Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 1 | Spring 1985

OUR GOVERNMENT’S OFFICIAL PLANS TO TIDY UP THE DAY AFTER win On the day after the outbreak of nuclear war, the President of the United States, circling high above the fallout in his fortified 747, will issue an order freezing wages, prices and rents. The purpose of the order, according to current government planning documents “will be to restrain inflationary pressures...during the postattack recovery period.” The only products exempted from the price freeze will be- those intended for military use. Presumably, this will encourage the production of goods necessary for the successful prosecution of the war. The general freeze order is part of Federal Emergency Plan D, a classified collection of “Presidential Emergency Action Documents” that hava been drawn up and set aside for use after a nuclear war. As one official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has pointed out, in the aftermath of a nuclear attack the President “won’t have a big staff there to say to, ‘Go prepare me a legal document with all the necessary details,’ so these have been done ahead of time.” In case the war in question has destroyed the Congress, the Presidential Plan D documents include a proclamation that a state of war exists (only Congress can declare war). “Legally, a lot of things [including emergency powers] depend on that,” the FEMA official explained. So the proclamation has already been drafted, with a few blanks left to be filled in later—like the date, and the name of the enemy. Some of the finer points of the post- nuclear war federal tax system were worked out at a government-wide postattack exercise in 1980. The economists who devised it, laboring at their temporary desks inside a hollowed out mountain in northern Virginia, found the subject tricky. Postattack tax policy has always been considered a difficult subject by government planners, partly because it is linked to the tough issue of war-loss sharing. Official government policy is to “support the equitable sharing of war losses throughout the economy...not to guarantee individuals against war losses, but to assure the maintenance of a ‘going concern' economy.” Exactly what that policy means, however, is a matter of some debate. In 1980, at the postattack exercise called REX-80 ALPHA, a young Treasury Department planner named Gary Robbins and his colleagues came up with something else. “You have to protect the banking system,” Robbins explained, “the ones who have made loans on real assets. You want to reestablish the productive base of the United States. You want to give entrepreneurs enough money to start their businesses somewhere else. If you had seventeen Rembrandts, that’s nice, but you won’t be reimbursed for them, because they don't add much to your productivity. But a house is part of the productive structure, because if you don’t have a place to live you can’t go to work. “In the exercise we were told that two trillion dollars’ wodh of property was deClinton St. Quarterly 13