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News What can $611 billion buy?

  1. Nov 11, 2007 #1

    Now 60-something of Iraq's 80-something oil fields are going to be sold to multinationals, Kurdistan is on the brink of seceding, American soldiers are getting killed on a daily basis, the United States has alienated many loyal allies all over the world (even Canada, believe it or not), the American people are hated all over the world more than ever, and the national debt has hit $9 trillion. Well that was sure money well spent! & it doesn't look like anything is going to change once Bush is gone. The current people running for president are even more extreme than he & Cheney are!

    Can people brainstorm more? How many Libraries of Congress could the government have built with that kind of money? How many Fermilabs, how many Golden Gate Bridges, how many Hoover Dams, how many World Trade Centres, how many New York subway systems, how many interstate highway systems?
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2007 #2
    Don't worry, the gov't wouldn't have spent it wisely anyway. They would have just wasted/blown it on something else.
  4. Nov 11, 2007 #3
    Iirc LHC @ CERN is going to cost countries $3 billion altogether, so the amount spent on the Iraq occupation would have paid for 203 LHCs. That's terrific.
  5. Nov 11, 2007 #4
    Currently a manned trip to mars is estimated to cost from $100 to $200 billion. So that makes 3 to 6 trips to mars. Almost equivalent to the same amount of Apollo trips to the moon.
  6. Nov 12, 2007 #5
    according to this site:
    http://www.drive.subaru.com/Spring07_Feature.htm [Broken]
    the interstate highway system cost $145 billion altogether, so the amount spent on Iraq could have covered the construction of 4.21 interstate highway systems.

    $34,781.23 per hour since Jesus Christ was born

    Wikipedia says Freedom Tower will cost ~$3 billion, so the US would be able to build 203 Freedom Towers
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  7. Nov 12, 2007 #6


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    As opposed to?

    US crude oil imports: 5.5M barrels / day (as of July). Now assume no Iraq war. Saddam (or sons) takes a break from gassing populations and closes the gulf after reconstituting (or just pretending to). Oil price goes up, say, $50 a barrel: 5.5M*365*$50=$100B/yr lost. Economists here can est. the multiplier hit to the rest of the economy. Also, US funded no fly in northern Iraq - expenses still incurred.

    How about the big war, WWII? $3Trillion in today's dollars. Yes trillion. Thats 15,000 high schools. "Well that was sure money well spent!"
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2007
  8. Nov 12, 2007 #7
    You're comparing Iraq with Nazi Germany? Doesn't that sort of trivialize what the Nazis did in Europe?
  9. Nov 12, 2007 #8


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    No I would not draw a direct comparison. I was drawing attention to the fallacy of tallying all the costs derivative of the decision to go to war, without also attempting to assess the costs of not doing so, or perhaps even implying there would be no cost at all to maintaining the status quo of '02. That, I claim, is the implication of your thesis that X schools could be built but for Iraq.
  10. Nov 12, 2007 #9


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    I think you shoot yourself in the foot using oil as an example. The tension in the middle east is the main reason why oil has gone up ~$60 bbl since the invasion.
  11. Nov 12, 2007 #10


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    The war likely has an impact, but it isn't the only reason - or even the biggest:

    Remember, oil hasn't been uniformly expensive since the start of the war. The big upturn was after Hurricane Katrina and it has had some ups and downs since. From the graph in the article, oil was in the low $50s in January of this year, $70s in September, then shot up to the $90s in the past two months. And this recent big spike is during a period of the lowest violence in Iraq since the start of the war. So lately it has more to do with the dollar (the banking crisis) than the Middle East.

    I'm not sure if these prices are inflation adjusted, but you can see quite clearly here that most of the war had little impact on oil prices:

    Oil was:
    $21 in Sept of 2001,
    $26 in Sept of 2002,
    $25 in Sept of 2003,
    $41 in Sept of 2004,
    $59 in Sept of 2005,
    $56 in Sept of 2006,
    $71 in Sept of 2007

    This site mostly credits surging asian demand for the price increases. You can see on their timelines that there is no direct corellation with ME events (such as a big spike at the start of the war): http://www.wtrg.com/prices.htm
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2007
  12. Nov 12, 2007 #11
    Really, the question to ask is could that $611 billion have been spent more effectively to fight terrorism? I say yes. The real fuel behind all the terrorism is the money generated by oil. If the US could get off the oil habit, it would really take the wind out of the terrorist's sails. So what could be done with $611 billion to reduce oil consumption?

