debt problem - statue of libertyHere’s a number that might scare you: $17,746,662,973. That’s almost 18 trillion dollars, give or take a few hundred billion. That’s the current estimate of our national debt according to the OMB (Office of Management and Budget).

Here’s a slightly smaller but equally frightening number: $1 million.  That’s the amount our nation’s debt is expanding – per minute. The clock is ticking. Economic experts estimate that our national debt will increase by another $10 trillion in the next decade. And I thought I was bad about managing my money. I look like Ebenezer Scrooge compared to Uncle Sam.

Depressed? Don’t be. Because I have a brilliant solution to our nation’s debt crisis. And it doesn’t involve painful tax hikes, closing down your favorite park or eliminating daily delivery of your mail.

As many of you know, I (often imagine that I) am a highly sought-after, award-winning, Harvard-educated economist. I won’t drone on about my many notable achievements in the fields of econometrics or applied macro-economic asset price modeling theory (because I have no idea what those words mean).  Suffice to say, I took both Econ-201 and Econ-202 Pass-Fail in my second year of college.

I have successfully balanced my personal checkbook 8 of the past 12 months. And I have completely paid off our family’s credit card debt on all but 5 of our 17 credit cards. I saved $4,000 by the time I was 18 years old by doing summer jobs, and I didn’t blow it all until late spring of my freshman year of college (hey, I needed a new stereo system). So when I say I have a solution for the nation’s debt crisis, I think my credentials speak for themselves.

Congress and the President can point fingers all day long about who is to blame for the fiscal mess we’re in. But let’s face it. Nobody is really going to cut defense spending by 25% or raise the retirement age for Social Security to age 70, let alone suggest that perhaps we need to raise taxes on other than the top one thousandth of one percent. No, none of our elected representatives has the political backbone and courage to do what’s needed. And thanks to my brilliant plan, they don’t have to!

Question: What would you do if your family faced overwhelming debts you could not pay off? In my case, I’d probably just sell off all my wife’s jewelry (but not her engagement ring because she might notice as I attempted to pry it off her finger).  If need be, I might even part with my rare, priceless Mercury Dime collection.  (Face value of my dime collection: $17.40; Current estimated fair market value: $22.70.)  But I would never sell either of my kids into some illegal slave trade – unless I completely ran out of options, they were misbehaving extremely badly, and the buyer offered me a smokin’ price I couldn’t refuse.

My point is this: If your back is against the wall, what do you do? You sell off some of your assets. Families do this all the time. They call it a garage sale. Corporations do it too. They call it finding a sucker to purchase the Hummer Division from GM. It’s about time our federal government followed the lead of millions of families and companies and started selling off some of its less important assets. If my neighbor Ed Biggelman can get $32 for his 10-year old Nordic Track with a timer that no longer works, surely Uncle Sam can fetch a fair price for some of the lesser used items in his attic – say Montana, for example.

debt problem - Golden Gate BridgeJust off the top of my head, here are a few rarely used items our federal government could offer up for sale. We can quibble later whether or not buyers should have to pay for shipping & handling. But let’s not waste any more time. The debt clock is ticking:

Golden Gate Bridge: $18.6 billion. Own the world’s most famous suspension bridge, in the heart of one of the world’s great cities. An added bonus: Collect a $7 toll each way for every vehicle – $10 for trucks. Before you know it, the bridge will be yours, free and clear. (The 260,000 gallons of the color orange vermilion paint required to paint the bridge every year – extra.)

Washington Monument: $13.2 billion or Best Offer. How would like you a high rise with a view to make your friends sick with envy? This is the place. Comes with a stunning view of our nation’s Capitol. Easy commute to the White House or Congress.  Ideal for lobbyists, corrupt senators or people who prefer tall homes with limited windows. For just $420,000 more, we’ll even install a functioning elevator. 

The US Coast Guard: $197 billion. Own your own branch of the U.S. Military. If you liked to play soldiers as a child, this is a must-have. Comes with your own custom-tailored four-star admiral’s uniform and an assortment of medals to choose from. Trade medals with your friends or collect the whole set. Act now. Troop supplies are going fast.  Comes with free quarterly pass to visit the White House Situation Room.

[Disclaimer: Rest assured, our government will never put our nation’s security at risk. We’re not talking about our real armed forces – the Army, Navy or Air Force – just the Coast Guard – and only the portion that protects our Canadian border. So it’s not like we need to worry about an invasion from the north. We’re talking about Canadians. I hear they’re annoying but harmless, sort of like fruit flies.] 

debt problem - mount rushmoreMount Rushmore: $8.2 billion. Comes with lifelike sculptures of three of our greatest presidents (plus Theodore Roosevelt). There’s even room for one more face. What better way to show your father you love him next Father’s Day than by carving his likeness right next to Honest Abe’s.  (This offer not available to recently dethroned African or Middle Eastern Dictators.)

But I am saving my best ideas for last. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this two-part post next week. Not trying to brag, but I just may be able to solve our nation’s long term crisis before the World Series starts in a couple weeks.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

Tim Jones - Profile at Safeco - Tiny PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook. 

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2014 

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