Great American Garage Sale

Recently I was reading an article about how the US government was suing an Apollo 14 astronaut to recover a camera that he was trying to auction. Apparently they want it back. I’m guessing what they’re going to do with it is simply put it in some warehouse like they do with everything else.

It occurred to me that the government has TONS of stuff that they could probably sell to get us out of debt. Why is the government holding on to tons of crap when they could just sell it?

When families need to get out of debt. They sell stuff. They have garage sales or sell stuff on craigslist and eBay. So why can’t the government?

So here are some ideas:

  • The Smithsonian has millions of artifacts that aren’t even on display. Sell them!
  • Instead of putting all the Space Shuttles in museums, take one apart. Sell the tiles. People would pay thousands of dollars for Space Shuttle souvenirs.
  • Clean out all the old junk at NASA and sell it.
  • Does the Library of Congress really need all those books? Sell some.

Wouldn’t it be great on the next Independence Day for the government to be financially independent?

Can you think of any other junk the government has that it could sell?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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11 thoughts on “Great American Garage Sale

  1. As long as the unemployment rate remains as high as it is, the size of the national debt is a complete non-issue and distraction from the real problem — this is sound, well-attested classical economics. And with actual (not official) unemployment rates at 20% and up in some areas, anyone who doesn’t think unemployment is presently the number one, critical problem needing to be solved before anything else is even *considered* should be assumed to be actively trying to turn the USA into a banana republic.

      • They probably can’t, but for political reasons only: the Republicans want tax cuts for the wealthy and no jobs for the middle-class, they’re clothing it in a lot of bullshit hype, and even some Democrats are buying into it.

        To create jobs, start a policy of public works (invest in railways, repair roads and bridges, whatever: that’s how the US got out of the Great Depression of the twenties / thirties) and that will restart the economy. Yes, it will also heighten the debt; but once the economy is restarted *then* will be the time to get tax money — when the taxpayers can afford it. The State should spend when the private can’t afford to, and vice-versa, to keep the economy afloat but not overheating.

      • Of course the government can create jobs! Google “Works Progress Administration” and “Civilian Conservation Corps” sometime. The smartest single thing the federal government could do is to immediately and directly hire millions of workers at (say) $40K per year. They’d be incredibly busy just fixing stuff. The United States has trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure repair needs alone: fixing bridges, reinforcing dams and levies, repairing water mains, rehabilitating sewer systems, weatherproofing public buildings, restoring wetlands, cleaning up toxic waste sites, protecting clean water supplies, improving airport safety systems, reforestation, cleaning up parks, fixing potholes, building sidewalks and bike paths, containing agricultural runoff, improving windbreaks and other soil protection features, immunizing children, providing home healthcare (to keep people out of much more expensive nursing homes), staffing free clinics (to keep people out of expensive emergency rooms), etc., etc. There’s absolutely no shortage of desperately needed work that could be done. Government borrowing costs are ridiculously low, and the tax burden is the lowest it has been in over half a century. In short, there’s tons of incredibly beneficial (and economy-growing) stuff to do, there’s 9.1% unemployment (i.e. a hugely idle labor force), taxable resources are plentiful (and untaxed — ask Warren Buffett), and borrowing costs are ridiculously low. When has there ever been a *better* time to get this stuff done?

        By the way, if you hire 5 million workers at $40K per year, that’s a mere $200 billion per year. Those workers will spend every dime of that $200 billion, so the government gets back a substantial fraction of that $200 billion in increased tax receipts. Right now that $200 billion (and far more) is just sitting idle in upper income financial accounts, generating near-zero economic activity. (The private sector isn’t using those funds either — their borrowing costs are ridiculously low, too, but they won’t invest unless and until there’s more demand.) Plus you get all the long-term economy-boosting benefits of what that labor produces. The United States is *still* enjoying returns on Depression-area WPA/CCC projects.

        It is truly insane the government isn’t doing this and that not enough people are demanding it.

  2. For real? Is this an Onion article?

    (1) google “government auction”. old items/surplus items are sold at auction and it has been that way for decades.

    (2) all legitimate museums do far more than simply display items. items are restored, people do research, and items are shared between museums to share knowledge and research opportunities.

    (3) the size of the debt dwarfs the value of the holdings of the smithsonian or the library of congress.

    (4) as long as we are at it, the Arlington National Cemetery is prime real estate. why don’t we sell it off to the highest bidder? most of those bodies are forgotten anyway.

    (5) Or we could let the temporary tax cuts put into effect a decade ago expire exactly according to the way the law was written, and do far more to balance the debt in one year than any garage sale ever could. Yes, horror of horrors, the max tax rate would go back to 39%, back to those horrible, despotic tax rates during the Reagan administration.

    • It was meant to be slightly tongue and cheek. But if you look at the article, you have to wonder why on earth the government is wasting time and money going after a fifty year old camera.

      1) Government surplus stores sell old junk. I’m talking about the interesting stuff that people care about.

      2) I’m not saying we shouldn’t have museums. I’m saying that there becomes a point where the storage of items that will never see the light of day is silly.

      3) You never know until you start selling it.

      4) Now you’re just being silly.

      5) Or we could just go with a flat tax. Much better idea.

      • I like the way you find 4) silly when it is, let’s be honest, a perfect compliment to the idea of just ‘throwing out’ ancient artifacts that ‘won’t see the light of day’ because they’re archived for research.

        Whilst you may value bones over culture + history by a gigantic margin doesn’t mean everyone automatically shares your sense of priorities.

        Also I should add one of my friends has a shuttle tile.

    • Actually, if Congress simply does nothing, tax rates would only return to what they were during those awful Clinton years of peace and prosperity, and the budget would be pretty much balanced in just a few years. (Source: Congressional Budget Office. Latest forecast is that current law would result in a federal budget in primary balance — revenues equal to expenditures, excluding interest payments — by 2017.)

      Reagan’s tax rates were higher than Clinton’s, so no, there wouldn’t be a return to Reagan’s rates (unfortunately), never mind Eisenhower’s. (And we all know how “awful” the 1950s were for the American economy.)

  3. There are a vast number of military base golf courses, military bases, nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, submarines, military band equipment, military base air-conditioning units, and other expensive goods that are not making us any safer. They’d fetch a good price, too, I bet. Let’s start with those.

  4. Drawing analogies between the finacnes of national governments and the finances of families is a bad idea. They’re just not even remotely similar.