    How about subways in the largest US cities? Lets say at $100 million a mile, one could have built with half the money 3000 miles of subway or 30 cities with 100 miles per city. That would have taken in most of the major cities in the US without a subway already. Lets see that leaves $311 billion.... hmmm, how about bullet trains between cities? Lets see at $10 million a mile, $150 billion would buy 15,000 miles of track. That would be enough to include most of the logical routes (NY -- Washington DC, San Fran -- LA, etc). So we still have $150 billion -- lets invest into weather proofing houses that use fuel oil for heating -- lets say $10,000 a house, that could winterize 10,000,000 homes with $61 billion left. We could throw that money into fusion research to hurry it up a little.

    There, that would have reduced terrorism a lot more than that war in Iraq....
  13. Nov 12, 2007 #12


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    I doubt it, I'm guessing any current tension would be trivial in relation to a major oil interruption in the gulf. But you may be right. My point was that it was ridiculously myopic to sit around counting up costs without making some effort to weigh them against the alternatives.
  14. Nov 12, 2007 #13
    Well, how about my alternative?
  15. Nov 12, 2007 #14


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    Sure, good idea, I'd like to see energy efficient steps to reduce energy dependence. It's your post so burden's on you: how much energy import savings would be achieved from those mass trans suggestions? Is that $10M/track mile all above ground? How fast would you build? Boston Big Dig took, what, 20 yrs? Would you short circuit local property owner objections? Could we plow your house for track? And please no, 'well we don't know but at least its in right direction' babble, which to my mind was the kind of irresponsible poor planning that was done (not done) leading to Iraq.
  16. Nov 13, 2007 #15
    Devil's in the details, no? I am going to leave it as it is. You are right there are a lot of problems with any approach.
  17. Nov 14, 2007 #16
    people are usually payed a lot of money to figure out all the details on spending 600 billion dollars efficiently. when you imply "don't suggest an alternative unless you have something fool-proof", it trivializes the first stages of brain storming.

    of course even if we came up with a great plan here, it isn't like the next 600 billion dollars is going to go to us for spending, so the amount of responsibility on the posters here is close to zero.
  18. Nov 14, 2007 #17


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    I wouldn't say don't suggest ideas for improving the over all lot of the US. Also, I give credit to Wildman's suggestion to at least attempt to address the consequences of spending 0$ on Iraq (threats to energy). He's on point, in contrast to the OP. I do object when some nice, but undeveloped idea is smugly and immediately elevated as a trivial one for one alternative to some horrible, dead serious problem.

    Finally, and this a bit demongogic but still accurate I think, its my impression that the war was launched along the lines of thinking you would allow:
    A: Saddam's an evil village-gassing bastard, he's crossed a dozen UN lines, he should go.
    B: Yep.
    A: US Mil. + allies can take him out in a few days. Initial invasion maybe $20-40B
    B: Yep.
    A: Alright then ..
    B: Wait a minute. What about after? What about Sunni-Shia strife? What about Iranian influence? How many guys do we need to do counter insurgency? Whats the after going to cost? How about just helping them to whack that guy themselves?
    A: Hey, you just want "something fool-proof!!. That just "trivializes the first stages of brain storming."

    That is, it was fine to sit around a parlor room and war-game about getting rid of some tyrant. For the real thing somebody needed to be damn sure about the whole thing or just shut up about how long or how much it would cost.
  19. Nov 19, 2007 #18
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  20. Nov 21, 2007 #19
    How many schools for kids in developping countries?

    There's a quote (i saw it on a bumper sticker, don't know who said it) : "In a perfect world there will come a day when schools will have all the money they need and the Air Force will need to have a bake sale to buy a bomber."
  21. Nov 21, 2007 #20
    Schools will always want more money. The bumper sticker should have said, "In a perfect world, there will come a day when schools will learn how to spend money efficiently/wisely/responsibly, instead of blowing increasing amounts of money over time with the same sorry results."

