$2 Trillion for Iraq?

So suggests a new paper by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes. I can't speak to the accuracy of the estimates, but I can say with authority that my head is too small to understand how much money a trillion dollars is. Comprehension-suggestions welcome.

More reaction to the report here; link via Radley Balko.

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  • ||

    Picture 500 billion D.C. apparatchiks waving both middle fingers at you.

  • ||

    It's 2 trillion items from Wendy's value menu.

  • ||

    How about all 1 trillion Reason magazine print subscribers send me $1 each; I'll go and spend it, then describe the experience to Matt Welch.

  • Timothy||

    Interesting Marginal Revolution thread on this paper: here

  • ||

    Two trillion dollars would get you laid. Also, you could get a fridge with an icemaker.

  • ||

    It's a stack of $100s 1357.32 miles high, weighing approximately 20,000 tons.

  • ||

    For a trillion dollars, we could probably terraform Mars, build an exact duplicate of D.C. there, knock out all of the D.C. inhabitants, put them in a giant space ship, then relocate them permanently to the Red Planet. For two trillion, we could build some giant "lasers", too.

  • ||

    population of USA (via google): 295,734,134

    2 tril/295,734,134 = $6762.83 per person in US

    population of Iraq (via google): 26,074,906

    2 tril/26,074,906 = $76,702.09 per person in Iraq

  • ||

    Think of a 10-billion dollar bill.

    Then imagine a stack of *one hundred* of those.

    Unbelievable, huh?

  • ||

    William F. Buckley once described the amounts of dough the Fed works with as a "godzillion." That is, an amount of money that surpasses human understanding.

    Hmm. Money used to say payable on demand in gold/silver: now it sez: In God we trust. Coincidence?

  • ||

    Think of all the money you've ever made. Add it to all of the money your friends and family have ever made. Double it.

    It's more than that.

  • ||

    Have these people ever watched, "The Mouse That Roared"? This entire war might have been an elaborate ruse by the Iraqis to get tax dollars from American taxpayers. :-)

  • theOneState||

    It's 2 trillion items from Wendy's value menu.

    It's closer to 2,020,202,020 items with 20 pennies left over. But let's not quibble over a mere 20 billion or so.

  • ||

    Picture this;

    If one guy had to pay for it, he'd have to pony up $2 Trillion.

    (Apologies to Dennis Miller for stealing his line)

  • ||

    If you made the average US wage in 2004 it would take you a little more than 56,103,263 years to make 2T.
    Had you been collecting that amount since the split of the common ancestor between apes and humans, you would be about a tenth of the way there.

    At the other end, if you could buy a water molecule for each dollar, you might just be able to see it with one or two Trillion dollars(Googling I found an estimate of 10T molecules in water drop the size of a period).

  • ||

    damn, i was writing a paper that suggests it would cost 1.9 trillion. where the fuck did they come up with the extra .1 billion? I call bullshit.

  • ||

    yeah, i meant .1 trillion. smart war planners use coupons.

  • ||

    You'll be set with a 40 ouncer of malt liquor and a meal at Taco Bell every day of your life for next 913 million, 726 thousand, 27 years.

  • ||

    I recall that in the first episode of "The Beverly Hillbillies" everyone in the family was laughing about how Uncle Jed had taken them yankee oilmen when he sold them their worthless piece of land.

    One of them said something like, "You got forty dollars?"

    Uncle Jed answers, "Yeah, but they's some kinda new-fangled dollars they kept sayin forty milliondollars."

    You see them trilliondollars is just some kinda new-fangled dollars?

    Ah, for the days that forty million dollars was a whole lot of money.

  • ||

    ...or a cube of gold with roughly 63 foot dimensions. (A calculation that I have no intention of standing behind as it was very sloppily done, and as you mention, I lose any conspt of whether it is reasonable or not)

  • ||

    Calm down people! You have *nothing* to worry your pretty little heads about! It's not even a fourth of this! So why worry?

