Time to Sell Fort Knox?

May 17, 2011

The United States may have run up a huge debt, but it is not a poor country by any stretch of the imagination.  The federal government owns roughly 650 million acres of land, close to a third of the nation's total land mass.  Plus a million buildings.  Plus electrical utilities like the Tennessee Valley Authority.  And an interstate highway system.  Not to mention millions of ounces of gold in Fort Knox worth billions of dollars, says the Washington Post.

Economists of a conservative or libertarian bent have long argued that the federal government needs to get out of certain businesses, unload unneeded assets, and privatize such functions as passenger rail service and air traffic control.  No one advocates selling Yellowstone, but why, some economists ask, should the federal government be in the electricity business?

Economist Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute said the federal government should consider the sale of interstate highways.

  • Motorists would have to pay tolls to the private owners, he said, but the roads would likely be in better shape.
  • Federal, state and local governments could raise hundreds of billions of dollars through highway privatization.

The Obama administration is not opposed, in principle, to asset sales.

  • The Treasury department is steadily unloading the mortgage-backed securities it acquired in the 2008 economic meltdown.
  • The administration also has a program known as the Civilian Property Realignment Act that would sell some assets.
  • But these asset sales aren't connected to the debt-limit debate, and aren't framed as a way of significant source of revenue for easing budget deficits.

Source: Joel Achenbach, "U.S. Should Sell Assets like Gold to Get out of Debt, Conservative Economists Say," Washington Post, May 15, 2011.

For text:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/economy/us-should-sell-assets-like-gold-to-get-out-of-debt-economists-say/2011/05/12/AFIvmI4G_story.html?hpid=z1

 

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