The deaccessioning of Alaska would also slash the interest the government pays on the national debt. Under the budget plan Obama proposed in February, those interest payments would otherwise grow to more than $600 billion in 2017, and in 2018 they would become the third-biggest item in the federal budget, after defense and Social Security.
There would, of course, be objections. Some Alaskans might want to resettle in the Lower 48. Others might become squatters. Environmentalists would certainly squawk. Alaskan Inuits might not want to give up their special status, and certainly, neither the Russians nor the Chinese would want to create yet one more unhappy autonomous region.
And then there is the $16 trillion question: How much time could be bought by selling Alaska? How long would it take before the federal government would be groaning once again under an unsustainable debt?
According to Treasury, as of Nov. 30, there was $11.6 trillion of federal debt held by the public. That comes to about 75 percent of GDP — uncomfortably close to the 90 percent level that the respected Harvard economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart say is an unmanageable albatross that damages growth and threatens national solvency.