05/08/2008 03:12 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The $3 Trillion Shopping Spree

THAT WAS FUN. Just got done spending $3 trillion. href="">Try it yourself - it's a lot harder
than you might think. Honestly, it would have been a whole lot easier
just to follow the president's example and blow it all on one illegal
occupation of Iraq.

$3 trillion is the projected cost of the Iraq War according to Nobel
Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard lecturer Linda
Bilmes. That's a whole lot of zeros, but what does it really amount
to? How many homes would it buy for Americans who've fallen victim to
the subprime meltdown? How many debts would it pay off for developing
nations? For that matter, how many of those new Mac Air laptops would
it buy me? As it turns out, one whole hell of a lot of all of those
things combined.

Try it yourself:

What a colossal waste of money. What a tragedy of lost opportunities.
Where is all this money going? KBR, Halliburton and the other war
profiteers have made out like bandits in Iraq, while taxpayers and
their own workers get screwed. KBR enjoys contracts worth $16
billion, and still avoids paying Medicare and Social Security taxes by
hiring workers through shell companies in the Cayman Islands.

In the Bush Administration's defense, of course, they had no idea it
would cost this much when they embarked on their insane crusade (in
fact, they
still don't
) Along with cheering Iraqis, arsenals of WMDs, and
leprechauns and unicorns, the White House expected to be presenting
the American people with a much, much smaller bill for its services.
Back in 2003, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld (remember him?) was fond of
quoting the projected cost at $50 billion.

You may recall that about six years ago, Bush's own chief economic
adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, was pushed out of the White House for
suggesting that the war could cost up to a trifling $200 billion -
still $2.8 trillion off the mark. "Baloney" was how Rumsfeld
characterized Lindsey's estimate, before quoting the $50 billion

With Rumsfeld gone, one would hope to see a little more honest
accounting out of the Defense Department. So what does The Pentagon
have to say about Stiglitz's sobering calculation? That number "seems
way out of the ballpark to me," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

Could $3 trillion cover the cost of a worthwhile accountant at the
DoD? Apparently that's the only thing it can't afford.