10/31/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Trillion Dollar Solution to the Trillion Dollar Problem: Give US Nationality to Those who Buy $1 Million in US Real Estate

We live in a strange world now. A world in which Western democracies are broke and totalitarian regimes are flooded with cash. Examples of people with cash: the Saudis, the Chinese, the Russians. Example of people without cash. The Americans. So how can we make the people with cash give to the people without cash without dealing with their totalitarian regimes? Well, the U.S. has been doing a lot of that already by selling them US government debt. But these are desperate times. The U.S. now needs another $700bn to shore up its financial institutions. How could it possibly get this money. Here is an idea: the U.S. should give U.S. passports to those who invest over $1 million in equity in American real estate.

We know that most wealthy people in China live double lives. On one side praising their government and on the other side worrying that one day privileged lives will end. And same is true with oligarchs in Russia, and wealthy people in Iran, princes in Saudi Arabia. I am not saying they live in daily fear but if the United States offered a passport to be used in case of need I think millions around the world would pay for the "insurance." There are 6.5bn people in the planet and 6.3bn are not American, tens of millions of those are pretty well off -- one million may go for this offer, at the same time that U.S. real estate prices are on a free fall, which is why mortgages are defaulting. So how about combining greed and fear outside the States into one package that gives foreigners both access to US real estate at bargain prices and US nationality?

To me the math is compelling. If one million foreigners invest one million dollars, that adds up to the trillion that America needs. There are of course many other combinations and many other potential results both better and worse but all add value to the American real estate market at no cost to the taxpayer. Moreover, America's treasury will not need to raise more debt this way because real estate prices will go up as a result of the added demand and mortgages will not default. And if eventually those million very-rich people end up moving to America, more investment will follow. America should not fear well-off immigrants who are much more likely to create jobs than take away American jobs. There are already many countries that give you residence and eventually nationality if you invest with them. Moreover there are already programs that give immigrants visas if they invest $1 million and there are green card lotteries. So this idea, as strange as it sounds to some is already somehow being implemented. But if what we are looking for is quick foreign equity investors for US real estate I cannot think of an easier way of raising funds. Foreign investors would get both a real estate bargain and a US passport (after all the appropriate security checks).