Thursday, December 9, 2010

American Government Theme Park

[from billlifka, posted with his permission. Graphic by Ira - click it for larger version.]

I dare my grandson Adam to tell his Professor in an Econ class that his grandfather’s solution to America’s big economic problem is to turn Washington DC into a theme park. As part of the dare, Adam would have to certify that his grandfather is still allowed to leave the house on his own and do all those other things allowed to people not too far along in their senility.

No doubt, you think I was just kidding but I was serious. “OK”, you say, “But then the Congress wouldn’t pass it.” Of course, you’d be right. But my scheme isn’t insane and would more likely pass than the Presidential Deficit Commission is likely to agree on a plan or, it occurring despite the odds, have both Houses of Congress pass such plan or, such vote occurring despite the odds, have the resulting bill signed by the president.

Therefore, I’m going to devote some time to the details of my idea and how implementation is possible. You will find that each piece of this plan is feasible and could be implemented. Further, enough of the pieces could be fit together to get the country back to a point where it was living within its means. That is more than what the co-chairs of the Deficit Committee accomplished in their joint recommendation, which was blasted by one special interest group or another and won’t be agreed to by commission members.

I didn’t invent the scheme. It’s chosen by most companies at some point (if they don’t go out of business) and by most people as they grow older. It’s not a recipe for death but for renewed life. When my wife Alice and I retired, we did it.

For my example though, I’ll choose the fictitious Earl and Countess of Anyshire who realized the expenses on their ancestral palace and estate exceeded the revenues. Although the Earl never made it through college, he knew how to count. “My dear”, said he, “We need to live within our means and this palace of ours is a money pit!” Accordingly, they decided to move to a charming home in the suburbs which could be maintained by only three servants and had improved plumbing and insulation to boot. What to do with the palace?

Certainly, they would take some of their furniture with them; but only enough to occupy a small abode and only those pieces which were comfortable. All the imposing, historic stuff would be left behind to enhance the baronial ambience of the place; including the dozens of paintings of their noble ancestors. In a combination of public and private interests, the estate would be used to impress tourists and hold conferences and entertainments. The fees would provide a profit after operating expenses. The Earl and Countess would go on with their lives as before, he attending the House of Lords sessions and she attending her various teas. (Some of which could be held in the old palace.) Of course, there was much stuff not necessary to the palace or suburban home.

An estate sale addressed the bulk of this excess and provided a tidy nest egg for coming years. The Duke hated to part with his horses, especially since some could only be sold for dog food. On the other hand, he knew that horses emanated a large amount of greenhouse gas and that fox hunting was now thought to be politically incorrect. And so it went. Even the servants on the estate were employed in the continuing maintenance or new business enterprises with equal or better salaries and no need for bowing and scraping.

My plan for the American Government Theme Park, properly done, would work the same way.


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