Friday, May 05, 2006


Mugged by the neo-conservative agenda...

That throbbing in the back of your head -- that's not your imagination.

That was the Senate passing a new supplemental spending bill for over $100 Billion to cover the costs of the war and hurricane relief.  That's right.... another 100 Billion dollars!   Before we invaded, people were claiming the whole war AND occupation combined would cost less than a 100 billion dollars.  So how did we get stuck turning $100 billion into just  another down payment?

I realize all the money will not be going to Iraq, but come on... H.R. 4939 is the fifth "emergency" appropriation passed by congress since we invaded Iraq and we still don't know what happened to the money we already spent.  

Am I the only one who feels like a mugging victim , slowly regaining consciousness and wondering, "How the hell did we get here?"

100 billion.

It's hard to wrap your head something that big, even with a 100 billion neurons at your disposal.   When I started looking for something to represent the idea of 100 billion my first thought was "that's the number of stars in our galaxy!"  That's true, but that's a little too abstract -- even for me.  I wanted to find something closer to home.  It turns out a mission to Mars would probably cost $100 billion.  That is pretty good considering we spent $100 billion on the International Space Station, and it's still not finished.

Being a down to Earth kind of guy, I wondered what $100 billion in real estate would look like.  It was hard to find -- partly because a lot of New Orleans is still under water.  However, they say we can probably bring it back for $100 billion.  The risk, of course, is like sand castles at the beach, it will all wash away when the sea comes in again. Between you and me, I want something more substantial.

That got me wondering what kind of stuff you could buy for $100 billion.  If you are a fan of one stop shopping, you could spend $100 billion and buy Google.  That's pretty cool.  But everyone knows savvy investors diversify. If you want to buy stuff online, $100 billion would cover all of last year's e-commerce sales.  If you are old school and don't like using your credit card online, you could use the $100 billion to buy all of last year's  trade between China and the ASEAN nations.

We shouldn't forget it takes energy to make all that stuff.  That is probably why China just signed a  $100 billion natural gas deal with Iran.  It will take them 25 years to go through all that.  Who knows what the cost for gas will be when that contract is up for renewal.   That's the kind of uncertainty that forces people to plan for the long haul.  That's one reason the people of Taiwan are  going to invest 100 billion NTD (New Taiwan Dollars) in Wind Power.  That's a good start.  Don't get wrong.  I'm not knocking renewable energy.  I'm just saying all the renewable energy in the world won't remove the need for conservation.  That is why I was glad to learn that California recycled 100 billion aluminum cans since they began their recycling progam.

It's nice to see something positive being done.  It inspires you to look for other positive things.  That is how I discovered Crayola has manufactured 100 billion crayons over the last 100 years.  They also make it easy to visualize all those crayons.  Think of it this way: if everyone in the world shared those crayons, we would all get our very own 16-count box of Crayolas. Now that is something I can feel good about. Of course, every time I see a kid with a crayon now, I'm going to be reminded of the fact they are the ones who will be paying the bills for this war -- which is sad, especially since Bill Cosby wrote a book describing how we could reform our entire educational system for $100 billion.

The intergenerational burden of this conflict got me to thinking about ways we could actually divide up 100 billion dollars.  For example, we could give 1 dollar to every person who ever lived. This deal would only be offered to card-carrying Homo Sapiens.  Neanderthals would have to fend for themselves.  It would be a waste of money to give it to a Neanderthal.  What's a Neanderthal going to do with a dollar? Eat it?  Of course, a dollar  doesn't go very far and you would get a bigger bang for the buck if you gave all the money to one guy.  Someone like Bill Gates.  I know -- that's silly. He already has $100 billion of his own. Besides, concentrating money like that makes you weird.  Here's an actual Bill Gates quote:

"I have 100 billion dollars... You realize I could spend 3 million dollars a day, every day, for the next 100 years? And that's if I don't make another dime. Tell you what-I'll buy your right arm for a million dollars. I give you a million bucks, and I get to sever your arm right here."
 I guess it's true what they say about serial killers.  They always look so normal.  Which got me to wondering...what would a normal person do with $100 billion?  I'm not the first person to ask the question, but I don't think I can improve upon the keen insight of idyllopus:
You don't build a 100 billion dollar empire without being fully, richly aware you've buried a lot of people in the process.
Apparently, the same thing is true when you dig a 100 billion dollar hole.

If a neo-conservative is a liberal who was mugged by reality,
what do you call someone who was mugged by neo-conservatives?

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