Thanks for your reply. I think your analysis itself is well on the money. That said, the solution which you suggest is the thing I'm agonising about:
it's about launching an assault on these things they value and seeing what they're willing to do to protect them.
I've seen a lot of people with a lot of play history that seem to counsel against targeting the PC's in that way, and I'm chary of just launching into it. It can create the impression of punishing people for putting their wants out there. I can contrast it with another player who is playing the battlebabe, all solo orphaned ninja. I think it would be interesting if they start finding things to connect to in the apocalypse world; if I'm threatening the stuff that the Hocus is connected to, that seems to be sending the wrong message.
In answer to your last question, which gets at some of the others, the pc's have committed some fairly harsh acts pretty casually to protect their status quo. the hocus sent those two followers off to meet up with the battlebabe, implying that she knows how to deal with those sent in that way: basically bump them off rather than even have to deal with two unpredictable if faithful followers.
And the battlebabe was perfectly casually happy to execute the one of the two who actually showed up, a 16-year old girl with lots of parallels in background, after they had sex. Which kind of shocked me, it seemed like a PC-NPC triangle in the making but was just bulldozed through in the (slight) interests of the PC's. In retrospect I can partly put it down to a long D&D history in these guys (they're brothers IRL) and reflexively shoring up their backs; the third player meanwhile was quicker to take on problematic obligations and stick his neck out.
Creating an unbalanced scarcity situation is a nice idea. At the moment it could be tricky; the players all found reason to go into the taboo area together, and seem to be starting to bind themselves into a fairly traditional group. Hence abundance for one character can shore up the others: I can easily anticipate 'come and sleep in my other spare room' - is it my job as MC to step in and say nah, a 1-bed apartment is definitely all you'd have? I dunno...
One answer for this of course is to have interesting NPCs continue to pursue their interests interestingly, forming triangles and making the world as complicated as it deserves. One idea you've spun from is is to simply respond to how much the players emphasise their abundance by making that a theme: your apartment is how big? OK.... Hey guys, the hardholder is calling for a window tax, and asking (nicely, as always) for people to volunteer their details and pony up.
; after the next party there are a family shivering outside. They're asking to bed down in the warehouse for the night; the heat generated from the bodies, machinery and lights can keep them from hypothermia. Just for one night....