    And you better move along before Dick Cheney gets here, or he'll give you a real tongue lashing...

  • ||

    Roughly a year's spending for the federal government. All of it. For one year.

  • ||

    Go Fuck Yourselves! Deficits don't matter!

  • ||

    Trying to comprehend $2 Trillion?

    Here's a calculation for you:

    Take the total amount that been thrown down that gigantic rat hole known as LBJ's "war on poverty" programs and divide it by three.

  • Timothy||

    If only they'd actually do it that way...I could do without the fed spending anything on domestic programs for a year.

  • ||

    If you made the average US wage in 2004 it would take you a little more than 56,103,263 years to make 2T.

    True, but that would be a very bad way to earn $2 trillion since if Columbus had invested a mere one dollar at 5.5% he'd almost have that $2 trillion today. Of course if you can only coax a measly 3.015% out of the Bank of England, for example, then William the Conqueror could now be a 2-trillionaire on that same $1 investment. It�s a long time to wait, but it sure beats 56 million years. :)

  • ||

    My math may be off, but according to my calculations, if you assume that the US population is 280 million people, then a two-trillion-dollar cost means every man, woman and child in the country has to pay $7,142.86 for this war.

    Of course, when I tried to go back and check my math, my calculator told me that $7,142.86 times 280 million equals "1428.5600 ERROR." So perhaps I am wrong.

  • Warren||

    Look at it this way, it's one hundred billion subscriptions to Reason. Oh hmm that's still a couple orders of magnitude more than every man woman and child on the planet.
    Let's try again, it is a mere forty million brand new corvette convertibles. Which is enough to hand out a new car with every HS diploma for the next decade.

    See, math is fun and easy, and insightful too yes?

  • ||

    Warren:

    Roughly 16 years and 8 months worth of yearly subscriptions to Reason...for every human being on the planet.

  • ||

    I hope my math is right...

    Bank of America claims to have 16,000 ATMs. If you visited each BOA ATM and took out $20 each time, you'd have to visit each BOA ATM 6,250,000 times.

  • ||

    It's 3,648,258,202.06 ounces of gold, according to the Universal Currency Converter at http://www.xe.com/ucc/

    If you were to stack that much Credit Suisse gold bars, face up, one on top of another, the resulting pile would be just over 53,981 miles high.

    Or if you could line them up, face to back, on the earth's equator (imagine a bridge over all water), these gold bars would go around twice with 4,181 miles of gold bars to start the third equatorial wrap.

  • ||

    If you earned a dollar every single second, 24-7, it would take you over 60,000 years, or twice the time life has been on the planet, to accumulate 2 trillion.

  • ||

    Come again, Randian?

  • ||

    uhhh, I think that I meant human life. Yeah. that's it.

  • ||

    Randian,
    Don't you know that there has only been life on this planet for a little over 5,000 years? Man, don't you ever read the Bible?

  • ||

    There are roughly 1,000,000 words in the English language, if you include all the weird technical and scientific terms that get used next to never.

    So it's like 2 million times all the words anyone has ever spoken in English.

  • ||

    HA! Part of the reason I became atheist, Kwix, is because I actually have cover-to-cover read the bible. My friends ask "how did you change so much", and I just hold up a Bible and tell them to really READ the damn thing sometime.

    How big is two trillion? Approximately the length in pages of the climax of Atlas Shrugged. Ha! A little self-deprecation for you all.

  • ||

    You could pay Dr. Evil's ransom 2,000 times.

  • ||

    Imagine if the new Washington MLB team had to play in a unique, brand new stadium for every home game for the next 35 seasons. For 2T, we could cover that.

  • Warren||

    Randian,

    You ever see Penn & Teller's Bullshit on Showtime?

    "The world needs more atheists. And nothing will get you there quicker than actually reading the bible."

  • ||

    Randian,

    Yeah, I agree. Though I never could get through the Old Testament. That alone ought to be enough to turn people off.

    And "Approximately the length in pages of the climax of Atlas Shrugged" is my favorite explanation so far!

