Balance budget through national mergers, sell-offs

October 27, 2005|By CHRIS LAMB

President Bush told Americans that the federal government will help rebuild the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. Estimates put the cost at $200 billion. The administration already has spent $300 billion on the war in Iraq. To paraphrase the late Sen. Everett Dirksen: Two hundred billion dollars here and $300 billion there, and pretty soon you are talking real money.

Despite strangling federal deficits, Mr. Bush vows he won't raise taxes. He says that he can pay off the country's debt by finding additional cuts in unnecessary spending. The Bush administration, to its credit, has already trimmed such fat as bullets and body armor for soldiers and benefits for armed services veterans and Medicare recipients.

Here's an exit strategy to balance America's budget.

Mr. Bush, who has a master's in business administration, has long stressed that the same principles that work in private business can work in government. Indeed, a number of corporations have become enormously profitable by cutting spending and/or by merging with other corporations, which eliminates redundancy and thus saves money.

Couldn't consolidation work on the federal deficit? Absolutely.

For instance, do we really need 50 states?

Why do we need West Virginia and Virginia? Just think what we can save by having just one Virginia. Or one Carolina. How many Americans would notice if we had just one Dakota? How many are even aware that we have any Dakotas? Why stop there? Why not merge Delaware with Maryland? New Hampshire with Vermont?

Of course, we'd have to come up with names for the new states. If we merge Connecticut with Rhode Island, for instance, we could call the new state Coney Island. What about Wyoming and Montana? OK, it would be a big state, but only in size; the population of the state of Wynonna would still be less - and considerably quieter - than that of any Chuck E. Cheese's on a Saturday afternoon.

Corporations see their profits increase by selling off parts of their business. The federal government owns a lot of things that could fetch good prices on eBay. Ever dream of owning Old Faithful? The Grand Canyon? Mount Rushmore? Guam? Who hasn't? Now any of these can be yours.

Wouldn't the Statue of Liberty make a great conversation piece? Who wouldn't want to own the Everglades? For the right price, the government has some swamp land in Florida it would like to sell you.

Consider the possibilities just in Washington, D.C. You could buy the Kennedy Center for a song or the Electoral College for less than the tuition for a community college. How about the National Archives or the Library of Congress? Or even Congress, for that matter? You could buy your own congressman - if he's not already owned by somebody else.

Chris Lamb, an associate professor of media studies at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C., is the author of Drawn to Extremes: The Use and Abuse of Editorial Cartoons.

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