    My bumper sticker would say, "In a perfect world there will come a time when schools are not run by the government at all."
  22. Nov 21, 2007 #21


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    Blowing money may be somewhat accurate, but sorry results are only an accurate conclusion if you eliminate the differences in economic and cultural backgrounds and still have poorer performance.

    It's true that students at private schools perform better on standardized tests than students at public shools, but private schools cost $14,000 to $16,000 per student per year. That means their students come from a better economic background, which is the primary factor in student performance.

    Adjusted for the differences in background so you're comparing performance of comparable students at private non-religious schools, parochial schools, and public schools, there's no significant difference except for the cost. Non-religious private schools tend to be in the $14,000 to $16,000 range, public schools in the $6,000 to $8,000 range, and parochial schools in the $3,000 to $6,000 range.

    The private and parochial schools is the cost of tuition while the public school cost is taxes spent per student. The parochial schools at least look more efficient, but the tuition might not reflect spending per student if the church is supplementing the school via other sources (I think I'd be safe to say the church does supplement the school to some extent, but I wouldn't have any idea if it was a significant amount).

    The tuition a student pays for attending private and parochial schools is in addition to what the family pays in taxes for other people's kids to attend public schools (which is why it's probably understandable that a person attending a private/parochial school would be in favor of school vouchers).

    Non-religious private schools are easily the most inefficient schools unless you're interested in more things than just quality of education. While most private and parochial schools don't provide better educational performance than a student would get in a public school, the private and parochial schools do provide one essential service for their customers which is to shelter their students from being exposed to the general populace.

    Comparing Private Schools and Public Schools .... The report was done by the Department of Education, which is a government agency .....

    Costs were taken from Great Schools website and I wouldn't consider them overly reliable, but at least give a ballpark range.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2007
  23. Nov 21, 2007 #22


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  24. Nov 21, 2007 #23
    I meant that they've kept asking for increased funding, and sometimes they get it. Even controlling for inflation, public school spending has increased substantially over the past 30 - 40 years, but the results have stayed the same. That's inefficient in my opinion. Furthermore, when you see what schools do with increased funding it's rarely for the students (and usually for administrators and teachers).

    I don't think most private schools' cost $14,000 - $16,000 a year. I read that per student public schools have more money than private schools (on average obviously). Don't forget that public schools are funded for with tax money. Why can't parents receive the amount of funding the school would have spent on their child, but take that money to whatever school they want (public or private)?

    By the way, I realize that private school students tend to come from better economic conditions, which is a factor in their performance. Obviously any good study/analysis would have to control for this factor. Caroline Hoxby (econ professor at Harvard) has studied charter schools and voucher systems and found that they tend to increase the performance of poor children significantly.

    Actually, this is part of a reason that vouchers should be beneficial. Currently, the only people who can afford to send their children to private schools are the people who can pay tuition twice (once in the form of taxes, and once in the form of tution). Vouchers would allow poor people to compete more with the rich on where to send their children.

    I haven't read this article yet, but I plan to do so today. I just wanted to ask you one question first. Do you consider the Department of Education to be an agency that has no stake in this debate?
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 21, 2007
  25. Nov 21, 2007 #24
    $611 billion you could defend the freedom of the United States and defend people's right to criticize anything they want to, or you could build like 2 million bentley arnages.
  26. Nov 22, 2007 #25
    More money will not fix the school system. It was designed specifically to produce dumbed-down workers for industry, not people of solid intellect and character. There is a very good book about this whole thing called: "The Underground Guide to American Education: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling" by John Taylor Gatto, former New York City and New York State Teacher of the Year.

    Another reason more money won't fix the school system is because STOOOOOPID students are a literal goldmine for the schools, they're worth like 4X as much as the normal students. The amount of "Special Education" students has increased dramatically in recent years, because by labeling students as stupid, putting them into the "Special Ed" programs (which basically mean you will graduate high school without having to learn anything), thus producing massive numbers of incredibly stupid students graduating from high school, allows the education officials to say, "See! Look how big a problem this is! We need more money for Special Education!"

    Whenever you see any sign that says, "Donate to your local schools to improve the conditions for your students..." what that really means is "Give money to the Teacher's Union."
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