"See, there are two kinds of people in this world, my friend: those with loaded guns and those who dig," said Clint Eastwood playing the part of "Blondie" in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
"That's the world economy today," said financial historian Mark Steyn quoting the film as a metaphor for the status of world governments today. "There are those with loaded [financial] guns, by which I mean sovereign wealth funds, countries with large surpluses [e.g., China, Singapore, some of the Gulf states, Norway] and there are those who dig. In other words, there are those countries that have got themselves into a real debt crisis. Actually, the simplest way to get out of that hole is not to dig in terms of taxing and spending. The simplest way is to find the treasure and give it to Blondie [creditor nations]."
The treasure, according to Steyn, is assets owned by the U.S. federal government. He suggests selling them to pay off the deficit. Take a look at a map of the western United States. The federal government owns much of the acreage: 85 percent of Nevada, 69 percent of Alaska, 37 percent of Colorado, etc. And that's not all; consider the 3.34 billion square feet of building assets the federal government owns or leases (e.g., offices, warehouses, family housing, hospitals, laboratories, schools). "The federal government is the largest property owner and energy user in the United States and thus holds a unique responsibility for maintaining its real property assets, as well as managing the taxpayer dollars needed for the operation of its assets," states the 2009 Federal Real Property Report. And we've got thousands of miles of highway systems that could generate cash flow via lease arrangements.
Imagine you're deep in debt to your local bank and that you and your family are in jeopardy of losing your home. After months of negotiating extensions, the bank says you and your family have come to the end of the line. It's time to pay up. Then you remember that rare coin collection in your attic. What do you do? Borrow more money? No, you dig out your coin collection, sell it, and pay Blondie.