Seven Simple Ways to Reduce the National Debt (Without Convening A Government Commission)

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BY CHARLES MEMMINGERPresident Obama’s debt commission has finally come out with preliminary ideas on how to reduce the massive, national-hernia-inducing federal deficit but its recommendations are hardly the groundbreaking, innovative and pioneering direction I was hoping for.

I know something about running up deficits, having hobbled,  bent-over, through the last 20 or 30 years of life carrying the agonizing weight of mortgages, home equity lines, credit cards, overdrawn checking accounts, automatic withdrawals, college loans and excessive bar tabs on my back. I had hoped there might be some secret way to reduce this burden but the best I could come up with on my own was to stop spending money I didn’t have or make more money.


So I was anxiously looking forward to findings from the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, Reform and Long Lunches on how the national debt could be pared down to a number where all the zeros could fit on a single page of paper. These commission members are some of the smartest numbers-crunchers in the modern world and so I was giddy with anticipation to see what amazingly brilliant ways they would devise to slay this deficit dragon gnawing on the country’s hindquarters.

Sadly, the commissioners essentially came up with the same solution that I had: the country needs to stop spending money it doesn’t have or make more money. The commission is suggesting a dog’s breakfast of ways to do this which includes, I believe, a national sales tax, a “fair” tax, a flat tax, a square tax, a polyhedral tax, an ice cube tax, an oxygen tax, a Mai Tai and a “tax” tax (i.e. taxes you pay on taxes you pay).

Over the years, I’ve come up with lots of goofy ways to decrease the country’s debt. At least I thought they were goofy when I wrote about them in my newspaper column. In view of the debt commission’s lame recommendations, my ideas don’t seem so goofy. Here are some of them:

1. Sell off a few states. Do we really need TWO Virginias, Carolinas and Dakotas? In a bad economy, having extra states seems extravagant. I say sell North Dakota to Canada, West Virginia to Greenland to South Carolina to Cuba.  Or just put them up on eBay and sell them to highest bidder. Throw in Puerto Rico or Guam as bonus products.

2. Let companies pay to put their names on public buildings and highways, the way it’s done with sport stadiums, like when Candlestick Park became 3Com Park.  Washington D.C. is chock-full of monuments, buildings and roadways that could attract a lot of advertising dollars: The Wite-Out White House, The Levi’s Beltway, Trojan Washington Monument, The Capital One U.S. Capitol Building (The Bucks Start Here!), the Bic Pen-tagon and the Lincoln (Continental) Memorial.  In Hawaii, the H-Power garbage-to-energy plant could become the Preparation H-Power Plant or we could have the Preparation H-3 Freeway.

3. Put children to work. Did you know there are literally MILLIONS of productive workers under the age of 10 who have no jobs? I miss those days when kids put in a full day’s work in the mines. Remember the photos of their cute little coal-smudged faces? Now the little slackers just sit around playing video games. Working children could generate millions of dollars in taxes, even if they were only paid according to height.

4.  Issue government “Letters of Marque” to private individuals that would allow them to arrest jay walkers, shoplifters, slow drivers, corrupt politicians,  rude driver’s license clerks and other “idiots.” The arrestees would be held as “prizes” until they coughed up hefty “tributes” that would be split with the government.

5.  Institute a “Personal Vowel Fee” where individuals would pay an annual fee to the government based on how many vowels are in their names – the more vowels, the higher the fee. And it would cost, like, a million dollars to change your name.

6.  Grant “Associate Citizen” status to any illegal immigrants in the country, making them quote-Americans-unquote but barring them from shopping at Costco, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club or Target or using Safeway Club Cards.  And they don’t get federal and state holidays off.

So, there are just a few ideas to help bring down the national debt and it didn’t even take a big old hairy government committee to come up with them. Oh, yeah, one more idea …

7. Anyone appointed to a big old government committee has to pay, like, a million dollars if they open their freakin’ mouth during meetings.

Charles Memminger took third place in the 2010  National Society of Newspaper Columnists annual writing contest  for newspapers over 100,000 circulation. You can get his book, “Hey, Waiter, There’s An Umbrella In My Drink! (Tales From The Tropics By Hawaii’s Favorite Humorist)” by e-mailing him at






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