THE FRONTIER—After having bravely endured rising fuel costs, unemployment, and a massive drought in consumer confidence, all 300 million Americans announced Monday that they will soon begin the long journey westward, abandoning their stakes in the crumbling housing market to seek the golden future that surely lies past the horizon.

Struggling to eke out a living for the past 20 decades, the U.S. populace has supported itself with odd jobs in the fur trade, tinkering, information technology, and pharmaceuticals industries, but has finally succumbed to the mounting pressures of modern life. The nation plans to strike out on its own come fall, when the weather's cooler, hoping to make its fortune and perhaps find a little patch of soil to call its own in the sprawling wilderness between O'Hare International Airport and the Great Pacific Ocean.

"There just ain't nothing left to do but pack what we can carry and head out West," said Arizona native Charles Kuhn, 42, who was recently laid off from his position at a fancy advertising agency. "Out past the mighty Mississip' all a man needs is a strong back and a good horse. Heck, won't take but two weeks under them wide-open skies to build a house, plant some squash, and wrangle a little graphic design† work with full benefits, genuine growth potential, and two weeks' paid vacation. Now that thar's the life for me."

"I hear there's a good steady creek and some open pasture just outside San Diego," added Kuhn, charging his cell phone one last time as he traced his finger along a crinkled, hand-drawn map bearing the ol' "I-5 N" trail he will follow to the California seaside town. "My cousin went out there and he's doing real fine. Real fine. Says they got good jobs with annual cost-of-living adjustments just falling out of the hills out there."

Leaving behind the woes of their bustling cities, small mining towns, large auto-manufacturing towns, suburbs of auto-manufacturing towns, and the economically stagnant state of Nebraska, the pioneers will set out across the vast Western expanse with nothing but the promise of opportunity and a few old resumés. Although it remains unclear what they might find in that savage territory, some sources indicate the move may bring a significant boost in self-employment, prevent thousands of bankruptcies, and allow settlers an opportunity to learn agricultural techniques from the Mexican folk who sometimes wander over the border.

Robert Wong, once an associate with Bear Stearns in New York, said the moribund securities industry has left him in such a financial mess that he has no choice but to take his wife and two pretty young daughters out West. The 52-year-old reportedly plans to ride out violent market fluctuations in the foothills of the Ochoco Mountains.

"Don't know what waits for me out there, but when you hear the dull roar of the Rockies, all the bank-foreclosure warnings and high-interest credit-card offers in the world can't keep a man indoors," Wong said. "Yes, sir. I've just got to make my last car payment, cash out what's left of my 401(k), default on [daughter] Emily's student loans, and strip the house of copper wiring, and then it's 'Oregon or the Grave.'"

The federal government has not yet issued any plans for dealing with the mass exodus, which is expected to have wide-scale economic repercussions in the abandoned regions, including a complete collapse of consumer trading and a short burst in hardtack sales. However, the House of Representatives will begin debate on bipartisan measure H.R. 3492, which would declare a state of emergency on the East Coast and provide tax breaks to those who remain behind, as soon as Congress reconvenes next month at a cabin in Rock Springs, WY.

"Everywhere across this land, hard-working men and women have come to see that anyplace is better than here," said Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who is giving up his $169,300-a-year job in search of work in the railroads. "No matter how bad things get or how dark tomorrow may seem, the one thing Americans can always count on is the promise of a better life somewhere else."

At press time, the approximately 2 million square miles of land that make up the American West are experiencing the most severe rash of wildfires and earthquakes in recent history.