Tag Archives: debt ceiling

More United States Budget Ideas

A few months ago, I posted a blog with some United States budget ideas. You can review those ideas here: United States Budget Ideas

I’ve had some more ideas.

The other day on Twitter, I made this joke:

Can't the government sell antiques to @AmericanPicker to pay off the debt? I bet there's some cool stuff in the basement of the Smithsonian.

Maybe this really is a good idea? The Hope Diamond, if sold today, would bring between $200,000,000 and $250,000,000 according to Wikipedia.

The unique 1849 Double Eagle now has an estimated value of $20 million, according to the Professional Coin Grading Service Million Dollar Coin Club. (Photo credit: Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.) 

The Smithsonian has over 137 million artifacts, works of art, and specimens in their collection. Less than 2% of the collection is on display at any given time! This includes things like Picasso paintings. We could sell just pieces of the collection and earn money to fight the US deficit. If they’re not on display, what good are they?

Did you know that the budget for the Smithsonian is over $750,000,000? For 2012, they’ve asked for more. Most of this is salaries. During the 1995-1996 Government Shutdown, the Smithsonian closed, due to lack of money to pay salaries. I’m not going to debate the merit of their budget, but let’s take a look at it.

Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriation (currently in place):
Salaries and Expenses: $636,161,000
Revitalization:                 $89,300,000
Planning and Design:    $15,700,000
Construction:                   $20,000,000
Total:                                   $761,161,000

The Smithsonian had a record year in 2009, with 30 million visitors. Admission to the Smithsonian is free, which makes sense, because our taxes pay for it. But plenty of non-taxpayers from other countries visit the museum. I say we should start charging for admission. Let’s say $10 per day on average. Even if we don’t maintain the attendance, that would reduce the budget needs above by more than a quarter of a billion dollars. I took my son to the Smithsonian in 2009, and I would have paid much more than that for admission.

I would actually go a step farther. Let’s privatize the whole thing. We can lease the land the museums sit on (with restrictions) and allow someone else to run the museums, charge for admission, sell pieces of the collection for financing. How much do you think the Smithsonian is worth in total? Would there be anyone who could afford it?

But the problem is, the US Government can’t afford it, either. So let’s let someone else take on the risk, and make the Smithsonian profitable. Then we still don’t need to spend the $750 million, and can apply it to other things needed in our budget.

I realize this is a controversial suggestion. But it’s going to take controversial suggestions to reduce our deficit.

I think we should look into the privatization of many government programs… Amtrak, the United States Postal Service, etc. There are plenty of concerns about doing that, but are they worse than bankrupting the country? If a private company can’t make the services sustainable, even if not profitable, then maybe they are services we can do without.

If we don’t cut these things, then we have to pay for them. And that means raising taxes or cutting other things. If we don’t cut these, what else can we cut?

Feel free to argue in the comments!

Edit to add: Reddit has a good article that explains the debt ceiling in the simplest of terms: Can someone describe the debt ceiling to me Like Im Five? : explainlikeimfive