Here’s how to get America back in the black

By Ron Leir

Have you ever seen the National Debt Clock?

It’s an electronic recounting, to the nanosecond, of the amount of money owed by the United States and, currently – I hope you’re sitting down – we are more than $19 trillion in the hole, and counting.

That’s trillion, folks, with 12 zeros after the 19.

It’s a wonder our credit is still good but, after all, if the government is running short, it can always print more money.

But then you get inflation and the value of the dollar starts to decline.

On the other hand, if Uncle Sam stops writing checks, then it will fall to the states, counties and municipalities to pick up the bill.

Ouch!

What can be done?

Well, I’m neither an economist nor a banker but, as a concerned citizen I’ve come up with my top five suggestions which, I firmly believe, can only help our country exploit some potential revenue-producing opportunities.

Frankly, these seem so easy to implement, I can’t believe no U.S. Treasury Secretary worth his/her salt has come up with any in the interim.

No. 1: Rent out Air Force One.

To me, this is a no-brainer. For any respectable think-tank group looking to make a statement or conduct a no-nonsense conference in the cloud, or for a corporation looking to nail down a client, what better way to do it by getting mileage out of the presidential plane?

Suggested fee: $1 million per flight hour. Extra fees, of course, for fuel, pilot & crew, food. Tipping optional.

No. 2: Open the White House to paying guests on a regular basis.

Heck, the President can always stay at one of his many hotels and/or golf country clubs, so no harm, no foul. Here again, think of the prestige attached to staying in the nation’s First House, staking out the West Wing, fantasizing in the Blue Room, luxuriating in the Rose Garden. And think of this enterprise as a job creator for the hospitality trade.

Suggested fee: $2 million per night. No pets permitted. Tipping mandatory.

No. 3: Sponsor federal cruising excursions.

We’ve done next to nothing to exploit the mercantile possibilities of WOTUS (Waters of the United States).

To quote Wikipedia: “Navigable servitude is a doctrine in U.S. constitutional law that gives the federal government the right to regulate navigable waterways as an extension of the Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8 of the constitution.

OK, then, let’s get into the business of luxury river commerce. Whether it’s the Potomac or the Passaic or the St. Lawrence Seaway, we can make our national waterways the grand canals of America.

And, yes, it will mean jobs a-plenty for our maritime industry: building new vessels, hiring crews, musicians, etc.

Suggested fee: $3 million per night. Tipping the captain a must. No pets.

No. 4: Rent out federal lands.

Here’s where the U.S. Department of the Interior has really missed out. All those national parks where the public are roaming free (except for parking fees) are missed opportunities for raking in more federal booty.

Millions of acres are available for multi-purpose recreational pursuits. Picture widescale corporate hide-and-seek adventures in the Grand Canyon, simulated “war” exercises in the Grand Tetons, survivalist camping in Yellowstone, re-enactments of wagon train expeditions across the Painted Desert. Only the imagination can limit the possibilities afoot.

Suggested fee: $5 million a day. Insurance required. Bring your own food. No exotic pets.

No. 5: Revive the space program and target it for civilians.

Yes, here’s the ultimate experience for the more adventurous citizens: rocket to the moon or beyond in a NASA-leased capsule.

Be the first on your block to sign up for the ultimate voyage to the stars.

Suggested fee: $10 million per flight. Non-refundable deposit required. Spacesuit rental fee extra.

Exhaustive studies by the GAO indicate that federal investment in the above programs will more than justify the cost by returning huge dividends that will rewind the big Debt Clock.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.