The nation is in trouble, people. It’s always in trouble. In fact, it was in trouble long before it was a nation. Arguably, it was in trouble when Leif Ericson landed here, and probably before that. The main reason the nation, or the land that the nation is on, has always been in trouble is simple, really: it has people in it. People are trouble. They are trouble, they cause trouble, they bring trouble, and they have trouble.
I’m here to change all that. That’s right, I’m being so arrogant that I think this one post with a modest number of readers will end trouble for this nation. Silly me! But let’s press on. I have two ideas to save the nation money, which is the number two source of trouble for people, or by people, or surrounding areas in which people are at.
Huh? What do you THINK the number one source is? Yeah, I think you know.
Anyway, without further expository paragraphs designed to add a scholarly flair to this bit, let’s get to them!
Idea One is the simplest of the two, though it’s probably the more expensive in initial outlay. Here’s how simple it is: really simple. That’s pretty simple, if you ask me! The idea is this: simple. All you do is consider the number of parking lots on government property. That’s it! No, wait – there’s one more step.
Consider how many parking lots there are on government property, and then cover as many of them as possible with solar panels.
Easy, right? Yes, the inital outlay would be huge – but think of the benefits! There are precious few trees in parking lots, so they are vast tracts of flat land exposed to the sun at all times. Covering them with solar panels would provide two benefits:
1) The panels would make every parking space a shaded spot. (I admit, this is of limited benefit to the nation overall.)
2) The panels would generate enough electricity to power the institution they are a part of, and potentially generate a surplus that could be sold back to the grid.
I’m not sure about the second one, but if it’s true, then the government would at minimum save a ton of money on its electric bill, and at best actually make money that could be used to get us out of debt. It depends on how much the solar panel infrastructure would cost, but buying that many would surely give the government some type of economies of scale, or quantity discount, etc. And it would also provide a boost to local businesses in each locale, which creates jobs and kickstarts the economies of those areas.
Idea Two: National Lotteries
Idea Two is simple, but not as simple as Idea One. It’s got a fixed outlay, which is $100 million dollars. That’s a lot of money, but not that much in the grand scheme of government spending. Here’s how it works:
1) Look at any pie chart or breakdown of federal spending.
2) Divide the $100M into jackpot chunks equal to the budget from the statistics or pie chart. Literally call the different prizes by the category they are based on. There would be a Defense Lottery, a Health Care Lottery, a Pension/Social Security Lottery, a Welfare Lottery, etc. For example, education is 4% of spending, so make a $4M Education Lottery jackpot. Make the larger jackpots cost $2 for a ticket, and the smaller ones $1.
3) Here’s the kicker: if no one wins any given lottery, then the jackpot is increased by 10%, the national debt is paid off with 75% of what was left, and the remaining funds would go to that budget category. People could then not only buy tickets based on the prize amount, like they do now, BUT they could also buy tickets based on the category they wanted to fund. If you favored Education, for example, then you would buy one or more Education Lottery tickets. If you won, great! But if you lost, you still won, because your money would go to fund Education.
4) Another benefit is that everyone would like this idea. Conservatives would like it because it would be a voluntary tax on the poor. Liberals would like it because it would potentially make up shortfalls in social areas like the Arts, Health Care and Education.
5) Still another benefit is that if someone increased or changed the budget, this lottery system would immediately address the “how are you going to pay for that” question.
6) And still another benefit is that this system is recession-proof. People will still buy lottery tickets. The categories they pick might change, but they will still buy them.
There is support for this idea already – Mega Millions is in 42 states plus DC, so a national lottery would just be 8 states larger. In setting up this lottery idea, legislation would require that the money actually goes to the category in which it was intended, to avoid some of the problems states are having in terms of propping up bad decisions with lottery money. Let’s take the Education Lottery example all the way through.
1) The inital lottery is set up with $100M, including a $4M Education Lottery jackpot. Tickets go on sale. Let’s modestly assume that in a nation with 308 million people, 8 million Education Lottery tickets are sold.
2) There are no winners this drawing. Thus, the jackpot becomes $4.4M in the next drawing. $4M goes to pay back the initial outlay this one time. That leaves $3.6M. $2.7M goes to pay off some of the National Debt, while $900,000 goes to fund Education pursuits.
3) The lottery eventually becomes self-sufficient. In a typical drawing, assume 8 million Education Lottery tickets are sold.
4) If there are no winners in a typical drawing, the jackpot becomes $4.4M. $5.7M goes to pay off the National Debt, and $1.9M goes to fund Education pursuits.
Yes, this is small potatoes, but when you look at a Defense Lottery or a Social Security Lottery, the potential for debt reduction is great, and gets better as people don’t win. This is also a modest example. On Friday, March 20, 2012, $10 million in lottery tickets were sold in Massachusetts, and that state has 6.5 million people in it.
In my scenario, the National Lottery would be a function of the Treasury Department, and it would dispense the funds according to the plan. During special times, the jackpots could be doubled or increased by some other factor.
Now that I’ve laid out my ideas, please feel free to shoot them full of holes in the comments below. I can’t wait to be holey!