Should We Pay Off $20 Trillion in National Debt by Selling Federal Assets?

Fri, Mar 24, 2017 - 11:40am

The following is a summary of our recent interview with William Shughart, which can be accessed on our site here or on iTunes here.

Total US debt is closing in on $20 trillion but it appears as if President Trump may be considering a fire sale of government assets to pay it off. Not only would this lower or completely wipe out the entire US national debt but it would also simultaneously shrink the size of government by transferring a significant amount of federal land and assets to the private sector.

This was the subject of our recent interview with William Shughart, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and a former economist at the Federal Trade Commission, who was contacted by Trump's team to assess the feasibility of this idea, including estimates of all federal assets.

Here's a short clip of what he had to say:

Trillions in Energy, Mineral Reserves

We should take advantage of the fact that the US government is the wealthiest that’s ever existed on the face of the Earth to help pay down the national debt, Shughart stated.

If a program could be launched where some of the federal government’s estimated trillions of assets could be sold off to the private sector, we could raise funds virtually overnight to wipe out the national debt as it currently exists.

“The basic idea is to begin a structured sale — a fire sale — of federal assets to raise the funds to pay off the national debt,” Shughart said.

Since the federal government owns 28% of the land mass of the United States, this would be the first place to start.

However, Shughart noted, “the real treasure trove is not on federal lands … but underneath them, in the form of oil, gas, and other mineral deposits both offshore and on.”

Depending on how those energy reserves are valued, estimates run from $28 trillion up to $128 trillion, he said.

“Selling off rights to explore and access these oil, gas, and other mineral deposits, by itself could wipe out the national debt.”

Listen to this full interview with William Shughart on our website by logging in and clicking here. Become a subscriber and gain full access to our premium weekday interviews with leading guest experts by clicking here.

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