Shutdown? NO! Startups!

Since we’re now celebrating / lamenting the 3rd day of our national government’s inability to agree to and operate by a budget, I thought I’d share just five of my ideas (I have LOTS more!) for how we could rid the national government of some of its waste, and making certain government operations much more efficient.  Why? Because government has a legitimate reason and purpose for being, as enumerated in the US Constitution, and over the years our FedGov has taken over a lot of stuff that really should be in the hands of business people or non-profit professionals, with competition to see who can provide these services the best creating efficiency and saving tax payer dollars.

And what an opportunity for some great for-profit and non-profit startups!

You may not agree with my stance – privatize as much as possible – and that’s ok, but perhaps it’s time to see what we can do to remove some responsibility from an obviously irresponsible national bureaucracy.  Here goes…

  1. Create corporate sponsorship of all National Parks – I tweeted this one yesterday and got lots of RTs and a few backlashes, but let’s investigate this one deeper.  Our national government owns more than 25% of the land of the USA, most of which is national parks. Think about how cities have built stadiums and sold the branding rights to corporate America. We could apply basically the same principles, with some adjustments. For instance, “The Chattahoochee National Forest, sponsored and maintained by Coca-Cola” has a nice ring to it. Coke is our oldest home town brand here in the ATL, and putting their name on anything has a positive spin. Here’s where it kicks in, though: all the current national parks employees would then go to work for Coke, doing the same jobs they do today. The big difference is Coke’s brand is on that park now, and businesses are fiercely protective of their brands. Try wearing a blue tie into KO headquarters. No can do. So Coke signs a 5-year (or whatever) sponsorship of this park, and agrees to put it’s brand on the current signage, employ the necessary staff and resources to maintain and improve the park. Instead of paying dozens or hundreds of employees, the national government could pay ONE employee to manage the relationship with Coke, and the next sponsor should Coke choose not to sponsor again after the first term.  I guarantee you there would be LOTS of green startups itching to take over local parks and improve them relentlessly, while maintaining the parks’ public availability, and growing that company’s brand.
  2. Create corporate sponsorship of certain highways – pretty much ditto the above…an expansion of “adopt a highway” program, in which the corporation (profit or non-profit) takes over all maintenance and improvements of a certain stretch of highway. Might not work for locations like spaghetti junction in Atlanta, but imagine if a civil engineering firm were to sponsor bridges?  Again, same rules apply: private firms pay for everything, saving us tax dollars, and doing the same exact job far more efficiently. Government employs appropriate number of people to oversee the relationships. Ditto on the green startups here. What an opportunity for thousands of non-profit startups.
  3. Sell all government buildings, except historical sites – How much CRE does our national government own? A BUNCH!  That means our tax dollars are spent doing what thousands of CRE firms do for profit today. If our government sold those buildings to private corporations – with certain obvious terms & conditions – that would save us billions in tax dollars and send back billions in capital to pay down our unbelievable and unsustainable national debt.  The government owns many buildings that are actually empty. Why do they own them?  Caveats here for national security, meaning buildings in which the NSA and other TLA-named agencies reside, and the buyers of those buildings would have to agree to those terms. How many of these buildings could be just like Atlanta Tech Village? #startups
  4. Privatize the federal retirement system (aka “Social Security”) – I was just warming you up with the first three. 🙂  Seriously, though, we have to look at this one at some point, don’t we?  Chile privatized their federal retirement system more than a decade ago, and the results are incredible. SS was created pretty well (though I disagree with the premise), in that it was voluntary and every citizen had their own account with their savings in it. That all changed between its inception and 1968, when our government literally stole the entire SS fund, and promptly spent it. Now every retiree’s social security payments come from the annual federal government budget. (insert budget jibe here). How silly is that? Here’s a specific idea: make it optional again. Want to opt out? OK, go ahead, but fedgov is keeping what you already put in, and now you can (ok, you must) invest that same 6.25% (Chile requires 10%, and allows you to save more) of your income in certain approved mutual funds. Let the mutual fund firms compete for that approval and for long term monetary success. This isn’t a light-switch fix, but one that would take 5-10 years to fully implement, since you can’t let people who are retired and living on their SS just “opt out”. We pay for them, but we no longer have to plan and pay for me. I’ve opted out, and am now investing the required 6.25% (and more!) of my income privately, and earning 8-12% annually, rather than .001% and having nothing in savings when I die, and retiring rich(er)!  It’s our money, and it would be far better invested by private companies than by the government.
  5. USPS – by this point, you knew I couldn’t resist this one! Open mail delivery up to competition! The stats show mail delivery is decreasing rapidly, and will eventually become steady at a very low level, probably very close to the 15% of the population that does not use the internet at all, a number which will also steadily decrease over time. FedEx, UPS, and others already deliver just about everywhere every day. Add some local startups – including online startups like Outbox – to accomplish rural delivery, and you have a competitive system that is far more efficient, doesn’t waste billions of tax dollars, and is self-sustaining, nay profitable. Sell all the USPS real estate and logistics gear to the new private deliverers, and employ the best USPS delivery personnel to actually do the job, or plan the routes, or consult on what can (and cannot) be improved.

Like I said, you may not agree with my approach, and that is AOK, but it will be difficult for anyone to argue that (any) national bureaucracy is more efficient than a profitable private business. And I didn’t even go near healthcare. That’s a post all on its own…for another time, assuming I even survive this post.

What other current national government “stuff” could be privatized? I’d love your feedback, positive and negative. These are just the ideas off the top of my head. What do you think?

What do you think about that?

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