Bailouts in Perspective

Barry Ritholz calculates that the various government bailouts under way amount to $4.6165 trillion dollars.  To put it in context, he shows the cost of some other government expenditures you might have heard of:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

Of course, we don’t know the costs of not doing the bailouts, so it’s still possible that it’s worth it.  Still, a hell of a lot of money.

via Kaimipono Wenger

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. odograph says:

    I saw that. Pretty crazy and scary.

    With representative government and Congressional approval for Cabinet posts … we’re supposed to have sane people at these posts. We can take it on trust. With something this bizarre we can hope that’s true, but how to know for sure?

    How the heck to we trust but verify?

    There are claim “too hot” or “too cold” or “just right” as each plan or change of plan is announced, but it is just so obscure to those of us not on Wall Street and not in Washington. Pundits who seem sure also seem to be operating on just as little information as the rest of us.

    … but I think it’s safe to say that if the disease really deserves this medicine, the disease is bad.

  2. odograph says:

    ^ too much donburi at lunch. I blame the missing or wrong words above on an incipient rice coma.

  3. Floyd says:

    The problem with the above is that the listed programs were real costs for the most part.
    And the recent “bail-outs” are not real costs, in fact most experts expect that the government stands to actually profit from a large part of these “bail-outs”. Besides much of this money is placed at risk in the same way a cosigner is at risk. If all goes reasonably well, then most of the money mentioned will never need be paid out.
    All things considered, I would guess the real cost will wind up at about 1/10th the above figure, all in.

  4. Kate says:

    I’d question whether the figure for the Iraq war is correct. I can’t be a good interwebs commenter and provide links, because I have to go to work (in Australia), but I’ve heard much higher estimates, especially if you include things such as future medical costs for injured soldiers.

    Anyone heard anything credible?

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    Floyd is right. Much of this “bailout” is in the form of loans. The actual cost is not yet determined. All of the other costs were real outlays of cash.

    I’m not sure I support much of what is going on but we have to discuss it in real terms not made up comparisons.

  6. Michael says:

    Kate, that is for the “invasion” of Iraq, basically everything up until “Mission Accomplished”. That was a small fraction of the total money we’ve spend in Iraq.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    If you use an analogous methodology to the one by which economist Joseph Stiglitz determined that the war in Iraq was a “trillion dollar war”, the cost of the bailouts goes up into the tens of trillions.

  8. Greg Ransom says:

    So now we know the actual cost of 8 years of Keynesian “stimulus”, via the Fed’s below natural rate interest rates and Bush’s borrowing and spending — combined with the CRA program, the Carter/Clinton/Bush program to encourage minorities to take take on subprime debt they couldn’t afford.

    $3.92 trillion — that’s pretty penny to pay for bad economics and PC politics.

    I say blame the “idiot savants” who give us the brain dead macroeconomics of Keynes as if this pseudo-science were real knowledge.