  • ||

    If Pat Robertson's faithful donated an equal amount for every one of roughly 6,000 years of biblical history, that would only be about $333,333 per year.

  • ||

    Suppose you have $250. Suppose you estimate that you're going to get another $250 in the future. Now suppose you have an economist friend who gives you $1,500 of cow manure.

    What you'll have is worth one-millionth of two billion dollars. That's a lot of bullshit.

  • Warren||

    Ammonium,
    What you're talking about, is one tenth of one percent of the dung heap in question.

  • ||

    H&R: What would you do if you had 2 trillion dollars?

    Me: I'll tell you what I'd do, man, two chicks at the same time, man.

    H&R: That's it? If you had 2 trillion dollars, you'd do two chicks at the same time?

    Me: Damn straight. I always wanted to do that, man. And I think if I had 2 trillion dollars I could hook that up, cause chicks dig a dude with money.

    H&R: Well, not all chicks.

    Me: Well the kind of chicks that'd double up on a dude like me do.

    H&R: Good point.

  • ||

    I ain't sayin' Iraq is a gold digger, but I don't see it gettin' invaded by no po' n***** (that's "nation", is case your wondering).

  • ||

    Lawrence,
    There is a price to be paid for the priviledge of leaving two women unsatisfied, rather than your standard one.

  • ||

    It's a big number. Like, if you took a shit that weighed 2 trillion ounces, it would be a real, real, real big shit.

  • ||

    The current salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $158,100 per year. Since there are 535 of them, by my calculation we could not pay them for next 23,645 years and still not save 2 trillion. Of course I didn't account for their guarenteed 6% annual cost of living adjustment.

  • ||

    Hehe!
    All the talk of threesomes caused me to misread the first line of Jamie's post as

    "It's a big member."

  • ||

    "Roughly 16 years and 8 months worth of yearly subscriptions to Reason...for every human being on the planet."

    Yes, but there would still be no t-shirts.

  • ||

    Wasn't Nick saying that Reason's budget was 2.5 million per year? So, it's enough money to run Reason for 800,000 years.

  • ||

    1) Travel back in time to the Big Bang. Take a camcorder.

    2) Record the history of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day.

    3) Rewind and watch the tape. Pay yourself one dollar for every year that passes by.

    4) Repeat Step 3 about 143 times, and you will have $2 trillion.

  • ||

    If gold is $500 / oz, $2 trillion in gold is 4 billion ounces, or 250 million pounds, or 125 thousand tons. If the density of gold is 19,300kg/m^3, then it would be ~42,560lbs/yrd^3. We would then have about 5875 cubic yards, or a block about 18 yards (54 feet) on a side, which is about the size of of a 5-story office building. Of course, you would want that office building-sized slab to be put on bedrock, as I imagine anything else couldn't support the weight.

    Here's another measure: I heard the Bellagio here in Las Vegas was in the 2-3 billion dollar range to build. $2 trillion is enough money to build 600-1000 Bellagios. On a gambling related note, if you bet $1 million on blackjack hands, and it only took 1 minute per hand, and you did it 40 hours per week, and lost EVERY one of the hands, it would take about 16 years to burn through the $2 trillion.

  • ||

    Ok, this is kind of fun... :) How about: It would take 178 trips in a fully loaded 747-400 freighter filled with nothing but $100 bills to carry two-trillion dollars to Iraq. So if you figure you could make one one-way trip per day (counting flying time refueling, loading and unloading etc.) that works out to requiring an entire year of flying one of the worlds largest cargo aircraft stuffed full of Benjamins in order to get that kind of cash to Iraq. Good thing those guys have direct deposit.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I can't top any of this. Great stuff guys. Wish I'd read it *before* that terminally boring 4 hour meeting that I almost fell asleep in this afternoon.

  • Ron Hardin||

    Money isn't wealth. It may be a single dollar spent a trillion times.

