1/15/2013 12:12 PM ET|
New budget fix: Pawn Mount Rushmore?
Hey, the country has been talking about minting a massive platinum coin. Could selling a giant granite tourist trap be any more ludicrous?
According to a petition filed with the White House, the government should pawn the mountain to the Federal Reserve if the Treasury Department can't pay the interest on the federal debt.
"Now that #MintTheCoin is dead," reads the petition, referring to the movement to mint the trillion-dollar coin, "our best option is clearly to sell Mount Rushmore to the Fed, and buy it back later once our cash flow problem is solved."
How much is Mount Rushmore worth? The entire project, which began in 1927, took 14 years and cost just $1 million. The sculpture was a transparent play for tourism money, and it worked: About 3 million people visit each year.
All six of South Dakota's national parks, of which Rushmore is the largest, contributed $168 million in economic benefit in 2010, according to the National Park Service. In fact, Jay Leno joked last year that Mount Rushmore is the only thing to see in South Dakota. Here's the text of a fake narrated commercial that ran on the "Tonight Show," according to the Rapid City Journal:
"Spend a week in South Dakota. On Monday, see Mount Rushmore. On Tuesday, see Mount Rushmore again. On Wednesday, visit the gift shop at Mount Rushmore. And on Thursday, relive your first experience, at Mount Rushmore."Clearly, Mount Rushmore is priceless to South Dakota. And perhaps the federal government could get a pretty penny for selling it to the Federal Reserve.
The proposal is obviously going nowhere. Only seven signatures had been collected by the petition Monday night, and 25,000 are needed by Feb. 13.
But the idea has been embraced in social media, with the #PawnTheMountain hashtag gaining steam in some circles on Twitter. The idea may have come from Jordan Weissman, a business writer for The Atlantic who suggested it on Twitter as a way to avoid default. An associate editor at The Atlantic, Matthew O'Brien, wrote Monday that the Treasury could really sell anything valuable enough to the Fed with the agreement to buy it back later. O'Brien may have started the White House petition, in fact.
"This kind of repurchase (repo) agreement would give the Treasury cash flow if it's running so low that it can't pay the interest on our debt," O'Brien wrote.
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