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Debt Ceiling Redux: Government Still Sits on Too Many Assets to Default


Posted by Kyle Pomerleau on Wednesday, October 31st, 2012, 4:38 PM PERMALINK


Today, the Treasury announced that it expects the federal government to reach the debt ceiling near the end of this year. Matthew Rutherford, the assistant secretary for financial markets at the treasury said that “treasury has the authority to take certain extraordinary measures to give Congress more time to act to ensure we are able to meet the legal obligations of the United States.” This announcement corresponds with a recent letter sent to Treasury on October 15th by Senators Hatch and Sessions asking what plan the government has to prevent defaulting on its obligations. While Treasury has stated it can take "extraordinary" measure to stave off full default, if policymakers want to buy time, the answer is much simpler. With current debt standing at $16.1 trillion of the $16.3 trillion limit, we have pointed to major assets that Treasury could sell to prevent America from hitting the debt ceiling:

By selling off the government’s ownership of General Motors, the government could net $12.5 billion in savings. It could also demand that GM pay back its outstanding 30 billion in TARP funds.

Days gained on federal debt: 13

The government currently owns of 85 million acres of untapped oil and gas reserves. Income from auctioning federally-owned leases could total $61 billion

Days gained on federal debt: 20

The federal government currently owns more than 650 million acres of land- almost 30 percent of all land in the United States. Based on land values estimated on past exchanges, selling federal lands (exempting National Parks) could be worth as much as $230 billion.

Days gained on the federal debt: 75

If the federal government were to get back all the money the Department of Energy plowed into Solyndra-type loan guarantees, it would net $34 billion.

Days gained on the federal debt: 11

The federal government is estimated to hold over 900,000 buildings and structures. According to the GAO, the government consistently underutilizes or abuses its real property. Selling nonperforming real estate assets and reform federal real estate management would save at least $4 billion.

Days gained on the federal debt: 1

Total number of days gained before the debt limit must be raised: 122

Treasury could give Congress nearly 18 additional weeks to debate and reach comprehensive spending reform. Congress should use this time to shift their focus from the debt problem and refocus on the government fundamental problem: overspending.

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