Sunday, January 08, 2006

How to make sense of $ 1 trillion


A recent estimate says that the cost of the Iraq war could exceed $ 2 trillion. It sounds enormous. It sounds impressive. But a trillion dollars means nothing - the number is so large that it is almost impossible to comprehend. So I decided to see if I could find a way to make a trillion dollars comprehensible. This is what I came up with.

1. If you stack up $ 1,000 bills, $ 1 trillion would need a pile that is 80 miles high.

2. The entire expenditure of NASA over the last 40 years has been approx. $ 600 billion

3. $ 1 trillion exceeds the world’s total military expenditures for 2004

4. $ 1 trillion is more than the combined gross revenues (not profits…but sales) of Wal Mart plus Exxon plus General Motors plus Ford Motors.

5. Assuming the United States consumes about 17 billion barrels of oil a year and assuming the cost of a barrel of oil is about $ 65, a trillion dollars will buy an entire year’s worth of oil for the USA.

6. Want to own a cruise ship? Using your $ 1 trillion, buy yourself that little boat to sail the seas…the Queen Mary 2 with accommodations for 2,620 passengers (enough room for the whole family!) In fact, you could buy a thousand QM2s (share them with your friends!) and there would even be a little left over to pay the wages of the 1,250 crew members for each ship.

7. Feel like sharing the wealth? With a population of approximately 300 million people, you could give away your $ 1 trillion by giving every man, woman and child in the U.S. $ 3,400 each. Alternatively, you could give $ 38,500 to every Iraqi living in Iraq.

8. Let’s say your working life is 40 years (from age 25 to age 65) and you work 40 hours a day, 52 weeks a year (you’re a workaholic and don’t take any vacations). If you earned $ 1 trillion during your working life, then you got paid $ 200,000 per minute.


This isn’t the first time that economists have tagged a trillion dollar price tag to the Iraq war. Back in February 2003 they were saying it.

(CBS) The Bush administration is refusing to produce any estimate of the
possible cost of war and rebuilding in Iraq, which a series of outside studies
have placed at anywhere from $50 billion to more than a trillion dollars.

But the true cost of the Iraq war exceeds anything with a dollar value. There is no price for human life, and so much life has been spent in this war. There is no way to measure the value of losing the respect of a huge portion of the world. The enmity felt by so much of the Muslim world will take years to repair, if it is indeed reparable. The bitter divide within the US over the war will also take a huge toll on the country.

A trillion dollars doesn’t even begin to describe the cost of this war.

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