Marty has been bugging me for weeks to post this. The funny thing is, he’s actually half-serious. He thinks the United States should offer to buy Canada.
The Marty Cortland Stimulus Plan
Look, if we’re going to spend $10 trillion on this bailout with no guarantees that it will work, then I have a better idea: Let’s scrap the current plan and buy Canada instead.
I figure it will cost us $12 trillion on the front end, but …
— it will put the money directly in the hands of the Canadian consumer, resulting in immediate and substantial U.S. economic stimulus;
— we can recoup our investment in less than five years, and we’ll own a hard asset worth at least four times our investment; and
— it’s the ultimate capitalistic solution to our current problems.
As cockamamie as it sounds, there’s precedence for this. Jefferson spent $15 million in 1803 dollars on the Louisiana Purchase when the United States’ GDP was $480 million. Granted, at $12 trillion, we’ll be spending almost 84 percent of our $14.3 trillion GDP — but to put things in perspective, the per capita GDP in Jefferson’s day in 2009 constant dollars was $1,500, versus $47,000 today, making his outlay far more costly on a per-capita-GDP-adjusted basis. And what did Jefferson get us for $15 million? Only 829,000 square miles of land and a mostly hostile native American population with no measurable GDP. Buying Canada more than doubles our land mass (adding a whopping 3.85 million square miles!), adds 33 million educated, mostly friendly, mostly English-speaking citizens, and increases our GDP by $1.44 trillion. On an apples-to-apples basis, there’s no comparison.
Granted, Canadians are less productive than Americans — their per capita GDP is only $43,700 versus our $47,000 — meaning that the transaction will be slightly dilutive to our national earnings; but their federal debt, at a negligible $459 billion, is only $14,000 per Canadian, versus our $11 trillion federal debt, or $36,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. Taking on their federal debt, but spreading the combined debt over our combined populations, would reduce our U.S. per capita debt by almost $3,000 per person.
And what do we get, tangible value-wise, for our $12 trillion? Well, with 13.8 billion acres of certified forests at an annual harvest of $150 per acre, we get an annuity stream of $2.8 trillion per year (and we put a whole lot of people to work logging that timber). With 179 billion barrels in proven oil reserves — second only to Saudi Arbia — we get $9.5 trillion in the ground at today’s price of $53 per barrel. And Canada accounts for 36 percent of the world’s potash production, with 59 percent of the world’s proven reserves. At $600 per ton and 10.7 billion tons of potash in the ground, we add another $6.4 trillion to the balance sheet. And this is before all of the iron ore, silver, nickel, zinc, copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, coal, natural gas, diamonds, fish, and wildlife we get in the bargain.
“But,” you say, “Quebec has been trying to break away from Canada for years, with no success. How are you going to do it?” To which I say, Google would never let its search or Adwords divisions decamp to another company. But at the right price, Google itself can be bought.
Canada has 23.4 million registered voters. Under the Constitution Act of 1982, amendments to the Canadian Constitution require the consent of two-thirds of the provincial legislatures representing at least 50 percent of the national population. We would essentially make a tender offer to 12 million of the country’s registered voters offering them $1 million in tax-free U.S. dollars to support an amendment to their Constitution dissolving their sovereignty and annexing themselves to the United States of America. Like the old corporate tender offer strategies (before minority shareholder safeguards were adopted), the offer would be on a first-come, first-filled basis.
Why do I think that we could get 12 million Canadians to take us up on our offer? I don’t. I think we would in fact get substantially more than 12 million takers, and we would have to turn a whole lot of citizens away. That said, with 8.5 million families, it would be safe to assume that at least one adult in the family would be a recipient, so the level of left-out-of-the-party disgruntlement would be manageable.
Bottom line, I believe that Canadians are really no different than Americans when it comes to aspirations for a better life, coupled with a sharp and persisting class envy. The median net worth of Canadians is $148,000, and barely 1 percent of the population has more than $1 million in liquid assets. Twelve million newly minted millionaires changes the dynamic profoundly. Like the old Vegas casino saying (“Walk in a Democrat; leave a Republican”), the chance to become an instant millionaire would make even the most nationalistic Canadian start whistling Yankee Doodle Dandy. Plus, with their beloved Obama in the White House, now is the most propitious time, culture-wise, to pull this thing off.
Granted, it’s an audacious plan, but Paul Krugman complained that Obama’s stimulus plan was not big enough. Mine is more than 20 percent bigger than the current plan, preserves and creates jobs (imagine $12 trillion sluicing into the economy!), reduces our per capita national debt, pays for itself in five years, adds almost unimaginable tangible net value to our national balance sheet, and changes the landscape, both figuratively and literally, for generations to come. And it completes our manifest destiny. What’s not to like? — Marty Cortland