Wondering what the future could hold for capitalism and national pride in our city? Find out with author BJ Hill in the Sun’s serial glimpse into the fantastic, fascinating (and mostly fictional) possibilities of a not-so distant tomorrow.
May 30, 2028 — A Worcester company has become the 13th and final firm whose name will appear on the New Flag of the United States of America. For $2 trillion, D&A Cybernetics purchased the rights to place its moniker and logo within the red bottom stripe of the flag. By terms of the contract, the names will be on the flag for at least 20 years. Companies had to pay 10 percent of the cost up front, with 20 years to pay off the remainder. Only American-based companies were allowed to bid.
When U.S. President Dwayne Johnson introduced the idea of selling placement rights to the flag during his first presidential campaign in 2020, it received a practically hostile reception and almost cost him the Democratic Party’s nomination.
More What if … Worcester: Gardens and gargoyles: Dilapidated churches grow into urban farms
But accounting for the devastating 2025 hurricane season, the cataclysmic Las Vegas earthquake of 2027, the expensive Second Korean Conflict earlier this decade, a shaky Social Security program, and the recent eight-month government shutdown, politicians on both sides of the aisle agreed to revisit the controversial idea.
“This shows that this isn’t any flag. It’s a modern-day flag,” President Johnson said when he announced the call for bids in December. He said that 100 percent of the $26 trillion raised over the next two decades would go directly to the national debt, which today stands at about $29 trillion.
The other 12 companies on the flag will be Amazon — whose second headquarters, once thought to be Worcester-bound, ended up in North Andover — Alphabet (Google), ExxonMobilCitgo, Thousand Oaks Capital, DuPont, GE, Citigroup, Walmart, The Walt Disney Company, Dunkin’ Brands, Monsanto, and Marlboro (Philip Morris USA (Altria)).
Even more What if … Worcester: Baby in a blink: UMass technology eases child-bearing
Observers noted that the new flags would be manufactured and on shelves just in time for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics and the 2029 Manned Mars Launch.
“The American flag is one of the greatest, most recognized symbols on earth — and in space,” said Dr. Mohun Vadekar, president of D&A Cybernetics, at a press conference at the firm’s South Worcester Industrial Park world headquarters. “Our decision to buy into the New American Flag Campaign says that American values — hard work, quality products and can-do attitude — are also D&A’s values.”
Not everyone was impressed, however. About a two dozen demonstrators assembled outside the Southgate Street offices.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Jake Johnston of Worcester. “I served in the Second Korean Conflict to protect our country. I had friends who died for that flag. And now we’re using it like a cheap magazine to sell advertisements? This is lower than that summer they pasted cellphone ads over all the monuments in Washington.”
Hector Ruiz of Auburn was on the other side of the street watching the protesters. “I don’t see anything wrong with it,” he said. “Our leaders want things like billion-dollar wars and [border] walls. That’s fine. But they got to get the money from somewhere. Better it’s from the flag than from my tax bill.”
“I’m just happy that we can settle our debt with China,” added his wife, Kelly Smith-Ruiz. “If some names on a flag for 20 years is going to guarantee that we’ll have our prescriptions and our Medicare and our Social Security when we retire, then I can live with that.”
As of the fall of 2017, the United States of America is $20.2 trillion dollars in the red. Every man, woman and child owes about $62,000.
Regularly, Congress hems and haws to increase the debt ceiling, which would allow the government to borrow even more money to pay for its operating costs and pay on the interest from these loans. The money comes from other federal funds — borrowing from Peter to pay Paul — and sometimes from China and Japan. Eventually, the well is going to run dry.
Even if the United States manages to stay out of costly armed conflicts, we’re experiencing more and more exorbitant megastorms like Sandy, Harvey and Irma. Plus, as an unprecedented number of retirees leave the workforce, but are living longer, they’re entitled to decades’ worth of Social Security benefits, health insurance and government pensions.
We’ll need creative ways to pay our debts. Is the American flag a sacrosanct icon, or could it be a valuable resource to protect the the nation’s financial stability and its citizens’ way of life?