The Cost of the Iraq War: Can You Say $1,000,000,000,000?
Feb. 4, 2007 — - The price tag for the Iraq War is now estimated at $700 billion in direct costs and perhaps twice that much when indirect expenditures are included. Cost estimates vary -- Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz puts the total cost at more than $2 trillion -- but let's be conservative and say it's only $1 trillion (in today's dollars).
As a number of other commentators have recently written, this number -- a 1 followed by 12 zeroes -- can be put into perspective in various ways. Given how large the war looms, it doesn't hurt to repeat this simple exercise with other examples and in other ways.
Different Monetary Units
There are many comparisons that might be made, and devising new governmental monetary units is one way to make them. Consider, for example, that the value of one EPA, the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, is about $7.5 billion. The cost of the Iraq War is thus more than a century's worth of EPA spending (in today's dollars), almost 130 EPAs, only a small handful of which would probably have been sufficient to clean up Superfund sites around the country.
Or note that the annual budget for the Department of Education is about $55 billion, which puts the price tag for Iraq at about 18 EDs. Just a few of these EDs would certainly have put muscle into the slogan "No child left behind." ...full text