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What is $8.7 Trillion Worth?

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As everyone knows, Congress and the White House have promised a lot of money over the last few months. Currently, taxpayers are on the hook for $8.7 trillion in loans, guarantees and other payouts. While some of the loans will be repaid, $8.7 trillion is a number that really needs to be put into context:

According to Bianco Research President James Bianco, who crunched these numbers, [the $8.7 trillion] amounts to more government aid and assistance than nine other historic bailouts and big government outlays combined.

The New Deal, for instance, cost an estimated $32 billion in its day, which would be about $500 billion in today’s dollars. The Marshall Plan cost about $12.7 billion, which is the equivalent of a paltry $115.3 billion. The Louisiana Purchase? The French got $15 million, which would be worth about $217 billion today.

If you take those three items, add in the adjusted costs of the Race to the Moon, the savings and loan crisis, the Korean War, the Iraq war, the Vietnam War and assistance for NASA, you still get to just $3.92 trillion — not even half of the taxpayers’ exposure today, according to Bianco.

So, basically, we were able to fund all of the 20th century’s major spending plans and fight all the major wars of the last half century for less than half of what we’ve committed to spending on “solving” the current financial crisis. Anyone else think that we might be a bit profligate with the recent expenditures?

I know, I know. The sky is falling and those who don’t jump at the chance to throw taxpayer money at the problem are nothing more than brain-dead devotees of evil free market economics – but I’m just guessing that a few years down the road, we’re going to wish we hadn’t been so quick to throw good money after bad.

Certainly some of the expenditures are appropriate, but the outlays have been so staggeringly large that it’s now almost impossible to separate the wise from the unwise, the necessary from the pork. There’s a difference between controlled, reasonable deficit spending aimed at combating a crisis and the kind of chicken-little response we’ve witnessed in the last several months. I can only hope my fears are unjustified.