhile, was faced yet again with the question of what it could do about a totally dysfunctional America. Not much, was the answer. Foreign aid was attempted, and failed dismally. A heavily armed, hyper-paranoid America was described as worse than the Sudan from day one, and it got worse, fast. The aid workers were evacuated after someone online said they were aliens. They were shot at in all 50 states. Nothing of note was accomplished.
America’s fall has been hideous. The rotting skylines of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are as dangerous as they look. The big high-maintenance buildings are literally falling apart. The rubble remains, unremoved.
The only thing that’s working these days is “disaster tourism”, earning foreign capital, which is worth far more. People now make a living simply explaining what the vast heaps of garbage and rubble used to be. They don’t mention what it could have been, if this hadn’t happened. It’s just too hard to talk about.