Is there any accounting of how much wealth the US Government has. I mean thye have gold, obviously, land, buildings, natural resources, buildings, etc. So how much wealth does the US Government have?
I’d think a lot of things would be kinda hard to find a price for, since they’re not really bought and sold on open markets. Our nuclear arsenal, for example. Or the Liberty Bell or the Constitution.
To asses wealth, should you not subtract debts from assets? Won’t that make the government a pauper?
Yes, but would it make the US a pauper? I’m not so sure.
I would imagine that if we auctioned off everything - federal lands, federal buildings, tanks, jets, nuclear weapons, the gold reserve, the strategic petroleum reserve… all the way down to mail trucks, office computers, and lab equipment, we’d be significantly in the black.
A lot of it has never been appraised for a value. Here’s a cite that says the gummint has $230 billion in non-defense real estate, but it’s just an estimate.
Here’s a cite that says the U.S. financial assets (think of them as accounts receivable) are worth about $1 trillion. But any business that sells its receivables for cash never gets full price for them.
The U.S. has 8,965.6 tons of gold. At $1,850/oz., that would be worth about $59 million per metric ton.
Of course, if you dumped all that gold on the open market, the price of gold wouldn’t be $1,850/oz. anymore. Similarly, if the federal government picked up and moved to someplace where land was cheap and put all the federal properties in Washington, DC up for sale, the property wouldn’t sell for much, because Washington wouldn’t be the seat of government anymore.
And who would buy, say, adecommissioned aircraft carrier for anything more than its scrap value?
Oh my God, no. Under a generous accounting, you’ll get maybe $1 trillion in really-hard-to-value and impossible-to-liquidate real assets and $1 trillion in financial assets like taxes receivable. The national debt held by the public (as opposed to debt held by other parts of the government, which is both an asset and a liability) is about $10 trillion.
Of course, this is meaningless, since the government makes money from its taxing power and not from its assets. Even under a modest national debt, government liabilities would exceed government assets. But, the OP asked about wealth, and government wealth is negative.
There’s also the fact that most of this stuff isn’t exactly liquid. If you dumped all of the federal government’s massive land holdings on the open market all at once, you’d just end up crashing the real-estate market. (Well, crashing it even further than it is now.)
Just for tangibles, the feds do own a fair amount of cars (210,000 vehicles, according to wikipedia), computers, rifles, museum collections, planes, lab equipment, pallets of MREs, etc. Some of the museum collections’ value will be a little subjective, but you can’t say they’re valueless. Now, I’m not sure this all adds up to trillions of dollars – that’s a really big number – but I can easily assert many billions. For instance, there are 2 million civilian employees. A really, really, conservative estimate is $1,000 of personal equipment (computers, etc.) per employee. That’s $2 billion right there. Which is admittedly only 1/500th of the way to a trillion, but I imagine the big ticket items are going to add up, too.
On a more abstract level, there’s a fair amount of expertise in the government’s various organizations. Whether you value this at the cost to recreate it, or the price one could get for selling it makes a big difference of course, as there’s not much demand for government organizations.
And of course, the real assets of the government – a monopoly on force, ability to assess and collect taxes, etc. – can’t really be valued, since you can’t really sell them.
Of course none of this touches on the intangibles. In the same way as when you figure out the value of a company you need to take into account such things as market share and brand recognition, you need to take into account such things as the ability to tax its citizens, good will from other nations etc. when valuing the solvency of the US.
ETA: Quercus beat me to it