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What You Could Buy For $1 Trillion — Besides the Iraq War

Citizen Rob Simpson set out on a mission: to find out what else the US could have purchased for the $1 trillion dollars the war will probably cost. As with superhumanly large numbers, most recently and famously, the $700 billion bailout, it's helpful to put the number in concrete terms. That's what Simpson did with his new book What We Could Have Done With the Money.

The book's corresponding website has a ticker on it, calculating how much money has been spent since you've been looking at the site. I had it up for a bit this morning and presto, $25 million gone. Here's the entertaining (like a haunted house is entertaining) part of the website: you can "shop" with a $1 trillion dollar credit card. Anything from sports teams to Air Force One is up for sale — and if you choose the plane, the site asks you, "quantity"? The cost of the plane is only $325 million. I tried and bought every NFL franchise, Dracula's castle, and a theme park and didn't even come close.

To see what else $1 trillion buys,


  • For $1 trillion, the US could the double the 663,000 cops on the beat for 32 years.
  • 1.9 million additional teachers for America's classrooms.
  • Forget fixing roads, for that amount the US could pave the entire interstate highway system with gold — 23.5-karat gold leaf.
  • Every person on the planet could have an iPod.
  • Every American's credit card could be paid off.

See something on the list you'd rather have? Test yourself and see if you know where spending on Iraq stacks up against other wars.


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