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More zeros than a Beetle Bailey cartoon

USA Today had a neat chart on its front page the other day that detailed how the federal government has been doling out our money to bail out the likes of Fannie, Freddie and Lehman Brothers.

The total -- $900 billion. As in, very close to a TRILLION!

What does a trillion dollars look like?

$1,000,000,000,000.

Beetle_bailey_zero_2You've got to read a lot of Beetle Bailey cartoons to see that many Zeros.

The math behind the $900 billion: $300 billion to refinance failing mortgages; $200 billion to troubled banks; another $200 billion to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; $87 billion to JP Morgan to bail out Lehman Brothers; $85 billion to AIG; and $29 billion to JP Morgan (again) to buy Bear Stearns.

And this was before Friday's announcement of an additional bailout - precise cost unknown, but speculated in the neighborhood of $700 billion.

Of course, this is the same federal government that stuck it to working people a few years back when it overhauled the personal bankruptcy laws.

Moral of the story: You can bungle away billions and Uncle Sam will bail you out, but you're in deep doo-doo if you lose your job and health insurance and then get seriously ill.

To put the $900 billion in context, the 2009 federal budget is $3.1 trillion. So Dubya and Congress thus far have agreed to dole out the equivalent of nearly one-third of the federal budget. And they're not finished yet. Not even close.

A lot of folks make a big deal out of federal earmarks, as well they should. Pork amounts to $18 billion this year. The bailouts thus far are 18 times that size. At least pork barrel gets us a road built once in a while.

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Economics
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