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White House Garage Sale? Obama Plan Proposes Selling Underused Property

First Posted: 09/30/11 06:32 PM ET Updated: 11/30/11 05:12 AM ET

One federal government's trash is another man's treasure. At least that's the reasoning behind one aspect of President Obama's deficit reduction proposal.

The plan, which has received bi-partisan support, would sell underused pieces of government property including islands and airstrips in an attempt to raise revenue to help tackle the federal government's growing budget deficit, according to The New York Times.

“It’s a very compelling initiative that has very broad national support,” FCC chair Julius Genachowski said according to The New York Times. “It’s market oriented, it contributes to deficit reduction, and it gets big things done that really everyone supports.”

This isn't the first time that the White House has suggested selling off idle property. In March, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration intended to sell off thousands of vacant government buildings.

"The government doesn't need all of these properties," Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, then said, according to WaPo.

Whether selling off underused land could bring about substantial deficit reduction has been called into question. The Congressional Budget Office, for one, isn't convinced the president's first proposal would matter all that much.

A July CBO report on selling federal property read:

CBO’s review of the President’s proposal concluded that it was not likely to significantly increase receipts from sales of federal property in part because there is only a limited amount of excess property with significant market value and there are numerous legal, practical, and political obstacles to the sale of such property.

Yet according to a December 2010 report by the General Services Administration, the number of underutilized federal building only grew in the first years of the recession. Combine that with the large number of government layoffs since the official start of the recovery, and all those federal buildings are looking increasingly lonely.

Another popular aspect of President Obama's deficit reduction proposal, the so-called Buffett rule's millionaire tax, has also drawn scrutiny as being more of a reduction tool in name only. Reverting the tax structure to pre-Bush levels, for example, would only bring down the 2009 federal deficit by 4.5 percent, The Atlantic notes.

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Filed by Maxwell Strachan  |