    Money is just a ticket in line to say what the US (!) economy does next. The Fed supplies tickets or soaks them up to keep the number in line right for what the economy is capable of doing at once.

    It doesn't create or destroy wealth when it does this. It's just watching the lines.

    Big expenditures mostly fall under the fallacy of composition, where it matters that money is not in fact wealth, no matter how it looks when you look at your own money.

  • ||

    On the Office Space vein, if you made $305,326.13 every day as they did on accident, it would take you almost 18,000 (17,946) years to make 2 trillion.

  • ||

    Matt,

    In real-value term, it's 200 of these.

  • ||

    It's more men than Paris Hilton has had sex with.

  • Paris Hilton||

    Almost.

  • ||

    It is a bit less than a year's worth of the US budget (US est income 2006 about 2.6 trillion).

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2005/pdf/hist.pdf

    So consider it about the same as blowing a little less than a year's income.

    Not as dramatic as the other images but then that is not the point of this thread is it?

    This&That

  • ||

    For $2 trillion, you could build a Colossus bestriding the United States like, well, a Colossus. With gold plating. And an elevator to the top. I'm envisioning a statue/space elevator concept.

    By my calculations, the statue--to be proportionate--would have a height-to-stride ratio of 2/1. Assuming three thousand miles (rounding up a bit, I suppose) as the base, that would make the statue six thousand miles tall. I imagine we'd have to make it out of carbon nanotubes, too. Hmm. Maybe we should leave off the gold plating.

  • ||

    With $2T, you could fill the Empire State Building with 25-cent gumballs. And then do it again. One hundred and twenty-five times.

  • ||

    How about 4% of the gross world product?

  • Billy Beck||

    Holy Shit!

    If you were going to buy the *entire* production run of 1957-'59 Les Paul Standards in the Cherry Sunburst finish for an average hundred grand apiece, two trillion dollars could do that twenty million times!

    Did I say 'holy shit!' yet?

  • ||

    $2 trillion is twice over an oft given estimate of the costs of compliance with the Kyoto Accords.

  • coyote||

    Its enough money to just give every man woman and child in Iraq the US per capita income of about $40,000 for 2 years.

  • ||

    regarding the wendy's value menu: "It's closer to 2,020,202,020 items with 20 pennies left over. But let's not quibble over a mere 20 billion or so."

    It depends on whether you dine in (and get taxed) or carry out, at least in Ohio. But let's not quibble over 100 billion or so 5 piece nuggets.

  • ||

    It's enough to buy everyone on the planet an ounce of really good weed.

  • M. Simon||

    It is easy to figure the price of a war fought.

    What can never be figured is the price of not fighting the war. Take the Rhineland in 1936. Was it cheaper for Britain and France to avoid a confrontation with Germany in 1936?

    What about that Iranian guy with speeches as stupid as an Austrian corporal. Who could believe that shit?

  • M. Simon||

    Suppose we bank the two trillion and pay the costs out of the interest.

    Debt covered and in the end you still have your capital. Less inflation.

    i.e. the cost does not come in one year. It comes over 40 to 60 years. in other words relative to the flows involved the cost is trivial.

  • TallDave||

    Does that figure in the savings from not having Saddam nuke Israel and Europe? Cause I think we come out ahead that way.

  • ||

    Well if we're going to figure in outrageous hypotheticals let's count for the possibility that Hussein may have purchased 10 billion dollars worth of Nike shoes.

  • b-psycho||

    I'd like to see someone try Marley's idea...

  • ||

    Wasn't Nick saying that Reason's budget was 2.5 million per year? So, it's enough money to run Reason for 800,000 years.

    Comment by: johnl at January 12, 2006 06:32 PM

    But in 800,000 years they won't even have a name to describe the number for the deficit. What is 800,000 x 2 trillion? My calculator couldn't do it.

  • Brian Macker||

    Take the losses one would expect from a classical Austrian Business Cycle downturn caused by monetary expansion implemented by Greenspan a decade earlier and add those to the actual cost of the war to get a result that is truly astounding.

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