Thursday, July 19, 2012

billions and billions of billions

Financial news these days boggles the mind, and spins the head. People are yakking in billions and alluding to amounts in the trillions of dollars. Money has, as Jim Kunstler says, become a total abstraction.

Except it's not. 100 Billion Euro is what it's taking to bail out the Spanish banks. That's about 123 Billion dollars, and don't even ask what happens to the Spanish economy as a result (Nada).

100 Billion is what the federal gov would recover if it reinstates regular tax rates on money earned in excess of a quarter million. (Families earning $260,000 a year will still get the tax break on the first $250,000.) That's over ten years, so ten billion a year.

100 Billion is also what it costs to run the Afghan war for one year, at the current level of mayhem. Some posters in low places claim that amount of money is "a drop in the bucket." But you can't run a year's worth foreign war with tens of thousands of expeditionary troops involved, along with their mercenary auxiliaries, staffs, and servants with a drop in the bucket.

Incomprehensible sums, combined with the fact that the US economy would totally crash and burn if we were not always either at war or preparing for war...are we all OK with that?

Look at the "official" numbers on Wikipedia, at the however-many hundreds of billions in the annual "defense" budget, and you're not getting a true picture, because that figure does not include the costs of:

1) The Department of Homeland Security;

2) The FBI, CIA, NSA, and all the apparatus of security and surveillance the government has acquired since 9/11/2001;

3) Current wars;

4) Pensions;

5) Routine and rehabilitative care for veterans of past wars, hospitalization and normal medical costs.

If you add it all up it comes to about a trillion dollars, give or take 100 billion or so. That's slightly more than half the national budget, and this is no way to run a railroad.

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