Government spending in perspective…

compiled & edited by Daniel Hagadorn

Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver. –Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

Thomas Jefferson stated with prescience beyond his era, “I, however, place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.”[1]

The price of history…[2] [3] [4]

  • The Revolutionary War (1775-1783) cost $101,000,000 or $1,258,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • The Louisiana Purchase (1803) cost $23,000,000 or $324,600,000 (2009 USD).
  • The War of 1812 (1812-1815) cost $90,000,000 or $1,040,200,000 (2009 USD).
  • The Mexican-American War (1846-1849) cost $71,000,000 or $1,808,500,000 (2009 USD).
  • The Civil War (1861-1865) cost $4,183,000,000 or $57,947,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • World War I (1917-1921) cost $20,000,000,000 or $237,800,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • The New Deal (1933-1937) cost $32,000,000,000 or $473,100,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • World War II (1941-1945) cost $296,000,000,000 or $3,491,000,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • The Marshall Plan (1947-1951)[5] cost $25,000,000,000 or $204,200,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • The Korean War (1950-1953) cost $30,000,000,000 or $238,000,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • NASA (all spending to date) (1958- ) cost $416,700,000,000 or $851,200,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • The Vietnam War (1965-1975) cost $111,000,000,000 or $437,700,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • The “Race to the Moon” (1969) cost $36,400,000,000 or $211,000,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • The S&L Crisis (1986-1991) cost $160,100,000,000 or $249,000,000,000 (2009 USD)
  • The Persian Gulf War (1990-1991) cost $61,000,000,000 or $949,000,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • The Afghanistan War (all spending to date) (2001- ) cost $159,000,000,000 or $171,000,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • Post-9/11 Domestic Security (Operation Noble Eagle) (2001- ) cost $28,000,000,000 or $33,000,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • The Iraq War (all spending to date) (2003- ) cost $616,000,000,000 or $648,000,000,000 (2009 USD).
  • A combined total of $8,256,378,300,000 was spent on all of the above BUT $8,500,000,000,000 has ALREADY BEEN SPENT on the “Bailout”.[6]

[1] Manuscript Division, The Thomas Jefferson Papers (Washington, DC: Library of Congress). Letter from Thomas Jefferson to William Plumer, 21 July 1816.

[2] Stephen Daggett, “Costs of Major U.S. Wars,” Defense Policy and Budgets Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress RS22926 (24 July 2008).


[4] Consumer Price Index statistics are taken from Historical Statistics of the United States (USGPO, 1975) and the annual Statistical Abstracts of the United States.

[5] In the years between the end of WWII and before the implementation of the Marshall Plan, America gave $12 billion in financial aid to Europe.

[6] Paul Joseph Watson, “Cost Of Bailout Hits $8.5 Trillion,” (26 November 2008); Kathleen Pounder, “Government Bailout Hits $8.5 Trillion,” San Francisco Chronicle (26 November 2008); Jeanne Cummings, “Bailout Tops $8 Trillion,” Politico (16 December 2008); Peter Cohan, “How’s That $8 Trillion Bailout Going?,” Blogging Stocks (6 January 2009); Cord Blomquist, “Just How Much is $13 Trillion?,” (12 February 2009).

9 Responses

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  6. Jaydin says:

    Amazing article, puts things in perspective!

    I seem to remember our current president talking about how our children would have to pay for the enormous debt and how he would get spending under control. Was I dreaming or is this administration even worse than the last?

    • Hagadorn says:

      Thank you. It is my most fervent wish that our fellow Americans will become alarmed by the unsustainable debt obligations being placed upon the shoulders of future generations, though both parties have–to their shame–contributed significantly to the present situation.

  7. Wow! Thank you so much for the glowing review and kind regards. Glad to have you aboard.

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