Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A few more common-sense tips for the government

Monetize the White House garden
Michelle Obama had the right idea with the White House veggie garden. What she neglected to include was a real cash crop. I suggest marijuana. It’s one of the top selling American produced products in the country and a 35 billion dollar business. Since it’s still not legal, all income is tax-free.

Turn out the goddamn lights

I know how pretty all your buildings and monuments look when they’re lit up at night, but you’re in no position to be burning hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of electricity a month for purely cosmetic reasons. Turn off the lights when you’re not working for your constituents. That should reduce consumption to virtually nothing.

Legislative cutbacks and eliminating deadwood

Just as many of our successful corporations have slashed their staff in half and doubled the workload to maintain profitability, the Senate and Congress should do the same. Just by cutting back to one Senator per state you’ll be saving 20 million a year in salaries, perks and benefits. Of course, that may mean the remaining Senator will have to put in a full day’s work occasionally, so make sure you keep the healthiest one. You can make extra money by leasing out the ousted Senators’ offices.

Rent out spare rooms in the white house

If the renewal on the Bush tax cuts go through and you can't find a buyer for the White House, consider doing what many struggling Americans do and rent out spare rooms. Who doesn't want to spend the night in the Lincoln bedroom? With the services included, you can demand five star hotel prices, even if the guests have to share a bathroom with the President.

Granted, some of the savings realized here will seem like a drop in the bucket against such a humongous deficit. But remember, a billion here and a billion there can really add up.


Economic indicators suggest this is a great time to read my blog about being broke in Europe

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hey government, I'm talking to you!

Admittedly, I've been a little myopic, focusing exclusively on the personal financial struggles of working class Americans like me.

I figured that with the millions of dollars worth of highly paid economic advisors you employ, you'd be able to handle the national recovery without my guidance. Boy, was I wrong.

While the majority of Americans have sacrificed retirement accounts, homes, electricity and protein in the name of fiscal responsibility, you guys are running up our national credit card like you're Real Housewives.

I won't bother retreading old ideas like eliminating tax cuts for the rich, pulling out of a war or two, or bringing health care costs in alignment with the rest of the world because those are no-brainers which will never pass the Senate and Congress.

My suggestions are simple, non-partisan and have been successfully employed by the majority of Americans regardless of race, religion or political persuasion. Now it's your turn.

Entertainment and events
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I know we have an image to keep up as a superpower, but I'm sorry, but you're going to have to cut back on state dinners and other costly social events here and abroad. You just can't afford it.

For example: while that lavish state dinner for Prime Minister Singh last year was a delightful diversion from all the trouble and strife in the world for 300 leading citizens of the US and India, it was a ridiculous indulgence in this day and age. Fortunately, modern technology has really made most of that expensive pomp unnecessary.

Next time, invite the Prime Minister and a select 300 people from the arts, politics and sciences to join you in a delicious dinner of Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala ($3.29 in the frozen food aisle) over Skype. It will save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars that could go towards cutting the deficit. Since it's a special occasion, I'm sure the taxpayers won't begrudge you some Trader Joe's mango chutney for $2.39 a jar as long as you use what's left over at the Pentagon Christmas party.

If you feel that a face-to-face gathering is crucial to diplomacy, make the dinner pot-luck and use your iPod for entertainment. The same principle can be applied to all summits, conferences, meetings and speeches. YouTube and Skype are free. Use them.

Impulse purchases
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Back when I thought I had money, my weakness was cashmere sweaters, whereas yours appears to be advanced weaponry.

Before you spend yet another 30 billion on the latest state of the art Global Hawk killer drone that's almost exactly like the last one you bought, ask yourself this: Do I really need that drone? Will I be any more effective against my enemies with it? Will anyone but me notice the difference? Will it be passé in two weeks? Once the novelty wears off, will it just sit in a hangar gathering dust or lie abandoned in some Pakistan field?

I know you think it's the end of the world if you don't get that drone. You probably believe that without it, you'll become less attractive to your allies, be forced to postpone your withdrawal date and you'll end up a lonely, insecure, ineffectual, bitter, forgotten old woma...I mean, country. But you probably thought the same thing about the last killer drone you just had to have.

If after two months, the drone is still gnawing at you and you still believe the free republic can't survive without it, chances are you'll be able to find it on eBay for half price.

Generating revenue
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You may be out of cash and low on credit (until you raise the limit again), but look around you. You have a lot of items you've accumulated over the years that you can sell.

Do you really need that gas guzzling Air Force One? Can you live without that 500 million dollar fleet of jets you bought last year to transport the legislative branch comfortably to far flung fiscal responsibility conferences and climate summits?

If you don't plan to move into them, sell them. I can think of any number of Wall Street executives who'd pay top dollar for a real Air Force One or congressional jet. Unlike the rest of us, they can afford to pay the gasoline, operation and maintenance costs.

Consider all the memorials, art and historical artifacts just taking up space (and requiring maintenance) in DC and the Smithsonian. See what you can get for them at Sotheby's or hold a sale. I imagine there are several Saudi princes who'd love to have a little monument from the US to put in their garden or the original constitution for their library.

I know some of these items will be difficult to part with and have sentimental value, but look at it this way: if you don't sell it, China will own it soon anyways.

If you're a hoarder and can't bring yourself to sell your memorabilia, there is another option: sell ad space on the monuments. The demographics are great with 15 million visitor viewings annually, plus repeated exposure by DC denizens and in the media. It's a great way to get the funds you need to maintain your property until the economy improves.

Credit and debt

If you have any leverage left whatsoever, now's the time to use it.

Call China and try to work something out. Like my negotiations with Citibank, it may take weeks to get someone who speaks English on the phone (keep your cell phone charger handy). But if you hang in there with good old-fashioned American determination, there's a 20% chance that sooner or later you'll get someone who can help. If you and China fail to work out a more equitable arrangement, try consolidating your debt with Japan or the Saudis for a lower rate.

At the very least, you're going to have to rethink those loans you've been making to banks and big business. As is, you're paying China more interest on the money you're borrowing to loan to the banks than they're paying you in interest. Now, I don't have the economic chops of Tim Geithner, or even a college degree, but that just seems like really stupid financial policy. Unless you work for the banks, of course.

I suggest you raise the interest rate to a reasonable 29.9% plus substantial fees and penalties for not stimulating the economy. At that rate, taxpayers will be celebrating and getting huge bonuses in no time.

See more of my common-sense financial tips for the government.


Economic indicators suggest this is a good time to read my blog about being broke in Europe.